Archive for September 27th, 2009

Rich tax dodgers in firing line

| 27/09/2009 | 0 Comments

(Reuters): The U.S. government is stepping up prosecutions of wealthy individuals dodging taxes through off-shore accounts, with new cases expected to be made public "every couple of weeks," a top government attorney has said. US officials have been sifting through about 250 client names obtained through the settlement of a criminal probe against UBS. Banks that helped U.S. clients hide money off-shore are also a target. The government has secured six guilty pleas so far including one on Friday, where a New Jersey man pleaded guilty for failing to report about $6.1 million he had held in a Swiss bank account.

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New Cayman governor backs TCI takeover by UK

| 27/09/2009 | 50 Comments

(CNS): According to reports across a number of Caribbean news websites, Cayman’s incoming governor, Duncan Taylor, has said he supports the UK’s intervention in the Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI) and has made it clear that Britain has a right to step in wherever there are perceived problems in its territories. He rejected the notion that the decision to set aside the elected government in the TCI amounted to modern day colonialism. Duncan stated that he didn’t think the situation would happen in the Cayman Islands but made it clear the UK had the constitutional power if necessary.

Taylor, who is preparing to take up office in Cayman in January 2010 after his four-year tour of duty as British High Commissioner to Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean is over, has expressed doubt that a similar situation could emerged here in an interview with the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC) .

“I hope it won’t come to that in the Cayman Islands and I would be very surprised if it did but the nature of the relationship with the British Overseas Territories is that they are still British Overseas Territories and that is the constitutional position,” he said.

He said he did not think the situation in TCI was necessarily a backward step. “I think the circumstances which had developed in the Turks and Caicos were truly exceptional, and once the Turks and Caicos remains a British Overseas Territory, in extreme circumstances, the power of the British government to take control still exists,” he told CMC.

Last month, Governor Gordon Wetherell signed a proclamation suspending sections of the Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI) constitution in a move that Premier Galmo Williams has condemned as a “coup” by the British government. The move was made after a UK-appointed commission said it had uncovered evidence to support damning allegations made against the former government led by Michael Misick, who had unsuccessfully appealed the decision of the United Kingdom government to suspend the constitution and impose direct rule. 

Taylor also responded to the criticisms of the UK government that it has no moral authority to tell others how to operate, given recent scandals that have emerged in its own backyard, such as the expenses furore.

“I think we are dealing very vigorously with the expensesscandal. There has been some pretty tough action taken already against a small number actually of the worst miscreants in the expenses scandal and a major review of the way parliamentary expenses are operated in Westminster,” Taylor added. “I think that the leaders of all the parties in the parliament of Westminster have committed themselves to very tough action to ensure that a system is put in place that is more transparent and accountable and to ensure that some of the difficulties which arose and which were made public over this summer don’t recur.”

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Crime experts offer security

| 27/09/2009 | 0 Comments

(CNS): The Security Centre Ltd has been at the forefront recently in the drive to increase awareness about and help protect the community from rising crime. From free security assessments to introducing some of the most affordable domestic alarm systems to the island, the staff at the TSCL has helped hundreds of residents over the last few months better protect themselves against crime. However, crime comes in many shapes and forms, says Vice President Frank Brennan, and TSCL offers a range of services that can significantly reduce the risk of you, your business, your home or family becoming victims.

“Everyone knows that they can depend on The Security Centre Limited for security systems and guards,” said Brennan. “However, we offer numerous other services that can help you protect your assets as well. From secure mail to private investigation services that can do background checks on potential employees for example, or discreet due diligence checks on the people you do business with, there is a lot we can help with.”

Brennan said the modern criminal is increasingly sophisticated and when it comes to protecting yourself, security is no longer about one size fits all. “At the Security Centre we can assess your personal or business security needs and help you address specific concerns or vulnerabilities,” he added.

