Archive for January, 2012

Land owner has no knowledge of 3rd port proposal

| 30/01/2012 | 9 Comments

cruise ship beautiful.jpg(CNS): According to representatives of the local company that owns the land at Pageant Beach, the owner was very surprised to read the CNS article on 12 January about a proposal from a local consortium to develop a port on its property. CNS has learnt from the representatives of the owner that, until it read the article, it was unaware of any proposal to develop a port on its property and that since the article was published, it has not been approached by anyone regarding the development of a port on its property.  Representatives of the owner also stated that the property is not currently for sale.     

Government has not made any comment regarding the third alternative cruise port proposal, which it received from the local consortium last month.

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Cohen link in GAB sale plan

| 30/01/2012 | 42 Comments

government building.JPG(CNS): During efforts to sell the Government Office Accommodation Building in 2010, the Central Tenders Committee refused to act outside of the law following a request by the premier to enter into a deal with a Texas based firm. According to leaked letters between the premier and the committee as well as the release of minutes from a CTC meeting, at least three firms were in the running to buy government’s new office block. Expressions of interest, which were opened on 26 February 2010, revealed that McAlpine and local property brokers IRG in conjunction with Banque Havilland had responded to government’s offer to sell. But a week before the deadline the premier had asked the CTC to dispose of the process and agree to selling the building to an affiliate of Cohen and Co.

Strategos Realty Capital LLC, a real estate investment firm, is, according to its main website, an affiliate of Cohen and Co, the New York financing company that the premier selected later that year to provide government with a loan for the 2010/11 financial year.

The controversial deal eventually fell through, however, as the firm was not able to supply the rates as originally stated, but not before it had arranged two short term loans, one of which came through Banque Havilland, which, according to minutes from the CTC, had also made a bid on the Government Office Accommodation Project (GOAP) in partnership with IRG.

Strategos appears to have made an offer directly to Premier McKeeva Bush, who wrote in a letter to the CTC that they provided the best possibility for completing the sale in the timeframe needed by government.

At the time government was facing a major cash flow problem and was anticipating a deficit of some $25 million. Bush told the CTC that he had to act quickly and going with Strategos would present not only the best value for money but that they would be able to execute what he describes as a complex transaction within the timeframe. “We are very much pressed for time and we have grave concerns that if we do not act immediately to secure a purchaser for the GOAP we will not meet our budget deadlines,” the premier wrote to the CTC as he asked them to recommend the company.

The letter was sent to CTC on 18 February 2010, just one week before the CTC met to open the expressions of interest (EOI) that had been received in response to a request for proposals, which had been advertised in the local press a few weeks before.

Asking for the CTC’s blessing to circumvent the process, Bush said there was a genuine risk that if the GOAP sale did not occur by 30 April 2010, there would not be enough money in government to pay its bills, “… a consequence of which could be massive ‘lay-offs’ of Civil Servants. I also need to make it abundantly clear that the solution to this situation does not involve introducing income tax and property tax in the Cayman Islands,” the premier wrote.

Emphasising his point in bold capital letters, he added, “The Government that I led (sic) WILL NOT INTRODUCE PROPERTY TAX NOR WILL IT INTRODUCE INCOME TAX, in the Cayman Islands.”

He admitted that the disadvantages of the CTC recommending government appoint Strategos to sell the GOAP was that the transaction would not follow the normal protocol and would require special approval by Cabinet as well as an upfront cost to government of 3% on the sale price.

“However we feel this is justifiable because at this late stage CIG need to hire the best that will bring the quality and depth of expertise needed to complete the project in the timeline required and the Strategos’ structure will more than pay for itself given the significant savings it would yield over the lease term,” Bush wrote, as he implored the CTC to make the recommendation.

However, in a short response to the premier the CTC chair informed Bush that the committee had no legal authority to do what he asked.  He said the committee had met and discussed the premier’s letter and while they understood the importance and potential ramifications, it could not find any legal authority on which the CTC could approve the Bush’s proposal.

“The CTC stands ready to assist the government in anyway it can. However, in doing so the committee cannot exercise powers not conferred to it by law and must preserve the integrity and spirit of the process for which it is charged,” Chairman Ronnie Dunn wrote.

The CTC went on to hold a meeting at which it opened the expressions of interest that had been received through the proper channels after government had announced its intention to sell and lease back its new building.

