Archive for October 28th, 2009

Port decision delayed

| 28/10/2009 | 59 Comments

(CNS): Mounting speculation that the Dart Group has been awarded the contract to build the new George Town cruise berthing facility could not be confirmed on Wednesday when the promised announcement at the FCCA conference in St. Luciafailed to materialize. Port Authority Chairman Stefan Baraud said he was unable to say who would be constructing Cayman’s most talked about development as he had been told that Cabinet had not yet made a decision and that the announcement would now be made next week.

Baraud explained that he and his committee had submitted recommendations to Cabinet based on a checklist of essential criteria on each of the bids, but as far as he was aware none had yet been confirmed as the winning bid. Despite this, however, rumours that Dart Enterprises, the developers of Camana Bay and a significant owner of property on the George Town waterfront, would be the investor have persisted. CNS understands that Dart was one of the four bids which the special committee had selected from the original thirteen submissions for government’s final consideration.

Given that this development will be financed entirely by the private sector, there are few local developers that would have the ability to raise the necessary capital. The other bids are all believed to be from overseas, including at least one from Saudi Arabia. Baraud told CNS yesterday that whoever won the bid, whether local or foreign, would have to fulfil the requirement to engage local contractors and Caymanian workers on the project.

Dart has already employed a significant number of local contractors on the Camana Bay project but last year established its own general contractor, Dart Enterprises Construction Company (DECCO). A spokesperson for the firm said at the time that DECCO was established because of market demands and the fact that there were only a limited number of contractors in Cayman with the capability to complete large and complex projects.

Given that the criteria which would direct the decision over who would build the controversial facility included not just the necessary financing but also the ability to mobilize quickly, quality of design and the requirement to contract local people, Dart is an obvious contender to win the bid based on its current situation in Cayman and its track record at Camana Bay.

CNS contacted Dart regarding the rumour but the developer said it was unable to comment on the speculation at this time.

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Relief over tax act changes

| 28/10/2009 | 10 Comments

(CNS): News from the United States that the proposals for the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act will not include the damaging features of Senator Levin’s Stop Tax Haven Abuse Act, which would have relied on “lists” and other provisions that could have discouraged lawful business in Cayman, have been welcomed by the islands’ financial sector. Cayman Finance said today that the latest proposals plan to tackle offshore tax abuse through increased transparency and enhanced reporting requirements, which is consistent with the message that it was promoting in the US over the last few months.

The latest legislative proposals from Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.), House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charles Rangel (D-NY), senior Senate Finance Committee member John Kerry (D-MA), and Ways and Means Select Revenue Subcommittee Chairman Richard Neal (D-MA), intended to clamp down on tax evasion and improve taxpayer compliance, will give the IRS new administrative tools to detect, deter and discourage offshore tax abuses, the US legislators have said.

Based on proposals included in President Obama’s 2010 Budget on legislation proposed by Senator Carl Levin and Representative Lloyd Doggett, and a draft released by Senator Max Baucus, the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act will force foreign financial institutions, foreign trusts, and foreign corporations to provide information about their US accountholders, grantors, and owners, respectively.

Cayman Finance Chair Anthony Travers said today that this latest proposal is entirely consistent with the approach suggested by Cayman Finance in meetings with US policymakers. “Cayman Finance is confident that enactment of the US legislation proposed by the two chairmen will contribute significantly to the certainty and stability that the capital markets require, as well as the ability of the Cayman Islands to continue to successfully fund United States institutions from those markets,” he added.

The new Senate-House proposal sets in placepractices that will clamp down on jurisdictions which still practice tax evasion and improve taxpayer compliance by giving the IRS new administrative tools. The act aims to force foreign financial institutions, foreign trusts and foreign corporations to provide information about their U.S. accountholders, grantors and owners.

The government and financial firms in the Cayman Islands have supplied full financial information and tax information for many years under the 1990 and 2001 treaties with the United States, and take pride in the regulatory and fiscal transparency that is a requirement for IOSCO (International Organization of Securities Commissions) membership. Cayman has also signed tax transparency treaties with the European Union and more than 12 other jurisdictions.