TSCL’s secure mail service is there to help businesses get information and valuable goods where they need to be on time and safely, from sensitive information to critical documents. When it comes to more discreet forms of security, from checking personnel to due diligence on business partners, the TSCL takes a professional approach to investigation. TSCL can check internal security breaches, deal with concerns over fraudulent business transactions or other commercial threats.

“Our investigators are skilled professionals who are very experience in covert surveillance operations,” said Operations Manager Maria Mclean. “Customers can trust us to be discreet and efficient when it comes to dealing with their more sensitive and delicate security issues. TSCL is able to send investigators anywhere in the world or can use its network of professional resources to deal with international issues or those on your doorstep.”

Controlling who gets into your commercial facility through sophisticated card access or residential premises with security gates or video entry is another service that TSCL offers to help people protect homes and business premises from anyone who should not be there – something that has become a particular concern as a result of a rise recently in home invasions as well as a number of armed robberies. 

“It can be very traumatising for people to be burgled when they are out, but when someone invades your home when you’re there it can be terrifying,” said McLean, adding that commercial entry systems can ensure that those who should be on your business premises can access efficiently while keeping intruders out.

 

Security lighting, domestic and commercial fire alarms as well as security alarms for homes, business and even boats, sophisticated vaults or mini-room safes, CCTV, professional guards and executive protection at home and abroad are just some of the service the firm offers.

“What we pride ourselves on is the custom-made approach we can take to security,” McLean said. “Everyone’s security needs are different but everyone has something valuable to protect. Whether it is corporate intelligence, a valuable commodity, your home and, above all, your loved ones, we can find a way for you to lower your vulnerability to crime.”

Not everyone’s needs are the same and not everyone wants high profile systems, Brennan pointed out, so TSCL staff takes time to find out what people need and want. “Customers’ needs are always diverse. There is no one size fits all when it comes to protecting your assets and lowering your risks, and at The Security Centre we make it our business to meet our clients’ needs based on budgets and circumstances. From those who need high levels of protection to those look for a simple and efficient way to protect the family, we can help,” he explained.

For more information on the diverse range of services offered by The Security Centre Limited or a no obligation security assessment contact: The Security Centre Limited, Unit B1, Cayman Business Park, 10A Huldah Avenue, George Town, P.O. Box 10055, Grand Cayman, KY1-1001, CAYMAN ISLANDS. Tel: (345) 949-0004, Fax: (345) 945-6591, Email: info@security.ky www.security.ky Or visit the Retail Showroom on North Sound Road, George Town, next to the Butterfield Roundabout. Tel: (345) 949-744

 

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Cayman’s reefs in peril from bleaching

| 27/09/2009 | 10 Comments

(CNS): Local reefs are suffering from significant amounts of coral bleaching, the Department of Environment (DoE) staff has confirmed following reports from the diving community as well as a ‘bleaching potential’ alert from the recently installed ICON monitoring station in Little Cayman. The news of the damage comes at a time when tourism is fighting to survive and the local reefs remain one of Cayman’s key selling points. The DOE said nearly all corals in the shallow reefs to about 30 ft now show signs of moderate to severe bleaching, while approximately 80% of corals in the deeper reefs to 120 ft are exhibiting the early signs of coral bleaching.

The DOE staff recently conducted a rapid assessment of reefs on the north, west and south coasts of Grand Cayman and found the distressing results. The DoE said the bleaching appeared more intense on the north coast although the department stated the reasons for this are not fully understood at this stage.

“Coral bleaching is a stress related reaction whereby the coral colonies lose their colour and ‘bleach’ white either due to the loss of pigments by microscopic algae living in symbiosis with their coral hosts, or because the algae have been totally expelled.  Bleaching is closely associated with sustained elevated water temperatures and UV light and has been linked to global climate change as the world’s oceans heat up,” Timothy Austin explained in a department release.

