Archive for July 25th, 2012

Payroll tax for expats only

| 25/07/2012 | 801 Comments

ar123631742618337.jpg(CNS):  Full story — Foreign workers earning over $20,000 per year will be paying 10% tax on their earnings, a government official has confirmed. It is understood that, despite promises not to introduce direct taxation, rather than cutting operating expenses the premier is opting to make expatriate workers pay. Full details about the tax, which is being described as a "community enhancement fee" are expected later today. The premier made the surprise announcement to Cayman 27 on Wednesday morning amidst an island-wide power outage. Officials told CNS that the fee would be applied to the earnings of all private sector work permit holders who earn more than CI$20,000 but not expatriate civil servants.

Although revenue expectations have not yet been confirmed, government hopes to collect around $50 million for the public purse from the new tax, inside sources tell CNS. However, it is not yet clear how government proposes to collect the new revenue or how it will enforce payment.

The premier is expected to make an address to the nation on radio and TV onWednesday evening to reveal his government's intention to introduce the tax in the forthcoming budget in order to balance the books.

In an early reaction to the announcement the opposition leader said he was not surprised that this had happened. He said that the premier's failure to meet any of the requirements set down by the UK in the three-year plan and, more recently, the fiscal agreement had seen the UK place a gun to the premier's head as they can no longer trust him to cut revenue because he has persistently promised but persistently failed to deliver.

"This adds to the increasing uncertainty and concern that has been part of Cayman for the last three years and is bound to lessen the attractiveness of this place to do business, work or live," Alden McLaughlin said. "We have been treated to all sorts of uncertainty from budget to budget, as well as the constant breaches of procedure and process, along with attacks on officials and allegations of corruption and police investigations. And now in these already difficult times the business community has this to face."

The PPM leader warned that this form of income tax would make Cayman unattractive, presenting the danger that the ex-pat community would shrink and undermine the revenue government was trying to collect.

"The Miller-Shaw report had strongly advised against taxation as it will make the Cayman Islands less competitive in what is already a difficult global situation," he said. "This is the thin end of the wedge. Who would want to come and live in Cayman now?" McLaughlin asked, predicting that Caymanians would be the target for the next round of direct taxation if there was a mass exodus of the country's high earning work permit holders.

The independent member for North side, Ezzard Miller, pointed out that the premier had just spent the last three years amending immigration laws to attract this type of person and now, in an ironic twist, he was about to drive them all away .

Miller also questioned government's hope of collecting $50 million and estimated that it would be lucky to collect $10 million. Furthermore, there would need to be a new system put in place in order to collect the money, which would likely cost government more than a $1m as there is no infrastructure to collect from people's earnings at present, he noted.

"This is going to be the nail in coffin of the economy. Many of the people he spent the last three years trying to attract, for whom he amended the immigration law over and over again, will be driven away and, given the existing cost of living in Cayman, it will make us completely uncompetitive," he added.

Suggesting that government would collect far less than it hoped to, he said this revenue would have been found far more easily through cutting expenditure, such as the $10 million Nation Building Fund.

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Business grinds to a halt

| 25/07/2012 | 39 Comments

power cut.JPG(CNS): Update 2:15pm — Electricity has been restored to the majority of CUC customers, according to Grand Cayman's power supply company, which said the island-wide outage this morning was the result of a fault at its Hydesville, West Bay substation. At present, electricity at the George Town Hospital and the Owen Roberts International airport has been restored. Customers along West Bay Road, South Sound, George Town, Bodden Town and North Side all now have electricity. A CUC spokesperson said that those customers who remain without power at this time will be restored in a phased manner to ensure system stability. CUC anticipates that powerwill be restored to all of their customers by the end of today.

The country's capital ground to a halt Wednesday morning when an island-wide power cut prevented many of George Town's businesses from opening. Today is the only day this month that three cruise ships are in port, but without power few businesses were in a position to open. Even Fosters Supermarket was forced to close its doors while CUC grappled with a major power loss.

Although the new Government Administration Building was able to draw on generator power and keep some government business going, other official buildings were closed.

All public libraries on Grand Cayman have now closed for the day and are expected to reopen tomorrow morning. The library on Cayman Brac remains open.

The Airport, Seven Mile Beach and Bodden Town post offices are now open but all other post offices on Grand Cayman remain closed.

Courts offices are currently closed and will reopen when power is restored to them. However, a small number of court sessions are underway to deal with urgent matters, according to the judicial administrator.

The Department of Children & Family Services (DCFS) district office in West Bay is closed and will remain closed until power is restored. In the event of an emergency, contact the George Town Administrative Office at 949-0290.