The drive to find legislation to address the issue of US money going to tax havens is based on the belief that US citizens are evading billions of dollars in tax by using offshore financial centres. The provisions in this act will prevent people from evading as much as $8.5 billion in US taxes over the next ten years, the Joint Committee on Taxation has estimated.

Senator Carl Levin’s original proposals had caused concern in offshore financial service centres because of the suggestion of once again blacklisting jurisdictions.  Sen. Baucus said yesterday that this latest draft is more durable, more likely to become law and will strengthen IRS resources to root out tax cheats once and for all.  “These tax evaders cost our country tens of billions of dollars every year in unpaid taxes, and honest, law-abiding taxpayers pay the price.  Not only is this practice fundamentally unfair, this is money that could be used in any number of other important areas, such as reducing our fiscal deficits,” Baccus added.

Ways and Means Committee Chairman Rangel said the bill offers foreign banks a simple choice – if they want to access US capital markets they have to report on US account holders. “I am confident that most banks will do the right thing and help to make bank secrecy practices a thing of the past.”

Sen. Kerry said that when he first arrived at the Senate he investigated what he called “the murky and opaque network that allows people to hide assets abroad and evade US tax laws.” Decades later, the senator said that there was still work to do but this legislation would be a step forward. “It will prevent another UBS and strengthen taxpayer compliance.  The Treasury Department’s efforts to improve how we share tax information with other countries and the compliance provisions in this bill will help crackdown on the bad actors who try to hide funds offshore instead of playing by the rules,” he added.

Last March, Ways and Means Select Revenue Subcommittee Chairman Neal held a hearing in the Subcommittee on Select Revenue Measures, addressing what he called the nexus between bank secrecy and tax avoidance. He said with billions of dollars in US tax revenue being lost each year due to uncooperative foreign financial institutions, it was clear the issue had reached tipping point.

“The demand for standards on bank secrecy has even gone international, with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown calling for the beginning of the end of tax havens. As a long-time critic of US individuals and companies engaging in unlawful foreign tax avoidance, I believe this bill provides the Treasury Department with the tools it needs to crack down on those Americans hiding assets overseas,” he added.

The basic points in the proposed legislation cover the implementation of a 30% withholding on payments to foreign financial institutions and other entities unless they acknowledge the accounts’ existence to the IRS and disclose relevant information; Individuals and entities would be required to report offshore accounts with values of $50,000 or more on their tax returns; Advisors who help set up offshore accounts would be required to disclose their activities or pay a penalty; strengthening of rules and penalties with regard to foreign trusts, including rules to determine whether distributions from foreign trusts are going to US beneficiaries; and that US dividend payments received by foreign persons are treated as dividends even when couched as another type of distribution in an effort to avoid US taxes.

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Cayman’s cruise business on the up says report

| 28/10/2009 | 7 Comments

(CNS): Cruise tourism revenue in Cayman is growing, according to a report commissioned by an industry body, despite a decline in visitor numbers. The latest Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association report reveals that the cruise sector appears to be doing much better, with passengers spending more in the destinations they visit. The findings suggest that cruise tourism generated a total of US$174.4 million in the Cayman Islands during the 2008/2009cruise year (May08-April 09). It also reveals that the time passengers spent ashore was also relatively high, even when compared to destinations with berthing facilities.

The report comes at a time when cruise tourism numbers have been increasing again in Cayman when compared to visitor numbers for this time last year and as government comes close to finalizing a deal to develop cruise berthing facilities in the George Town Harbour.

Despite one of the gloomiest financial years since the Great Depression, according to the study, regional cruise tourism among FCCA members in 2008-2009 generated more than $2.2 billion in direct expenditures, 56,000 jobs and $720 million in employee wages among the 29 destinations surveyed.

"This certainly is wonderful news, but it doesn’t surprise me,"  FCCA president Michele Paige told association members attending the 16th Annual Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association’s Conference and Trade Show in St Lucia. "FCCA members are known for seeing opportunities — not obstacles."

During the survey period 1.45 million cruise passengers arrived in the Cayman Islands aboard cruise ships, with more than 90% coming ashore. Further estimates reveal that 571,291 crew members were on the ships and 35% of those came ashore. Passengers spent an average of $96 during their visit stay on a range of purchases, from watches and jewellery to shore excursions and food & beverage.