The DoE has warned that while corals can recover from less severe bleaching episodes recovery is variable and in some instances entire reefs have been lost to single bleaching events.  “The last major bout of bleaching to impact the Cayman’s reefs occurred in 1998 with significant mortality following. Minor bleaching events have been recorded in the warmer summer months with increasing frequency during the last decade,” the government expert added. 

The DOE has a Long Term Coral Reef Monitoring Programme, in place since 1997, to the track the health of Cayman’s reefs, which the DoE says will monitor the current extent and severity of impact associated with the recent bleaching having only just completed an extensive video survey at 55 reef sites around all three islands. 

“Monitoring efforts will be increased over the next few weeks to better quantify and assess the impact of this bleaching event and to determine levels of recovery,” Austin stated. “The DOE expects this current bleaching episode to increase significantly in severity in the following weeks as water temperatures remain above the threshold 29.5 degrees Celsius.”

There is hope however based on past water temperature data collected since 1996 that suggests local waters start cooling down from mid-October, which hopefully may bring some relief for the heat stressed corals.

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Exercise your right to know

| 27/09/2009 | 23 Comments

By now most of you have heard the repeated mantra that: Freedom of Information (FOI) legislation is essential to any democratic society in that it promotes transparency and accountability of a government to its people, who through the law now have a right of access to information… Yeah… OK… sure that sounds good, but what does it really mean?

Respectfully, FOI is not just another act of the Legislature it is much more complex. Not complex in the sense of being difficult to interpret, but rather in the sense that it is not capable of being wholly reduced to a simple definition or repealable law. Instead, try seeing FOI as a lofty politico-philosophy, which allows examination of the general array of government practices that benefit the country, which is the essential underpinning of good governance.

This allows the electorate to be informed and if necessary hold firm-reign on their government. In turn the government is compelled to be efficient by implementing and adhering to good record keeping practices, exercising fiscal prudence, and demonstrate general appreciation for human rights. No doubt we all in this time of economicuncertainty are adamant about the need to ensure that we manage our finances properly. These standards should exist in all organized democratic societies whether that society has FOI legislation, some other open government policy or no formal requirement at all.

Government, as stewards of the country’s resources, are obliged to provide the people with records they request, or at least provide full legal and written reasoning for why those records cannot be provided. It is therefore the responsibility of the public to make request in order to make transparency work.
Surely like myself, advocates of FOI are happy that such legislation has been enacted in Cayman. However, the fact that such legislation has been enacted does not mean that Government automatically becomes transparent.

There is some evidence (based on the statistics outlined in the reports produced by the FOI Unit) that the public is using the law to obtain real information which is useful, practical and capable of helping people develop an informed opinion. However, most of the requests that have provoked dialogue among the general populous are the few made by individuals with ties to the media. If we as a people expect to reap the full benefits of the law we must actively and aggressively ‘Exercise our Right to Know’, and be willing to appeal our requests to the Information Commissioner if we are not satisfied with the response from the public authorities. Whether our governments have historically operated under strict secrecy is for you to decide, but it does not change the fact that we now have a powerful tool at our disposal, which is also confirmed in our new Constitution.

The Cayman Islands is experiencing cultural change in many areas. New horizons in respect to our international status, political representation, finance, immigration and education system are inevitable. Included at the forefront of these changes is the requirement for open-governance through Freedom of Information. This is also incidentally what we must use to be better informed on how our representatives navigate us through these turbulent times.

A recognized and appreciated move towards cultural change brought in by the FOI Law is the strong requirement for protection of Whistleblowers, allowance of anonymity and procedural fairness. Within the meaning of the FOI Law there is a duty imposed on Public Authorities to assist applicants wherever possible, especially if it is with helping to properly articulate their requests. The oft-repeated comments in regards to lack of assistance and fear of reprisal can now become a thing of the past. Ultimately FOI provides new rules on the relationship between citizen and state.

