Archive for September 12th, 2011

Police seize CI$90K of booty

| 12/09/2011 | 32 Comments

(CNS): Police have recovered around CI$90,000 worth of stolen property as a result of three separate operations at the weekend in George Town and West Bay. Two men are currently in custody in connectionwith the raids, having at this point been arrested for handling stolen goods. DS Marlon Bodden said that enquiries into the circumstances surrounding how the goods got to be at the different commercial and residential locations are now ongoing. Speaking to the media on Monday morning regarding the various criminal incidents and police operations this weekend, Bodden revealed the details of the haul.

The senior officer said that the police had recovered the significant amount of stolen property as deliberate targeted operations, which included power and construction tools, generators, TVs, games jewelery and other items that police were now examining and attempting to find the rightful owners.

He said that it was at times like these when people realise how important the messages put out by the police about the need for people to properly record the characteristics of their property and make it easy to identify and help the police work through the seizure.

DS Bodden said that the police had taken special security measures in order to protect the stolen goods as they assess the property and continue the investigation surrounding the haul.

The senior cop further revealed that on Saturday a 32-year-old man had been arrested on charges relating to supplying ganja. Another loaded firearm was recovered at the weekend but the police gave no details of how the weapon was found.

Police also seized a loaded gun on Thursday in an operation in which a man and a woman were both arrested in Prospect. DS Bodden said investigations in connection with that operation were ongoing and the the man remained in custody. Meanwhile, police are still hunting for the man who abandoned his weapon in Bodden Road on Friday afternoon when a police unit arrived there following a tip-off from a member of the public.

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Answers sought on loan deal

| 12/09/2011 | 17 Comments

(CNS): The opposition leader continued to press the premier over the failed Cohen and Co loan in the Legislative Assembly last week when he demanded to know what had motivated government to choose such an unorthodox route to get government financing. Following the revelations by the auditor general that the failed decision by the premier, against ministry advice, had cost the public purse almost a half million, Alden McLaughlin pushed for an explanation. During last Wednesday’s marathon parliamentary session he said he couldn’t think of anything that illustrated why there should be no confidence in government more than what happened over the Cohen deal.

“I don’t know what else provides more evidence of the cavalier attitude and the disregard for the rules, law, procedure and fairness than the Cohen deal fiasco,” he said about government’s proposed deal to go to Cohen and Co to secure public finance borrowing of $155 million, circumventing the central tendering process (see auditor general’s report).

Although the deal fell through and government turned to a conglomerate of high street banks in the end, as recommended by CTC and the ministry, this was not before the New York firm had organised two short term bridging loans which ended up costing $450 thousand more they would have done had the premier followed the advise of the ministry and the CTC.

Originally, McKeeva Bush had told the country in a national broadcast that he was circumventing the CTC process in order to save the country millions and millions of dollars. However, no savings were ever realised.

“Much of what the premier said about the Cohen loan simply wasn’t true,” the opposition leader emphasised as he asked why government had chosen the Cohen route and why that financial agent had been given preferential treatment. He said the premier needed to explain to the country what was so attractive about Cohen, an institution that would not normally arrange financing deals for government.

“What persuaded the premier to throw the rule book out of the window in favour of Cohen?” McLaughlin said. “What he told the country last year was not true,” he added. “There were no savings, no deal for Cayman Airways and there was nothing that gave Cohen any level of attractiveness over the other bids,” he said emphasising the mystery as to why the firm was chosen.

He said he could not understand how the ranks of the United Democratic Party could remain unfazed when the catalogue of errors and problems with the Cohen arrangement were revealed as he said it should have shaken the confidence of every government member. “This can only be described as a misrepresentation to the country and the rest of the government members about the nature of the arrangement and the promises of what Cohen could do,” McLaughlin added.

Although the premier failed to address the questions raised by McLaughlin in his response to the opposition leader’s motion, before the debate began a question filed by McLaughlin many months ago about the loan deal was eventually accepted by government and posed on the floor of the Legislative Assembly by the opposition leader.

At that point, he outlined the broad details of the bridging loans that Cohen had arranged but said everything about the loan was a matter for public record in the auditor general’s report. In response to supplementary questions, Bush denied there was anything unusual as the banks all use the markets to get financing for the loans they make anyway.