According to the report, crew members spent even more than the passengers when coming ashore, with an average of US$108. The average time spent on shore in Cayman was 4.3 hours, and despite the tendering which is considered a hindrance to passengers disembarking, the survey revealed that 91% of the cruise parties that completed the survey disembarked their cruise ship to visit the Cayman Islands. This compared favourably with many other destinations, such as the Bahamas and St Lucia where only 80% came ashore and Turks & Caicos where 85% disembarked.

Of the cruise parties that came ashore in Cayman, 89% made at least one purchase during their four plus hours. The time ashore also compared favourably to that of destinations with cruise berthing, such as Jamaica where the average was 4.5 hours and the Bahamas where it was 4.6. Visitors stayed longer in Cayman than they did in Turks & Caicos, which had an average of only 3.5, St Vincent & the Grenadines with 3.4 and 4.2 hours in Aruba, despite their berthing facilities.

The report also claims that the wage income generated by cruise tourism in the Cayman Islands economy for the cruise year 2008/09 was US$69.5 million and had helped to create over 3,700 jobs. Although passenger numbers showed a decline compared to the last major study commissioned by the FCCA in 2006 in Cayman, the average spend per passenger had increased by 17% and by 136% per crew member. Moreover, despite fewer passenger numbers, the report revealed that cruise tourism had generated slightly more jobs since the study in 2006.

In their assessment of their on shore visits to Cayman, passengers said they were happy with the level of “friendliness of residents” and “courtesy of employees” but historic sites, variety of things to see and do and overall prices were scored low. The report also stated that cruise passengers said they were not too likely to return to the Cayman Islands for a land-based vacation.

The FCCA study analyzed a wide variety of factors, including spending by passengers, crew members and cruise lines in destinations ranging from the Caribbean islands, Mexico, Central America and South America.

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Firearms suspect not the T&K cop killer

| 28/10/2009 | 97 Comments

(CNS): A man on the run from the RCIPS, Dainian Cecil Henry, was at one time a prime suspect in the slaying of  a Turks and Caicos police officer but was later eliminated from from the suspect list, police sources have told CNS. Henry made headlines Monday when he escaped from police custody at the George Town Police Station. A “Wanted” poster released by the Turks and Caicos Crime Stoppers in January 2005 shows that he was at the time on the run in that country and considered armed and dangerous but it was later determined that he was in Jamaica at the time of the murder. (Left: wanted in T&K in 2005)

See the "Wanted" poster

When reporting his escape from custody Monday, the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service said Henry was arrested over firearms related offences and describe him as medium to dark complexion, approximately 5’ 9’’, heavy set at about 170lbs, low cut hair, and was last seen wearing a green t-shirt with yellow stripes and khaki shorts.

Police advised the public to report any sightings of this individual immediately and are strongly advised to not approach him directly.

Anyone with information of crime taking place can pass it on to police in a number of ways; people can speak with an officer they know and trust, they can reach George Town detectives on 949-4222, they can leave information on an anonymous voicemail service by calling 949-7777 or they can call 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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Warnings over auditor exit

| 28/10/2009 | 0 Comments

(Guardian): Britain’s financial reporting regulator warns that the exit from the market of one of the big four firms dominating the accountancy profession would cause chaos to businesses throughout the world. The Financial Reporting Council’s chief executive, Paul Boyle said it was conceivable that litigation linked to the banking crisis could force one of KPMG, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Ernst & Young or Deloitte & Touche out of business. Speaking at the publication of an FRC report Boyle said the FRC was concerned about the significant uncertainty and cost which could arise in the event that one or more of the big four audit firms left the market.

Go to article.

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Baines plans RCIPS growth

| 28/10/2009 | 49 Comments

(CNS): The new police commissioner has said that he wants to increase the current police numbers in the Cayman Islands by around 50 officers. Facing what he called several skill gaps, with a need for more community and neighbourhood police officers, as well as the development of a task force, David Baines says he will be looking overseas to recruit at least half of these officers, including the US where he is hoping to attract specialists such as former FBI agents or other highly trained law enforcement officers.