We all hope to one day be able to say that the culture of secrecy surrounding government operations, in reality, no longer exists; and the fact that the people of this country have taken up the mantle to ensure transparency and good governance has served to ensure that. With proper use, it will be this country’s residents who determine whether the law is working and how long it will take for this cultural change to be realised.

Only an informed people can properly determine whether the Government is doing its job… only if you ‘Exercise Your Right To Know’.



Sonji Myles is the Intake Analyst for the Information Commissioner’s Office

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Dog poisonings under investigation says DoA Director

| 27/09/2009 | 6 Comments

(CNS): The Department of Agriculture has said that it is working with the police to investigate the recent, apparent poisonings of dogs in the South Sound area. DoA Director Adrian Estwick said the department was taking the reports seriously and that any such deliberate act of animal cruelty is an offense under the Animals Law (2003 revision) but he confirmed that as yet the agent being used to poison the animals has not been identified. DoA Animal Welfare Officer Margaret Baldino advised dog owners to use a basket muzzle when walking dogs to prevent them picking up contaminated food.

“Pet owners can take steps to keep their animals safe, by keeping them on a leash when outside and not letting them roam,” Baldino stated. “If your dog is one of those that can’t leave ‘stuff’ alone then, as an added precaution, owners can use a basket muzzle to prevent them from picking up items when out for a walk, especially on a long leash. Consistent training, especially with the ‘Leave’ command is important, as well as a constant vigilance.”

Estwick said the public could be assured that if any evidence of deliberate cruelty is discovered, the DoA will seek to prosecute but was still not sure how the animals were being poisoned. “Some members of the public have expressed concern that pesticides may be linked to the apparent poisonings. However, experience both locally and internationally has shown that where pesticides have been linked to poisonings, this has invariably been the result of a deliberate act or accidental misuse of the product,” Estwick added. “Pesticides recommended by the DOA, when used as directed, are safe and effective tools for the control of pestsin both the agricultural and landscape sectors.”

The DoA screens and evaluates all of the pesticides that it imports and sells to ensure that there is the least potential for a negative impact on non-target organisms and the environment. Additionally, the DoA further restricts the sale of more toxic pesticides to registered farmers who have been trained in their handling and use. The DoA, however, is neither the sole importer nor retailer of pesticides in the Cayman Islands. At present pesticide importation, sale and use is largely unregulated under existing legislation.

The DoA said it and the Ministry was committed to enhanced regulation of pesticides and have over the years taken actions to promote increased regulation of these products. “Enacting new legislation to comprehensively regulate the importation, storage, distribution and use of pesticides in the Cayman Islands continues to be the goal,” the DOA said.

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Power generation expansion plans shelved

| 27/09/2009 | 2 Comments

(CNS): CUC and the ERA have announced that the planned project to expand local electricity generation has been cancelled. Government had been soliciting for bids on the project. However, based on the current economic conditions the medium term future load growth projections have been revisedand the ERA believes the extra capacity won’t be needed. CUC said it is unlikely that there will be any need to warrant further expansion in the near term but both CUC and the ERA will be monitoring the country’s ongoing power needs.

Caribbean Utilities Company, which was one of two firms bidding on the capacity generating project as well as being Grand Cayman’s monopoly power provider, said it had been advised by the Cayman Islands Electricity Regulatory Authority (ERA)  that the 32 MegaWatt expansion solicitation has stopped. Government was seeking 16 MW of additional capacity in 2012 and a further 16 MW in 2013 based on a Certificate of Need by CUC in March of 2009.

“While the current economic uncertainty makes precise forecasting difficult, CUC believes that, based on Grand Cayman large project starts and the general state of the Cayman Islands economy, growth during the period will not meet thresholds necessary to warrant capacity expansion in the near term,” CUC stated adding that it and the ERA would continue to monitor growth indicators and revise forecasts as necessary.

“The ERA has indicated it will commence a new solicitation at such time as large project starts and general economic recovery indicates a future need for additional capacity,” the power firm said in a release.

