Archive for March 14th, 2012

Director insists prison is fighting illicit drugs

| 14/03/2012 | 10 Comments

dwight scott (233x300).jpg(CNS): The director of the local prison service said that two more packages of ganja came flying over the perimeter fence at Northward on Tuesday just a couple of hours before he attended the Legislative Assembly Tuesday. Speaking during the finance committee meeting about the efforts to control the use of drugs inside theprison in light of recent revelations of drugs found in administrative areas, Dwight Scott told members that he and his staff were doing all they could but people would stop at nothing to get the drugs inside.  Scott said that just two hours before he left the jail to come to the meeting two packages had been recovered by staff.

"We are not relenting in our efforts and won’t stop at anything to try and prevent the drugs coming in,” Scott told the committee members who had raised concerns about the security of the prison. “However the amount of drugs people are attempting to smuggle in is significant. Two more packages came in only two hours before I left to come here,” he added. “The demographics of the prison are changing and people will simply stop at nothing to get drugs in.

The director said that there were cameras around the prison and as a result one perpetrator had been caught and handed over to the police but it was a constant battle. The director revealed that at least once guard had also been handed over to the RCIPS when he was found to be smuggling in drugs. Scott said everyone who comes into the prison is searched including staff as well as visitors but there is still a significant amount of contraband getting inside. He said that the camera’s did help and there were now around 100 CCTV units in and around the prison but his main problem was having enough staff to constantly monitor them all.

In the wake of the discovery recently of drugs inside the administrative areas of the prison the chief officer in the portfolio said that all staff were given drug tests without notice and none of them tested for drugs. 

With spending at the prison going up by several hundred thousand dollars again the committee members questioned the security levels and also queried the numbers now at the prisons. It was revealed that there are currently 212 prisoners at Northward which was designed to house 165. However, officials said the overcrowding was not a significant security threat. Meanwhile there were only four serving female prisoners currently housed at the Fairbanks facility.

The deputy governor revealed that the new money which had been appropriated for the prison would cover six more officers, three teachers and one chaplain to help improve rehabilitation services and hopefully the exceptionally high recidivism rates.

 

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UCCI students honoured for keeping up averages

| 14/03/2012 | 0 Comments

studying3.jpg(CNS): Over 100 students from the University College of the Cayman Islands (UCCI) were recognised at the institution’s first ever honours convocation last Saturday, with several of the students combining theirlast year of high school and doing their first year of college at the same time. The students with 3.75-4.0 GPA averages during the fall semester made it to the President’s List while those with 3.5-3.74 GPA were included in the Dean’s List. UCCI President Roy Bodden urged the students to keep up the good work. In his speech, Dean’s Lister, Student Representative Council President and full time police officer Ian Charlery said it’s all about hard work and determination.

“Luck has little or nothing to do with being rewarded. I am sure we have all been there… that moment of overwhelming feeling when you feel like your back is against the wall and you just want to quit. You just feel like giving up, but you don’t. You persevere, you work harder than the rest. While they sleep, you work! In the end what puts a smile on your face and in your heart is your A grade. Now you are filled with feelings of accomplishment and joy,  and those feelings never get old,” he said.

UCCI Alumnus Dennis Connor gave an inspiring speech, sharing his own experiences as a student, and his successes as a professional, obtaining his CPA within less than a year of graduating from UCCI. Both young men and President’s List honoree Renee Lindo also expressed their gratitude to the University College and their teachers for the gesture of recognition, and for helping them grow as individuals.
Mary Rodrigues, Chief of the Ministry of Education gave the congratulatory toast before the students and their guests enjoyed a mini reception that concluded the celebration.
For further information on academic programmes and university events, please visit www.ucci.edu.ky or like us on Facebook.

 

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Cayman to host world open squash tournament

| 14/03/2012 | 1 Comment

11CI29492 (218x300).jpg(CINSA): The Cayman Islands National Squash Association (CINSA) announced details of the 2012 Cayman Squash World Open taking place in the Cayman Islands, December 13-21. This tournament attracts the best women’s squash players from around the world and is the largest tournament on the pro tour of the Women’s Squash Association. The details were shared at a press conference at Camana Bay where Government officials, sponsors, members of the Squash Association and members of the media were briefed. The first four days of competition will take place at the South Sound Squash Club and then the action moves to the glass court on the picturesque Festival Green at Camana Bay.

