Archive for September 25th, 2009

Kurt offers united front

| 25/09/2009 | 97 Comments

(CNS): The Cayman Islands should stand firm against taxes Leader of the Opposition Kurt Tibbetts has told the leader of government business, in a letter sent to McKeeva Bush today. As negotiations with Cayman and the UK were still reportedly stalled, Tibbetts has written to offer the support of the People’s Progressive Movement against the UK’s insistence on the country introducing direct taxation. He says a united front would help the cause and recommended that representatives from the opposition be added to the Cayman Islands government delegation as discussions with the United Kingdom continue. 

Although the PPM has been roundly condemned by the current administration for placing Cayman in the difficult position of seeking the FCO’s approval to borrow more cash, the opposition leader seems keen to stand by the new LoGB in the face of what he says is unfair behaviour on the part of the UK government.

“I believe there is real merit in the Opposition lending its voice to the arguments being made on Cayman’s behalf.  A united front can but help the cause and I wish to recommend to you that representatives from the Opposition be added to the Government delegation as these discussions with the United Kingdom Government continue.  At a minimum, I am of the view that the Government and Opposition should write in concert to the United Kingdom Government setting out what I believe to be the position on which we agree,” Tibbetts wrote to the LoGB.

The opposition leader says in his letter that Cayman ought not to fundamentally alter its system of revenue generation as the lack of most types of direct taxation is a critical factor in what makes the Cayman Islands an attractive place to do business.

“We, along with many who have an interest in the Cayman Islands, are growing increasingly concerned at what appears to be an impasse between the Cayman Islands Government and the United Kingdom Government as to the way forward to resolve our present difficulties with the budget,” Tibbetts wrote.  “There are disturbing rumours that income tax is being considered as a means of providing a revenue base which is sustainable.”

Offering solidarity of the opposition with the position that the leader of government business had previously taken, which was not to introduce any direct taxes, Tibbetts writes that the PPM hopes that has not changed despite the pressure being brought to bear by the UK.

“Cayman must not introduce new measures involving direct taxation,” he stated, accusing the UK of exploiting the current difficulties balancing the budget which he considered unfair and unreasonable.  Tibbetts reiterated his belief that Cayman’s experience is akin to all countries, including the United Kingdom and is temporary as a result of the unprecedented global financial crisis.

“The present global circumstances and their consequences are grave indeed, but they are temporary in nature and must be regarded and treated as such,” Tibbetts added. He said Cayman should not risk the fundamentals of the successful Cayman economy by introducing direct taxation.  He said taxes were not helping other countries with major deficits that already have direct taxation.

Tibbetts did not offer any specific suggestions for new revenue raising measures, but said Cayman needed to restrict operational expenditure and borrow short term to bridge the gap between revenue and expenditure until the world economy rebounds and revenue streams return to normal.

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Mafia used croc to terrorise

| 25/09/2009 | 0 Comments

(BBC): Italian police say they have seized a crocodile they believe was used by a suspected mafia boss to terrorise people into paying protection money. The reptile was 1.7m (5.5ft) long and weighed 40kg (88lb). It was found during a weapons search at the man’s home in the southern town of Caserta. It was kept on the terrace and fed live rabbits in full view of neighbouring homes, police said. The mafia suspect was charged with illegal animal possession. The crocodile has been sent to a rehabilitation centre. Maurizio Vallone, head of Italy’s anti-mafia squad, said the animal had been held in a secure area of the terrace fitted with high-tech video surveillance.

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Bar might rise for tax havens

| 25/09/2009 | 0 Comments

(AccountancyAge): Offshore financial centres will face renewed pressure in their bid to achieve and retain “white list” status for tax compliance, after a meeting of global heads. Financial regulators gathered to debate the future standards for admission to the tax transparency compliance list, the scope of peer reviews for these countries, and the nature of fiscal sanctions to be applied to the non-compliant. New criteria for revised standards were set at a meeting at Los Cabos in Mexico on 1 and 2 September.

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Fake snake report gets internet buzz

| 25/09/2009 | 22 Comments

(CNS): A release supposedly coming from the Department of Environmental Health (DEH) regarding a dog-eating snake, currently circulating in an email, is a hoax. While the DEH says it will be issuing an official press release through GIS refuting the information in the fake report, the department is responding to emails sent to them about the snake stating that the information is false. “Due to inconsistencies in this email, it is clear that someone not associated with government had sent this email to create excitement and sensationalism,” DEH is saying.

The hoax release, which is headed by the Cayman Islands coat of arms and included the picture above, says (spelling errors included), “The Cayman Islands Environmental Health Department has issued a press release regarding a large Snake caught in Prospect Dr. George Town. Officials ask if anyone comes across a snake this large please call DOE immediately. No one should try to capture the Snake as it may swallow you whole!

