Archive for May 9th, 2011

MLA abused role, says crown

| 09/05/2011 | 0 Comments

(CNS): The UDP’s representative for Bodden Town, Dwayne Seymour, used his position as a member of the Legislative Assembly to try and silence a security officer who witnessed the politician’s part in a fight outside a Seven Mile Beach hotel, the prosecution told a Grand Court jury on Monday. The MLA is charged with attempting to pervert, obstruct or defeat the course of justice in connection with a fight last year between Seymour and a man he believed was having an affair with his wife. The crown also accused the MLA of using his position to discover the travel plans of the man in question.

Opening his case to the jury of five men and two women on Monday, crown prosecutor John Masters told them that, despite Seymour’s position in the country’s parliament, they had come to the court to do a job without prejudice. He said the crown would show that the defendant had abused his role as a legislator and that the law applies to everyone, equally and fairly.

The prosecuting lawyer said that Seymour and his wife, Melanie, were having difficulties in their marriage and she had struck up a friendship with Garrone Yap. He said that she was not “a piece of property that belonged to her husband” and was free to visit with whomever she chose. Masters added that whatever problems the Seymours had, it was not relevant to the issue of whether or not the MLA had tried to pervert the course of justice.

The crown counsel told the court that on 1 May 2010 Seymour had gone to Grand Cayman Beach Suites with the deliberate intention of seeking out Yap to confront him, as he had no other business there. Following an assault on Yap, he told Adrian Bowen, a security guard at the hotel, “You didn’t see nothing,” encouraging the officer to cover up the offence before he departed from the scene.

Setting out the crown’s case, Masters said Seymour had made it quite clear to Bowen that he was an MLA when he arrived. The MLA had then proceeded toremain parked in a fire lane for over thirty minutes and had asked Bowen if he knew which room his wife was in, having pointed out her car. Seymour also asked him for a key to the room but Bowen told the politician that he didn’t know where his wife was and nor could he give out keys.

Sometime later a friend of Seymour’s also arrived at the hotel and both men then confronted Yap when he came down to the hotel lobby area. A fight broke out in which, the crown says, Seymour struck Yap first and then the three men wrestled to the ground.

The crown called only two witnesses. The first was Garrone Yap, a personal trainer from the United States. He said he had come on vacation to Grand Cayman to visit Melanie Seymour, the defendant's wife, who he had met previously when she had taken a trip to Miami. He described how on the night of the incident he was waiting in the hotel lobby for Melanie when he was approached by the defendant and another man.

Yap told the court that as Seymour approached him he said, “What the f**! are you doing on my island?” Yap revealed that he realized who it was and he had responded saying he “did not know it was his island” or something like that. Yap said that Seymour then began to say derogatory things about Melanie. Yap said the MLA described his wife as a “f**!ing whore who had slept with at least ten men.

At that point, Yap told the jury, he began to tell Seymour he did not want to hear him and the politician punched him on the jaw. Yap said the two men began to fight and Seymour's friend also joined in as they wrestled and fell in the bushes in front of the hotel. Yap said he was able to eventually push Seymour away from him and then the security guard came to the scene and assisted him up and away from the men.

Yap said he did not immediately want to call the police as he was not sure what sort of power Seymour wielded on the island, as he knew he was a member of the parliament, and whether he might cause trouble for him. However, he revealed how he reconsidered the issue and later that evening he went to the police station, where he reported the incident. When he gave his statement to the police, he told the court, he was also arrested and held for three days in the wake of the incident but was ultimately not charged with any crime.

Defence counsel Steve McField, the attorney representing Seymour, accused Yap of striking the MLA first and provoking the argument, which he denied. He also stressed that he was a personal trainer who specialised in health, fitness and weight loss and was not a martial arts expert, as McField suggested.

During cross examination the defence attorney frequently became angry and shouted at the witness as he accused him of lying or not answering the questions properly. The crown objected a number of times at the “emotional” course the cross examination was taking and asked that defense counsel refrain from comment and moral debate, especially when McField suggested Yap should not have met with his client's wife as he knew she was married. Masters, on behalf of the crown, also pointed out that Yap was a lay witness and therefore the lawyer had to ask clear questions and allow him to answer.

