Archive for January 10th, 2011

Whistle blower faces trial in Switzerland

| 10/01/2011 | 20 Comments

(Bloomberg): A former Swiss banker whose actions caused a US judge to shut down WikiLeaks three years ago faces trial for allegedly distributing confidential documents showing how his former employer helped rich clients dodge taxes. Rudolf Elmer, a former employee of Swiss-based Bank JuliusBaer, has been ordered to appear before a Zurich regional court on 19 Jan to answer charges of coercion and violating Switzerland’s strict banking secrecy laws. Elmer said he will admit certain counts but insisted he didn’t break Swiss laws because the files belonged to a Julius Baer subsidiary in the Cayman Islands, where he worked for eight years.

"This data wasn’t subject to Swiss banking secrecy," he told The Associated Press in a telephone interview Monday.

If convicted he could be sentenced to up to three years in prison and a fine.

Swiss financial newspaper Cash was among those that in 2005 received a copy of a CD containing 170 megabytes of data on the Julius Baer’s Cayman operations. The files reportedly showed the bank helped its clients set up secret offshore accounts to avoid paying taxes.

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Soft drinks increase diabetes risk says report

| 10/01/2011 | 0 Comments

(HIVE): A new research study has quantified the risk of developing diabetes associated with consuming soft drinks and sugar-sweetened drinks. Researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health and Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston published the results of their meta-analysis or review study in the journal, Diabetes Care. What they found was that individuals who typically consume 1-2 servings per day had a 26 percent higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes than those who consumed less than 1 serving per month.

Though regular consumption of these beverages has already been associated with weight gain and an increased risk of obesity the role of sugar-sweetened drinks in the development of chronic diseases such as diabetes has not been previously quantified.

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New book cranks up tax haven criticism

| 10/01/2011 | 23 Comments

(CNS): Coming on the heels of the positive international news exposure the Cayman Islands received as a result of the sinking of the Kittiwake last week, The Guardian published two extracts from a new book this weekend that paints Cayman back in a more familiar image in the eyes of the global press. Nicholas Shaxson’s latest book, Treasure Islands: Tax Havens and the Men Who Stole the World, examines the history and present day offshore sector and takes a swipe at Jersey, Cayman, Bermuda and Switzerland, among others. The book, which criticises tax havens, also looks closely at the history and development of offshore finance. The author says the impression given by denunciations of tax havens by world leaders that the offshore system has been tamed is untrue.

“In fact quite the opposite has happened,” he writes. “The offshore system is in very rude health — and growing fast.”

Shaxson states that more than half of world trade passes, at least on paper, through tax havens. “More than half of all banking assets and a third of foreign direct investment by multinational corporations are routed offshore,” the author reveals.

Describing offshore financial centre as “fortified nodes of secret, unaccountable political and economic power, where financial and criminal interests have come together to capture local political systems and turn the havens into their own private law-making factories”, he says they are protected against outside interference by the world’s most powerful countries – most especially Britain.

Shaxson claims that Britain’s overseas territories, “such as the Cayman Islands – are substantially controlled by Britain, and combine futuristic offshore finance with medieval politics” and believes the UK has considerable influence over the financial sector here.

Quoting what he describes as a senior Caymanian politician, he says the UK wants to have a significant degree of control on the islands, but at the same time it does not want to be seen to have that control, the unnamed politician reportedly said. “Like any boss, it wants influence without responsibility; they can turn around when things go wrong and say ‘it’s all your fault’ – but in the meantime they are pulling all the strings."

The importance of the UK is further emphasized when he suggests that Britain is the bedrock to the country’s financial sector. “If Caymanians gained full control, most of the money would flee,” writes the author.

The book, which is published by The Bodley Head, comes out in the UK this week and in the US in April. Shaxson is a British writer, journalist and investigator and author of the acclaimed 2007 book Poisoned Wells: the Dirty Politics of African Oil. He is an Associate Fellow of Chatham House (the Royal Institute of African Affairs inLondon) and a full-time writer and researcher for the Tax Justice Network. Since 1993 he has written extensively on global business and politics for the Financial Times, Reuters, the Economist and its sister publication the Economist Intelligence Unit, International Affairs, Foreign Affairs, the American Interest, the BBC, Africa Confidential, African Energy, and a wide range of others.

Guardian extracts:

part 1

part 2

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First PPM nomination made

| 10/01/2011 | 63 Comments

(CNS): Alden McLaughlin has become the first person to be nominated in the People’s Progressive Movement leadership race. The George Town MLA was officially nominated last week at a district meeting after he received three nominations, party officials have confirmed. The former education minister is the first MLA to be officially declared as a candidate to fill Kurt Tibbetts’ shoes as leader of the opposition. The election is expected to take place in February, when all signed up members of the party will be able to vote for their choice of leader. The leader of the PPM must be a serving MLA, and so far from the five PPM members of the LA only Arden McLean of East End has also expressed a desire to take on the job. (Photo Dennie WarrenJr)

McLean is expected to be nominated by his local party branch before the end of this month, leading to what is likely to be just a two horse race.

Anthony Eden, who is the second elected member from Bodden Town, and Moses Kirkconnell, the first elected for the Sister Islands, have not publicly expressed any interest in contesting the party leadership, but in the CNS poll Kirkconnell pulled in the exact number of votes as his GeorgeTown parliamentary colleague.

The announcement that the top PPM job would be vacant in 2011 came in November, when Tibbetts, who has served as party leader since its creation, announced his decision to step down from the leadership. Although he will not be resigning his post as an MLA, Tibbetts said that following the party’s defeat in the national poll in May 2009 he had to take responsibility for that and step down.

