Archive for August 31st, 2011

Anglin acquitted of murder

| 31/08/2011 | 0 Comments

(CNS): Devon Anglin was found not guilty of the murder of four-year-old Jeremiah Barnes, Wednesday afternoon, when Justice Howard Cooke said there was "disturbing, unexplained inconsistencies" in the evidence of Andy Barnes, the crown's key witness and the child's father. Jeremiah was shot and killed at the Hell Gas Station, West Bay, while sitting in the Barnes family car in February last year by a masked gunman, whom his parents had both identified as Anglin. However, following a judge alone trial Justice Howard Cooke acquitted the defendant as he said Barnes' visual evidence and that of Dorlisa Ebanks, Jeremiah’s mother, was of no “probative value.”

The judge said that, as had been agreed by both counsel in the case, if the visual identification was found by the court to be of “no value” the judge had no need to consider the supporting evidence in the case as nothing could support “worthless”, which was how he described the evidence of Barnes, whom he said was predisposed to believing Anglin was the killer and fixated by his belief that the defendant was out to do him harm.

Justice Cooke said he put “absolutely noweight” on the evidence given by Dorlisa Ebanks as her evidence directly contradicted that given by Carlos Ebanks, the gas station attendant, who had said the gunman was wearing a full mask.

Despite the fact that the gas station attendant had stated that the gunman was wearing a Halloween mask, an issue contradicted by the CCTV evidence, which showed the gunman wearing a bandana or handkerchief over part of his face, the judge said he believed Carlos Ebanks to be a witness of truth.

Justice Cooke also found Anglin not guilty of the attempted murder of Andy Barnes, who is believed to have been the gunman’s intended victim on the night, and not guilty of possession of an unlicensed firearm. The judge acquitted Anglin on two other counts on the indictment, including possession of an imitation firearm and a breach of the peace in connection with an incident two weeks before the murder, when the crown alleged that Anglin had threatened to kill Barnes at Batabano Plaza.

In the immediate wake of the judge’s decision, speaking on the courthouse steps, the police commissioner said it was a sad day for the Barnes family and a “desperate day for justice” in Cayman. David Baines said that hehad asked the director of public prosecutions to urgently seek an appeal against the verdict, as he said it was important that the people saw that justice was done and he believed there were grounds for review of the judge’s verdict.

Former RCIPS detective chief inspector Peter Kennett, the senior investigator on the case who has since retired but was present for the trial, said he felt very sad for Jeremiah's parents, Dorlisa and Andy. “They witnessed the tragic murder of their beautiful son, Jeremiah, and have always been totally adamant that Devon Anglin, a man whom they know extremely well, was the person who fired the gun at them,” he said. “This is quite the saddest moment in my forty plus years of policing, both here and in the UK,” Kennett added.

This is the third murder trial in the last few months relating to shootings in which a judge alone has presided and a not guilty verdict has been handed down. In the last two cases four men have walked free from court after all of them had served more than a year in jail.

Despite the verdict Wednesday, Anglin did not walk free. The 26-year-old West Bay man, who has been in jail since his arrest in February, was remanded in custody as he still faces another murder trial later this year. Anglin is charged with the fatal shooting of Carlos Webster in a West Bay Road nightclub in September 2009.

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Slow progress on accounts

| 31/08/2011 | 13 Comments

(CNS): The auditor general said today that there has been some slow progress on thegovernment's accountability to the public, as he presented an updated report on financial reporting. On the deadline day for government entities to submit their accounts for the last financial year, Alistair Swarbrick said there was hope that the governmentmay finally manage to produce some form of timely consolidated report for the most recent financial year, but added that it would not be easy. Changes in the public finance law, the pragmatic approach, some lines in the sand from the audit office and leadership from the deputy governor had all helped to improve the situation, but he warned that there would still likely be issues with the quality of the reporting, which could go on for several more years.

“While there has been more progress since my last report, it has beenslower that I had hoped," said Swarbrick. “I fully support government's more strategic approach to concentrate on the current financial results, however the delays clearing backlog will definitely impact on government's capacity to prepare the 2010/11 financial and my ability to audit them.”

The update by the office revealed a number of continuing problems in government's accountability  to the public on how it is spending their tax dollars. Aside from the fact that the Ministry of Finance, formerly the portfolio of finance, will never have any audited accounts for the years between 2004 and 2008, all accounts for government ministries and portfolios after 2004 up to 2009 are of such poor quality that there will never be any meaningful consolidated accounts for those years. This means leaving the Cayman public in the dark about how public money was spent.

The report also reveals that that there are still some 55 reports that are ready to enter the public domain that have not been tabled in the Legislative Assembly, and as a result remain under-wraps.

Swarbrick said that despite the numerous issues, progress was being made and only 14 statutory authority or government company backlog reports remained outstanding and 12 for ministries and portfolios, which was an improvement, though things were slow. “It's not as fast as I had hoped but we are getting there," he added.

However, the goal now is for all government entities to submit their 2010/11 accounts before 5pm Wednesday in order for government to have a real chance of getting back on track and produce full consolidated accounts for the most recent financial year.

Swarbrick said the change to the law, which has removed government's obligation to produce audited financial accounts for the years up to 2008/09, and the more pragmatic approach by government to focus on the more recent accounts may bear fruit.

The auditor pointed out that in the end the financial statements are about accountability to the people as without them elected officials cannot review how the money they authorized through the budget process was spent.

