Archive for July 6th, 2011

Documents reveal Bermuda’s Madoff connections

| 06/07/2011 | 0 Comments

(Royal Gazette): Bermuda-based Kingate Management Ltd had just three employees purportedly running an operation that fed $1.7 billion to con man Bernard Madoff’s company in New York and racked up hundreds of millions of dollars in fees. More light has been shed on Kingate’s activities on the Island and its role in the biggest Ponzi scheme in history in court documents filed in the US Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York last month. Irving Picard, the trustee of Madoff’s former company, who is seeking to recover funds for swindled investors, is suing Kingate Management, as well as the Kingate Global and Kingate Euro Funds and others.

Both Kingate funds, which were incorporated in the British Virgin Islands (BVI), are in liquidation. The liquidators have filed several actions in Bermuda, including one against HSBC Bank Bermuda Ltd, seeking the release of money held in the Kingate funds’ accounts.

In his third amended complaint, Mr Picard has alleged that Kingate and its founders, the London-based businessmen Federico Ceretti and Carlo Grosso and their company FIM Ltd, failed to carry out basic due diligence on its investments with Madoff and purposely ignored huge “red flags”, including unfeasibly consistent returns from Bernard L Madoff Investment Securities Ltd (BLMIS) and statistically impossible trading volumes.

Last week it emerged that Citi Hedge Fund Services Ltd, based in Hemisphere House, on Church Street, Hamilton, which is also named as a defendant in Mr Picard’s complaint, was served with a summons on June 17 this year.

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Cayman GDP fell 4% in 2010

| 06/07/2011 | 26 Comments

(CNS): The latest figures from the Economics and Statistics Office have revealed that the islands' real GDP fell in 2010 by four percent to $42,605 from $43,363 in 2009. According to the Cayman Islands Annual Economic Report 2010, the major sources of decline in production came from the construction, real estate and financial services industries. Commenting on the results, the finance minister, Premier McKeeva Bush, stated that, while the economy may have contracted last year, forecasts suggest that the economy will improve throughout this financial year, with further growth expected thereafter. He said it was because of the state of the local economy that his government was pursuing a number of private sector projects.

“Based on the forecasts made for the local economy along with the prediction of modest worldwide growth, and coupled with the supportive actions of the Government for private sector projects in the Cayman Islands, there is the bright and encouraging likelihood of growth within the Islands’ economy for the 2011 calendar year and beyond that to the government’s fiscal years that will end on 30th June 2012, 2013 and 2014,” Bush said.

“It is precisely for the noble reason of improving the state of the local economy that the Government is encouraging the advancement of projects, particularly in the private sector – as public sector projects must remain restrained by responsible and prudent fiscal management considerations,” the premier added as he commented on both the annual report and the Compendium of Statistics, which was also released this week by the ESO.

The annual report suggests that the GDP growth projection for 2011 is placed at 0.9 percent, arising primarily from an expectation of a strong recovery in tourism along with a robust performance expected from the financial services industry. Inflation rate in 2011 is expected at 1.9 percent as sharp adjustments in international food and oil prices are foreseen.

Bush pointed to the tourism sector’s performance as revealed in the report and described it as robust.

“Tourism rebounded with a growth of 5.2 percent, with both air arrivals and cruise arrivals up by 6.0 percent and by 5.1 percent respectively to bring the total visitor arrivals to 1.89 million in 2010,” Bush added.

Meanwhile, the performance of the financial services industry in 2010 was mixed. New company registrations and new partnerships rebounded but downturns were recorded in mutual funds registration, stock exchange listings, insurance licences and bank and trust licences. 

Construction declined in 2010 with the value of building permits in Grand Cayman sliding by 42.1 percent compared to a year ago.  The value of planning approvals also fell by 23.9 percent to reach $330.5 million.  Real estate activity contracted as the number of properties transferred fell by 21.9 percent to 1,787 – which were valued at $316.4 million. 