Tibbetts, the former leader of government business, who has served in the Legislative Assembly since 1992, said that once the new leader, along with a deputy leader and a party general secretary, was elected he would be there to offer support but would allow what he called the new blood of the party to take the PPM forward and would not impose on them.

“I have always been a firm believer in succession planning and now the PPM needs new blood at the top, new people to lead the movement and carry out its mission. From time to time every organization needs a change of leadership to foster growth and allow for continuity and the PPM is no exception,” he said.

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New population figures expected month end

| 10/01/2011 | 9 Comments

(CNS): The number of people currently living in the Cayman Islands is now expected to be revealed to Cabinet and then the public at the end of January. According to officials from the national statistics office, the first information that will be available as a result of the national census, which began on 10 October last year, will be a precise and up to date population figure. The director of the Economics and Statistics Office, Maria Zingapan, said that although the census organisers had originally anticipated that they would be able to reveal the country’s current head count before the end of 2010, the need to go back and count a number of ‘no contact’ households saw the national survey extended, delaying the revelation of the first statistic.

“The census sweep, where enumerators went back to “no contact” households, was extended to 16 December, hence the preliminary count was also extended,” she explained. “Procedurally, we are expected to submit to Cabinet the preliminary count by end of January,” she said, noting that after government had seen the report it would be given to the public.

Although enumerators had managed to count 90% of households in the original time period given for the count, between 10 October and 22 November, officials decided to extend the process for a few more weeks in order to try and capture the remaining ten percent of people who were away or, in some cases, had refused to take part.

While officials expect to be able to compile and reveal the population statistic in the next few weeks, it will not be until the end of this year that any other statistics will be available as officials say it will take several months to compile, analyse and then report on the statistical circumstances of the country’s population.

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District councils on agenda

| 10/01/2011 | 18 Comments

(CNS): A number of controversial laws will be up for debate when the Legislative Assembly resumes Monday, including the law to create district councils. Although the establishment of these local bodies is broadly supported, the fact that they will not be elected has stirred up controversy. Ezzard Miller, the independent representative for North Side who has already established a district council in his constituency for which the members have been elected by the local people, is proposing a number of amendments to the government’s bill. Although he is unlikely to receive much support for his changes from the government bench, it will at least provide an opportunity for all members of the House to question why these bodies will be undemocratic.

Miller has said he wishes the district councils across the island to be created through a democratic process that involves all of the people and will not support the proposed legislation without changes. It is unclear what will happen to Miller’s own council once the law is enacted and government is in a position to appoint three of the people on the council and whether three of Miller’s elected councillors will be forced to step down

The bill was first published in November and revealed that the councils would not be elected but would be appointed by Cabinet. Of the maximum ten councillors only two have to be recommended by the opposition in each district, unless there is no government member in the constituency when Cabinet will only be able to appoint three members. The members will have to live in the district and, according to the proposed legislation, will have “special qualifications, training, experience or knowledge of the district” suitable to the role.

The idea to create district councils was part of the 2009 Cayman Islands Constitution and the law will provide for a district council in each of the six electoral districts or constituencies where they people on the council will advise their MLAs on the issue that are particular to the district they represent and raise concerns that need to be taken to the main legislature.

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MLAs face busy day

| 10/01/2011 | 12 Comments

(CNS): The country’s legislators are return to the Legislative Assembly on Monday to face a packed agenda. The lawmakers are expected to be debating seven pieces of legislation as well as dealing with parliamentary questions. This will be the third meeting of the tenth sitting of the 2010/2011 session and includes some controversial bills, along with the Advisory District Councils Bill, the Health Practice (Amendment) Bill, 2010 is coming up for debate. This will facilitate medical tourism and allow doctors from anywhere in the world to be registered to practice in Cayman. The Wastewater Collection & Treatment Bill, 2010, which will facilitate the privatisation of the country’s sewerage system is also expected to be debated, among others.

The Water Production and Supply Bill, 2010, The Water Authority (Amendment) Bill, 2010, The Prisons (Amendment) Bill, 2010 and the Criminal Procedure Code (Amendment) (No. 2) Bill, 2010 are also on the table for debate.

This sitting of the legislature is the first since the House adjourned on 9 December when the country’s politicians had spent the entire day castigating reporter Brent Fuller over a news article he wrote, which was published in The Caymanian Compass, drawing attention to plans by MLAs to discuss amendments to the Freedom of Information Law behind closed doors.

Accusing the reporter and the paper’s editorial in connection with the article of insulting the Legislative Assembly and its members, the House voted in support of a motion tabled by independent MLA Ezzard Miller requesting the attorney general to investigate whether Fuller should be prosecuted, as well as to revoke his “right” to report on the Legislative Assembly.

Shortly after the session AG Samuel Bulgin said he would not be moving forward with a prosecution but it has not yet been clarified whether Fuller will be allowed back in the Assembly building.

The Caymanian Compass has, however, stated that it intends to boycott the proceedings and report on the events via other means, such as Radio Cayman’s evening broadcasts.

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Doctor tipped for honorary Jamaican consul

| 10/01/2011 | 3 Comments

(CNS): A local doctor may be given the role of Jamaica’s honorary consul to the Cayman Islands, the Gleaner reported on Monday. According to the newspaper, Dr Joseph Marzouca, general physician and surgeon, is tipped to take up take over the post that was filled for many years by Robert Hamaty. Since his retirement almost two years ago in February 2009, the job had fallen to acting consul Elaine Harris. Although the Gleaner has not confirmed the news with official sources, the publication claims that the appointment was waiting official confirmation from the Cayman government. Marzouca is currently chair of the Cayman Medical and Dental Council and a member of the business staffing plan board.

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