Baines said he has plans to recruit and train local officers in the future with the introduction of a buddy system, but speaking on Rooster’s morning talk show Crosstalk this week, the senior officer said he had to deal with the immediate problem and address the current spike in crime. He said he wanted to fill the shortfalls in specific skills and expertise as quickly as possible and he did not have the luxury of time to train raw recruits.

“I have been speaking with colleagues in America with the view to provision of trained investigators, whether it is FBI agents or some of the South Florida law enforcement agencies to deal with the here and now,” the commissioner said. He explained that he was looking to recruit at least ten skilled investigators, at least three scenes of crimes officers and an unspecified number of specialist criminal analysts and intelligence officers, which, he said were key to making successful arrests but there were none of these experts currently in the RCIPS.

“People talk about having a task force but there is no point in having one unless they are clearly briefed, clearly directed and clearly understand when the best chance is to catch someone with firearms, drugs or indeed illicit material. It’s important we have the background information,” Baines said.

“We are going to grow our resources by about fifty officers over the next couple of months.” The senior officer said around half that number would be front line officers that could be locally recruited but the other half would have to be experienced and trained officers. He said this would also help with the current policy to make the police more visible. “People say they don’t see police and that’s because we have stripped front line officers to deal with specific incidents.” Baines explained that with the recruitment of specifically trained officers he could put front line officers back in post boosting the visibility.

In the meantime, he explained that he has put every single officer in uniform so as they move around the island people will see them going about their business increasing the feeling and perception of security. He said all officers will be going out on patrol as much as possible.

Yesterday, Baines himself was on foot patrol in the centre of George Town and heard first hand from local businesses how welcome the increase in police visibility has been by the community. A persistent and long term criticism of the service, that Baines has clearly acknowledged, is that the community feels police officers are rarely on their streets. Residents say they only ever see police in patrol cars with windows tightly closed and somehow distant from the community they are meant to police. The policy to increase foot patrols by officers and make them more visible has been extremely well received.

Speaking to News27 yesterday while out on the beat, Baines said the patrol was to reassure business owners and to build confidence in the community. “You will see every rank from the most junior PC to the most senior officer taking their turn to be out here and visible to the community,” he told the television crew.

Meanwhile, Supt. Marlon Bodden, the senior investigating officer on the murder enquiry of Fabian Reid, who was shot dead while driving a car in the North sound Estates earlier this month, conducted a walk through of the scene of the crime last night. The RCIPS said the purpose of the visit was to provide another opportunity to meet and speak with people who may recall additional details of the incident. 

Reid is the latest victim of a tit for tat spate of shootings which the commissioner said was linked to a girl and gang respect issues that began with the death of Omar Samuels, who was shot in the leg in George Town in July and died from the would after it severed his femoral artery. Three men have been charged with that murder and are currently in custody. However, the killersof Marcus Ebanks, Carlo Webster and Reid remain at large.

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Killa signs with Goosen

| 28/10/2009 | 0 Comments

( For many of the early years in his career, Charles Whittaker had toiled in journeyman status within the sport. Starting five years ago, Whittaker rededicated himself to the sport and since that time he’s gone undefeated laying waste to many of opponents in his homeland of the Cayman Islands. That streak has paid off as it was announced today that Whittaker had signed a deal with Goosen Tutor promotions. Whittaker’s first bout with Goosen Tutor is said to be announced in the coming weeks. "Dan Goossen has a proven history of getting fighters opportunities to show what they can do," Whittaker acknowledged.

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Rare pigmy whale washes ashore in Spotts

| 28/10/2009 | 14 Comments

(CNS): An 11-foot pygmy sperm whale reportedly washed ashore near the Spotts Dock yesterday morning. The rare sea mammal washed up near the private property of Eldon and Patricia Kirkconnell around 11am on Tuesday morning (27 October). Kirkconnell told News 27 that, on seeing the beached whale, he called the Department of Environment.  Pigmy sperm whales are said to be very rare and not much is known about them. News 27 said that when it sent crews out to the location the whale was gone. The DoE said it suspects the whale may have been pulled back out to sea.

Go to News 27 video and pictures

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