According to the minutes released by the Ministry of Finance in response to a freedom of information request submitted by CNS, at 1pm on 26 February McAlpine, the contractor on the building, expressed an interest in buying the building, as did IRG in partnership with the bank which the firm said it owns and operates. Although the minutes reveal this to be “Bank Aviland”, CNS understands that this is a spelling error and it should have read “Banque Havilland”, the same bank that had supplied one of the short term loans via the Cohen deal.

The owners of the bank are also the owners of a jet on which the premier returned to the Cayman Islands on New Year’s Eve 2010 aftera trip to the Bahamas. Bush revealed during a Public Accounts Committee hearing last year that the trip had not cost the public purse anything, but more than one year after the flight the premier has not recorded it in the Register of Interests.

CNS has made a full freedom of information request regarding correspondence and documents surrounding the proposed sale of the GOAB, which was originally made in October but has encountered some difficulties in getting a response from the office. So far, the only documents that have been released are the redacted minutes as posted below.

However, CNS is continuing to pursue the FOI request.

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Food poisoning outbreak at Taste of Cayman

| 30/01/2012 | 105 Comments

278093-10118-4 (227x300)_0.jpg(CNS): Updated 2pm —  Government officials have confirmed that at least 20 people may have been brought down with food poisoning just hours after attending this year’s Taste of Cayman event at Camana Bay on Saturday evening. Patients began arriving at the Cayman Islands hospital after attending the food festival complaining of diarrhoea, nausea, vomiting and abdominal cramps from around midnight on Saturday night. Dr Kiran Kumar said the food poisoning symptoms came 4 to 6 hours after consumption of food at the event. Based on the symptoms, the public health boss said this pointed to staphylococcal, an organism that is widely prevalent, which multiplies and produces toxin.

Officials have not yet been able to trace the source of the bug but Dr Kumar said tests could be done on leftover suspected food. "The suspected food or foods involved will be based on a common thread of usage by the patients," he said.  "It is difficult to pinpoint due to many persons who ate specific food and did not get sick and people who have eaten at many vendors."

It is understood that most of the patients recovered quickly and were released from hospital without any further adverse consequences.

Public health officials said several more people are understood to have taken ill but they did not seek treatment or attended private surgeries. One confirmed case was also reported at the Chrissie Tomlinson Hospital.

Anyone who believes they were sick on Saturday night-Sunday morning as a result of food eaten at the event but who has not sought medical attention is asked to contact  the Public Health Department's Surveillance Officer at timothy.mclaughlin@hsa.ky or call on 244-2651 or 244-221 to help the department get full picture of the symptoms and foods eaten.

CNS has also contacted the Department of Environmental Health to ascertain how food safety and hygiene standards are managed at the event and is awaiting a response.

The annual food extravaganza organized by the Cayman Islands Tourism Association attracted more than 5,000 people this year and was the biggest in the event's history.

CITA Executive Director, Jane van der Bol, said over 43 food and beverage vendors attended and it was unfortunate to hear that people were reported with food poison symptoms.

"The CITA is actively working with the Department of Environmental Health (DEH) and the Health Services Authority (HSA) to investigate further the cause of the food poisoning. The CITA is also pro-actively working with the DEH and HSA on creating improved food handling procedures for all future outdoor events in Cayman that offer food and beverage services," she added.

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Pancakes recalled over possible soy contamination

| 30/01/2012 | 2 Comments

DSC_0098.jpg(CNS): Pinnacle Foods Group which manufactures Aunt Jemima Frozen Pancakes has issued a voluntary recall after the firm discovered the possibility of a potential cross-contact with product that contained soy protein. Although there have been no reports of illness as a result in consultation with the US Food and Drug administration the products have been called back. The recall applies to 'Aunt Jemima Frozen Pancakes' packaged in cardboard cartons (UPC codes below) which were sold and distributed nationally, with a ‘recommended use by date’ between 1 November last year up to and including 16 October of this.

The date can be found in the white box on the end of the carton.

