Archive for October 20th, 2011

People need probe update

| 20/10/2011 | 83 Comments

(CNS): The governor needs to update the people of Cayman Islands on the current situation regarding the on-going police investigation into the country’s premier as a result of the uncertainty that is being created, the independent member of the Legislative Assembly has said. Ezzard Miller says that the speculation surrounding the issue because of McKeeva Bush’s decision to neither step aside while the probe continues nor seek to explain what the letter he sent to Stan Thomas in October 2004 is about is not good for the country and sends the wrong signals. Miller told CNS that while he was not expecting the commissioner to give a blow by blow account, there was a need for an update and for more information to be released.

The North Side representative was the one who extracted the information from the governor that a letter from Bush to Thomas was at the heart of a probe which had been rumoured to be about the premier. Miller wrote to the governor in July asking for a commission of enquiry to examine the letter sent by Bush to the Texan developer. The correspondence regarding land zoning was sent when he was leader of government business from the fax machine in his former ministry of tourism, environment and development to Thomas asking for a payment of $350,000.

Miller said that there was no clear explanation for what the premier has since described as a real estate bill and he believed a commission was required to examine it. However, in response to Miller’s request the governor confirmed that the letter to Thomas was indeed the subject of an RCIPS investigation so there was no need for a separate commission of enquiry. 

Since then no further information has come from the governor or the police commissioner about the progress of the investigation, despite mounting speculation and uncertainty in the country.

“We know the governor has identified the premier as the person being under investigation for financial irregularities and I know it is not normal for the police to give running updates, blow by blow, on what happens in investigations of this nature but there is a need for an update,” he said.

The probe is understood to have been going on since February 2010, when a member of the judiciary came across the letter and forwarded it to the commissioner. Although sources recently confirmed to CNS that the probe is still on-going, there is speculation in the public domain that the investigation will be stalled as a result of a statute of limitations.

“There is some concern that the statute of limitations might be running out on this matter and I would invite the governor or the chief of police to respond to the concern of the public that it might have expired recently,” he said, adding that had to be clarified.

Miller said at the very least the governor needed to explain to the people of the Cayman Islands if the probe would be stalled because of a technicality or whether the people would eventually receive an explanation about the letter, which he said was certainly difficult to dismiss.

Whatever the long term outcome, Miller said he still believed that the premier should step aside, regardless of whether or not he is innocent, because it would be the right thing to do given the situation.

“I repeat my call to the premier to at the very least step aside while this investigation is taking place,” he added.

Miller pointed to the UK and the Westminster system on which Cayman politics is based where just the slightest hint that a minister, never mind a leader, may be involved in something untoward, he or she is forced to resign. For a country’s leader to be under police investigation, regardless of innocence or guilt, without at least stepping aside until their names is cleared would be unheard of there, he added.

“What is missing in our political environment is that we have not developed a similar system of honour among politicians as is found in the Westminster system,” he said, noting that there is no expectation that “people will do the honourable thing and step aside” in Cayman.

Miller said it was bad for the future of politics and the country in general when people in high office did not do the right thing. He noted a number of circumstances in Cayman’s political arena recently that illustrate that there is no pressure on politicians to ever step down when questions are raised. Miller said politicians and government ministers should be expected to accept their responsibility when things are brought into question, whether guilty or not, and resign.

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Local firm heads off to the Big Apple

| 20/10/2011 | 3 Comments

(CNS): Fund governance firm dms Management Ltd has just announced the opening of its New York office, dms Management (USA) Inc, located at the Rockefeller Center and headed by Executive Director Kathleen Celoria. The move will aid in the better governance of funds, the firm said. Celoria said the New York office would fortify the firm’s existing relationships with US stakeholders, many of whom, she said, were based in New York, adding that the move will help make the firm’s governance work more accessible and transparent to the funds they serve, as well as the investors.

Don Seymour, dms Management Ltd’s Managing Director said that the New York office will serve the increasing demand for institutional fund governance for onshore funds.

“The simple truth for investors is that many of the real life governance failures they suffered during the financial crisis were attributed to offshore funds feeding into onshore funds without proper governance. They’re now focused, correctly we believe, on a results-driven governance approach to avoid a repeat of those experiences,” Seymour said, confirming that DMS had conducted regular consultations with major institutional investors since the 2008 financial crisis.

Seymour went on to say that DMS believed that 2012 will be a pivotal year for fund governance with America’s Securities and Exchange Commission fund governance standards likely dominating the agenda.

“We want to do everything we can to advance effective fund governance standards and our New York office is an integral part of our commitment,” he confirmed.

