Archive for February 24th, 2010

‘Secrecy law’ days numbered

| 24/02/2010 | 21 Comments

Cayman Islands News, Grand Cayman headline news, Cayman finance, legal system(CNS): The law which is often referred to as Cayman’s "secrecy law" will soon be replaced by a Data Protection Law, the attorney general has said. Describing the Confidential Relationships (Preservation) Law (CRPL) as “the bane of our existence since the 1970s”, Samuel Bulgin told the Legislative Assembly on Wednesday morning that a report had been submitted to Cabinet on 8 February examining the issues on the most appropriate type of Data Protection Act to suit the jurisdiction. Bulgin said the document would be discussed by Cabinet in two weeks paving the way for draft legislation for a bill that will replace the controversial CRPL.

The attorney general revealed the developments regarding the end of the CRPL during his tabling of an amendment to the Criminal Justice Law regarding the need to send voluntary witnesses overseas under the terms of mutual assistance treaty requests without breaching the terms of the CRPL as it currently stands.

Bulgin explained that at present if a witness from a financial organisation in Cayman was to voluntarily attend a legal proceeding overseas to present documents in evidence, as a result of a treaty request for an overseas investigation, the individual could fall foul of the CPRL hence the need to amend the Criminal Justice Law to override the CRPL.

Following a question from opposition member Alden McLaughlin about the progress in repealing the CRPL, Bulgin explained that some time ago Cabinet had established a task force to examine whether the law had outlived its usefulness. He said that at first consideration had been given to repealing the criminal orpenal elementof the CRPL, which currently provides for the criminal prosecution of an individual who breaches the law, while simultaneously exploring a data protection law to replace it.

The attorney general told the Legislative Assembly that, with the involvement of David Archbold at the ICTA, a comprehensive report had now been completed about the suitable type of legislation and a decision had been made that, rather than reform the CRPL, the Data Protection law would be expedited instead.

The CPRL, or “secrecy law” as it has often been referred to, criminalizes the unauthorized disclosure of confidential corporate information, which has caused considerable controversy over the years and given rise to the global perceptions of banking secrecy in the Cayman Islands.

Although the CRPL also offers gateways for the release of information, it does so through the courts. During the last Caribbean Financial Action Task Force review of the Cayman Islands, the jurisdiction fell short of being fully compliant in a only a few areas one of which was the transfer of witnesses. Following the passage of the bill to amend the Criminal Justice Law so that witnesses will now not breach the CRPL should they voluntarily go to give evidence in person, the Attorney General said that Cayman could look forward to moving up the FATF ranking.

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Police appeal for two drivers and release two suspects

| 24/02/2010 | 4 Comments

Cayman Islands News, Grand Cayman local news, Royal Cayman Islands Police Service(CNS): The senior investigating officer in the murder enquiry of four-year-old Jeremiah Barnes is appealing for witnesses from two different cars that police believe were in the vicinity of Hell Gas Station seconds after the shooting. Detective Chief Inspector Peter Kennett is looking for the drivers of a 7-8 seater people carrier that was being driven west on Hell Road approaching the gas station which was forced to brake sharply, and a white saloon car waiting in Fountain Road to turn onto Hell Road. Kennett has also confirmed that two of the four men in custody have been released.

Police said that detectives in the major incident room at West Bay police station are continuing to pursue a number of lines of enquiry. SIO Kennett said over 50 statements have now been collected from various witnesses. “Clearly this tragic event has deeply affected the public, who are only too willing to help. As was so eloquently put by a number of speakers at the candlelit vigil for Jeremiah on Monday, it is time for people to stand up against the violence in Cayman. Clearly, people have taken this message to heart,” he said.

Today, police are focusing on finding the drivers and possible passengers of specific vehicles that were in the area of the Hell Gas Station, Hell Road West Bay at exactly 8pm on Monday the 15 February, just seconds after the murder was committed and may be able to assist with the enquiry.

The first was a 7-8 seater people carrier that was being driven west in Hell Road approaching the gas station. This vehicle was forced to brake sharply to avoid a dark grey saloon car that was exiting through the eastern entranceof the gas station turning right onto Hell Road. Had the driver not braked hard there would have been an accident. This dark grey vehicle was being driven at a very fast speed and had come from behind the station. It turned right and east into Hell Road and sped off.

There was also a fairly poor condition white saloon car waiting in Fountain Road to turn onto Hell Road and the driver would have seen this dark grey car.

“We urgently need to speak to these drivers” said DCI Kennett. “They may have valuable information that can assist the enquiry. If you were nearly involved in that accident by Hell service station please get in touch now.”