Domestic credit from commercial banks expanded by $171.3 million as public sector financing from the local banking sector increased by 16.8 percent while credit to the private sector increased by 5.0 percent.

The average inflation rate in 2010 was very modest at 0.3 percent this was down to the fall of the housing price index which offset the strong rise in food and electricity price indices.

In the fall of 2010, the total labour force was estimated at 35,859, which was 0.7 percent lower than a year ago and unemployment rose to a high of 6.7 percent compared to 6 percent the year before.

According tot he figures in the ESO’s c Compendium of Statistics 2010 which was also published this week the  challenges arising from the performance of the economy in the 2010 calendar year impacted the demand for social services.

A total of 7,859 persons were assisted by the Department of Children and Family Services in 2010, or an increase of 19 percent over 2009.  There were 631 new cases of persons seeking assistance in 2010 when compared to 454 persons the previous year.

The restructuring of the central government also continued in 2010, with the total number of filled posts declining to 3,618 in 2010. This represents a reduction of 76 posts when compared to 2009, which is in-keeping, officials said, with government’s objective to improve its fiscal results and return the country to sustained surplus results.

Almost all Ministries, Portfolios and Departments saw a reduction in the number of posts filled. The largest reduction, 48 posts, was recorded by the Ministry of District Administration, Works, Land and Agriculture. At the end of 2010, the largest Government agency was the Ministry of Education, Training and Employment with 844 employees followed by the Portfolio of Internal and External Affairs – with 839 employees, covering the uniformed agencies such as Police, Immigration and Prison.

Despite the economic challenges the country faces, the premier said some sectors continued to advance as he pointed to the enrolment in reception to secondary government schools, which showed an increase of 3.2 percent over the 4,712 students enrolled in 2009. This occurred despite a cut in the schools’ recurrent expenditures by 11.6 percent.

Enrolment in the Bachelors degree programme at the University College of the Cayman Islands also showed a noticeable increase, moving from 91 students in 2009 to 130 students in 2010, a 43 percent increase.

The public health sector’s capacity remained unaffected:  with outpatient, casualty and district clinic visits recorded at 149,429 in 2010. This is only marginally less that the 150,157 visits in 2009. Discharges from Government’s George Town Hospital remained almost unchanged at 5,233 when compared to the 2009 year while the Faith Hospital on Cayman Brac discharged 436 patients for an increase of 21 percent over the level for 2009.

For more information on the two reports go to  www.eso.ky    

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High school breaks world domino game record

| 06/07/2011 | 10 Comments

(CNS): On Thursday, 30 June, around 600 John Gray High School (JGHS) students ended their school year participating in a record-breaking domino game. Maths teacher Ted Todd was the organizer of this fun attempt to break the record for the most number of people playing dominos in the same place at the same time and said he got the idea after watching some students play dominoes on the school campus. Previously 549 people were recorded as being the most number of people to play a dominoes game simultaneously on 15 August 2009. 

In a recent interview with CNS, Todd explained that he'd read in the Guinness Book of World Records that a Venezuelan group held the record and noticed how few people it would take to break the record. 

After getting permission from the relevant people in the Department of Education Services, Ministry of Education and the school principal, he got help from Brenda McGrath and Dr Sook Yin who organized the Bikini World Record from last year. “They gave constructive support in ensuring that I stuck to the rules as laid down by Guinness,” he said.

He then went out into the local community to arrange a small number of motivational spot prizes for the students who accomplished certain tasks on the day. “The local community was very forthcoming in providing officials and volunteers to help monitor the event,” he continued, “especially so of the Cayman Islands Domino Association, who provided such wonderful assistance.” 

Since the JGHS Assembly Hall isn’t big enough to accommodate that many students, Todd arranged a long, continuous line to ‘snake’ around the school, ensuring that there were no gaps whatsoever.

It has been confirmed that 588 students had played the game in a continuous line on the school grounds using about 200 sets of Dominos.

"More than anything, we achieved great teamwork. The students, teachers and business community all worked together to make it happen,” said Todd. He told us that team building is a very complex term for children to grasp since it implies sharing and giving of yourself without personal reward, but rather rewarding the whole group.