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CoP backs vests but not spray

| 20/10/2011 | 37 Comments

(CNS): Although the police commissioner has backed moves to allow security guards to wear bullet proof vests, carry an approved model of baton, on the condition that staff are properly trained and to use handcuffs the country’s top cop has not yet offered his support for changes to the law to allow guards and the public at large to carry pepper sprays. David Baines confirmed that he had already agreed to the equipping of trained security staff with more protective gear but the commissioner has not engaged in discussions with legislators regarding changing the legislation to allow guards or the public to carry pepper spray and chemical sprays still remain prohibited weapons. (Photo Dennie Warren Jr)

The country’s parliament has voted to begin drafting amendments to the firearms law, the penal code and other laws that may be affected to allow security personnel and the general public to have pepper spray as a means of self-defence, but the commissioner has not yet revealed where he stands on the issue as heacknowledged it was now up for wider debate as part of the ongoing legislative process.

Despite the vote in the Legislative Assembly earlier this month Baines has not yet commented on the proposed changes to the law to create a firearms authority either. This will see the commissioner share the decision over who gets a firearm’s license with at least three justices of the peace and the president of the local gun club.

With government now tasked with changing the legislation the commissioner’s support for the amendments will be required to ensure they reach the floor of the islands parliament.  While the democratically elected members have supported the three private members motions, brought by the opposition andamended during the course of debate, to legalize pepper spray and change the way firearms license are allocated, the relevant laws still fall under the governor’s areas of responsibilities and could still be stalled.

Depending on the opinion of the commissioner as well as the wider public opinion as an area falling under the portfolio of internal and external affairs the will of the elected officials could still be circumvented.

The commissioner has made it clear that he disapproves of private firearms ownership and previous efforts by the independent member from North Side, Ezzard Miller, to introduce a board or authority to decide on firearms license was rejected by the deputy governor in February last year.

 

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Insurance company adopts a school

| 20/10/2011 | 0 Comments

(CNS): A local insurance company is heralding in a new kind of relationship between the private and public sector with its move to adopt George Town Primary School. The year-long commitment by Sagicor life includes a $15,000 donation to the school and will also see employees of the insurance firm spending time with the students and engaging in activities within the school. Michael Fraser, the firm’s Cayman president & CEO said the initiative is timely and also demonstrated the company’s commitment to the country.

The more than 300 students of the George Town Primary School will benefit from the twelve month project before Sagicor selects another school to adopt next year in consultation with the ministry. 

Premeir McKeeva Bush offered his support at the launch day this week. “I find the Adopt-a-School program especially appealing because Sagicor is not only giving financial assistance to the school for the purchase of computers and sporting equipment, but it is also getting its employees involved in mentoring the students and volunteering to participate in school activities,” he said. “There is so much to be gained when students have the opportunity to interact with productive and caring adults in their community.”

 

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Local lawyer to take on Crosstalk with business show

| 20/10/2011 | 37 Comments

(CNS): Lawyer and businessman, Richard Barton, has been selected to host a new morning talk-show to be aired on Radio Cayman by the Department of Commerce and Investment (DCI). Launching on 8 November, the DCI said the new talk show will be a conduit for informed, in-depth business commentary on matters related to economic growth and development in the Cayman Islands. Business Buzz will air on Tuesdays and Thursdays mornings from 7:30am to 9am, up against the popular and controversial phone-in morning show ‘CaymanCrosstalk'. The new show, which will be going head to head with Rooster’s long standing programme two mornings per week, was described by the DCI as “the dawn of a new day in talk radio”.

DCI Director Jonathan Piercy said he was confident that the show would help the agency carry out its mission during challenging times for the country. 

“The Cayman Islands still has that unyielding spirit to succeed and the willingness to make things happen,” said Piercy, who was an unsuccesful UDP candidate in George Town before taking up the government job. “Significant strides have been made to identify new sector opportunities and more is being done to develop a long-term economic plan that will benefit the jurisdiction in the years to come.”

Piercy said that the DCI would be using ‘The Business Buzz’ to highlight how far the department has come to support small business, attract inward investment and what it will take to move the Cayman Islands forward over the longer term.

The show will feature guests from the public and private sector, who will provide updates on the business environment and share insights and perspectives on new projects. Members of the public will also have the opportunity to call in and join the discussions as often as they wish.

Host Richard Barton, who will be competing for listeners with Austin Harris and Glibert McLean, was enthusiastic about being on board with Business Buzz. “Cayman boasts a wealth of innovative minds and I have long recognised that knowledge in the fundamentals of business is the catalyst that transforms such innovation into success,” he said.

“The Business Buzz offers a platform where entrepreneurs can benefit from the dissemination of information that is central to the principles of business. I am truly honoured to partner with the DCI in its quest to promote and facilitate long-term foreign and local investment in the Cayman Islands."