Camana Bay is where reigning World Champion Nicol David (above) won her three Cayman Open titles. David is the six time World Champion from Malaysia and remains undefeated on Cayman soil. In a message sent for today’s event David said; “It's just fantastic that the Cayman Islands will be hosting the 2012 World Open. I'm really excited to be back there and I know a lot of people are coming from all over the world to watch the top women compete and enjoy everything the island has to offer."

David heads the list of 88 athletes participating in the week long Cayman World Open competition that will include,
– 32 player main draw
– 64 player qualifying draw
– Approximately 34 different nationalities present
– Wildcard entrants include: top 2 players from the Cayman Islands, top 2 Caribbean Female senior and junior players, top US College players, top Canadian College players.

The 2012 Cayman World Open will bring over 600 visitors to the islands over the weeklong event and with international media coverage on Squash TV and worldwide print and web coverage; Cayman will be the centre piece for the sport, offering a significant boost to Cayman as an emerging sports tourism destination.

The Honourable Premier of the Cayman Islands and Minister of Tourism McKeeva Bush stated, “Sports tourism is an essential niche market for the development of the Cayman Island’s already diverse tourism product. It is therefore truly an honour for the Cayman Islands to be afforded the privilege of hosting the 2012 World Squash Open. This world championship Squash Open will deliver the added benefit of bringing large groups of people together in the celebration of sport – whether as world class sportsmen
and women, or as fans, spectators, family and friends.

The resultant increase in visitation enhances Cayman’s brand awareness and also has a direct and sizeable effect on our economy. However, while the initial impact stimulates local businesses through the immediate cash injection to the economy, the
real impact is realised via strong word-of-mouth endorsements which drives repeat visitation for years to come”.

The 2012 Cayman World Open will generate thousands of dollars for the junior squash programme which has thrived as the beneficiary of the Cayman Open. Since its inception in 2009, the Cayman Open has been a non-profit event with all the benefits going to the grassroots junior squash programme.

This event has allowed CINSA to hire a national coach for the first time, and greatly expand their junior programme. The 2011 event had over $100,000 worth of benefits for the junior squash programme including $40,000 in cash funding for the National Squash Coach and $32,000 in Dunlop squashequipment.

The profits of the 2012 Cayman World Open will go to the CINSA’s junior squash programme. Over$50,000 of the tournament money will be ring-fenced to ensure these benefits reach the junior programme by funding the National Squash Coach; and the event will again work with Dunlop to provide free equipment to Cayman school squash programmes.

“This is an exciting opportunity for our country,” stated the Honourable Mark Scotland, Minster of Health, Environment, Youth, Sports and Culture, “along with the financial support and equipment donations, young aspiring athletes will be able to watch the world’s best squash players in action – for free and will also be able to participate in free junior clinics; while the Cayman community will watch world class competition right here, in Cayman.”

Without the support of presenting sponsor, accounting firm BDO, which has been a partner of theCayman Open since its inception, Cayman’s hosting of the 2012 World Open would not be possible.

“What I hope happens is that it draws interest from those on island not familiar with the sport, curiosity from visitors to the island at the time of the event and of course global media coverage”, Glen Trenouth, BDO Managing Partner stated. “BDO is honoured to be a part of this momentous event”.

The iconic venue offers inspiration to the juniors and the professionals. The glass court and set up at Camana Bay remains the most memorable aspect of the tour. “Camana Bay is committed to helping build Cayman’s reputation as a sports tourism destination, by providing a world-class venue for local and international sports groups and events,” said Jackie Doak, Chief Operating Officer for Dart Realty. “That we are able to host such an event is a testament to Cayman’s desirability as a sporting destination within the Caribbean. It’s also a great opportunity for Cayman to build relationships within the international sports scene, which in turn creates new and exciting opportunities for the future.”

