Archive for June 16th, 2010

Mac lauds new UK relations

| 16/06/2010 | 16 Comments

(CNS): Relations between the Cayman Islands Government and the United Kingdom appear to have taken a turn for the better in the wake of the British election. Premier McKeeva Bush told the Legislative Assembly during his budget address on Tuesday that the last four weeks had been far more positive and constructive than the last 12 months in regards the relationship with the Foreign & Commonwealth Office. He also said the governor had shown a new approach during the talks with London when he saton the Cayman Islands side of the table and not the UK. “He spoke for us,” Bush told the Legislative Assembly, pointing out that no governor he knew had ever done that before. (Photo by Bina Mani)

Bush said things had got off to a good start with the new UK Overseas Territories Minister,adding that he had made no secret of his desire to see a new administration in London after the election. “This relationship has been somewhat renewed recently with the election of a new government in the UK. I think it is very safe to say that there is a world of difference between the nature of that relationship over the past 12 months as compared to the one recently established over the past 4 weeks,” Bush added. 

During his 2010/11 budget presentation the premier spoke about the need to involve the UK in Cayman’s finances as a result of the need to borrow again this year and the subsequent agreement over the proposed three year financial plan. He said it had been embarrassing for a country that always boasted financial independence to have to seek the FCO’s permission but the new UK government had offered its full support for the national recovery plan.
Having met the Henry Bellingham, the UK’s new Under Secretary with responsibility for the Overseas Territories, Bush said he had received approval to borrow without introducing new taxes. The premier emphasised that there would be no income tax and no property tax and  the two countries had entered into a more positive partnership.
He had been hoping for some change, Bush admitted, which would provide an opportunity to improve Cayman’s relations with the UK when it would treat the commonwealth and the Caribbean more favourably.
“It appears thus far that, we have got that,” he said as he explained that he had tabled the letter from Bellingham in relation to the meeting demonstrating the change.
“In his letter Mr. Bellingham agrees with my own assessment that the meeting was extremely constructive,” Bush said. “He is looking forward to a more dynamic and positive relationship between the UK and the Cayman Islands…..Mr. Bellingham agreed to and offered support to the government in its initiatives as laid out in the three year plan. This included ensuring that the plan was fully implemented and that there was an annual progress report on its implementation.”
According to the letter from Bellingham, a Conservative member of the new coalition government he appears to be more supportive of the UDP government’s desire to divest public sector assets, something Chris Bryant the former Labour Overseas Territories Minister had been less than enthusiastic about,  warning of the dangers of disposing of assets. Bellingham said he wished to see the proceeds of divestment utilized for a sinking fund to rebuild reserves and pay off existing debt.
“The UK agreed to, and also fully supported the Government’s plan to restructure existing loans, including the recent bond issue — to improve our cash flow and reduce interest costs,” Bush stated.
“Over the past year, my administration has been working hard to improve the Government’s fiscal crisis and restore prudentfinancial management to this country. The new UK administration appears to have an appreciation of our efforts and Mr. Bellingham expressed his appreciation for our determination to restore sustainable public finances to the Cayman Islands,” Bush added.
The premier said the country had never asked the UK for anything other than understanding and support for policies that improve the lives of the people. “We are therefore grateful for this improved partnership and look forward to working with the new administration in the UK and I certainly hope that we can now move forward with a renewed and more positive partnership,” Bush stated.
In his letter to Bush, Bellingham said he appreciated the tough decisions that had already been made by the premier to reduce the deficit. Although Bellingham said he had expressed concern in a previous letter over the amount of borrowing he was pleased that Bush was able to reduce the amount by some $52million and agreed that there would be no more borrowing this year.
He said the three year plan was ambitious but the measures contained must be fully implemented and for the government to publish it and keep the country informed. E also asked Bush to ensure the Cayman Islands have a full up to date set of audited accounts by the end of the next financial year.

Letter from Henry Bellingham

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CIMA assessing Motor and General suspension

| 16/06/2010 | 2 Comments

(CNS): Following media reports from Trinidad that Central Bank officials have suspended the operations of Motor and General Insurance Company there, the Cayman Islands Monetary Authority (CIMA) has said it has been in close communication with the CBTT, management of Motor and General Insurance Company Ltd., and PricewaterhouseCooper, the auditor’s engaged by the bank. The local regulator said it was actively assessing the options to protect the company’s domestic policyholders and the assets of the company’s Cayman operations, as well as to safeguard the public interest.