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Watchdog gives access to Cayman’s financial court

| 20/10/2011 | 0 Comments

(CNS): The Miami based offshore watchdog is giving its members complete access to all of the actions filed at the Financial Services Division of the Grand Court of the Cayman Islands back to the first case ever heard in the specialist court 2 November’ 09. OffshoreAlert said that except where a case has been sealed by the court or is otherwise unavailable, copies of each writ, petition, summons, or other initial filing, can now be viewed by clicking on 'Cayman Islands' in the 'Offshore Courts' section in the right-hand column of the home-page or can be found through the new-look website’s search function.

The first action ever dealt with by the financial court was a petition for the liquidation of Laurus Offshore Fund, Ltd. to continue under the supervision of the Court and for Gordon MacRae and G. James Cleaver to be appointed as Joint Official Liquidators.

OffshoreAlert said it also has copies of many initial filings at the Civil Division of the Grand Court of the Cayman Islands over the last 18 months. “We are continuing to back-date these records in order to offer subscribers more comprehensive coverage,” said owner DavidMarchant. “OffshoreAlert has also started obtaining copies of initial filings at the Commercial and Civil Divisions of the British Virgin Islands High Court, which can also be found in our database.”

The website’s database now contains details of more than 20,000 civil actions filed at the Grand Court of the Cayman Islands, Bermuda Supreme Court or the British Virgin Islands High Court.

“We update our records on a regular basis, usually weekly, in order to bring subscribers details of the latest cases” Marchant said.

www.offshorealert.com
 

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Public invited to talk about UK relationship

| 20/10/2011 | 7 Comments

(CNS): The committee established by the premier to consult with the people regarding the UK’s new White Paper for the Overseas Territories which is to be published next year, begins its public meetings next week. The goal is to explain to the process to the wider public and allow them to provide input on the final document which will be discussed by the leaders of all of the OTs and the UK government at next month’s annual overseas territories council in London. Thepeople can, however, circumvent the government committee and give their input directly to the UK via a web portal created by the Foreign Office.

Last month the UK’s FCO minister with responsibility for overseas territories invited the people of the Cayman Islands and other OTs to submit their thoughts and ideas directly to the FCO on the future of their relationship with Britain. Henry Bellingham called on everyone in the territories to have their say and in particular the younger generation.

“I want this consultation process to include as many people in the Territories as possible,” he said. Keen to allow people in the overseas territories have an opportunity to provide feedback and thoughts direct to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office an official portal was created on the governor’s office website to enable people to go direct to the source here at Overseas Territories – Have Your Say

Contributors can email or write directly to the FCO or alternatively post their comments on the website. The only comment posted on the site so far from the Cayman Islands is a query about voting rights for long term residents. They can also make their comments via the Cabinet office website here.

The main goal of this process is to replace the existing white paper that guides the relationship between the OTs and the UK, which was put in place more than a decade ago in 1999. The territories had very little say in that white paper OT leaders are also eager to see more input from the territories this time around.

Bellingham said the UK government’s strategy towards the new paper was about having a dialogue on how best the vision and values between it and the territories could be expressed. He pointed out that the UK’s fundamental responsibility and objective was ensuring the security and good governance of the fourteen territories.

“We recognised that the Overseas Territories are remarkably diverse; and that policies to meet these objectives need to be tailored to the specific circumstances of each territory. So there’s no question of one size fits all,” he said when he launched the dialogue process.

He pointed out that on the question of independence the current government followed the same policy as its predecessors and that it is for the territories themselves to decide whether they wish to remain connected to the United Kingdom. “Any decision to cut that link should be on the basis of the clearly expressed wish of the majority of the people of the territory in question,” he said.

The government committee will be making a presentation about the process on Tuesday, 25 October for West Bay residents at the John A. Cumber Primary School at 7.30 pm and then on Wednesday, 26 October  for George Town and Bodden Town residents at the Mary Miller Hall also at 7:30pm.
 

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Tax activist says trust expert proved TIEAs are futile

| 20/10/2011 | 6 Comments

(CNS): A tax campaigner and member of the Tax Justice Network has said comments made at a recent conference in the Cayman Islands illustrate that Tax Information Exchange Agreements are futile. Robert Shepherd from MourantOzannes Guernsey office said that TIEAs were created by onshore governments to try and force offshore institutions to provide more information to bring in more revenue but there were still ways that trust professionals could protect beneficiaries and confidentiality because of the hoops tax authorities needed to go through. Speaking to the UK’s Daily Telegraph, Richard Murphy said this proved  that TIEAs don’t work because of this very reason.

He argued that this was why the TIEA should be replaced in favour of an automatic exchange of information on demand.  "TIEAs don't work. Everyone knows it. As things stand, client funds can be moved out of a jurisdiction before an enquiry can develop, thwarting it before it really gets underway," Murphy told the UK’s Daily Telegraph newspaper on Wednesday.