“This record was special because it involved the students being trained, coached and motivated to do all the right things at the same time and to do it to a set time. This they achieved, and many of the visitors and officials from the wider community commented on the fact that the students were all so well behaved, excited about the event and also clearly saw their own individual role to play in making the event work.”

Now Todd will have to submit documents, photos and video footage of the attempt to Guinness for them to officially recognize the record after studying all the evidence. He is expecting to have their response back in approximately three months. “I do not see any reason why in the future we couldn’t attempt another record of some sort. It was a very enjoyable and rewarding morning,” he said.

Todd is very happy for the students who broke the record because the idea was always that they should get the praise and reward while having achieved something unique. "Everyone in the school came together as a community to achieve something special and we did; everyone was very excited by it.” He feels that it should become a practice for other schools to break records as well to encourage and promote team building.
  
Todd said he wants to thank everyone for their involvement and support and that perhaps the Cayman Islands could become the centre of a record breaking industry in the name of teamwork and togetherness.

 

16-year-old Ashleigh Hydes is a CNS summer intern.

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Forbes killer gets 7 years

| 06/07/2011 | 59 Comments

(CNS): Justice Harrison handed down a seven year sentence to Steve Brown (36) on Wednesday for the manslaughter of Jack Forbes in Bodden Town last year. Brown pleaded guilty to the killing of the 49-year-old man at the Plaza Odessa as a result of provocation. The court heard during sentencing that the two men had got into an argument that evening over money and the fight had ended in Forbes’ death. Brown was caught on CCTV repeatedly kicking and stomping on the head of Forbes as he lay on the ground, having been hit by a rock thrown by a co-defendant in the case. The crown said it was a sustained and vicious attack but accepted that Brown was provoked after he was stabbed in the abdomen twice by Forbes. 

In his ruling Justice Harrison said that handing down a sentence in a manslaughter case always presented a certain difficult for the court because of the nature of the cases, ranging from something close to murder to other cases which could be considered not much more than an accident. He also stated the degree of provocation was also important.

The judge said that although the convicted man had been stabbed, the crown contended that he had started the violent encounter when he threatened Forbes with a rock. After stabbing Brown, Forbes had fled but was brought down by a rock thrown by another defendant. As he lay on the floor immobile Brown has stomped on Forbes’ head numerous times, he walked away and examined his own wounds and then returned to his victim and stomped his head into the concrete pavement another fourteen times.

As a result the judge found that the provocation was low in this case and therefore his starting point before the discount for his guilty plea and any other mitigating circumstances were considered was twelve years, which, he said, led to the sentence of seven years.

The court also heard during the sentencing that Brown had handed himself into the police after two days, which he said he had taken in order to spend time with and say goodbye to his son, as he knew he would have to go to jail.

The judge said that Brown had, according to the social enquiry report, a high risk of reoffending again when released because of his drug and alcohol problems, as well as his associations with criminals from previous times in prison. The judge noted that Brown had not had the best of start in life as he had come from an abusive home where his mother had encouraged him to deal drugs, and as a result he had been encouraged into a life of crime.

As a result Justice Harrison advised him to take advantage of the sentencing planning offered in the prison system to help him address his problems, “to curb his ways and end up a better person”.

Brown pleaded guilty to manslaughter at the earliest opportunity after the charge of murder was changed by the authorities to manslaughter. However, his co-defendant, Lorenzo Wright, who is accused of throwing the rock at Forbes, pleaded not guilty to manslaughter in May and will be tried in Grand Court on 19 July.

Forbes was found by the police around 6pm on the evening of 14 October lying in a pool of blood about an hour after the incident and pronounced dead at the Cayman Islands Hospital later that night. The victim had been released from Northward just a few months before the incident, having served close to a decade in prison for the manslaughter of Steve Watler in May 2000. The court heard that Forbes had more than 88 previous convictions and suffered from severe alcohol and drug problems.