CIMA did not say how long it had been communicating with the parties or how many people could be affected by the firm’s financial difficulties. However, there are believed to be a considerable number of people insured by the company as it is one of the oldest insurance firms in Cayman. The authority said it would provide further information to the public when an assessment had been completed.
Trinidad’s Inspector of Financial Institutions at the Central Bank, Carl Hiralal, took regulatory action and ordered the doors of Motor and General closed for an initial period of 60 days after the Port of Spain-based insurer firm was struggling to maintain the required quantity of money in its statutory fund. “This was necessary to protect policyholders," Hiralal said during a press conference in Port of Spain yesterday.
Motor and General provides insurance coverage to clients in Trinidad & Tobago and from an office in the Cayman Islands.
All new business has been suspended at the company but existing insurance policies remain in force, though no claims can be paid while the company’s operations are suspended. Hiralal said the temporary suspension did not mean the company was in receivership but provided an opportunity to assess its financial status. Brian Hackett of accounting and auditing firm Pricewaterhouse-Coopers has been engaged by the Central Bank to assist in this process. The company has reportedly had problems over several years in filing financial statements to the Central Bank.
It also had challenges maintaining the required quantity of money in its statutory fund, and its accounting records made it difficult for the company to keep track of its claims, Hiralal added.

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Teen charged in cop shooting

| 16/06/2010 | 0 Comments

(CNS): The sixteen year old boy who has been charged with robbery and two counts of possessing an unlicensed firearm in connection with a gas station robbery on 11 June has now been charged with attempted murder. The teen appeared in court this morning regarding the robbery and firearms charges but was remanded in custody and listed to appear before the chief magistrate on Friday 18 June. The police have now also charged the young man with attempted murder of police as a result of shots which were fired on officers during a chase which ensued after the robbery. (Photo by Dennie Warren Jr)

The boy cannot be named as he is a minor and as he was the only suspect charged in the case, although three other men have also been arrested in connection with the same robbery. Police say they have released one man on police bail while two others remain in custody as enquiries into the incident continue.
The armed robbery took place at Mostyns Esso in Bodden after which the young suspects escaped in a stolen car. They were pursued by the police when the getaway vehicle did notrespond to police sirens and lights. The suspects abandoned the car in the Lower Valley area and officers were fired upon when they gave chase on foot. The teen and one other man were then arrested. Police said that evidence and a load firearm had been recovered.
The getaway car turned out to be the vehicle stolen from an employee of Grand Old House who was car jack and assaulted with the butt of a firearm on Thursday 10 June in South Sound.

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Trinidad Central Bank suspends Motor & General

| 16/06/2010 | 2 Comments

(Trinidad and Tobago Guardian): Motor and General Insurance Company was suspended from carrying out most of its operations yesterday by the Central Bank, said Carl Hiralal, Inspector of Financial Institutions.“Earlier this morning, the Central Bank took regulatory action and intervened to protect the policyholders by suspending the operations of Motor and General Insurance Company Ltd. The suspension is for an initial period of 60 days. Based on the results of our monitoring, this has become a necessary step to protect policyholders.” Hiralal made this disclosure yesterday at the Financial Stability Report mid-term review at the Central Bank, Independence Square, Port-of-Spain. Giving reasons why this action was taken, Hiralal said the company did not comply with basic regulations.

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Secret witness law challenged

| 16/06/2010 | 12 Comments

Cayman Islands News, Grand Cayman Island headline news(CNS): In the first use of the new law designed to protect the identity of witnesses who say they are in fear of coming forward, questions have been raised about how the prosecution has used an anonymity order and that no regulations have been passed to direct the correct use of  the new Criminal Evidence (Witness Anonymity) Law. Having already been criticised from a human rights aspect for the possibility that the law will deny defendants the right to a fair trial, three criminal defence attorneys have now challenged its proposed use in a preliminary enquiry against their clients facing a murder charge, criticising how it is being applied.