The Department of Immigration, which did experience some disruption, now says that all Immigration services resumed as normal this afternoon.

While some private sector offices also switched to generator power many small businesses, shops and restaurants remained closed.

CIBC FirstCaribbean International bank branches at Plaza Venezia and Safe Haven are temporarily closed due to the island wide power outage and will reopen when normal electricity service has been restored. Customers are invited to use thebank's Main Street branch today.

CUC apologised for the inconvenience caused by the power cut, which began around 6:30am. A spokesperson said that further details about the outage would be released shortly.

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Appeal court cuts 3 years from gunman’s jail time

| 25/07/2012 | 3 Comments

(CNS): A gunman who had pleaded guilty to possession of an unlicensed firearm last year had his sentenced reduced by the appeal court Friday. Robert Lewis Terry was arrested in the basement of the Caribbean Club on Seven Mile Beach last year after staff called the police as they believed he and othermen were acting suspiciously. He was successful in his appeal to bring down his twelve year sentence to nine years. In a case partly heard behind closed doors, Lucy Organ of Samson McGrath argued that her client had not been given enough credit for mitigating circumstances, including his guilty plea, a lack of evidence of the gun being used and that Terry had no previous convictions for violence.

When Terry was arrested police found equipment, including a mask and gloves, that was likely to be used in a robbery in the back of the car which they said Terry was using.

However, Organ said there was never any evidence that Terry, who was not driving the car, was aware of the content of the boot or that he was involved in any conspiracy to commit a robbery. She said the crown had accepted that Terry only came into possession of the gun when he arrived at the car park under the Caribbean Club, and when the police turned up the men he was with had fled, leaving him in possession of the 9mm Glock pistol.

The defence attorney argued that the judge was not entitled to find that the defendant was in possession of a weapon in order to commit an armed robbery as there was no DNA evidence linking him to the mask or gloves in the car’s boot.

The appeal court judges agreed that the judge had failed to consider the mitigating circumstances when he handed down the 12 year sentence to the 26-year-old man in December last year and cut the prison term to nine years.

Even though Terry was in the carpark with several other men at the time of the incident, he was the only person charged as he was seen by the police to drop a bag into the bushes, which later turned out to contain the firearm and ammunition.

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Grand Cayman loses power

| 25/07/2012 | 31 Comments

cuc buckets_0.jpg(CNS): Residents on Grand Cayman woke up on Wednesday to an island-wide loss of power, and police are urging motorists and other road users to take extra care this morning during the blackout. Drivers should slow down as they approach junctions and be aware that traffic light signals are out. The RCIPS said that officers will be posted at major junctions in an attempt to alleviate congestion. CUC said that initial investigations revealed that source of the power outage appeared to be a problem at the West Bay sub-station, which appears to have affected the power company’s entire system. Crews have responded and are working as quickly as possible to restore power to customers, a spokesperson stated, but was unable to say when power would return as she offered apologies for the inconvenience to CUC customers.

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Appeal reveals key evidence

| 25/07/2012 | 0 Comments

raziel (226x300).jpg(CNS): Evidence that a key crown witness had lied during the Grand Court trial of Raziel Jeffers (28) for the murder of Marcus Ebanks was revealed during an appeal court hearing, Tuesday. Michael Wolkind QC, who was representing Jeffers in his appeal against the murder conviction following a judge alonetrial in February, said telephone evidence demonstrating that Megan Martinez was not a truthful and consistent witness had never been shown to the judge and as a result there had been a substantial miscarriage of justice. He also argued that there was apparent bias on behalf of the judge as only weeks before the trial he had seen a secret dossier accusing Jeffers of three other murders.

Wolkind argued that the conviction against Jeffers was unsafe on two grounds when he began his presentation to the Cayman Islands Court of Appeal Tuesday morning. The British QC said that Justice Charles Quin had seen a confidential police report during an anonymity hearing that indicated his client was accused of three other murders. He was also described in the dossier as being one of the community’s most dangerous criminals and gang members who would not hesitate to kill and who had also ordered killings even from his prison cell.

However, neither Jeffers nor his defence team were aware that the judge had seen such a report at the time of trial.

Wolkind argued that the judge "knew too much" to be able to put it out of his mind as he was not just there to judge the law but in the absence of a jury he was also the tribunal of fact. He said in such an extreme case of accusations made by the police so close to his clients trial the risk of bias was great and the judge even if he believed he was putting it out of his mind would have found it very difficult.