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LA not resuming till August

| 06/07/2011 | 61 Comments

(CNS): Following the adjournment of Legislative Assembly in the immediate wake of Finance Committee last month until a day to be named, it appears that the country’s parliamentarians will not meet now until at least 3 August, the opposition confirmed. According to correspondence he received from the Legislative Assembly, Opposition Leader Alden McLaughlin said despite numerous questions and concerns surrounding the investigation which is believed to centre around the premier, the matter of bribery and corruption raised in the international media with the Cayman Islands' new port partners, the dismissal of the port board and the no confidence motion which was filed by the opposition, the country’s leader has closed down the LA for a month.

“I have no doubt that this is a deliberate tactic of government to avoid having to deal with the lack of confidence motion,” McLaughlin said Tuesday about the date which has currently been appointed for parliament to resume.

“Given the investigation into the premier,” he said referring to the investigation which is believed to involve the country’s leader regarding a re-zoning issue from 2004, “and the  revelations in Bangladesh about CHEC the firm that the premier has signed an MOU with to build the George Town port, as well as the sudden reshuffle of the port board, among other things, it seems the premier does not want to deal with the 24 points raised in the motion.”

The no confidence motion was filed by the opposition at the end of April and has so far not made it to the business agenda. McLaughlin said this flew in the face of convention because under the Westminster system it is customary when there is a challenge to the government in the form of a no confidence motion for it to be dealt with at the earliest opportunity to address the issues raised and dispel any instability.

“This should have been debated before the premierbrought the budget to re-establish confidence in his government and put the country’s collective mind at rest that they could have confidence in the government's spending plans,” the opposition leader added. "Instead he chose to hold a public meeting where some members who may have been the most likely to waiver in their support delivered speeches backing the premier.”

McLaughlin said the premier needed to address the twenty-four points raised in the opposition motion and show the country that all of his government supports him. “This is more important than ever given the questions surrounding this investigation, which he has not spoken about, and we don’t know if his government is still supporting him,” he added.

Debating the no confidence motion would allow all of the government members, both on the front and back benches, to publicly declare their support for the premier and “signal one way or the other how they all feel about how the country is being run,” McLaughlin noted.

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Crown says ID of Peddie suspects is sound

| 06/07/2011 | 0 Comments

(CNS): The director of public prosecutions told the judge that the crown’s key witnesses to the gunning down of 25-year-old Alrick Peddie (left) was a solid identification. Cheryl Richards QC said on Tuesday that the witness had known all three defendants for some ten years and could see the men clearly through the windscreen of the car on what was a bright sunny day when they pulled up to the yard where Peddie was killed in March 2010.  As she submitted her closing speech at the end of the murder trial of Robert Bush, Jose Sanchez and Aaron Crawford, the country’s top prosecutor defended the credibility of Michael Ebanks, the crown’s sole and prime witness to the events leading to Peddie’s death.

Richards said the witness had not shied away from admitting his unsavoury past but there was nothing to suggest he was a member of a gang and he had no motive to fabricate evidence.

The DPP said the witness saw the men clearly and he knew who they were on the afternoon that the three defendants are said to have pulled up to Peddie’s grandmother’s the yard in Willie Farrington Drive, West Bay, at some speed before getting out of the car and shooting Peddie nine times in the back.

Richards told the judge, who is trying the case without a jury, that the witness had admitted he smoked ganja, admitted his life needed to change and admitted he had considered taking matters into his own hands in the wake of what happened to Peddie.

However, after speaking to family members he reconsidered and went to the police two days after the shooting and told them what, and more importantly who, he had seen, when he described the three defendants in the Red Honda civic who drove up that afternoon and got out of the car.

Although Ebanks had taken cover as he saw the men open the car doors and begin to get out and did not see the shooting, Richards said that given the collection of circumstances it was fair to infer that with his identification of the men’s arrival these were the three who had killed the 25-year-old security guard.