The premier said the matters had all been aired publicly and when pressed about any connection between himself and the principles of Banque Havilland, the bank which had supplied the short term load of over $36 million to government last December, Bush said what connection he had was "to know people”, without further explanation.

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Miller: Dart getting 5x$ more

| 12/09/2011 | 66 Comments

(CNS): The independent member for North Side has said he believes the Dart group is getting five times more dollar valuefrom the ForCayman alliance than the public will get under the proposed agreement with government. Speaking during a marathon debate in the Legislative Assembly in the early hours of Thursday morning, Ezzard Miller said that according to his research and calculations, the government’s proposed swap of beach front crown land with Dart in exchange for the Barkers and West Bay land, the Esterly Tibbetts extension and the cash payment will see the developer get the best out of the deal.

During the “No confidence” motion, Miller criticised government for lurching from one project decision to another without any real research or consideration for the implications but heralding each one as the latest economic saviour. Right now, he said, the “latest kid on the block” was this alliance with the “Dart conglomerate”, following the groundbreaking of the Esterly Tibbetts extension last Tuesday. Speaking about the deal with the country’s largest developer, Miller said the problem was the real figures had not been revealed.

“My objection to the Dart alliance is that I don’t know the numbers on it. My preliminary calculations say that Mr Dart is getting five times what we are getting and I don’t think that’s a good deal. If I am wrong then publish the evaluations and let me know what they are,” he implored government.

He pointed out that the law regarding the vesting of crown lands involved an “elaborate procedure” and, since he understood that Dart and government had made pronouncements about following the proper regulations and were committed to the letter of the law, he looked forward to seeing the rules for selling crown land properly adhered to.

The independent member explained that this required government to advertise the fact that the land was available for sale or swap and that the proposal to sell had not been rejected by parliament after a debate. Miller said that besides government’s own internal land valuation there needed to be two independent valuations completed as well, along with a report from the ministry responsible for lands and survey, all of which should be made public by laying them on the table of the Legislative Assembly for members and the public to inspect.

During his contribution to last week’s ‘no confidence’ in government motion, which Miller seconded in the absence of Arden McLean, the East End member who was dealing with a family health emergency in the United States, he said the motion was “neither novel, unusual or without precedent in this House” and it provided an opportunity for movers to challenge the decisions of government and expound the reasons why these challenges are being raised.

“It also provides an opportunity for the government to explain the rational for their decisions and policies and the effect they hoped for on the Cayman Islands and in particular the economy and thereby any benefit, or lack thereof, for the people,” he added.

He pointed out that aside from his concerns about how the government was handling projects, none of which had got off the ground despite numerous pronouncements, because there was never any rationale behind or analysis conducted about the proposals. He said it was not the opposition from him or others in the community that was causing the problem but government’s own approach.

“Prudent investors considering investing are left in limbo, shock and awe,” he added “I am of firm view that the developers can’t get things off ground and get things going and Caymanians in jobs … because of what appears to be rolling decisions. One decision is made this month for one particular company and a couple of months another one is made and then another for yet another company.”

“I support this motion as a wake-up call on government to mend its ways and get down to the business of governance, to follow procedure, make firm informed decisions in the interest of Cayman and Caymanians,” who, he said, were hurting and suffering.

Miller said that although he was a single member, he would have failed if he did not play his part properly. This meant supporting government when it brought bills that were good for Cayman but also to constructively criticise if in his view it was not in the best interests of the people, and he was comfortable that he had done that.

“I have consistently moved amendments they would improve laws for the benefit of Caymanians,” he said. “I have presented motions, 12 to be exact, since elected, all of which would have improved lives of Caymanians and I would have moved several more if meetings were not so drawn out,” he added, explaining that once a meeting started, unlike government, he could not bring anything new to the House.

“What happens to people like me when meetings are drawn out, while government can add business to the meetings after it’s started, I’m not allowed. I have to do it before meeting starts and no matter how long it goes on I can’t bring any more motions or questions,” Miller said as he once again implored government to follow the rules of the Legislative Assembly.

He said that the members should not be engaged in a debate in the early hours of the morning after a month long break. The hours of the parliament were between 10am and 4:30pm when it should be adjourned until the next day, Miller noted. “The last time the LA met was in August there has been plenty of time in between to deal with the business of this House during regular times,” he said.

“We need to stop blame game and get down to doing the work of this parliament within the rules subscribed under Standing Orders,” Miller added.

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