Anyone who has any information which could assist the enquiry team should contact the murder incident room at West Bay police station either by calling the team direct on 926-1773, or by calling the station on 949-3999 and asking to be transferred to the enquiry team.

Alternatively call Crime Stoppers on 800-8477 (TIPS).

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Restaurant armed robbery

| 24/02/2010 | 45 Comments

Cayman Islands News, Grand Cayman headline news, Royal Cayman Islands Police Service(CNS): Police say that two robbers, one of them armed with what appeared to be a handgun, held up a restaurant in George Town last night, Tuesday 23 February, and made off with a small sum of cash. About 9.00 pm two men, dressed in dark clothing, entered the Corner Restaurant in Eastern Avenue. The armed robber threatened staff before making off from the scene with the cash. No shots were fired and no-one was injured as a result of the incident. Detective Constable Richard Scott, of George Town CID, is appealing for anyone who has information regarding this crime to come forward.

“The restaurant was very quiet at the time of the robbery. The suspects were wearing dark clothing and had their faces covered,” he said. Detectives are appealing for witnesses and ask anyone in the area of the restaurant who saw anything suspicious to contact George Town police station on 949-4222.
 

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Cayman Finance report calls for cuts in public sector

| 24/02/2010 | 63 Comments

(CNS): The pressure for government to cut spending and reduce the civil service is mounting. An academic report examining the fiscal challenges facing the Cayman Islands contains heavy criticism of the way the United Kingdom is addressing its financial problems and says Cayman should not follow its lead but reduce the public sector. The report, compiled by Richard Teather, shows that the Cayman Islands has more than doubled the government spending per head of population than the average level for comparable countries. Teather says the solution to Cayman’s current financial problems is a substantial reduction in government expenditure and not taxation.

The report highlights the fact that government spending in the Cayman Islands is “totally out of line with its peers, having far higher levels of public spending than any other comparable jurisdiction.”

The report, commissioned by Cayman Finance (formerly The Cayman Islands Financial Services Association), unequivocally rules out the introduction of direct taxation without first ensuring public sector expenditure is balanced in relation to the islands’ population of around 50,000. The financial organisation says it intends that the report will assist the deliberations of The Miller Commission, which is scheduled to be published in the near future. The premier confirmed recently that the Miller report is already completed and he would be travelling to the UK to discuss its findings with the OT minister next month.

Commenting on the report and the growth of the local civil service, Anthony Travers, chair of Cayman Finance, said that the Cayman Islands premier was well aware that public sector expenditure presents the gravest financial problem facing the islands. “This is not a problem of Mr McKeeva Bush’s making. Many must shoulder the responsibility, but it is something he must address without further delay,” Travers stated.

Speaking at a public meeting in front of the courthouse last night, Bush vowed that he would not reduce the civil service and lay off Caymanians and that he would find other solutions. He said that if he reduced the civil service by 1000 people, that would see at least seven to eight hundred local people lose their jobs and he was not prepared to do that.

Travers, however, said he believed that the current CI government has realised the scale of the problem, unlike the UK Government which has not.

“The UK trillion pound public sector obligations are not even on the balance sheet. Despite the talk of regulation and prudent fiscal management, the accounting treatment shows that little has been learned in the UK from thefinancial crisis,” the CIFSA chair observed. “Now that the true nature of the problem has been identified in Cayman we encourage and support government undertaking immediate remedial action and in good time.”

The Teather report suggests that the alternative to cutting spending — increasing taxes — hurts workers and does not increase private sector jobs but does increase public sector jobs. He says that if a business’s taxes are raised there are only three options for whom to pass the cost on to: owners and investors through lower profits and lower dividends; customers through higher prices; or employees through lower wages or redundancies

 “The pain of tax rises on business therefore ends up falling on the workers,” Teather states and adds that institutional and private client funds pooling in a tax neutral environment have been an important element in the development of the financial services industry and notes the success of the indirect taxation method that has been used in Cayman to date.

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Mac: Asset sale only choice

| 24/02/2010 | 79 Comments

(CNS): The mounting opposition to government’s decision to sell public assets to balance this year’s budget brought McKeeva Bush back to the hustings this week to defend government policies, despite the fact that the election is over three years away. The premier said that selling assets was a better choice than laying off thousands of civil servants or introducing direct taxation. He said these were the only other choices the UK government would allow in order for the local government to borrow funds to pay off last year’s deficit, left by what he said was the PPM’s financial incompetence. Bush has also now stated that the government building will eventually be bought back, despite indications in the offering that it is a freehold sale. (Photo by Dennie Warren Jr)

The sale of the new government office accommodation building on Elgin Avenue has been met with considerable opposition, not just from the People’s Progress Movement but the wider community. Bush has, however, defended the move and also questioned why, when the sale of the building was openly indicated in the 2009/10 budget document back in October, there was now a rising against it and suggested it was political exploitation by the opposition party, who felt to oppose the move then was risky as the UDP government was still popular.