The lawyers appeared in Grand Court last Friday (11 June) to argue the order made in Summary Court by Chief Magistrate Margaret Ramsay, saying it had been applied inappropriately by the crown to make a case against their clients with no other evidence. Nicola Moore from Priestleys led the argument for the appeal, which was supported by her colleague Lee Freeman and Ben Tonner from Samson and McGrath.
Moore told the court that in the first instance of its kind the law was already being inappropriately used. She pointed out that, as yet, there are no regulations or guidelines for the legislation. “The order has been been made incorrectly,” she told Justice Charles Quinn, who was hearing the appeal, and pointed out that in the absence of local regulations the crown should have followed the processes used in the UK, which aside from New Zealand is the only other place in the Commonwealth where such a law exists.
The law was passed here in March of this year with some urgency following the spike in serious crime and without consultation with the local criminal defence community. Attorney General Samuel Bulgin, who brought the bill to the Legislative Assembly, said it did protect the rights of the accused as well as the anonymity of witnesses.
The AG had said it should only be used in cases of genuine fear and that there would be safeguards in the law to ensure the accuracy and credibility of witness testimony and that the rights of the accused to confront their accuser would not be undermined.
The law states that consideration must be given to the general right of a defendant in criminal proceedings to know the identity of a witness, as well as the credibility of the witness. At the time of its passage Bulgin said government had received assistance from the Ministry of Justice in the UK and he hoped it had been drafted in a clear and concise form, covering the key areas and protecting the fundamental right to a fair trial.
Making her case against the first ever order, Moore said that it had not been used properly. The court had to balance the right of the defendant to a fair trial with the witness’ right to life, safety and protection of property, which she said had not happened in this case as the processes with regard to this anonymity order were wholly inadequate.
She pointed out that, according to the new law, anonymous witnesses could only be used against people if the police had other evidence to support the case and a defendant cannot be convicted on the testimony of an anonymous witness alone. In this instance the defence had not been disclosed with any other evidence against their clients. Furthermore, the disclosure of the anonymous witness statements, which were referred to by celebrity names, had also been disclosed very late, one only that very morning. She also said that in the statements it was apparent that neither witness had actually witnessed the crime. Moore also told Justice Quin that the defence had not been allowed to make their case when the order was being made.
In normal circumstances defence counsel can expect certain information about the witnesses such as their criminal convictions. However, Moore pointed out that no such information had been provided by the crown. She explained that witnesses with criminal convictions may have reasons to accuse someone of a crime they did not commit and to make things up about others for reasons of their own.
Both Leeman and Tonner backed Moore and emphasised the fact that procedure was highly irregular and all three asked for the order to be overturned before the anticipated preliminary enquiry due to take place today (Wednesday 16 June).
Kirsty-Ann Gunn defending the appeal against the order on behalf of the crown argued that the Grand Court did not have the jurisdiction to hear the appeal at that point as it was too early in the process. She said the Grand Court does not hear appeals from those dissatisfied with what has happened in Summary Court.

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Chamber promotes training in face of job losses

| 16/06/2010 | 0 Comments

(CNS): The Chamber of Commerce Professional Development & Training Centre says it has trained 544 people this year on 41 different training courses that have been offered since the beginning of January. With 29 more courses scheduled before the end of 2010 the chamber said it was important in difficult times for people to enhance their work place skills. “Education and workforce development is a key focus of the Chamber of Commerce, and in today’s strained economy where people are losing jobs through down-sizing and closures, it is important to make yourself the most desirable employee possible’” said Wil Pineau CCE, CEO, Chamber of Commerce.

“And it stands to reason that the most desirable employee is an educated employee,” he added. He said the course were also very helpful to business owners. “Professional development training opportunities also assist companies who are looking to restructure and be more innovative in their business planning initiatives. This can often be achieved by the development of management and other key skills within existing staff members,” Pineau said.
The Chamber centre has been providing members and their employees, as well as the wider community, with what it said were affordable training programmes, workshops, and seminars since 1995. Courses cover Customer Service, Business Essentials, Business Basics, Finance, and Supervision and Management.
 The courses are taught by professional, qualified local and international facilitators that take great care in providing attendees with the most up to date and relevant information in their field.
All training courses are held at the Chamber of Commerce conference room in Macdonald Square at 51 Fort Street from 9am – 4:30pm unless otherwise stated. Call Joanne Diaz-Berry at the Chamber of Commerce on 949-8090 ext.123 for more information or go online to register at www.caymanchamber.ky