 “CUC remains committed to providing a reliable electricity service to Grand Cayman and will continue to monitor key growth indicators and endeavour to secure additional capacity in a timely manner to meet customer demand,” CUC President and Chief Executive Officer, Richard Hew stated.

CUC provides electricity to Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands, under an Electricity Generation Licence expiring in 2029 and an exclusive Electricity Transmission and Distribution Licence expiring in 2028. Further information is available at www.cuccayman.com

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MLA: Use reserves for budget

| 27/09/2009 | 24 Comments

(CNS): The failure of the government to bring the budget to the House last week has placed the UDP administration in a difficult position, says North Side representative, Ezzard Miller. He told CNS that, as the temporary appropriation brought after the election runs out this weekend, government will have no operating expenses to work with. The House’s only independent MLA said that the government should stop trying to persuade the UK to approve further borrowing and use the cash in the reserve account to bring a deficit budget to the LA with, if necessary, dramatic cuts as well as fee increases.

He said government would then have time to generate revenue and take stock over the next twelve months. "I believe the government must call a session of the Legislative Assembly regardless of the negotiations going on with the UK,” Miller stated in the wake of the government’s second cancellation of the expected LA budget meeting. “Government can bring a deficit budget with severe cuts and use the reserve funds in the interim.”

Miller explained that the government needs to bring the budget immediately, otherwise it cannot function. He said that hardly anyone in Cayman supports direct taxation and its introduction would, contrary to the UK’s insistence, entirely undermine future economic success and therefore it is best to raise existing fees.

“We need time to raise revenue by increasing the traditional consumption fees, as well as time to examine the cuts that can, and must, be made in government operating expenses,” he added. “In the interim, this year’s operating costs must be dramatically reduced. There are many non-essential things we can cut from the budget, especially in the department of tourism. We can use the funds in the reserve account to tide government through until January, when government will collect a significant part of its revenue and we can use this year to scrutinize government spending.”

Whatever happens, Miller said, the government has to bring a budget and it is quite clear that the UK will not allow anymore borrowing without taxation. Given the circumstances, Miller said Cayman should manage without that borrowing and use the reserves instead, which requires the approval of the Legislative Assembly and not the UK.

Bush, however, told CNS this week that access to the reserves, which stands at $76.1 million, is not so easy and he did not want to finish the work of the PPM by truly bankrupting the country by using that cash. The financial secretary recently confirmed that the Cayman government does not need UK approval to access that money but he indicated it would require some legislative changes.

On Friday, in an article in the Guardian newspaper in the UK, Chris Bryant, the Overseas Territories Minister, once again spelt out the UK’s position as far as territories are concerned and made it clear that he would not approve more borrowing without the introduction of a sustainable tax base. He wrote that it was in the interests of all the overseas territories to have open, transparent fiscal arrangements and a sustainable revenue from a wide and diverse tax base. "Mere tax haven status will not pay the bills, nor will an over-reliance on indirect taxation.”

With an eye on what is expected to be revealed in Michael Foot’s forthcoming report, Bryant said that the overseas territories needed a strategy for reining in public expenditure and raising revenue to pay off debt. He said he expected that discussions with Cayman and other territories would continue and said he was determined that the territories’ public finances were resilient enough in the long term to handle economic shocks. He said fiscal policy may be down to the territories themselves but, he added, “The UK government is right to put restrictions on their ability to borrow unless and until they can come forward with a clear strategy for cutting that debt.”

During the course of this week rumour and speculation that Cayman would be introducing some form of direct taxation has caused enormous concern in the community, with the private sector entirely rejecting payroll, income, sales and property taxes. As the week drew to a close there was still no word on exactly what tax government would introduce as it remained in closed door negotiations with the UK, but it was perfectly apparent that the UK will not permit Bush to access the $372 million he has negotiated withoutthe introduction of a direct tax.

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