Retail UPC Code  and descriptions of pulled product

19600-05100 AUNT JEMIMA PANCAKES BUTTERMILK LOW FAT 12/14.5oz
19600-05490 AUNT JEMIMA OATMEAL PANCAKES 12/14.8oz
19600-05820 AUNT JEMIMA PANCAKES BUTTERMILK 12/14.8oz
19600-05910 AUNT JEMIMA PANCAKES HOMESTYLE 12/14.8oz
19600-05955 AUNT JEMIMA CONFETTI PANCAKES 12/14.8oz
19600-06040 AUNT JEMIMA WHOLE GRAIN PANCAKES 12/14.5oz

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Police accused of bias against murder suspect

| 30/01/2012 | 0 Comments

raziel.JPG(CNS): The defence attorney for Raziel Jeffers who is currently being tried for the murder of Marcus Ebanks in July 2009 accused the lead investigator of bias against his client on Friday. As the crown called its last witness in its case against the West Bay man who is accused of being one of two masked men who gunned down a group of young men and boys in a Bonaventure Lane yard, Peter Champagnie suggested that the police had not been fair with his client. DS Kurt Walton as the lead investigator on the murder enquiry revealed the sequence of events on the night of the shooting that led to Jeffers original arrest and how almost a year later he was charged with the crime. (Photo Courtesy of Cayman27)

He told the court that when he finally charged Jeffers for the killing of Ebanks and the attempted murder of several others, the defendant had sworn at him and spat in his face so Walton also charged him with common assault and disorderly conduct.

The senior officer admitted that Jeffers’ car was seized by police in the early hours of the morning after he had been arrested at a house in Bodden Town and the vehicle had not been released for more than a year but denied that this demonstrated any bias against Jeffers. Walton also denied treating Jeffers unfairly after holding him for some ten days after his first arrest while other men arrested as suspects had been released almost immediately. 

Walton stated they had been eliminated as suspects and recognised as victims in the shooting early on in the enquiry while Jeffers had remained a suspect throughout.
Walton admitted that when he was advised by the legal department to release Jeffers after his first arrest he had been held in custody for one more day but he denied the suggestions of bias put to him by Jeffers attorney.

Although Jeffers was identified as a suspect very early on in the case, it was not revealed why the West Bay Man was not charged for the offence following the statement given my Adryan Powell who was one of the young men shot at on the evening of Ebanks’ killing.

Powell who is now confined to a wheelchair, as a result of the injuries he sustained that night, identified Jeffers as one of the shooters to Walton less than a week after he was shot, in July 2009 but based on advice given by the legal department, the suspect was not charged until May 2010.

Probed by the defence attorney Walton would not be drawn on his opinion about the strength of the early evidence against Jeffers. He said he had collected the statement and was satisfied that Powell was telling the truth but he said it was not his decision to make whether or not the defendant was charged based on that information.

Walton was the  last witness that the crown called in the case against Jeffers who is facing six counts relating to the shooting at Bonaventure on the night of 8 July 2009. The prosecution concluded the case by reading a number of undisputed statements and agreed admissions.

As the judge alone trial moves into its third week Jeffers is expected to answer the charges by calling his own witnesses unless the judge presiding over the case decides there is no case to answer following defence submissions expected to be made on Monday.

 

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Legality of multiple rape indictment challenged

| 29/01/2012 | 0 Comments

bodden-barnes (250x300)_1.jpg(CNS): Suspected serial rapist Jeffery Barnes has still not answered any of the charges against him as his lawyer claims the prosecution haveincorrectly tied together a number of charges on the same indictment that cannot be tried together. Jeffery Barnes, who remains in custody at Northward, was arrested and charged with one count of rape one for sexual assault and another for aggravated burglary shortly after his arrest on 1 November at an apartment in Ocean Club. Soon after the arrest relating to just one victim, he was later charged with two other counts of rape in relation to two other separate incidents revolving two other women.

Barnes has been charged with an assault on a 49 year old woman on 29 October in the middle of the morning when he reportedly forced his victim into his car and taking her to Admiral's Landing, where the rape took place.

He was also charged with another attack on a woman who has since left the island and also with a third assault on a female teenage relative.
Although Barnes had been expected to answer the charges against him in court Friday morning the defence attorney representing him said that the crown had misinterpreted changes to the criminal procedure code and it could not try her client for all of the crimes together.

The lawyer stated that she would be making legal arguments before the court about the charges and the failure of the legal department to correctly word the indictment which had been served on her client.

