Archive for August 13th, 2009

Masked man attacks woman

| 13/08/2009 | 30 Comments

(CNS): A 47-year-old woman has received serious injuries to her head and arm during on assault by a masked man on Wednesday night, 12 August, in West Bay. The Royal Cayman Islands Police Service said it is now investigating the robbery which took place along Watercourse Road as the woman was riding her bicycle. The man reportedly jumped out at the female cyclist and attacked her with a stick.

Police said that the 911 Emergency Communications Centre received a call at 10:30pm reporting that a woman had been assaulted and robbed by a masked man. Police and medics responded and found the 47-year-old female victim with injuries to her head and arm. She said she had been riding home from work on her bicycle and that upon reaching the junction of Watercourse Road and Ebanks Road, she was pounced upon by a masked man armed with a long stick who proceeded to hit her several times on her head and left arm.

The victim tried to get away from her attacker by running and screaming. However, she was pursued by the attacker, who grabbed her handbag, which contained an undisclosed sum of money and personal effects. The attacker then escaped on foot. The victim was taken to hospital where she was treated for non-life threatening injuries and subsequently released.

“This was a horrifying act which could have led to a tragic outcome,” said Acting Detective Chief Superintendent Marlon Bodden. “Thankfully, although the victim was seriously hurt, her condition is not considered life threatening, but given the severity of the injury, it clearly suggests that her attacker meant serious bodily harm and we appeal for anyone with information to come forward”.

Anyone with information about crime taking place in the Cayman Islands should contact their local police station or Crime Stoppers on 800-8477 (TIPS). All persons calling Crime Stoppers remain anonymous and are eligible for a reward of up to $1000 should their information lead to an arrest or recovery of property/drugs.

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PAC bogged down on Matrix

| 13/08/2009 | 11 Comments

(CNS): The examination of witnesses by the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) regarding the auditor general’s report on Matrix began to resemble walking in treacle on Wednesday as members seemed to get bogged down in subsequent events and misunderstandings of the details of the contract, as oppose to the AG’s findings on the tendering and award process. Committee members questioned witnesses on a number of issues, from the value of scrap metal moved to the cost of bailing units, which saw the committee chair on a number of occasions assisting members with their understanding and relevance of the matters at hand.

Carson Ebanks, who was permanent secretary in the Ministry with responsibility for Environmental Health at the time the contract was awarded, Roydell Carter the director, Sean McGinn the assistant director from the Department of Environmental Health, appeared to give evidence but found themselves being asked repetitive and unclear questions that failed to dovetail with the issues raised in the audit with regards to procedures over government contracts.

The witnesseswere supposedly called to shed on light on the findings of Auditor General Dan Duguay’s special report —The scrap metal tender and contract with Matrix Inc. — which examined the process by which government had tendered and awarded the contract and the lack of due diligence done on the contractor. The issue over Matrix came in for public scrutiny when the company ran into difficulties because of shipping issues and abandoned its contract with the Cayman Islands government.   

However, despite the failure of the contract, for the first time ever the Cayman government did receive some money for its scrap metal. Matrix managed to complete a number of shipments before one of the loads was seized by US courts, and paid the DoEH $300,000. Although the original contract had been for $1.2 million to remove all the scrap metal, of which the contractors were in breach, in the end the CI government did not suffer any losses. Given that in the past it had paid to get rid of all hazardous waste, on this occasion there was some financial gain to government coffers.

In his report Duguay found that there were a number of shortcomings in the tendering process, but above all the major concern was that not enough due diligence had been done on the principals connected with Matrix and their lack of experience in the field of shipping scrap metal internationally.

However, during the questioning of witnesses PAC members were focusing on the details of the contract, which were not closely examined in Duguay’s audit, and also the contracts which Matrix entered into with local private contractors.

George Town MLA and PAC member Ellio Solomon asked the DoEH director, Carter, over and over again how the value of the scrap metal had been assessed, despite the fact that it was not relevant to the contract. Carter explained that it was a flat deal and that Matrix had entered into a contract in which they agreed to pay Cayman a set fee for the metal regardless of the price they would eventually gain for it on the international scrap metal market.

On a number of occasions the chair, Ezzard Miller, had to clarify issues for Solomon,who did not appear to have read Duguay’s report or understood the parameters of the Matrix contract as examined in the report.

The committee also called the Caymanian partner of Matrix, William J Bodden, who told PAC that he had lost US$500,000 in the deal with the Canadian principals of the company whom he partnered with to create the majority owned Caymanian company.

