Archive for May 10th, 2010

Man arrested after woman stabbed in neck

| 10/05/2010 | 1 Comment

(CNS): Police said this evening that officers are continuing their enquiries following the arrest of a 26-year-old man on suspicion of attempted murder. At about 8:13 on Sunday evening, 9 May, a woman sustained serious neck injuries while at her home in the George Town area. Police say the victim of the attack called the police at the time of the incident and the man arrested remains in police custody. Meanwhile, police are seeking witnesses to another violent incident on Saturday morning in which a 29-year-old man was stabbed with a bottle outside the LI nightclub.

Police said that at about 0.33 am on Saturday, 8 May, police received a report that an altercation had taken place outside LI nightclub in George Town. As a result of the incident a 29-year-old man sustained neck wounds from a broken bottle and was conveyed to the Cayman Islands Hospital George Town, where he was detained but has since been released.  Police are appealing for witnesses.
Police say they are also looking into a violent domestic incident which reportedly occurred outside Jet Nightclub along Seven Mile Beach on Saturday night.
Anyone with information is asked to contact George Town CID Det Constable Andrew Bowen.

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Man drowns swimming off South Sound coast

| 10/05/2010 | 7 Comments

(CNS): The RCIPS have now confirmed that a Jamaican man died while swimming over the weekend. A police spokesperson said this afternoon that at around 1.20 pm on Sunday, 9 May, the police received a report that a swimmer had gone missing close to Sand Cay, South Sound. A search was then launched and the Marine Unit Tornado was deployed. A short time later the body of a 43-year-old Jamaican male was recovered from the sea by Marine Unit officers. CPR was conducted as the body was brought to shore and he was conveyed to the Cayman Islands Hospital, in George Town where he was pronounced dead on arrival.

Police said that his next of kin have now been informed and at this stage there would appear to be no suspicious circumstances surrounding the death.  A post mortem examination will be carried out.
 

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First two weapons in as gun amnesty underway

| 10/05/2010 | 6 Comments

(CNS): The police firearms amnesty was officially underway this morning when the strong boxes were placed in police stations on Grand Cayman and Cayman Brac. Two different sized, specially designed boxes have been placed in the foyer of George Town, Bodden Town, West Bay and Cayman Brac police stations, enabling the general public to bring in firearms without fear of prosecution. A handgun and a shot gun have already been deposited in the relevant boxes at the Bodden Town station under the no-questions-asked-amnesty which will run until 10 June. (Photo by Dennie Warren Jr)

The 30 day window of opportunity has been pt in place in an effort to reduce the number of guns on the streets of Cayman. Given the significant number of guns that appear to be circulating here and the recent alarming escalation of gun violence police are hoping for a good response from the community whom they said had indicated they would support the move.
The campaign was announced last week by the commissioner with support from Dorlisa Ebanks the mother of 4 year-old gun victim Jeremiah Barnes.  Police are hoping that those who know where weapons are will hand them in and save lives.
Unveiling the campaign poster, which calls for people to help cut gun crime in Cayman, as well as reminding them of the ten-year prison sentence for possession of unlicensed firearms, Police Commissioner David Baines said it was about making the community safer. He pointed out too that ten years is a long time away from friends and family and by handing in weapons people in the community who knew where guns were hidden could save a loved one from a long prison sentence or more importantly save their lives.
 “The fact is that too many young lives have been lost to gun crime in Cayman and too many guns are available on our streets for use by gang members,” Baines said. Superintendent Marlon Bodden has warned that once the amnesty is over those who did not take advantage of the opportunity would find that the police would be carrying out major proactive operations to crack down on gun possession. Officers he said would be working harder than ever to ensure investigations would be airtight and those illegally possessing firearms would face ten years in jail. 
The police have confirmed that the identity of those bringing the guns into police stations will be protected but the weapons themselves would still be investigated for any connection to crimes. Bodden explained it was not a blanket amnesty on the crime or the involvement of specific weapons in particular incidents but individuals who were not involved in shooting anyone but had access to illegal guns could feel secure that they could bring the weapons in anonymously with no questions asked.
 