Adrian Bowen, the security officer, was the crown’s second witness who confirmed to the court that Seymour had made it clear he was an MLA when he arrived at the hotel. The guard said he saw the fight between the three men but he did not see the fight start. He did see Yap backing away from the two men and then fall in the bushes, Bowen told the court. Having asked the front desk via radio to call 911, he then went to assist Yap. As he helped him up he saw that he was bruised and cut from the fight with the other two men.

The officer said he asked Seymour and his friend to leave but they did not do so immediately, and so once he had assisted Yap into the hotel lobby, he asked Seymour and his companion to again leave the hotel. It was then, Bowen told the court, that the MLA turned to him and said, “Security, you didn't see nothing,” which the guard said he took as a warning that he should not say anything to anyone about the incident.

The guard told the court that he was concerned because he did not want to get in trouble or lose his job as he was a work-permit holder. He said he was nervous about giving evidence since he was an expatriate and did not like the limelight.

During cross examination of the officer McField said the guard was mistaken by what he heard Seymour say and that his client had never implied that the guard should remain quiet. However, the guard said he was certain about what he had heard Seymour say and what he meant by it.

The case continues in Grand Court tomorrow when the defense is expected to answer the crown.

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Negotiating an economic cul-de-sac

| 09/05/2011 | 22 Comments

If you travel down a cul-de-sac it is an incontrovertible fact that you can travel no further than the end of the street. To go any further one would have to reverse and change course. There are no guarantees that the chosen alternate route may not also lead to another dead end, arguably though, such a course of action offers more hope than simply resigning to maintain the status quo.

Most small open economies (The Cayman Islands fall into that category, even though some influential voices would want to have you believe otherwise) that chose “development by invitation” as the preferred economic model in the latter half of the twentieth century have arrivedat or are nearing the end of the economic cul-de-sac that is the inevitable end game of a catholic approach to this model of development.

To be clear the adaptation of a suitable variant of the “development by invitation” theory was a necessary and justifiable approach to be utilized in kick starting the development of small states possessed of extremely limited resources.

The more successful small states recognized at around two decades into the process of development through this necessary but ultimately  limiting approach, that it was vital to ensure that the concurrent and measured development of its indigenous capital, (in particular its human capital) be placed at the centre of the macro agenda, if  indeed, in the medium to long term it was going to be possible to deliver sustainable development to its populace.

Whereas Singapore is a shining example of a small state where these essential determinants  for sustainable development  were  fully understood and suitable policies formulated and unswervingly implemented  to ensure  fulfillment of the objectives, the Caribbean states (Cayman included) individually and collectively have in the main failed  to devise and consistently implement appropriate strategies tailored to their respective circumstances to ensure similar outcomes.

From observation it would appear that  it is not a matter of a lack of understanding on the part  of any  of the participants in the decision making process in the various island states (Cayman included) but arguably an absence of  the political will to take the necessary  action that ultimately would serve to enhance the possibility of a  more sustainable  economic performance.

Consequently at a domestic level, the extended period of economic malaise (2008 onwards) has warranted that both public and private sectors deliver initiatives to regenerate the economy. Near unanimity exists in the utterances that have been forthcoming to date. As they would have it we will continue to meander down the well travelled road.

But for the usual lip service offerings about the importance of protecting the interests of locals, the focus continues to be one of inviting mainly large players in the traditional sectors (finance, tourism and construction).

The odds are better than even that this “reverse and come again” policy will lead to the same place at the end of the economic cul-de-sac, albeit at an accelerated pace the next time round.

The possibility of an alternate outcome requires an intergenerational commitment to forge a “new road” as an outgrowth of the road well travelled.

Today’s opinion shapers and decision makers owe it to the next two generations to ensure that they too are not destined to the task of  meandering up the cul-de-sac yet again.