Despite the fact that Bodden Town MLA Dwayne Seymour, another committee member who did not seem entirely versed with Duguay’s report, had insisted that Bodden was called, he did not ask the local partner any notable questions. At the last PAC meeting, Seymour had said it was important to call Bodden so he could answer questions as to why local contractors had not been paid by Matrix for the sub-contracted work they had done, but he was not challenged on that point.

Miller had at the time when members had insisted on calling Bodden pointed out that the private contracts were beyond the scope of PAC, which is concerned with ensuring accountability in public spending.

Ebanks, who is now the chief officer to the leader of government business but was at the time of the Matrix contract working with the then minister, Arden McLean, told the committee that the government had no legal obligation to Cayman contractors who had entered into privatedeals with Matrix.

He explained that they made no understandings with the firm that they would employ local companies. “That was not part of the deal,” Ebanks said. “It was up to them who they subcontracted or how they intended to remove the scrap metal.”

He said it was a straight forward deal whereby government entered into contract to remove somewhere around 16,000 tonnes of scrap metal and in return it would receive $1.2 million – the first time ever that government would receive money for waste. Ebanks spelled out that the only reason why the contract was in question was because the principals ran into unexpected problems with a hurricane. One of the ships Matrix contracted was forced to turn around, pushing up costs, which then got bogged down in the courts. Carson said government received some money and the firm removed around one third of the metal that it had hoped to get rid of.

With the PAC still seemingly confused about the contract and continuing to veer away from the content of Duguay’s audit, Solomon and Seymour told Miller that they would like to call the Canadian principal Bruce Young on the telephone as a witness at another hearing, as well as the former minister, Arden Mclean. The meeting was adjourned until the PAC’s next closed meeting on 25 August.

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Water main repairs will close Sheddon Road

| 13/08/2009 | 0 Comments

(CNS): The Water Authority has said that due to a broken main near the intersection of Shedden Road  in George Town the section of Shedden Road from the junction of Elgin Ave. to Harbour Drive will be closed this evening to facilitate repairs. In order to reduce the impact on business customers and the motoring public, repairs will be not begin until 6:30pm tonight -13 Thursday August.  Repairs are expected to take between 4 to 5 hours to complete during which time service will be interrupted for customers in the area.

Motorists are asked are being asked to use an alternate route between the hours of 6:30pm to 12pm and the authority said that traffic signs will be posted in the general vicinity and all are asked to drive with caution.

The Water Authority appreciates the patience and understanding of the motoring public as they continue to provide services to all of their valued customers and apologizes for any inconvenience this restoration may cause.

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Employers fined for failing to pay health insurance

| 13/08/2009 | 7 Comments

(CNS): According to a government report the owners of a local janitorial company have been fined for failing to provide an employee with health insurance. The case, brought by the Health Insurance Commission against Burnell and Amy Hurlston, trading as Hurlston Janitorial Services, also included two charges of unlawful deduction from an employee.

In summary court on Monday, 10 August, Magistrate Grace Donalds fined the defendants$300 each for failure to effect and continue a standard health insurance contract. The charges of unlawful deduction by an employer also remain on file but a GIS statement said that no fines were imposed.

 “I am satisfied with the outcome of this case, and hope that it will serve as a reminder to all employers that it is important to make sure they adhere to the requirements of the health insurance legislation,” said Superintendent of Health Insurance Mervyn Conolly.



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Cayman on OECD white list

| 13/08/2009 | 31 Comments

(CNS): Updated 7:55 (Friday) –– Its official.The Cayman Islands has been removed from the OECD’s controversial ‘grey list’ having signed its twelfth tax information exchange agreement (TIEA) with New Zealand in Washington, on Thursday. The tax deal was signed by the Leader of Government Business at the New Zealand Embassy, to secure a place on the ‘white list’ of countries which have substantially implemented the internationally agreed tax standard as set by the OECD.

In an official statement from the Ministry of Financial Services, Tourism & Development, the Leader of Government Business, McKeeva Bush noted the importance of the signing.  “The Government has met an important objective of entering into several bi-lateral tax arrangements to support our commitment to upholding international standards in the exchange of tax information,” he said.

Meanwhile Jeffrey Owens, Director of the OECD’s Centre for Tax Policy and Administration, welcomed the signing which he said puts the Cayman Islands “alongside other countries that have substantially implemented the internationally agreed tax standard.”

Bush thanked the technical teams from both Cayman and New Zealand for ensuring a swift and productive negotiating process.