Ebanks was able to see all three men’s faces clearly, including Crawford who was sitting in the back seat but in the centre. The speed with which the car arrived had attracted his attention so he had stopped to look at who was in the car and as they came out of the vehicles before he fled, knowing something was amiss.

She said the witness described the act as taking no more than sixty seconds before the gunfire he heard died down and the car sped away again.  As there was no one else around, it was fair to infer that it was the three men who had shot and killed Peddie.

The supporting evidence for the crown’s case included Crawford’s DNA on the car, gunshot residue on the back seat, telephone evidence of the men’s location and interaction, the discovery of the stolen car by Crawford’s home and the fact that Bush had gone to Peddies’ wife’s home, somewhere he had never been before, to ask if he was dead the night after the shooting. She also said Sanchez’ efforts to hide from the police demonstrated a guilty mind.

The defence teams are expected to complete their closing presentations to the judge before he retires to consider his verdict, which is expected next week.

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New species discovered in Little Cayman

| 06/07/2011 | 23 Comments

(CNS): Scientists on the hunt for tiny, complex and elusive worms that live in well- oxygenated sands struck gold recently in Little Cayman. Dr. Rick Hochberg and his team of biologists from the University of Massachusetts who are studying the biodiversity of marine gastrotrichs in the Caribbean, chose to complete part of their research at the Little Cayman Research Centre (LCRC) because of its pristine environment the facilities at the Central Caribbean Marine Institute (CCMI). Not only did they find what they were looking for but were astonished and excited by how much gastrotrich biodiversity they saw in Little Cayman.  In one week they discovered 15 new species of gastrotrich worms which they hope will be confirmed through DNA tests.

There are about 800 known gastrotrich species, Dr Hochberg said but there could be as many as 10,000 and his mission is to discover and describe as many of them as he can.
In Little Cayman he has found enough of these complex species to warrant expanding his work and plans to develop a manual about these little worms and intends to host a workshop at the Little Cayman Research Centre, placing Cayman firmly on the map of serious scientific research.

The clock is ticking on the scientists working in the field of gastrotrichs as a result of climate change and habitat degradation which threaten to wipe out species before they are even discovered. “Many of these microscopic worms will be lost before they are even discovered,” the CCMI said in a release issued about Dr. Hochberg’s project.
The CCMI said that this kind of research is vital for understanding the extent of biodiversity on earth and the genetic methods that Dr. Hochberg is using to determine which species are new and how they are related will help shed more light on how speciation and evolution happen.

One gastrotrich which the team has discovered (Urodasys viviparous) has a very curious trait — it is a worm that gives birth to live young.  This is seen in many other creatures including sea horses, sharks, and mammals (including humans) but worms andrelated organisms are generally known to lay eggs.  This proves that there is still so much to be learned about how animals live and why similar traits are found in so many different, and apparently unrelated, groups of animals.

The Central Caribbean Marine Institute was incorporated in 1998 as a non-profit 501c3 organization.  CCMI was established as an international charitable organization after becoming incorporated in the Cayman Islands in 2002 and in the UK in 2004. Since its first years, CCMI has proven a valuable asset to the effort of understanding changing coral reef and tropical marine environments, and its research and education programs have established a solid foundation for future reef education and awareness in the Caribbean and for students and researchers from around the world.

A key component of the organization's strategy was realized in May 2006 with the opening of the Little Cayman Research Center.  Equipped with wet and dry laboratories, a classroom, library, dormitory-style and private rooms and a sustainable off-the-grid bathhouse as well as easy access to the reefs the Station is an important new research and education centre for all of the Cayman Islands and enables programmes like Ocean Literacy to be taught in optimum surroundings for learning.

 

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Officials move to address shortcomings in youth rehab

| 06/07/2011 | 9 Comments

(CNS): Consultants from the Missouri Youth Services Institute (MYSI) are finishing up their training of Frances Bodden Girls’ Home staff on the US organization’s successful rehabilitation programme. At a ceremony  to open the two-week training session, Dorine Whittaker, the chief officer in the ministry for community affairs, spoke of the importance of strengthening youth rehabilitation and care. She said that there were shortcomings in the local capacity to care for at risk youth and welcomed the training which she said would help staff improve the services they offered to vulnerable young people. 