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Extra spending not approved

| 09/05/2011 | 41 Comments

(CNS):Government may have spent millions of dollars in this financial year differently from the expenditure plans approved by the country’s legislators, according to FOI requests. Government ministers have been moving money around and it is not clear if the spending is more or less than the amount formally approved as none of it has been regularized by the parliament’s Finance Committee, which has not met since last year’s budget appropriation. The requests show more than $800,000 has been taken from the NRA’s Grand Cayman budget and given to District Administration for roads in the Brac, while more than $173,000 has been spent by the Department of Tourism outside of its budget allocation.

The decision to pave some roads and private driveways in Cayman Brac led to the National Roads Authority being asked to send most of its heavy equipment, as well as some staff, to the Sister Island and resulted in a direct cut to its budget with the money being given to District Administration, which has managed the project on the Brac and invoices have been billed to the ministry. However, the managing director of the NRA points out that the movement of funds needed to be regularized by the Finance Committee.

A second FOI request revealed that the premier or his office had directed the Department of Tourism to pay expenses amounting to $173,845.47 over and above the allocated annual budget for 2010/11. The details of these expenditure changes have not been revealed, and because Finance Committee has not met to regularize these budget alterations it is not clear if this is extra spending or money that has come from elsewhere in the Ministry of Finance, Tourism and Development or why the extra cash was needed.

During any fiscal year government ministers will often be faced with a legitimate need to reallocate cash from one department to another within their own ministries or even from ministry to ministry. As a result, the Finance Committee, which is chaired by the premier, is supposed to meet in order to demonstrate in a public forum why public money has been moved from one place to another or why extra spending was required.

However, the Finance Committee has not met outside of the annual budget allocation meetings since the UDP administration came to office, almost two years ago. This means that there is no official public record of how money is being moved or why. Nor is there a record saying if more or less spending has been authorized by ministers within their departments and authorities over stretching the budget in total.

Although the movements are approved by Cabinet, because those meetings are held behind closed doors and with no up to date consolidated government accounts having been published for more than six years, the public is currently in the dark about the detailed spending of government ministers.

The documents relating to the two FOI requests by members of the public and sent to CNS (posted below) demonstrate the movement of around $1 million between just three government entities. However, there is likely to be changes in most ministries and departments, which could result in millions more of public dollars being spent in ways that are not only secret but that have not been formally authorized or scrutinized by the elected members of the legislature.

The failure of the Finance Committee to meet and regularize government spending is one of the twenty-four items raised on the opposition's no confidence in government motion which has been filed in the Legislative Assembly by the PPM leader Alden McLaughlin.

The independent member for North Side, Ezzard Miller, has also raised the issue on a number of occassions that the premier has not convened the committee to approve this spending and reveal to the country what money has been moved where and why.

Cayman Brac paving FOI answer

Tourism Expenses FOI answer

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Injunctions fail to protect celebrities from Twitter

| 09/05/2011 | 0 Comments

(DailyMail): The social networking site Twitter today made a mockery of the celebrity trend for using privacy injunctions to hide their identity. A single user, who quickly attracted a following of 20,000, set up an account claiming to ‘out’ those behind the legal gagging orders – but riddled with errors. So many Twitter users began exchanging messages supposedly naming high-profile figures who have hidden their secrets that part of the site crashed. The move exposed the total inadequacy of court rulings which gag the press – but have no effective control over what is published online.

Today Liberal Democrat MP John Hemming, who is compiling a report on super-injunctions, said: “It shows the utter absurdity of what is being done in the courts. It ignores the way that modern communication works. Normally these things are kept so that only a few people in North London know what is going on. But more recently people have been coming to my constituency surgery and telling me that they know who these people are.”

The move also made plain how the practice of creating injunctions has spawned its own global rumour mill – much of it untrue.


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Chairman’s retirement heralds changes at Walkers

| 09/05/2011 | 4 Comments

(CNS): Offshore legal firm Walkers has overhauled its senior management team and elected a new global managing partner and a new chairman, according to reports in the industry press. Managing partner Grant Stein will become the firm's chairman from 1 July when Wayne Panton retires after more than 20 years at the firm and three years in the chair. As a result Diarmad Murray will step into Stein’s shoes as the new global managing partner. Murray will continue as head of the Cayman Islands’ office for the next three years.