He said it was overwhelmingly apparent that given such circumstances, if Jeffers and his original defence team had been aware of what the judge had seen they would have made an application for another judge to hear the case. The QC said the judge would have recused himself and another judge who was unaware of the police’s damming opinion of the defendant could have heard the case.

However, it was Wolkind’s second ground of appeal that appeared to really shake the conviction against Jeffers, when he revealed that critical evidence indicating that Megan Martinez was lying when she took the stand against Jeffers was never shown to the judge.
Wolkind argued that had the judge been aware that telephone evidence existed, showing that Martinez could not have been at home on the day she said she saw and heard Jeffers plot the murder in Bonaventure Lane in July 2009, he could not have found her to be a safe witness.

The QC pointed out that although Jeffers himself had brought the telephone records to the attention of his own defence lawyers, the crown and the chief justice the records were never analysed and presented at trial. As a result, the defendant missed a crucial opportunity to show that the evidence of Martinez, his former girlfriend who had grounds to hold a grudge against, was fabricated and she was not a credible witness as the judge had found.

With so much weight being given to Martinez’s testimony which Wolkind said was now completely in question the conviction could not possibly be safe.

“The significance of the call record cannot be overstated,” he said.

The defence lawyer said he could not explain, nor could his client, why evidence that clearly showed that Martinez’s movements on the day in question, according to the phone records, mirrored almost exactly those she had given to the police on interview in her first statement just a matter of days after the murder.

It was not until many months later after the teenage mother had split from the defendant and was shut out of the Jeffers family home that she then went to the police retracted her original statement and claimed to have heard Jeffers confess to a string of murders including the shooting at Bonaventure.

Wolkind argued that given the fact that the details she had given to the police in the wake of the shooting matched her phone record, the second statement made much later would have been viewed in a very different light at trial had thejudge seen the phone evidence. He said at the very least his client should have had the opportunity to cross examine Martinez’s evidence in light of the damning telephone records as he appealed for his client’s conviction to be overturned.

The appeal continues tomorrow in Grand Court One when Andrew Radcliffe QC will argue on behalf of the crown why he believes the conviction is safe.

Jeffers is currently serving a life sentence for the fatal shooting of Marcus Ebanks in July 2009 outside a home in Bonaventure Lane in West Bay. The crown claimed that Jeffers and another man had opened fire indiscriminately on a group of boys sitting in a yard just after sunset in an effort to kill Jose Sanchez one of Jeffers alleged gang enemies.

During the shooting, Sanchez along with Joe Bush escaped unscathed while Adryan Powell who was only 14 years old at the time received multiple gunshot wounds one of which resulted in him being paralysed. Ebanks’ younger brother Rod was also shot but he later recovered from his injuries.

Although Powell also identified Jeffers during the trial when he gave evidence via video link, the crown relied heavily on the evidence of Martinez who described what she believed were the suspicious movements of Jeffers on the evening of the murder and who testified that sometime later Jeffers had confessed to the shooting and had admitted that Ebanks was shot in error as his target had been Sanchez.

See related CNS story:  Judge finds Jeffers guilty

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Frasers in a flash

| 25/07/2012 | 2 Comments

shaune fraser bros   24 jul 12 036 (300x200).jpg(CIOC): Brett and Shaune Fraser were in no mood for distractions as they whizzed through Heathrow Airport. The Cayman Islands swimming aces had just arrived from training camp in Dublin, Ireland and were intent on getting to the Olympic village with Bolt-like speed to maximise their rest and training time. Brett carries the flag for the Cayman Islands at the London Olympics opening ceremony on Friday. Two days later, Brett, 22, and Saune, 24, plunge into the 200 metres freestyle, the first of three events for each. Brett is in the 50m and 100m freestyle and Shaune goes in the 100m freestyle and 100m butterfly.

No wonder they are anxious to plough through the notorious London gridlock from west to far east, only about 20 miles but they could probably swim faster.
Chef de mission Lori Powell has made all the arrangements for the team. Brett has the honour of carrying the Cayman Islands flag at the opening ceremony on Friday. Apart from Shaune, his team-mates are Cydonie Mothersill, Kemar Hyman and Ronald Forbes.

“It’s good to be in London,” said Shaune. “We were in Dublin for about eight days which was nice to get used to the time zones and to get well adjusted. We’re looking forward to competing and getting things going pretty soon. “

“I’m pretty excited about carrying the flag,” Brett said. “Because I’m racing soon after, I’ve worked something out with Lori to just quickly come in and leave to get some rest. Right now, preparations are getting serious and I’m pretty excited about the days to come.”
 

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