 

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Port Authority escapes court

| 29/01/2012 | 14 Comments

port office.JPG(CNS): The information commissioner will not be pursuing any court action in connection with the Port Authority’s failure to release documents relating to negotiations between it, the Cayman Islands Government and the developer, GLF Construction, relating to the cruise berthing project. Jennifer Dilbert stated Friday that although the authority had failed to comply with an order she had issued on 13 December under the Freedom of Information law, the applicant had advised the commissioner they no longer required the relevant record and therefore she would not be certifying to the Grand Court the failure of the public authority to follow the law.

The Port Authority had sought to exempt the documents from FOI but during her 19th decision in the wake of the applicant’s appeal she had order the port to release them no later than 27 January. Since no judicial review of her decision had been sought, the documents should now be available.

Technically, the Port Authority is not in compliance with Dilbert’s order but as the applicant no longer wants the information it has escaped legal sanction, though it is understood the documents have still not been released.

It is not clear why the applicant has withdrawn its request for the documents, which the commissioner had stated should be in the public domain. In her ruling she had pointed to the public interest surrounding government’s plans for cruise berthing facilities and that a considerable number of the relevant documents were already in the public domain.

In light of what Dilbert said was the need for government to be accountable for its actions and decisions, especially in the light of the high costs involved in the port expansion project, Dilbert ruled that the balance of the public interest weighed in favour of disclosure in this instance, despite the authority’s desire to keep the records under wraps.

“The port expansion is an exceptional capital project of Government, which has been called “the most expensive” of its kind in the Cayman Islands to date, involving construction costs of reportedly close to $200 million. As such, in my view it is entirely proper that this project and the decisions relevant to it should receive very close scrutiny from Government and the general public alike,” the information boss said.

CNS has now submitted an FOI request to the authority for the same and other relevant documents in order to ensure that, despite the applicant’s decision, the documents will be available to those members of the public still interested in the issue.

See information Commissioner's decision and related story here.

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Axe suspect denies robbery

| 29/01/2012 | 0 Comments

mag jewellers_0.jpg(CNS): A lone George Town man who has been charged with an audacious daylight jewellery store robbery has denied being one of three men who took an axe to the downtown store just days before Christmas. Simon Julio Newball pleaded not guilty to five counts in connection with the offence when he appeared in Grand Court on Friday morning. Newball who is represented by John Furnis denied theft, robbery, arson, handling stolen goods and being in possession of criminal property in connection with the crime which included the theft of a RAV 4 in Bodden Town on 21 December before the daylight robbery of Magnum Jewellers in Cardinal Avenue on 22 December.

The stolen getaway vehicle was found burnt out by police on Wahoo Close shortly after the daylight heist when three men one of whom was armed with an axe smashed two jewel display cases in the open frontage of the store on a busy morning in George Town and made off with thousands of dollars’ worth of high end jewellery.  The smash and grab raid took place around 11:20 when the street was packed with Christmas shoppers both locals and visitors as there were four cruise ships in George town harbour that morning.

Newball was remanded in custody until next week when his attorney stated he would be make a bail application for his client who has denied any part in the crime.

Police have made no further arrest in connection with the robbery that involved at least three masked men. According to a police report from the day of the crime the RAv4 was first stolen from Seaside Way in Bodden Town sometime on the night of 21 July. That car was abandoned by the robbers in Wahoo Close but not before it was set alight. The masked men were then believed to have made their escape from there in a maroon coloured SUV.

According to the police when Newball was arrested at his home in Windsor Park on 10 January jewellery from the robbery was found in his possession.

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Commission plans to fuel ‘good governance’ debate

| 29/01/2012 | 1 Comment

leg ass 2_1.jpg(CNS): Although thejury may still be out on whether or not “good governance” can describe the current situation in the Cayman Islands it remains the phrase on everyone’s lips and the constitutional commission will soon be adding their two cents to the debate. According to the commission’s annual report it willbe publishing a discussion paper on the subject shortly as well as another topical issue that of crown land. In the report the commissions stated that Cayman is at a point in history where the community clearly understands the necessity for the Cayman Islands “to exemplify the principles of accountability, transparency, good governance, and ethically sound decisions.”

The report notes the s establishment of the various institutions under the constitution but notes the lack of legislation for the crucial Standards in Public Life commission and the failure of the government to pass the necessary legislation for a people initiated referendums.