Following the PPM’s gathering at South Sound on Monday evening, the front and back bench members, as well as UDP party representative, gathered outside the Courthouse on Tuesday evening. Following short presentations from other party members, Bush took to the podium to defend his policies and take the opportunity to point the finger squarely at the previous administration for the financial struggles faced by the country.

Focusing on the sale of the new office accommodation building, Bush stated that government would not sell the building unless they were able to find a financial package or structure that would enable the government to still own the property in the future. He indicated that this would mean government was effectively buying back the building during the time it is renting the accommodation from the new owner. The goal, he added, was that the civil service pension board would still purchase the property, but whoever did, eventually government would still own it.

However, the invitation document clearly states that government is looking for “expressions of interest from investors wishing to acquire the freehold interest in the new Government Office Administration Building”, and although the terms include government being the tenant, it does not indicate how the government intends to buy back the freehold.

Nevertheless, Bush vowed to find a way and admitted that he did not want to sell the building but was forced to do so because, when in office, the PPM government had broken the rules on good fiscal management, placing the Cayman government at the mercy of the UK government for permission to borrow. He said that the UK gave no indication that they would allow, as the PPM have suggested, the CI government to spread the deficit over a longer period. Bush also insisted that the cash government would gain from the sale of the building would be placed into reserves and not absorbed by operational costs, as suggested by the PPM.

“We have had to make tough decisions in order to keep government operational,” he said, adding that he was not prepared to lay off thousands of civil servants and see Caymanians lose their jobs or introduce taxation. But if the budget was to go “belly up” that would spell certain disaster for the country and hopes for future investment.

“Is that what Kurt Tibbetts wants me to do?” he asked. Bush suggested that if the PPM did not support the sale of the new office building he must be in favour of laying off Caymanians or direct taxation.

Bush vowed to do everything possible to avoid the introduction of direct taxation as he said it would dramatically change the landscape of the Cayman Islands. “This budget does not include taxation and I truly want to keep it that way,” Bush told the public who had come to hear his position.  “As sure as night follows day, once you put tax on one it will soon fall on the poor man who can’t even pay his electricity bill.”

The need to sell the building was pivotal to the current budget, he said, and if we did not then the only other choice for this budget would be reducing the civil service, which would see hundreds of Caymanians lose their jobs. “I will not lay off civil servants,” he added.

The premier admitted that new revenue resources would still have to be found in the future. He said he would be going to the UK next month to discuss the Miller Report (the independent review conducted as a condition of the permission to borrow from the UK), which has assessed potential new revenue sources for the islands, the content of which has not yet been revealed. CNS asked the premier what recommendations had been made in the report at the last press briefing but the premier said at the time that he was unable to discuss its content.

Bush also denied that his government had dismissed the idea of extending thecountry’s net-debt ratio and that the discussions with the UK over that strategy, which would give government access to more borrowing power over the next few years, were ongoing, but there was no certainty that the UK would ever agree. He said that the OT minister, Chris Bryant, would only have allowed the CI government to spread the deficit through borrowing if the country had introduced some form of property, income or payroll tax to balance the 2009/10 budget.

He said that the PPM’s opposition to the sale of assets and plans to march on the Glass House were disruptive and mere political opportunism as they had yet to offer any concrete solutions. “If they have a sound proposal bring it to us,” he invited.  “But it’s not solution they are after, it’s winning elections.”

Bush also spoke about immigration, crime and the planned march by the PPM. He lamented the opposition to his policies on the radio talk shows and what he called the ‘blogs’. He said that the blogs opposing government were written by the same person over and over again and that the public should not take any notice of them or the callers to the talk shows.

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Roberts reveals ordeal of murder trial

| 24/02/2010 | 5 Comments

(CNS): In an interview with News 27, Rayle Roberts, the husband of Estella Scott-Roberts talks about the trial in which the two men who murdered his wife were found guilty. Roberts reveals his emotions when he first caught a glimpse of Kirkland Henry and Larry Ricketts, the men who have been found guilty of abducting, raping, robbing and murdering Estella, during their first court appearance as well as the hurtful rumours that circulated about him.  “We have to be aware of the collateral damage of our tongue,” he said, explaining how people don’t understand when they spread malicious gossip how it really affects that person.

Go to News 27 video

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