"Today’s signing is also significant in helping to ensure the Cayman Islands remains a favourable, world class, transparent financial services centre; a position which we are committed to maintaining in the long term,” he added.

Signing on behalf of New Zealand was the country’s US Ambassador Roy Ferguson and the Cayman Islands delegation included George McCarthy, Chairman, Cayman Islands Monetary Authority, Richard Parchment, Senior Political Assistant and Michelle Bahadur, Senior Assistant Secretary in the Office of the Financial Secretary. 

Speaking about the latest tax deals Pascal Saint-Amans, a spokesman for the OECD, told it was a very positive development. He said the next step was for the upcoming Global Forum on Transparency and Information Exchange in Mexico next month to create a new organization of people to oversee the progress of Tax Information Exchange Agreements.

The Cayman Islands government signed its first TIEA with the US in 2001 but did not sign any more until last year when the PPM government signed a series of bilateral treaties with northern European states. On taking up office in May, Bush has since signed deals with the United Kingdom, Ireland and the Netherlands.

Cayman also has unilateral agreements with Germany, Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Luxembourg, Slovak Republic and Switzerland under the Tax Information Authority Law passed late last year. The mechanism was not recognised by the OECD, however, and Cayman was placed on the ‘grey list’ in April this year in the wake of the G20 meeting.


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Miss Cayman Islands prepares for the big event

| 13/08/2009 | 5 Comments

(CNS): Having arrived in the Bahamas earlier this month Nicosia Lawson aka Miss Cayman Islands is getting into the swing of the Miss Universe pageant. The big event takes place on 23 August at the Atlantis on Paradise Island, meanwhile Nicosia and her 83 fellow competitors are involved in a whirlwind of social events and public appearances. People can visit to view a video of Nicosia or log in to increase her rating. (Left Nicosia in the recent swimsuit event).

Although beauty pageants have come in for considerable criticism over the years for their objectification of women — however there is not doubt that getting through the competition can be beneficial for both contestants and the country which they represent.

Nicosia secured the Miss Cayman Islands crown last August among considerable controversy because although the 26 year-old is Caymanian she was born in St Vincent and moved to Cayman as a child. At the time Miss Cayman Islands Chairperson Jacqueline Terry regretted the controversy and said Nicosia’s status was in line with the international pageant rules.  


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£3million on tea and biscuits

| 13/08/2009 | 0 Comments

(Telegraph): Britain’s police forces have spent £3 million on tea and biscuits, figures disclosed under Freedom of Information laws have shown. Police forces across the country revealed the amount spent as officers worked on solving crimes last year. The figure was disclosed by 40 of the 57 separate forces across the UK. Top was Lothian and Borders in Scotland which spent £383,000. With around 2,600 officers working at the Scottish force, that amounts to £147.31 spent per officer. The figures also revealed forces spent £11million on office stationery – buying 1.3million pens and 450million sheets of paper.

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More hurricanes in modern times

| 13/08/2009 | 0 Comments

(BBC): Hurricanes in the Atlantic are more frequent than at any time in the last 1,000 years, according to research just published in the journal Nature. Scientists examined sediments left by hurricanes that crossed the coast in North America and the Caribbean. The record suggests modern hurricane activity is unusual – though it might have been even higher 1,000 years ago. The possible influence of climate change on hurricanes has been a controversial topic for several years. Study leader Michael Mann from Penn State University believes that while not providing a definitive answer, this work does add a useful piece to the puzzle.

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UK to see offshore accounts

| 13/08/2009 | 1 Comment

(FT.Com):  More than 300 banks will be forced to hand over details of clients with offshore accounts after a legal ruling opened up a new front in Revenue & Customs’ war against tax evasion. The extent of yesterday’s legal orders represents a ramping up of the Revenue’s campaign against secret offshore accounts, which began several years ago when five high street banks were forced to disclose details of more than 200,000 customers. Stephen Timms, financial secretary to the Treasury, said the ruling represented "real progress in creating a level playing field for all taxpayers."

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Onshore secrecy versus offshore transparency

| 13/08/2009 | 0 Comments

( In the wake of the London G20 Summit leaders on both sides of the Atlantic have denounced ‘tax havens’. Despite the lack of an obvious link to the current economic crisis, ‘tax havens’ are said to undermine global financial transparency and stability while facilitating a range of criminal activities. The crux of the issue is information, or the extent to which actors and transactions can be cloaked in a veil of financial secrecy. But contrary to conventional wisdom, it seems that OECD countries are far worse offenders in relation to global standards mandating financial transparency than the small countries usually labelled as ‘tax havens’.

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