Tournament Director Dan Kneipp, Starfish Sports, was full of praise for the sponsors and volunteers that have made this event possible.

"We started this journey in 2007, with the hope of bringing the World Championships to the Cayman Islands. There have been so many companies, individuals and volunteers that have put their time, energy, sponsorship and support into this great tournament over the past five years. We're grateful to everyone that has helped make this tournament possible. We aim to make the 2012 World Open the best World Championships ever. We know there will be an unprecedented level of visitor arrivals associated with this tournament, and we're excited that the overwhelming international coverage will highlight the beauty and friendliness of the Cayman Islands to
the rest of the world. "

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‘We must move on port’ Bush says during Roatan trip

| 14/03/2012 | 49 Comments

Capture_17.JPG(CNS): During a visit to Honduras Friday the premier said that Cayman had to move on the development of cruise berthing facilities and could not sit back any longer. McKeeva Bush took a delegation to look at the cruise berthing facilities in Roatan, which included some members of the press. According to Cayman27, Bush was impressed with the upland element of the facilities, which included a variety of retail and other amenities. He told the local television news station that there also had to be upland development at the facility in Cayman. Bush said if there were no stores the “people would not have an opportunity to make back their money.” (Photo courtesy Cayman27)

While visiting the piers in Roatan, Bush said that when he looked at the upland development amenities and the recognition of the local heritage, he recognised the need for Cayman to move on with its own facilities. Despite the concerns about such retail space as it would compete directly with local merchants, he said it had to happen in order for the piers to be developed and those opposing it were not looking at the bigger picture.

“It’s the kind of talk I heard in 2002 and 2003,” he said, when the north and south merchants were fighting against each other. “Nobody could make up their mind about what they wanted and so they got nothing. This can’t happen with this,” he added, referring to the China Harbour Engineering Company proposal. Bush said that everyone would have a chance to rent the spaces that would be available on the proposed facility in George Town.

“It’s not just for the diamond and jewellery shops. It is for small Caymanian entrepreneurs that need to make an income for them and their family,” he added.

During the trip to the Central American neighbour Bush also looked at the possibility of directly importing from the country to Cayman. He met with officials in La Ceiba, before heading to Roatan in the Bay Islands, about the importation of fresh produce and manufactured goods as importing directly would make the goods cheaper.

While there, the premier also met with relevant officials regarding possible three-way flights between Grand Cayman, Miami and Honduras as well as direct flights from Grand Cayman to Roatan. As there is no direct flight to the Bay Islands, Bush diverted the regular Cayman Airways flight at the weekend to Roatan to collect him and his delegation.

The trip came ahead of the premier’s trip to Washington Wednesday, where he will be discussing the Foreign Accounts Tax Compliance Act (FATCA), the new legislation that places new financial reporting requirements on foreign banks and financial institutions about US citizens with offshore accounts. Bush has said he intends to be at the table to ensure Cayman is not treated any less fairly than other jurisdictions. When the premier returns from Washington he will be going on to Panama with the Chamber of Commerce special delegation.

See Cayman 27 video here

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Finger printing will be limited to permit holders

| 14/03/2012 | 97 Comments

4204-biometrics-1-200.jpg(CNS): The country’s premier has stated that he will not support a system that finger prints everyone who comes into the Cayman Islands as he says it could damage the tourism sector. The deputy governor revealed that government has acquired the necessary equipment, and the legislation to implement a system to fingerprint all future and existing work permit holders will be going before Cabinet shortly. Answering questions from Ezzard Miller in Finance Committee on Tuesday, Franz Manderson said that the goal had only ever been to fingerprint permit holders and not Caymanians or visitors.

Miller said that the printing system should apply to everyone coming in and not just work permit holders. He said he believed there was a greater threat to security from people entering Cayman without any information or the clearance required from permit holders so he said it would be sensible to implement the system across the board. He pointed to cases he had heard about where people were deported over and over again but the authorities were unaware because they were using false passports.

However, the premier, who was chairing the Finance Committee hearing, pointed out that such a move to encompass everybody who came in and out of Cayman was a much broader policy decision that was not confined to the deputy governor’s remit of security, as he said it would impact tourism.