Under the auspices of the Children and Youth Services Foundation (CAYS),staff at Frances Bodden and, later this month, St. Bonaventure Boys’ Home, will receive the benefit of the experience of MYSI advisors. Whittaker also acknowledged the efforts of Cayman’s youth programs.

“While we know that we have some shortfalls in our capability to provide for the care and detention of children and youth who, for various reasons, can no longer remain in their own homes, your presence here today shows that we are making great strides in addressing these issues, strengthening the delivery of services, and making an impact on the lives of children who need a helping hand in our society,” she told participants in the training.

“This is an exciting time to be in the field of youth services and, while the road ahead is challenging, I trust that these training sessions will equip us adequately for the journey,” Whittaker added.

Kenneth Ellis, director of training services at MYSI, is leading the sessions. He spoke of the evolution of the Missouri Model of youth rehabilitation and what he hoped to accomplish over these two weeks.

“We believe in trying to separate what a person does from who they are.
Our kids know how to survive; we have to teach them how to live,” he said.

Ellis, who has spent almost 25 years working with troubled youth, added, “We didn’t just wake up one day and it was better. When we first started, for every 10 kids we worked with, nine of them went into adult prison. We weren’t facilitating anyone; we weren’t reforming anyone. It was a revolving door.

“One of the things that I learned very quickly is that people change through relationships. Our style developed more into one of facilitation and mentoring.
How we can best meet the needs of the kids to help them turn their lives around? Ultimately, that isour goal.”

The success of the Missouri Model over the years has been easy to quantify.
“Now, for every 10 kids we work with, seven to eight stay out of prison. Our recidivism rate remains 7-10%,” Ellis pointed out.

After two weeks of training and coaching the Frances Bodden staff, Ellis said he hoped that “we won’t be talking about the Missouri Model, but we will be talking about best practice to help young people.”

Ormond Williams, chairman of the CAYS board, also spoke at the opening, encouraging those attending the trainingto improve youth services.

“I really believe in what we are doing,” Williams said. “We all know the issues surrounding our young people. If we don’t, we’re not living in the Cayman Islands.”

He noted the shift in attitudes over the last generation that has affected what young people in Cayman expect in life as well as what others expect of them.

“We no longer hear parents saying their children should aim for what is excellent,” Williams said, and spoke of the need for positive peer pressure “where we hold each other accountable, and that is what happened back in the day.”

He implored the group to “help our young people to hope. Everything we cherish in this country would be lost if we lose our young people.”

Williams challenged the staff of CAYS to think about how to make a contribution to the youth in their care, leading to “young people who believe what is possible. It is time for us to recommit ourselves to that which we believe we have been called to and give ourselves completely to it.”

 

 

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Women lead charge in Afghan media

| 06/07/2011 | 0 Comments

(Reuters): Farida Nekzad has faced threats of kidnapping, acid attacks and a plot to blow up her apartment since she founded her first news agency in Afghanistan seven years ago. Members of the Taliban e-mailed some of the warnings; others arrived over the phone. One caller warned she would be murdered and disfigured so horrendously that her family would not be able to recognize her body. But the mother-of-one, whose most recent project is a news agency that spearheads coverage of the problems that Afghan women face, is undeterred.

Wakht, or 'Time' in Nekzad's native Dari, is one of a handful of majority female media outlets springing up across a country where women's voices often go unheard.

It has seven female reporters and three male journalists and operates across 10 provinces. Nekzad, who has start-up funding from private donors and hopes to become self-supporting through advertising within 18 months, aims to expand from text reports to multimedia ones.

"In 30 years of war, women and children are the ones to suffer the most … but they are not given any attention and have no media coverage," Nekzad told Reuters, referring to decades-long violence sparked by the Soviet invasion in 1979.

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