 
 

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Mac says government still workingon three year plan

| 10/05/2010 | 8 Comments

(CNS): The government has still not revealed the details of the three-year plan it sent to the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office in March or what the UK’s response has been to these medium term financial proposals for eliminating the current deficit. In a message delivered to the Cayman Finance Summit the premier told the industry that government had submitted a three-year economic plan to London, which had raised queries in specific areas. He did not confirm if the taxation question had been one of those queries but again promised not to introduce income or property tax.

Following further speculation about the government’s 2009/10 deficit and the immediate need to bring a budget to the Legislative Assembly for the start of the 2010/11 fiscal year on 1 July, the issue of taxation has once again been raised by the premier. Cayman may still be forced to introduce some form of taxation in order to get approval from the UK for further borrowing to plug the continuing government deficit as well as complete the major capital projects.
Cayman Finance members had asked McKeeva Bush to address them on this issue when he delivered the opening address at last Thursday’s summit at the Ritz-Carlton. However, the audience heard that the premier had been called off island on “urgent tourism business” and was not available to deliver his opening address.  Instead Acting Chief Officer (Financial Services) at the Ministry of Finance, Dax Basdeo, delivered a message on behalf of the premier.
Basdeo said that as a result of the UK election Cayman’s own financial plans for the next budget had to be put on hold since a current minister can’t bind an incoming one and Cayman’s 2010-11 budget needs the approval of the new minister responsible for Overseas Territories.
“We amended the Public Management and Finance Law that required a budget before May 1st to allow us to bring the budget to the Legislative Assembly before the beginning of the new fiscal year,” Basdeo said on behalf of the premier. “We are taking the delay of the budget presentation to continue finding areas within the public service where we can reduce the 2010-11 budgetas this is one of the key areas that needs to be addressed in order to finalise our budget. Cabinet has set a goal of reducing human resources related costs by eight percent and operational cost by ten percent.”
The message also stated that government was still seeking increased revenue by encouraging investment to generate revenue. The agreement with Dr Devi Shetty for the construction of the Cayman Narayana Health University was cited as an example along with the Memorandum of Understanding with DECCO for the construction of two cruise ship piers. He said these were long term projects that would increase government coffers in the future but in the short term government was still looking at more immediate sources of revenue.
“While the UK has been encouraging us to introduce some form of direct taxation, the premier has asked me to assure all of you that Cayman will not even consider income tax or property tax,” Basdeo said. “Whatever is decided, we are committed to doing a cost benefit analysis before any decisions on new revenue-earning systems are taken to help ensure fairness to all.”
During the address Basdeo also told the financial experts gathered for the summit that the government was working on a number of key international initiatives. He said government was tracking legislative developments on a number of fronts including  the HIRE Act, which may have implications for Cayman Islands structures, and potentially for US citizens residing in the Cayman Islands as well as the discussions in Brussels regarding the Alternative Investment Fund Directive and the EUSD II.
The message contained details of some of the changes made to bolster policy, legislative and communications infrastructure within the Ministry of Finance. Basdeo added that the Financial Services Secretariat had been strengthened with an integrated team of policy, legislative and communications experts under the ministry’s direction. “In addition to day-to-day management of activities in the areas of policy, legislation and communications, this core team also provides support and coordination for the stellar public-private sector committees that have been reinvigorated or newly-established, including the Financial Services Council, the Financial Services Legislative Committee and the Tax Information Exchange Agreement negotiating team,” Basdeo said.
The ministry was also in continuous dialogue and working lock-step with the Cayman Islands Monetary Authority, Tax Information Authority, Portfolio of Legal Affairs and the Attorney General’s Chambers, with the common goal of ensuring the country’s international cooperation obligations are fully met.
With the various new resources, Basdeo said, government was looking to make significant progress by leveraging Cayman’s historic position as a financial services centre of excellence and becoming a locale for innovative, international business, competing with the likes of any other major cities in the world.
“We are seeking out more opportunities to be at the decision-making table to help inform policy with our unique perspective of being a small country that punches well above our weight in the global financial services market,” Basdeo stated on behalf of the premier. “We believe it is a place we have rightfully earned based on the sophistication of our legal and regulatory framework, our welcome participation in several third-party reviews and the credentials of our financial services sector in terms of talent, expertise and global reach.”
In the message the premier stated that Cayman should not let others speak for it in the fluid environment of global financial services and that Cayman Finance has set an excellent example to follow over the past year. “Government is committed to doing its part in this regard in the context of international relations and building a virtual diplomatic corps,” Basdeo added.