“This is a much greater policy issue. I’m not going to agree to that as we are a tourist destination,” McKeeva Bush told Miller and said it was not something the committee could get into discussing there and then. The premier told the independent member that he acknowledged his position but the discussion would have to take place another time.

“I hear your position,” Bush added but made it clear it did not have his support. He said it would cost too much and it was not right to have people waiting in lines when they are tourists visiting the destination.

Miller said he did not believe that tourists would be impacted so badly by a biometric entry security system, which is common in other jurisdictions. The independent member said it would help to prevent people from abusing the system and queried what the position of the police commissioner would be, given that criminals were obviously getting into the country via the general entry as tourists.

Bush stated, however, that there were no conclusions about the system yet as discussions about the legal changes had only taken place a few weeks earlier and there was still work to be done before the issue would come before the Legislative Assembly.

The deputy governor confirmed the system would be installed at the airport and at the immigration office and there would be a significant programme to print existing residents as their work permits came up for renewal.

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Cruise arrivals start year with 6% increase

| 14/03/2012 | 0 Comments

cruise ship beautiful.JPG(CNS Business): For the first time since April 2011 the number of cruise passengers arriving in George Town in a given month increased on the previous year’s figure. In the first month of this year 186,485 people arrived in Grand Cayman on board cruise ships, compared to 175,536 last January. The figure is the largest number of January arrivals since 2008 and represented an optimistic 6.2% rise in arrivals. Meanwhile, arrivals at the airport fell very slightly for the first time in many months. 215 less passengers flew into Owen Roberts International in January 2012 when compared to 2011, despite a promising increase of 224 passengers from Europe. Read more on CNS Business

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Ryan tied debt to Dragon Bay

| 14/03/2012 | 54 Comments

real_estate-dragon_bay_estates-rotator_3 (258x300).jpg(CNS): Correspondence between government and the developer of the Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman shows that Michael Ryan, the owner of various companies related to the Ritz development and the proposed Dragon Bay development, wanted to tie his repayment of duty on the hotel to future plans for that project. The results of an FOI requests made by CNS reveal that, despite government’s efforts to collect the money owed to the public purse, the developer was trying to leverage the debt to gain further concessions on Dragon Bay, as well as other issues regarding what he called the “viability” of the continued project.

According to the release of numerous pieces of correspondence this week, the financial secretary’s office and customs have pressed the developer on numerous occasions to pay back the more than $6 million, but to no avail. The documents show that Ryan was seeking to make his repayments conditional on government assisting him with the Dragon Bay development.

In a letter written to the financial secretary in January last year Ryan says he was “concerned” that government was “making a demand for payment of duty without addressing any of the substantial challenges that this project is faced with”, referring to Dragon Bay.

Although the Dragon Bay project was not directly related to the original dutyconcessions given on the development of the Ritz, Ryan claimed it was linked to the main agreement that had been made between government and his companies regarding further development of the site.

By demanding the duty from the hotel development and not helping with the ongoing project for Dragon Bay, Ryan implied that government was threatening “its viability” and future survival. He wrote that it was of mutual interest for government to discuss the issue to secure Dragon Bay’s future potential as he continued to deflect the demands made of him to establish a new payment plan to pay back the public purse.

A week later, however, on 21 January 2011 Tony Haddad, the asset manager for Ceasar Hotelco Cayman Ltd, one of the companies owned by Ryan, wrote to the financial secretary with a proposal. Although he said that the firm still viewed “the duty deferral request as inextricably linked with Main Agreement” in relation to Dragon Bay, “in the spirit of cooperation” and in advance of a meeting with the government, a plan had been formulated to pay the deferred duty, he said.

On behalf of Ryan, Haddad proposed a monthly payment plan starting that month to pay back the $2,969,178 at a 1% amortization rate per month, which was the sum owed at the end of 2010. He said the remaining balance would then be made in one balloon payment at the end of the amortization period.

“We have researched the matter and the formula that I am proposing for this type of arrangement is very prevalent today in the industry and reflects the recognition of the distressed nature of the luxury real estate market and the benefit of restructuring obligations to enable projects to work through this challenging time," he wrote to Kenneth Jefferson, the financial secretary.