The report offers a review of the commission’s work throughout 2011 and its goal to encourage adherence to a concise framework of checks and balances designed to support the people and their Constitution.

“In essence, the progress of democracy in our Islands is centred on an efficient and effective symbiotic relationship encompassing the public and a government elected ‘by the people for the people‘,” the report states.

Admitting there had been inevitable hurdles and challenges in the Commission‘s developmental process, it said it will continue striving to ensure that the independence of the Commission is fortified and it encourages the public, in the report, to be an informed and proactive participants of the democratic process rather than a passive consumer of information.

“Since the publication of our first report, the Commission has undertaken multiple research-based projects, provided opinions and advice on constitutional matters, and reached out to the community by establishing an internet presence –www.knowyourconstitution.ky. As a matter of commitment to the people of the Cayman Islands, we will continue to keep the interests of the public at the forefront while promoting greater understanding and awareness of the Constitution,” the report states.

With the sad death of the Constitutional Commission’s chair Pastor Al Ebanks on 18 November, last year Wil Pineau and Julene Banks remain the only two commissioners.

See full report below

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Chefs prepare to cook up some ‘souper bowls’

| 29/01/2012 | 0 Comments

chicken-soup.jpg(BBBS): Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Cayman Islands’ (BBBS) fourth annual Soup-er Bowl is back on the front burner this coming weekend. Scheduled for noon to 5:00 p.m. on Saturday, 4 February 2012, at the Grand Cayman Marriott Beach Resort on West Bay Road, the event promises to be just as great as or better than previous years. A friendly competition amongst local restaurants for bragging rights as Cayman’s best soup purveyor, top chefs will pull out their most appetising one-of-a-kind creations to wow the taste buds of the voting public.

But more than just a soup competition, BBBS Soup-er Bowl is a fun, tasty, family-friendly event that showcases some of Cayman’s top chefs and finest restaurants, all while supporting BBBS.

The 2011 champion Bacchus, left a memorable impression when their Satinasutro Asian Tomato Fusion soupoutperformed all competitors. Still, others like Solana by Marriott’s gumbo andThai Orchid’s Tom Yum Goong made their mark and were voted second and third place respectively.

“We’re very excited about this fourth annual event and especially so because we’re returning to the place where it all started in 2009, the Grand Cayman Marriott,” says Big Brothers Big Sisters Fundraising Chair Stacy Parke.

“The event is unquestionably a win-win as restaurants can ‘strut-their-stuff’, attendees get to experience a culinary cornucopia and 100 percent of every ticket sold goes directly to Big Brothers Big Sisters.

“We encourage the public to attend as their support helps us continue our mission of providing children facing adversity with strong and enduring, professionally supported one-to-one relationships that change their lives for the better, forever.”

BBBS Soup-er Bowl 2012 is brought to you by the Grand Cayman Marriott Beach Resort and LIME. Other sponsors include Cayman27, dms Broadcasting, iNews, InSight Media, Island Supply, PostNet, Signs of Paradise and Vision Marketing.

Tickets, available from Funky Tangs and the BBBS Office, are $25 for adults and $10 for seniors and children between the ages of 5 and 12 years.

For more information and registration forms, interested restaurants may contact the BBBS office on 945-6315 orbbbs-cay@candw.ky. Participants need only provide their best soup, chafing dishes and a server.

Soup-er Bowl 2011 winners (600x350).jpg

Photo Kenisha Morgan: Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Cayman Islands 2011 Soup-er Bowl winners proudly display their awards. (From left) Deckers’ Matthias Nickchen; Thai Orchid’s Woody Sriling; BBBS Board Member Lesley Thompson; Grand Cayman Marriot’s Sebastian Mena and Matt Skaletsky; Bacchus’ Lawrence Gomes; and former BBBS Board Members Vanessa Allard and Hemant Balgobin.

Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Cayman Islands serves children throughout Grand Cayman by providing mentors to those in need of extra time and attention from a caring adult. BBBS is a non-profit organisation that depends solely on donors and fundraisers to finance its programmes. Donations are therefore always welcomed.

To donate, become a mentor or volunteer, please contact us on (345) 945-6315 or bbbs-cay@candw.ky . Our office is located in the Diamonds International Building at 8 North Church Street, George Town.

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