“Officers responded to a call from a resident by the name Joe Hernandez, Joe said he found the snake Wrapped around his Three year old Pitt Bull, he tried to realease the dog but was unsuccessful. He watched as the dog was swallowed whole.”

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Schools talks collapse

| 25/09/2009 | 34 Comments

(CNS): UPDATED- 6:00pm: Following reports on CNS this morning that the general contractor Tom Jones International (TJI) had stopped work at the John Gray High School development project today (Friday 25 September) after talks with government turned sour, the education minister has denied owing the contractor money. In a statement issued Friday afternoon, Rolston Anglin said all payments due to TJI for the schools had been paid and the cessation of work by the contractor was premature.

A spokesperson for Tom Jones International said the firm would not comment on the statement at this time but CNS understands the dispute has resulted in severe job losses.

Despite earlier suggestions in the week that negotiations over the latest unpaid bill were amicable and heading for resolution, the two sides are now in full disagreement. Anglin said in his statement that to date, all payments due in respect of both contracts for John Gray and the Clifton Hunter schools are current and have been paid.

"Tom Jones International has now stopped work at the John Gray campus. However, the next payment for this project is not due until 10 October," Anglin said.  "The cessation of work by the general contractor is therefore premature and in breach of contract. As such, any costs associated with work stopping will be Tom Jones International’s responsibility. There are clear contractual terms for the settlement of disputes, including mediation, which have not been followed by the general contractor. The cessation of work has circumvented these terms."

Anglin referred to reports regarding payment being withheld due to technicalities and said government believes that all payments must be diligently scrutinised and only made when appropriate. "This is not simply a technicality," he said. "He acknowledged the risk to jobs at the site and said their preservation had been an important consideration and one of the reasons why the government made every effort to assist the general contractor in continuing the projects.

Although TJI said they were not commenting yet, Alan Roffey of Andro Group stated that he has now had to lay off more than forty workers, many of whom are Caymanian. Earlier in the week East End Brokers confirmed well over a hundered worker were losing their jobs as a result of the dispute. Despite government claims that the money is not owed, Roffey says the independent survey says different and if there are reasons why the government shouldn’t be paying they should be made clear.

"If the government has real reasons, why wait until the last minute?" asked Roffey, who is very upset by the situation and who as a sub-contractor is paid directly by TJI. "We ought not to be expected to have to be in the middle of this problem. The government has an independent surveyer and they say the money is due."

Roffey said he wished the whole situation had been more open and reasonable and he lamented the secrecy surrounding the dispute, especially as it impacts local sub-contractors.

Others have agreed and said that it seems government has shifted its position from “can’t pay” because of a lack of funds to “won’t pay” because of contract dispute.

The halting of the project will result in considerable job losses and financial losses to a number of sub-contractors and will create a number of technical probles even if it restarts . Roffey explained that once work stops it loses momentum and will take weeks to get back on track.

Although the minister stated that there were clear ways of settling disputes, including mediation, CNS was old by a sub-contractor that mediation had been sought but the two sides could not agree on where the mediators should come from. It is also reported that TJI has taken out a considerable bridging loan which was meant to keep the project going even though government had not met its payments on the basis that once government received the OK for its borrowing all the contractors would be paid.

Although work was continuing at the Frank Sound where the new Clifton Hunter School is being constructed, reports suggested yesterday that the next major payment date for that project is only seven days away.

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Travers hits out at damaging UK “dithering”

| 25/09/2009 | 29 Comments

(CNS): The continuing delay by the British government in signing off on the approval for the Cayman Islands government to borrow funds for this year’s budget is becoming the major cause of concern among leading business practitioners, says the chair of CIFSA. Speaking from London, Anthony Travers said that, while the UK was not necessarily turning the issue into a war, it was holding out for direct taxation, which Travers said was a seismic shift that was not justified. He accused the FCO of not understanding the far reaching consequences of their obstruction.

“The latest signs from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office are that they do not want to turn this short term budget issue into a war but they would like to see some measured cuts in public spending. That seems entirely reasonable,” the Cayman Islands Financial Services Association and Stock Market Chair stated. “Our information also indicates that the Minister for Overseas Territories, Chris Bryant, MP is not going to die in a ditch demanding we bring in income tax. However, all the signs are that they are still looking for a payroll tax and that is a cause for grave concern.”

Travers said he had canvassed senior business players in Cayman and they  indicated that at the first sign of a payroll tax they will have to consider their options. “I believe this will inevitably lead to job losses and it will affect both the highly paid and more junior members of staff and lead not to a revenue increase but a decrease. The move from indirect to a direct system of taxation is a seismic shift which has not been thought through and which is not justified on the facts,” he added.