A schedule of correspondence from the ministry shows ongoing correspondence between the developer and the financial secretary’s office over the course of 2012 but no payments were ever made.

On 28 February, the day that it was revealed RC Cayman Holdings LLC was seeking to take control of the Ritz, the financial secretary again wrote to Ryan asking for payment of the outstanding duty. Ryan responded again, skirting the issue and attempting to tie his debt to the wider project as well as the problems he was facing re his lender.

On Monday of this week Jefferson sent one more demand asking Ryan to respond specifically to the Ministry of Finance’s previously stated position that CI$6,186,806 (US$7,544,886) is to be repaid by 31 December 2012, but officials have confirmed that so far no money has been received.

In the wake of news this week that Ryan has now lost control of the Ritz, government issued a statement saying it was confident in the resort's ability to continue providing excellent service. Following the appointment of two KPMG receivers on Monday by the creditors, RC Cayman Holdings LLC, the company that currently owns the debt on the hotel, the tourism ministry pointed to the significance of the hotel to the tourism product.

“The Cayman Islands Government also notes that The Ritz-Carlton welcomed a significant percentage of 2011 visitor arrivals, which represented the best stay-over visitor arrival figures in 10 years,” the statement said.

See sample of correspondence released by the ministry below.

See related article here

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Cash shuffle reduces deficit

| 14/03/2012 | 41 Comments

Shuffle.jpg(CNS): A combination of reshuffling money, a donation from Dart and an increase in expected revenue means that, despite increasing government spending by some $50 million, the government has reduced the anticipated deficit to about $7 million. The premier told Finance Committee on Tuesday that while there were new expenditures which came to light during the course of the year, some of the supplementary appropriations had been in the original budget, which he had wanted to present last June which the UK had refused. McKeeva Bush, in his role as chair of the committee, said government would be in a near “break even position” by the year end and the deficit was down to the statutory authorities.

Given the circumstances, Bush said, this was not bad, despite the fact that the original budget had forecast a small surplus, but he warned that government would need to keep a close eye on the public purse.

“These financial results will need constant and careful monitoring,” he said, adding that there would be close intervention between now and 30 June to ensure the position doesn’t get any worse. “We have reduced the figures to the lowest possible degree,” Bush told the committee. “The original request was much more but I couldn’t tolerate much at this time.”

Government has an overdraft facility of up to $25 million which it could use, he explained, as there would, of course, be no more borrowing. The government has now paid back some $26 million on its existing debt, Bush revealed, as he pointed to the fact that this was the first financial year for a long time where government had not taken on any new debt.

Explaining how government was managing to cover the increase in expenditures, he said that some $8 million was coming from the roads fund in anticipation of changes to the National Roads Authority as a result of an internal public sector review.

The move was queried by Opposition Leader Alden McLaughlin, who said it was “acurious exercise” as it appeared to be an off-balance sheet sum. The premier denied this, stating that the cash was from duties and fees earmarked for the road fund but now it was being transferred back as the NRA was going to be changed into a regulatory authority and would not in the future be funding road projects and no longer need so much in the fund.

A significant part of the cash was for increases in spending on fighting crime, funds to complete the Clifton Hunter High School and money for overseas medical care for the indigent and uninsured. The premier also revealed that some of the costs which government was incurring during this financial year were ones which came as no surprise: from an increase in scholarships to the poor relief payments, the civil servants had said the money would be needed when the UK forced the budget cuts.

“The budget which I had wanted to announce the UK said we couldn’t have,” he said. “The UK came back and said 'no' three times.” He recalled how he was forced to deliver the budget address so late because of the UK having to approve his government’s spending and it wasn’t until more cuts were made that the foreign office officials gave the go-ahead.

“But the staff had said these are the needs and they are going to arise during the year and they would be needed,” the premier added, as he explained that although they were revised to meet the UK’s demands, the needs hadn’t gone away.

The opposition leader then asked the premier if he meant that the budget he had presented in June last year was “not realistic”, a comment Bush dismissed as he pressed on with the business of the committee.

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