"In order to make a successful TIEA request you need to correctly identify the individual, which is made virtually impossible by a combination of legal entities and professional services designed to ensure he or she remains anonymous. There is, for example, no public documentation relating to trusts", he added.

"It is exceptionally difficult to link bank accounts operated by a company in turn controlled by a trust with a particular taxpayer in another jurisdiction who may or may not be settler and or beneficiary of that arrangement."

Shepherd told an audience at Mourant Ozannes first trust conference to be held in Cayman last week that despite the TIEA there were still ways that trust professionals could protect beneficiaries and confidentiality. On the face of them TIEAs appeared “fearsome”, with one tax authority forcing another to disclose information on foreign nationals, but actually Shepherd said there was a good deal that trust professionals could do to honour obligations of confidentiality.

Go to Telegraph article

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Public asked to shape people’s referendum law

| 20/10/2011 | 3 Comments

(CNS): The constitutional commissioners are asking the public to contribute and comment on a research paper which is being circulated to encourage legislators to pass the necessary laws to facilitate and define how people’s initiated referendums will work. This unique democratic tool was introduced into the Cayman Islands via the 2009 constitution and allows for the people to trigger a national poll based on the support of 25% of the electorate. Legislation and regulations are required to facilitate the people’s vote but this has not yet been addressed by government. At a public meeting in West Bay last week Julene Banks said the people could take the lead on shaping the future law to present to government. (PhotoDennieWarrenJr)

She and fellow commisioner Wil Pineau encouraged the people to join in the debate and to contribute to defining the parameters ofthe law. She said that there was no need to wait until the government got around to the job as the people could do it themselves and present a draft law for consideration by Cabinet. The idea behind the paper is to provide a platform on which people can begin to comment and join in the debate as well as to promote a clearer understanding of the idea and its relevance in a democratic society.

The concept of people initiated referendum allows ‘the people’, to directly vote on a specific issue as a means of expressing their opinion within the scope of national importance and without contravening the Bill of Rights or any part of the constitution.

The new constitution provides for 25% of registered voters to initiate a referendum which currently means, based on the existing voters list, that if a petition containing the signatures of 3797 people can be collected to support a national vote on a specific topic government is obligated to hold the poll. Then if more that 50 percent or 7594 of the registered voters, despite how many people turn out, vote ‘yes’ then it becomes legally binding and government will also be obligated to amended or create the necessary legislation to support the people’s vote.

The commissioners said that the introduction of this democratic tool by the negotiators of the 2009 constitution was to foster the concept of direct democracy and provide an avenue for the electorate to gain more control over issues that directly affect their lives.

The provisions in the constitution don’t go far enough for some and members of the People for Referendum group Billy Adam and Dennie Warren have both criticised the requirement in the constitution that states that a result is only binding when more than 50% of all registered voters cast a yes for the question rather than 50% of the voter turnout as was required when the people voted for the constitution in the country’s first referendum.

Speaking at the West Bay meeting Adam pointed out the irony of the constitutional national vote only requiring 50% of the voter turnout not of the actual electorate. Just over 62% or 7045 of the 11,244 people who voted in the referendum voted yes for the constitution which would not have been enough had the vote required 50 percent of the entire electorate which was 15,361 at the time.

Under the rules of that referendum the constitution was passed and came into effect in November 2009 despite almost two years having gone by government has still not passed the legislation required to govern the people’s referendums. This law is required to regulate how petitions can be collected, the time period and other issues such as the wording of the referendum the administration of the vote, without the people will not be able to trigger a national poll.

Go to www.knowyourconstitution.ky for more info and see the dicussion paper below

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Lifestyle impacts could be passed from mother to child

| 20/10/2011 | 0 Comments

(MSNBC): Parents may be passing more to their offspring than their DNA. A new study shows some worms pass along non-genetic changes that extend the lives of their babies up to 30 percent. Rather than changes to the actual genetic code, epigenetic changes are molecular markers that control how and when genes are expressed, or "turned on." These controls seem to be how the environment impacts a persons' genetic nature. For instance, a recent study on diet showed that what a mouse's parents ate affected the offspring's likelihood of getting cancer. Studies in humans have suggested that if your paternal grandfather went hungry, you are at a greater risk for heart disease and obesity.

The new study's results "could potentially suggest that whatever one does during their own life span in terms of environment could have an impact on the lives of their descendents," study researcher Anne Brunet, of Stanford University, told LiveScience. "This could impact how long the organism lives, even though it doesn't affect the genes themselves."

The study wasconducted in the model organism C. elegans, a small, wormlike nematode often used in experiments as a stand-in for humans because of their genetic similarities. Even so, the researchers aren't sure how their results would apply to human life span. They are currently studying fish and mice to see if their findings hold true in different species.

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