Travers also noted, with regard to the hedge fund sector, that Bryant and his colleagues at the FCO did not appreciate that in obstructing the CI government they are going to reap a bitter harvest with very far reaching consequences. 

“The FCO’s sniping at hedge funds plays right into the hands of EU legislators who are desperately trying to curb the success of The City of London and in particular the hedge fund industry,” Travers claimed. “In short if the FCO attack the Caymans, they damage London. I would have thought in the current financial crisis that would be a horrendous example of unintended consequences.  I urge the FCO to acknowledge that the CI Government has put forward sensible ideas to cut costs and raise revenue without the introduction of totally unnecessary taxes and allow the CI Government to borrow the relatively small amount of money it needs to carry out its business.” 

It was revealed yesterday that Although CI government had been expecting a ‘yes’ from the UK on the borrowing requirement there was still no agreement by late evening which caused a public meeting to be cancelled. Leader of Government Business McKeeva Bush has also confirmed that the budget statement will now be postponed and will not take place on Monday but on Thursday evening instead.

Go to Budget delayed as no UK OK

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Gordon sorry for DJ killing

| 25/09/2009 | 0 Comments

(CNS): As the court heard submissions from both Crown and defence counsel regarding the sentencing of Paul Gordon, who has pleaded guilty to the manslaughter of Sherman Bodden (aka DJ Jazzy B), the convicted man said he was truly sorry to Bodden’s family and his own children in Jamaica for the crime he had committed. Gordon also apologised to the Cayman community and to his former employers after his attorney had asked the chief justice to recognise that his client had admitted his guilt from the start. “This was never a murder case, “said QC Howard Hamilton who described the case as one of the most tragic he had ever been involved with.

Stating the facts of the case before the presiding judge, Chief Justice Anthony Smellie, Solicitor General Cheryll Richards told the court that the Crown had accepted a manslaughter plea but said Bodden had acted out of anger and not through fear when he stabbed Bodden six times during a fight on the night of 9 March 2009 at an address in Savannah. Richards explained that Gordon had been involved with Marcia Smith for some four years before the relationship broke up and Gordon had moved out of the home they shared. Following the separation Smith had met and begun to form a friendship with Bodden.

Richards explained how Gordon had gone to Smith’s residence where he still retained his possessions to collect a phone charger on the night Bodden was killed. He asked if he could speak to Smith about salvaging their relationship. However, as they began to talk Bodden arrived at the house around 10:30pm, as was pre-arranged, with food and was let in by Smith. Richards said that the two men exchanged words, a punch and food was thrown and a fight broke out. Richards said it was unclear who threw the first punch but Gordon said it was Bodden.

During the fight, Gordon who carried a ratchet knife, used the weapon on Bodden, inflicting six wounds one of which was fatal. The solicitor general said that when the Emergency Services arrived Bodden was dead and Gordon had reportedly said at the time: “You see what you made me do, you see what love do?” and, “He’s dead.”

Richards said that after the fight Gordon went outside and threw away the knife, which was never found, and then waited for the police and admitted to the offence immediately. Richards said that, despite the admission, the court should consider the degree of provocation that drove Gordon to kill Bodden as she said it was not fear, desperation or anticipation of violence, but that Gordon had expressed he was motivated by anger.

She suggested that the extent of his retaliation to the punch was excessive and that he had disposed of the weapon. Richards also noted the devastating impact on Bodden’s friends and family,and in particular his children, and asked the judge to consider those facts as he calculated the sentence.

Gordon’s own counsel, Hamilton, said that the throwing away of the weapon was seen by many psychologists as an action of regret after such an incident and not a deliberate attempt to cover anything up. He also noted that the provocation was not so much from Bodden but from Gordon’s girlfriend Smith. He said that she had deceived both men about their respective relationships and that allowing Bodden into the house when Gordon clearly still believed that the relationship was not yet over was a provocative move. “She was inviting an argument when she let her new lover into the house when her old lover was already there who had said he did not believe the relationship was over,” Hamilton told the court.

Hamilton said Smith had told Bodden that things were over between her and Gordon but had told Gordon nothing was going on between her and Bodden. Hamilton noted that Gordon had only just moved from the residence that the couple had shared for more than four years, days before the fight, and virtually all of Gordon’s possessions were still at Smith’s house, to which he had a key.

He said that in the days before the fight Smith had initiated numerous texts and phone calls to Gordon and he did not believe the relationship was over yet and that he was merely giving Smith some space.

Hamilton said it was Bodden who threw the first blow and when the fight ensued Bodden was overpowering Gordon who had been carrying a knife ever since one of his colleagues was brutally attacked while at work – a man who eventually killed himself as a result of the horrific disfigurement.

Moreover, Hamilton said Gordon did not go to the house with a knife seeking a fight but he was in what he still considered to be his real home when another man arrived late at night, invited by the woman he still loved.