Other management changes will see the firm's practice managing partner, Jonathan Tonge, swapping roles with regions managing partner, Ian Ashman. Tonge's new role will see him move from Cayman to Jersey, where he will also head the local office. Ashman will remain in Dublin.

Diarmad’s election to global managing partner had unanimous support of the firm’s partners and he was described as doing an “excellent job reshaping the Cayman Islands office over the past two years.” 

The changes come two years after a radical overhaul of the firm’s management structure, in which the firm reorganised into five practice-focused divisions. The firm has expanded in the past decade, growing from the Cayman office to offices around the world, from Hong Kong to Ireland.

“A lot of our major clients have expanded rapidly and globally and we’ve been fortunate enough to be able to help them,” Stein said of the firm’s globalisation programme.

Nor is the expansion over. Stien said further expansions are likely to be in growing economies, particularly in Asia. Brazil and Russia are also areas where Walkers is directing its attention. “We have focus groups at the moment that are very active in relation to these markets,” revealed Stein.

Murray said the firm’s prospects in practice areas such as investment funds and finance were looking good. “It’s a fairly rosy picture at the moment,” he added.

In addition to taking over the global managing partner role, Murray will continue to focus on developing the Cayman office’s support functions. Last year this resulted in the recruitment of Neil Sherlock as chief financial officer and David Smailes as chief information and technology officer.

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Fund investors forced to cast wider net

| 09/05/2011 | 0 Comments

(CNS): Emerging markets hedge funds have been making a comeback since the financial crisis saw their assets almost halve but investors are having to cast far and wide to find a suitable fund. In the final three months of last year, these funds took in $10bn, lifting total assets for the sector to $114bn – just $2bn shy of their previous peak in 2007. The inflows have followed a spell of investment outperformance. The emerging markets hedge funds index published by data provider Hedge Fund Research gained 11.8% for 2010, compared with 10.3% for the hedge fund industry as a whole. But institutional investors are not feeling spoilt for choice.

Investors are inclined to focus on large managers, with global funds, because investing in emerging markets is risky. Vincent McEntegart, a partner of fund of funds manager Goodhart Partners, said: “UK pension funds and investment consultants complain that there are no good emerging markets managers.”

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Man hospitalized with gunshot wound

| 09/05/2011 | 0 Comments

(CNS): Police say they are currently investigating the circumstances surrounding a shooting earlier this afternoon. A police spokesperson confirmed that a man was taken to the Cayman Islands Hospital in George Town from North Sound Estates in the Newlands area by a family member after receiving what appeared to be a gunshot wound to his hand at around 3:45 pm Sunday 8 May. The RCIPS spokesperson was unable to offer further details as the enquiries into the incident are ongoing, she said.

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‘Godzilla’ lionfish threatening Cayman paradise

| 09/05/2011 | 0 Comments

(BBC): An explosion in the population of the predatory lionfish in Caribbean waters, where it has no natural predators, is posing a widespread threat to marine wildlife. Just off the north shore of Little Cayman, I sink into the blue abyss. I am descending the vertical coral wall at Bloody Bay Marine Park. Straight ahead and straight down there is nothing but blue – a dizzying empty space where sunlight streams down and down into darker places well beyond my reach. But up close, the wall of coral is covered in giant barrel sponges as tall as a man, bright purple vase sponges, green and red corals and creatures that creep, crawl and swim within and among them.

I spot a seahorse, clinging to a whip coral by its tail, a spider crab with legs almost 3ft (1m) wide and a baby hawksbill turtle rocketing to the surface for a breath of air. And there, spiralling up from the depths come three graceful Caribbean reef sharks, curious and skittish. Suddenly, I notice Peter Hillenbrand, my diving buddy, gesticulating angrily – he points with one hand and pulls the trigger on an imaginary gun.

It is not the sharks he is angry at, but a brightly coloured fish covered in feathery spines.

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