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Truck sheds load on local highway

| 16/06/2010 | 24 Comments

(CNS): A trailer truck belonging to Precision Trucking Services overturned in the vicinity of Linford Pierson Highway at around 6:30 pm this evening. One CNS reader was on the scene to talk with the driver Lamar Shakes, who was heading into George Town when, he said, he began to gear down in order to take the roundabout by the Lions Centre and suddenly the RPM became stuck. The driver explained that the RPM is the gear indicator that gives the rate of revolution of the truck and once stuck it disoriented the traction of the truck, shifting the trucks load of rocks, causing it to overturn.  (Photo by Anthony Ricardo)

Shakes, who was the only person in the truck, was a bit shaken up but unhurt. No other vehicle was involved in the incident and RCIPS traffic officers as well as those from the Cayman Islands Fire Service attended the scene.
Another CNS reader also reported that the local cadet cops had turned up at the accident scene to help with traffic direction.

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Bush denies overpaying subs in Matrix pay back

| 16/06/2010 | 5 Comments

(CNS): Government did scrutinize all of the invoices that were paid to local sub-contractors who claimed they were left out of pocket as a result of the Matrix affair, the premier told the Legislative Assembly on Tuesday morning. Following an article in the Caymanian Compass last week in which one of the owners of Matrix International said government had overpaid the subs and had not consulted with the bosses of Matrix, about the payments, McKeeva Bush said government had been diligent over the payments and the local Matrix partners had been consulted on the invoices. (Photo by Dennie Warren Jr)

In April, Bush gave cheques ranging from $150 to $106,790 to 19 different sub-contractors totalling more than $280,000 for outstanding payments the contractors claimed they were owed by Matrix.
However, Bruce Young, managing director of Matrix which defaulted on a contract with government told the Caymanian Compass that he believed the contractors were not owed so much money, adding that he and his brother Vincent, who was general manager, had not been consulted on the payments.
“What theyshould have done was ask one of us to go over the bills to make sure it was agreed before they started paying them. These bills were generated by us. I am not going to dispute some of them… but there were people coming out of the woodwork saying we owed them money and who made up false invoices,” he told the newspaper.
However, the premier denied this and said the Ministry of Finance had made checks, scrutinized the invoices and met with local representatives Billy Bodden and Andrew McLaughlin, to obtain an understanding of the debts. He also said there were “numerous telephone calls” with McLaughlin over queries on the invoices. “During these meetings, the Matrix representatives handed over invoices that Matrix confirmed were in the possession of the company and which were still owed by Matrix,” Bush told the Legislative Assembly.
He stated that the payments made to the sub-contractors were confirmed as owing by reference to Matrix’s records. “Where there were discrepancies between invoice balances provided by Matrix and invoice balances provided by subcontractors, both parties were consulted further, balances were agreed and the invoice balances were adjusted accordingly.”
Bush admitted that government had paid David Lyons who has since been jailed in the United States. The premier said that he was still a sub-contractorwith an outstanding invoice. “Regardless of the fact that Mr Lyons is currently in prison, as evidenced by the US$4,000 payment to Mr Lyons by Matrix on 11 October 2007, Mr Lyons did provide trucking services to Matrix and Matrix acknowledged the services that Mr Lyons provided by writing him a cheque for US$4,000…..Mr Lyons is entitled to be paid for the balance of the cost of the trucking services that he provided before he was incarcerated.”
Bush also pointed out that Harold Bodden who had since died had also provided trucking services to Matrix and even though he has passed on, his estate is still entitled to be paid for those services that he provided.
The premier noted that there were a number of invoices that were not paid as the Ministry discovered that they were previously paid by Matrix, they were not directly related to the removal of scrap metal from the landfill or the outstanding amounts could not be verified. He said an invoice totalling CI$10,678.99 from a local law firm for legal fees on work permits was not paid as they were not directly related to the removal of scrap metal. Another invoice from a quantity surveyor was not paid as it was discovered to have already been settled and an invoice from a sub-contractor for welding work was not paid as the invoice did not contain contact information.
“There were invoices that the Ministry of Finance subsequently received from sub-contractors and which the sub-contractors are stating that amounts are still outstanding by Matrix,” he said. “Although the Matrix representatives cannot confirm that these invoices are legitimate as the invoices were not in Matrix’s possession, the Government is requesting copies of delivery slips and affidavits to verify that these sub-contractors did indeed provide services for Matrix.”
The premier assured the House and the country that government had scrutinized requests before payments were made. “The government has acted on good conscience and performed due diligence appropriately,” Bush stated adding that he hoped he had cleared up any misconceptions that were made in the article.

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