“The wider public cannot see what has happened to their tax dollars and they cannot be sure they were used appropriately,” swarbrick said as he emphasized the importance of addressing the ongoing failure of government to be accountable. “The accounts represent what happens to public money and holding the people who are responsible for spending it accountable as officials should be seen to be spending money responsibly.”

Although there are a number of ways that governments can be accountable to their people for what they spend, the Cayman government  has only ever produced annual reports, and as a result of not doing that for more than seven years, the people have no idea what has happened to public cash.

In order to try and address that issue and get some form of genuine accountability, the auditor general said his office would be undertaking compliance audits on the missing years in an effort to get some answers.

“As a result of the large number of disclaimers of opinion on the financial statements of ministries and portfolios and some financial statements for the period 2004/05 to 2007/08 not being subject to audit as a result of the PMFL amendments, I will be undertaking a series of compliance audits that will review significant high risk areas of expenditure to ensure that they have been incurred for the purposes they were intended and in compliance with the relevant statutory provisions,” Swarbrick wrote in his latest report.

He explained that areas where money is awarded based on subjective criteria is what was generally consider high risk, such as scholarships or bursary payments, as well as specific projects. He said that the changes to the PMFL which removed the need for audited financials up to 2008 required the compliance audits as a way ofaddressing gaps in the accountability of how public money has been spent.

The auditor admitted, however, that the reality of the situation, as a result of the failure of government to put proper processes in place regarding financial accountability, the public will never truly know what happened to its money between 2004 and 2009.

Swarbrick added that the historical failure of government to keep track of public money may well have contributed to the recent  years of deficit because, he said, while officials may know at a given time how much money government does or doesn't have, it has had difficulties predicting budgets and understanding its financial requirements as elected officials have not been able to see where or how money is actually spent and therefore unable to make informed decisions about cuts.

See Financial and Performance reporting update here

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Cayman HR chair defends two car families

| 31/08/2011 | 16 Comments

(CNS): Richard Coles, who currently has a duel role in the Cayman Islands, has defended the middle classes in a short article for Cayman Finance, one of the two bodies he chairs. Coles, who took over the leadership of the offshore financial services industry organization after Anthony Travers stepped down, is also chair of the Human Rights Commission. In an article answering a UK newspaper comment that says there is "no moral case for tax havens", Cole says that taxes punish the “sub millionaire, middle classes with two cars in the garage and three children heading for college,” and suggests if this section of the community is stifled there will soon be no community.

Many human rights groups around the world have concerns about the link between offshore finance and human rights abuses. A significant number of leading NGOs and charities suggest that large corporations that use offshore financial centres to avoid taxes and royalties to developing countries deprive governments – especially those in lesser developed nations — of essential revenues to deliver development, health, education, housing, water and other human rights.

However, in his role as Cayman Finance chair, Cole, Cayman's former attorney general, defends the rights of the tax payer to keep more of what he says is the money they earn and also defends Cayman in the face of the commentary published in the Independent at the weekend.

Echoing the same arguments made by his predecessor, Cole has criticized the article by Paul Valley because he says it repeats the “hoary old clichés” and notes the 12,000 corporations that are registered at Ugland House but, Cole says, it doesn’t mention the Delaware office with 217,000 names on the door.

Coles claimed that the Cayman Islands facilitates the flow of trillions of dollars from the international capital markets to the balance sheets of US institutions, and taking aim at what he said was the UK’s  “left wing press", he said it was determined to conflate Cayman, “a perfectly  transparent  jurisdiction”, with non transparent jurisdictions such as  Andorra, Monaco, Liechtenstein and Switzerland, where “as the facts slowly emerge, we inescapably conclude that tax evasion actually occurs,” he said.

The financial association chair said that no one disagrees that “tax evasion is wrong,” especially in the “Cayman Islands where the transparency debate was concluded over 20 years ago,” he stated in the short article, adding that Cayman has tax treaties with the United States and the European Union.

As often argued by Travers, Coles said “only the criminally insane tax evader” would use the Cayman Islands because of the power of access to Cayman accounts that IRS, DOJ and the European Treasuries have.

“Yet we find that the expressions "evasion”, “outrage “, ”loopholes" and "avoidance” are now  used interchangeably and indiscriminately to describe Cayman financial structuring without reference to legal and accounting precedent, standard or principle or the factual treaty position,” Cole wrote.

Quoting Daniel J. Mitchell, Cole wrote that tax competition affords taxpayers the ability to enjoy more of what they earn.

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Teen arrested in shooting

| 31/08/2011 | 0 Comments

(CNS): The police have arrested an eighteen-year-old man for attempted murder in connection with a shooting at a jerk stand in Red Bay in June. The teen is accused of trying to kill 28-year-old Kemar Golding, who was shot through the eye by a masked gunman during a failed robbery but miraculously survived. The man was arrested, police revealed, during an operation in George Town on Tuesday and currently remains in custody. Golding, who is an assistant brewer at the Cayman Islands Brewery and still recovering from his ordeal, lost his left eye in a senseless act of violence that, despite the rising violent crime levels, still shocked the community.

The brewer was shot as he was helping his friend who worked at the Red Bay jerk stand take out garbage as the popular food stop was closing for the evening on 29 June. Three masked men reportedly emerged from behind the Prospect Play House and demanded cash from Golding and his friend. When the men said that they had no money, one of the robbers instructed another who was carrying the firearm to “give him one”, and the gunman opened fire shooting Golding through the eye.

Anyone who has information regarding this or any crime can call the anonymous tip line Crime Stoppers on 1-800-TIPS (8477).
 

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