The defence counsel said Gordon had never denied his guilt and had insisted on making a statement to the police immediately. Although the Crown had said Bodden had acknowledged killing Bodden immediately, Hamilton said he was not aware that he had actually caused Bodden’s death until during his police interview, when Hamilton said the interview had to be stopped as Gordon wept uncontrollably.

He said that the fight, which lasted just over a minute, had started after the angry words were exchanged and Bodden misunderstood Gordon’s moving towards him as a threat when he was actually going to leave, causing him to throw both a punch and the food at him. “A terrific fight then ensued,” said Hamilton, which, he added, was not fully witnessed by Smith, who was locked in a room, or the helper, whose statements were, he suggested, contradictory.

The defence counsel told the court there were no aggravating circumstances and that the death of Bodden was a tragedy that should and could have been avoided.  Hamilton suggested that Gordon’s degree of remorse was such that no sentence imposed by the court would ever surpass his own burden of guilt.

The chief justice has said he will pass sentence on Monday morning.

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Kids break in to West Bay residence

| 25/09/2009 | 13 Comments

(CNS): Two teenage boys have been arrested following the report of a burglary in West Bay on Sonny Powery Drive, West Bay, yesterday. Police said that they received a report in the afternoon at about 12:45pm from the occupant, who was alerted by a banging sound, and when they went to check saw the boys running from the residence. The two juveniles, who are aged 14 and 15 years, had reportedly escaped from a side door but the culprits were apprehended by police some time later.

The boys apparently entered the residence through a kitchen window that had been closed but not locked, but nothing was reported missing. Officers from West Bay Police Station attended the residence and a short time later two young suspects were arrested. The incident is now under investigation.

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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West Bay police boss gets governor’s backing

| 25/09/2009 | 14 Comments

(CNS): A recent petition submitted to the governor requesting the removal of West Bay’s police Area Commander has been rejected outright. Governor Stuart Jack said, not only was there “no merit to the petition”, Howell was doing a good job and that her efforts to tackle crime should be recognised and supported by the community. He said he was acutely aware of the level of crime in the Cayman Islands, as illustrated by the latest armed robbery at Quik Cash, but the police were doing all they could and that the local community should be offering its support to the police service. Police Commissioner David Banes echoed the sentiments and said Howard was one of his hardest working officers  in the RCIPS.

Jack said he wished to reassure the public that the RCIPS, headed by the new commissioner, was doing all it can to prevent crime and bring perpetrators to justice but noted that success is sometimes dependent upon public cooperation and stressed the importance of the public in West Bay and all districts of working in partnership with the RCIPS to make the Cayman Islands a safer place.

Speaking to CNS on Thursday afternoon, the commissioner also dismissed the views of the petitioner and stated that Howell was the one police officer that could be counted on to do the work that many of those supporting the petition say they want officers to do.

“If you ask which officer has been reaching out to the community to help people the most it is Angelique Howell. If you ask where you will see officers on foot and on bicycles it’s in West Bay,” the commissioner stated. He said she was organising community events for the young people in the district, working tirelessly to get sponsorship from the business community for film nights. He pointed to the recent recruitment forums she had hosted and said she worked incredibly hard to reach out to the people of the district. “She is one of my most ardent and strident officers and is doing exactly what the community has asked for by reaching out to them.”

Baines said that the petition was raised by one individual and he did not believe it had the backing of the West Bay Action Committee, a group of residents who have consistently complained about the way their district is policed and have voiced their opposition to the area commander. Baines said he would be meeting with the members of that committee soon, along with local politicians and official members to see if he can get to the bottom of the grievances in the district. He said he wanted to engage in balanced discussion and not a rant.

Baines emphasised that he believed the opposition to Howard was misplaced and that she was working extremely hard to help her community.

If you have any information you would like to share with the Police, you can do so in person at any of the police stations or by telephone – 911 for emergencies and 949-4222 for non-emergencies. If you want to remain anonymous when reporting a crime you can call the Crime Stoppers helpline on – 800 8477 (TIPS).

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Third man released in Next Level murder case

| 25/09/2009 | 22 Comments

(CNS): Police say they have now released the third man who was arrested in connection with the murder of Carlos Webster at the Next Level nightclub on Wednesday 9 September. According to reports on News 27, police have confirmed that they have had to let him go. Although there were said to be more than 150 people in the club at the time of the shooting and some twelve CCTV cameras installed, it is understood that after holding the man for 12 days, the legal limit before charging a suspect, the police still do not have enough evidence to lay a charge against the man, who has been released on police bail.

The Next Level nightclub is opening for the first time since the shooting this evening (Thursday 24 September) but the club’s owner has confirmed that it will remain closed on Wednesdays until further notice.

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