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Pension expert warns of major losses during holiday

| 10/05/2010 | 15 Comments

(CNS): Local pension experts have warned that the two year pension holiday could result in fund losses close to $200,000 for those aged 25 and under who decide to take advantage of the break. Government recently passed legislation removing the legal obligation of employers and employees to pay pensions if the employees are in agreement, not surprisingly, the pension industry has been warning that the two year holiday if taken will have a serious impact on people’s future financial security. Brian Williams, CEO of Saxon agent for Silver Thatch Pensions recently told members of the human resources industry what he believed the negative implications will be.

Last week Williams warned the Cayman Islands Society for Human Resource (HR) Professionals that based on projections by Canadian Actuarial Consultant Eckler the impact on participating employees’ cash balances with 40 years until retirement would be to reduce their account balance at retirement by $193,000.
Amendments to the pension law which were recently passed in the Legislative Assembly have now come into effect and employers who are up to date with employee contributions and who get the agreement of their employees can now take a holiday from their legal obligations to pay into pensions schemes. The goal was to reduce the burden on employers as a result of an increase in work permit fees and to give employees who are also feeling the economic pinch access to the 50% contribution they are asked to make under the law. Government also hopes it will give the numerous delinquent employers time to catch up on thesignificant outstanding payments.
“Given the economic hardship at the moment, people have been asking for some form of relief,” Rolston Anglin the minister with responsibility for private pensions told the LA recently. “We don’t have an income tax that we can use to manipulate the economy … we needed to find a mechanism by which we could help and we will see if a change in this law will have the desired effect.”
However, emphasising the importance of pension contributions Williams said Saxon was keen to keep residents educated about the developments in the pension industry and equip them with the knowledge to make sound investment decisions for their future given the implications of the holiday. 
 “It is essential that the local community is informed and equipped with the knowledge and insight to appreciate the long-term ramifications of their decision to participate,” Williams said. “There is no better channel than to ensure that the HR professionals have their finger on the pulse to answer employee queries and make informed decisions. With this change in law, due to the current economic climate, many people will be inclined to cut back on their contributions, but this can hugely impact pension income received upon retirement, and it is our mission to make certain that Cayman has access to this information.” 
Williams covered various topics of interest including the intention of the amendments, the impact on the economy, the impact on plans, the pension suspension application procedure and approval process and the implications upon the expiration of the pension holiday were explored.  
“It was a highly informative session and …. I greatly appreciate the opportunity to meet with our community of professionals and share my insight as well as learn their viewpoints on these developments.”   
Since the economic crisis however, many people have seen their pension statements go into serious decline which has made them question why they should be forced to pay into schemes which appear to be losing money. Government is expecting that there will be a significant take up of the so called holiday freeing up the money to be spent in the local economy.  According to the amendment Caymanians can take a break of up to 12 months and non Caymanians two years. Government has also indicated its intention to review the legislation after its first year.

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Legal aid still unsettled

| 10/05/2010 | 12 Comments

(CNS):  Some of the questions surrounding the recent legal aid review  were discussed during Public Accounts Committee last week. Although the results of the report undertaken earlier this year have remained under wraps, Valdis Foldats, who was a member of the Legal Aid Review Committee told PAC, in his opinion, that the cost of a legal aid clinic would be far more expensive than the current arrangements. The review was finished several weeks ago in March but government is refusing to reveal its contents, despite an FOI request submitted by CNS. The PAC meeting gave the first indication in public that the findings may not be to government’s liking.

During the PAC examination of the auditor general’s report on the Legal Aid Programme, Foldats re-emphasised that a public defenders’ office or legal aid clinic would be considerably more expensive than the current system, which for all its flaws was cost effective.
Foldats admitted that there were a number of issues that needed to be addressed regarding the current legal aid programme, but as a result of the premier’s announcement to change the system the courts had not implemented any of the recommendations made by Duguay in his audit, even though they agreed with his findings.
Foldats explained that since the premier’s announced intention last October to introduce a clinic, the reduction of the budget and the committee’s review of the system, no decisions had been made about the future of legal aid and it was not clear if it was going to stay in its present form. He said the premierhad indicated the desire to remove the judiciary from the decision making process and the system remained in question.
The clerk of court pointed out that the Law Reform Commission’s original review of the system in 2008 had made a number of recommendations, which were noted in the auditor general’s report and which he said the court had hoped would have been implemented.
“I would have hoped the Legislative Assembly would have acted upon the Reform Commission’s report as it was apparent that reform was needed,” he added. The commission had found that the current legal aid system was good value for money but had established the law and regulations needed to make the system function properly and made a number of recommendations.
Foldats, who was a member of the more recent reviewwhich examined possible alternatives, advised PAC on his calculations that a minimum of 13.5 attorneys would be needed to match current delivery, and given the cost of work permits, benefits and salaries as well as the cost of support staff and office premises, this would far exceed the current $1.8 million that the system is given each year.
During the PACs questioning the issue of who gets the legal aid work was also examined and Ellio Solomon a UDP member of PAC and the Legal Aid Review Committee made accusations about lawyers pushing civil cases into the courts in order to get the money instead of sorting the disputes through mediation.
Foldats said he disagreed with Solomon’s comments. Attorneys were officers of the court, he said, who have a duty to act properly and they would be appalled by his accusations, which Foldats advised Solomon to withdraw – which he did not and continued to imply that lawyers were cheating the system.
The clerk told PAC that most of the legal aid civil work focused on difficult divorces, often involving child custody issues and violence, cases where people needed legal assistance and lawyers were certainly not forcing cases into the court room. “If people need a divorce they need legal assistance; it has to be done in the court; a divorce cannot be done through mediation; it’s a legal matter,” he said.
Pointing out that the current legal aid rate of $135 per hour paid to any lawyer who was conducting legal aid work was far below current commercial rates, Foldats also noted that many attorneys worked over and above the hours they billed — effectively working for free.
The issue of who gets the work was also a key point raised by PAC members and Foldats said that as a result of the recent review he had canvassed all the local law firms to ask them their current position regarding providing legal aid services and 23 attorneys said they were prepared to do the work.
It was also confirmed by the other court witnesses, Jennifer King and Delene Cacho as well as Foldats, that there were in reality a very small number of lawyers who were able to assist the courts when it came to the work. The idea that one firm was taking a significant amount of the legal aid budget was explained by the fact that the firm had the highest number of lawyers willing to undertake legal aid work.
In recent months the court has seen the number of even the most willing attorneys decline as problems over receiving legal aid payments have mounted as a result of uncertainty surrounding its future.
Foldats noted that he agreed broadly with the AG’s findings in his review of the legal aid programme and that there needed to be more accountability and tracking in the system but that the problems were down to the lackof funding. He pointed out that the most important remit the system had to fulfill was that all those who faced serious crimes who had a right to legal representation were assisted by the current system.
The PAC chair focused on why the Law Reform Commission’s original recommendations had not made its way into legislation. It was revealed that the bill and regulations had been revised and were ready for consideration by the Legislative Assembly since last year. Miller committed to doing what he could to find out why the legal reforms had not been brought to the House.

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Travers calls for more reform

| 10/05/2010 | 59 Comments

(CNS): Despite the recent changes to the immigration law in order to facilitate key employee status for a number of posts related to the financial services sector, the chair of Cayman Finance said the country’s highly restrictive immigration and rollover policies, as he described them, need further reform. Anthony Travers said the current administration had reduced some of the negative effects but far more would have to be done if the island was to enhance its financial services sector and generate more cash from it. Cayman needed to attract more of what he called the industry’s ‘substantial presence’, which would require higher quality professionals.

Speaking at Thursday’s Cayman Finance summit, Anthony Travers, chair of the industry body, said government had not yet addressed the problem of work permits in the minds of the voting public. Calling it the “800 pound gorilla in the room”, he said government had to confront the heresy that the highest quality financial professionals could be attracted to the Cayman Islands to develop new elements of the industry on the basis they were only here for the short term.
 
“It is an unrealistic delusion,” he said. “We understand the long term concerns of Caymanians and the Caymanian public generally, but these must be addressed by decoupling the issue of work permits and security of tenure for financial professionals from the issue of status and voting and this conundrum has not yet been effectively solved.”
 
He said it was important to protect the interests of professional Caymanians and their proper integration but rollover was never the correct response. Travers suggested that no one should mind paying more for work permits in the financial industry in a no tax environment if the sector could get the permits it wanted, when it wanted them for as long as it wanted them.
 
Travers warned, however, that if the financial industry could not be elevated the recent fee increases would not be sustainable and contribute to the continued exit of the fund industry.
He explained that before rollover started the sector’s departure the industry employed as many as 5,800 people, half of which were Caymanian, and had been behind the indirect creation of some 13,000 jobs and 50percent of government revenue.
  
This development of a `substantial presence`, by which he meant attracting more of the administration, management and  broker-dealers to Cayman, was central and vital to the future development of the whole sector.
 
Travers explained this lack of presence was fuelling the latest attacks by the OECD on the legitimacy of this jurisdiction. Quantative and qualitative improvement in financial services would also support higher government and private sector fee levels, the Cayman Finance chair told the summit audience. He also said enhancement would ultimately lead to greater Caymanian employment despite the global industry decline.
 
With no justifiable criticism of Cayman regarding tax evasion, he said, the criticism was now about a lack of presence, but Travers warned the strategies for refuting that attack were limited. To do so the country had to attract more of the service providers in the industry. This in turn meant more relaxed immigration policies. 

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Legal aid still unsettled

| 10/05/2010 | 0 Comments

(CNS): The clerk of the court revealed some of the findings of the recent Legal Aid review last week while giving evidence to the public accounts committee. Although the results of the report undertaken earlier this year have remained under wraps Valdis Foldats who was a member of the review committee revealed that the cost of a legal aid clinic would be far more expensive than the current arrangements. The review was finished several weeks ago in March but government is refusing to reveal its contents, despite an FOI request submitted by CNS. Foldats revelations were the first indication and public confirmation that the findings may not be to government’s liking.

During the PAC examination of the auditor general’s report on the Legal Aid Programme Foldats pointed out that the committee had established that a public defenders office or legal aid clinic would be considerably more expensive than the current system, which for all its flaws was cost effective.
Foldats admitted that there were a number of issues that needed to be addressed regarding the current legal aid programme but as a result of the premier’s announcement to change the system the courts had not implemented any of the recommendations made by Duguay in his audit, even though they agreed with his findings.
Foldats explained that since the premier’s announced intention, last October, to introduce a clinic, the reduction of the budget and the committee’s review of the system no decision had been made about the future of legal aid and it was not clear if it was going to stay in is present form. He said the premier had indicated the desire to remove the judiciary from the decision making process and the system remained in question.
The clerk of court pointed out that the law reform commission’s original review of the system in 2008 had made a number of recommendations which were noted in the auditor general’s report and which he said the court had hoped would have been  implemented.  “I would have hoped the Legislative Assembly would have acted upon the law reform commissions report as it was apparent that reform was needed,” he added. The law reform commission had found that the current legal aid system was good value for money but had established the law and regulations needed to make the system function properly and made a number of recommendations.
He pointed out that this was reinforced by the recent review of which he was a part. The review calculated that a minimum of 13.5 attorneys would be needed to match current delivery and given the cost of work permits, benefits and salaries as well as the cost of support staff and office premises this would far exceed the current $1.8 million that the system is given each year.
During the PACs questioning the issue of who gets the legal aid work was also examined and Elio Solomon made accusations about lawyers pushing civil cases into the courts in order to get the money instead of sorting the disputes through mediation.
Foldats said he disagreed with Solomon’s comments. Attorneys were officers of the court, he said, who have a duty to act properly and they would be appalled by his accusations which Foldats advised Solomon to withdraw – which he did not and continued to imply that lawyers were cheating the system.
The clerk told PAC that most of the legal aid civil work focused on difficult divorces often involving child custody issues and violence, cases where people needed legal assistance and lawyers were certainly not forcing cases into the court room. “If people need a divorce they need legal assistance it has to be done in the court a divorce cannot be done through mediation it’s a legal matter,” he said.
Pointing out that the current legal aid rate of $135 per hour paid to any lawyer who was conducting legal aid work was far below current commercial rates, Foldats also noted that many attorneys also worked over and above the hours they billed — effectively working for free.
The issue of who gets the work was also a key point raised by PAC members and Foldats said that as a result of the recent review he had canvassed all the local law firms to ask them there current position regarding providing legal aid services and 23 attorneys said they were prepared to do the work.
It was also confirmed by the other court witnesses Jenifer King and Delene Cacho as well as Foldats that there were in reality a very small number of lawyers who were able to assist the courts when it came to the work. The idea that one firm was taking a significant amount of the legal aid budget was explained by the fact that the firm had the highest number of lawyers willing to assist the court and undertake legal aid work.
In recent months the court has seen the number of even the most willing attorneys decline as problems over receiving legal aid payments have mounted as a result of uncertainty surrounding its future.
Foldats noted that he agreed broadly with the AG’s findings in his review of the legal aid programme and that there needed to be more accountability and tracking in the system but that the systems problems were down to the lack of funding. He pointed out that the most important remit the system had to fulfil was that all those who faced serious crimes who had a right to legal representation were assisted by the current system.
The PAC Committee chair focused on why the law reform’s original recommendations had not made its way into legislation. It was revealed that the bill and regulations had been revised and were ready for consideration by the Legislative Assembly since last year. Miller committed to doing what he could to find out why the legal reforms had not been brought to the House.

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EU to get tough with hedge funds and private equity

| 10/05/2010 | 0 Comments

(The Guardian): The European parliament is expected tomorrow to approve a draft directive to toughen regulation of hedge funds and private equity firms despite a growing tide of opposition from leading politicians and lobby groups in the UK and America, where both industries are clustered. Labour’s City minister Lord Myners has described the proposed regulatory crackdown – being championed by France and Germany – as "fundamentally flawed and promot[ing] protectionism under the guise of protection". Both the Conservative party and Liberal Democrats have similar views. US treasury secretary Timothy Geithner has also been critical.

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Roger Stanley Johnson, MD

| 10/05/2010 | 0 Comments

Roger Stanley Johnson, MD, a physician and attorney, who was instrumental the building of a hospital on Cayman Brac 40 years ago has died died on Sunday, May 2, 2010, in Kerrville, Texas. In addition to his other contributions to the Brac hospital project, at his own expense he took Evadne Banks (Scott at the time) and Pearl Scott (Ryan) at the time, to Corpus Christi, Texas and arranged to have them trained in a crash course as Xray and Lab Technicians in the hospital at the Corpus Christi, where he was chief surgeon This enabled Evadne to meet these needs at our hospital soon after it was opened, until her retirement a few years ago. The Cayman Brac Hospital has a plaque honoring his contributions.

He was born on April 29, 1924, in St. Paul, Minn. A Fellow of the American College of Surgeons, Dr. Johnson received his undergraduate and medical degrees from the University of Minnesota. He practiced medicine for 33 years in Minnesota and Corpus Christi before moving to Dallas in 1984.

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