Archive for January, 2014

North Side robber faces four years in jail

| 31/01/2014 | 18 Comments

(CNS): One of four men accused of robbing Chisholm’s supermarket in October last year has been handed a four year prison term by Justice Charles Quin following a guilty plea. Courtney Bryan (21) admitted possessing an imitation handgun and being one of the masked men that entered the store and robbed the 83-year-old owner and her granddaughter of jewellery, a phone, cigarettes and around $300 in cash. The judge commended both the quick action of the victims, who took down the getaway car number, their willingness to come forward and the police, who acted quickly and apprehended the robbers after a coordinated chase with the RCIPS helicopter and a car on the ground.

Bryan was given six years for his part in the daylight heist as the judge found he was a main player in the robbery, being one of the two men that went into the store after two accomplices had gone in ahead to “case the joint”, Justice Quin said in his ruling. But because of his early guilty plea the judge gave the defendant the full discount and reduced the term to four years. He was also given a further three years for the possession of the imitation weapon, which the judge ordered to run concurrently.

Although Bryan had shown considerable remorse and had admitted his culpability, which he said was as a result of serious drug problems and debt to dealers of some $2,600, which he still owes, the judge said he found few mitigating circumstances. The victims in this case were subjected to a terrifying attack as Bryan had pulled the jewellery from the neck of the owner’s daughter during the hold-up with such force the chain had broken.

While the younger of the victims had been terribly shaken by the ordeal, the owner of the store, Rhoda Ebanks, put the situation into startling perspective.

“I am 83 years of age and I still work for a living. These idiots come and take your few dollars instead of trying to work. I get up from 6am to get to work for 7am and I am there until 7pm and they are idling their time away,” she told social workers who recorded the victim impact statements.

Bryan has no previous convictions for dishonesty but, like many other young people who fall into crime, he was described as having a very difficult up-bringing. The judge said that he had an unstable past with no relationship with either of his Caymanian and American parents. Attempts to go live with his father in the US at a very early age failed and he was brought up by his paternal grandmother.

When he was older, he returned to Cayman to try and establish a relationship with his mother here but that did not happen.

Writing to the courts saying he wished he could turn back the hands of time and apologising for the pain he caused his victims, he acknowledged that there was nothing he could do but accept judgment. Admitting an association with the wrong people and his dependency on cocaine and ganja, he said that remained a problem because, despite his incarceration, he was still using drugs at HMP Northward.

Justice Quin accepted that the defendant  had a troubled upbringing, which, he said, "regrettably is an increasingly common occurrence,” but said the violence and use of force to remove the victim’s jewellery, the use of masks, the planning and imitation weapon, which to the victims appeared very real, were all aggravating circumstances. While it was not known if there was a mastermind in this crime, the judge said that Bryan played a major rather than a minor role in the crime, as he handed down the jail term.

The judge paid tribute to the victims for their courage and quick action, noting that it was only because they had recorded the plate number of the car that the robbers escaped in that police were able to pick up the fleeing vehicle and remain on its tail until the robbers were apprehended, which Justice Quin also commended. Despite the concern of the victims that the robbers know they had reported them, the judge said it was only this type of stand against anti-social and criminal behaviour by the public that can assist the police in addressing the crime in our society.

One other defendant so far in this case has also submitted one guilty plea but his attorney remains in discussions with the crown on behalf of his client, who is still only 16 years old. Meanwhile, two other men have denied being involved in the crime and have pleaded not guilty.

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Scrap metal heads to US CIG pockets $250k

| 31/01/2014 | 18 Comments

(CNS): Despite problems in the past for the government with the removal of scrap metal from the Geoerge Town dump, things seem to be going much more smoothly now. Another scrap metal tender has gone to Cardinal D Ltd, who has already paid the government $250,000 for 5,000 tons of metals at the landfill, which it is now in the process of removing. The US firm has worked with the government before, having shipped metal to China, and again won the contract in August of last year following a public tendering process. The barge, which was being loaded at night, left the George Town cargo port Friday morning. (Photo by Dennie Warren Jr)

“The company has a barge on island to load the scrap metals. This is the first shipment under the current contract, and the barge is projected to be loaded with around 2,500 to 3,500 tons on this trip,” Roydell Carter told CNS Thursday. “A second shipment will be required to remove the balance of contracted metals. Scrap metals are also required to be removed from the Sister Islands. The scrap metals are being shipped to a company in Tampa for further processing.”

The waste metal loaded on to the barge was mostly cars and construction debris. As well as earning some cash for the public purse, the removal will clear space at the dump.

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Ethics law sails through LA

| 31/01/2014 | 31 Comments

(CNS): In a day long debate in which most members of the Legislative Assembly spoke, the Standards in Public Life bill sailed through its second reading in parliament on Thursday with the unanimous backing of all members present.  Welcomed by the politicians as a way of restoring public confidence in government and giving substance to the idea of good governance, the bill will impact all those who hold senior posts or positions of responsibility in government and board members in government companies and statutory authorities. By June of this year the details of assets, business interests and potential conflicts of those who make decisions about public money will need to be public.

Presented by Premier Alden McLaughlin, the long awaited bill was presented twice to the previous UDP Cabinet but was not acted upon.

“The Bill will have far reaching positive consequences for the reputation of the Cayman Islands and the affairs of government,” McLaughlin said. He added that it was a PPM campaign promise to pass the legislation and the law was one of several the country had developed to support the institutions of democracy as set out in the constitution.

The bill received cross-party support for its second reading but legislators will continue working on the bill Friday when it is scrutinized at the committee stage, where a number of amendments, which also appear to have the wide support of all members, will be addressed before the bill has its third reading, when it will be formally passed.

As well as being welcomed by the members, who mostly agreed that it would help to restore the people’s trust and confidence in politicians, the deputy governor welcomed the bill and said the civil service was ready for it.

Franz Manderson said it would shine a light over the civil service and promote transparency. He said that government employees understand they have to, and were committed to, abide by the new law. Acknowledging allegations that senior civil servants make decisions to further their interests, he said the bill made it clear that was not possible. However, if someone believed a decision was being made to further a person’s own benefit, they could check the public register, which will be on the commission’s website, and then make a complaint.

Manderson also welcomed the whistleblower protection, as he said that not being able to provide that protection had been a shortcoming for the civil service because people were reluctant to come forward.

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Ethics law should apply to governor, says Bush

| 30/01/2014 | 45 Comments

(CNS): The opposition leader has said that the Standards in Public Life legislation should apply to those who hold the office of governor as well as all other public servants. Offering his support Thursday for the legislation during the debate on the long awaited ethics bill, McKeeva Bush told his legislative colleagues that while the constitution may bar lawmakers from directing that the governor declare “his” interests (as he made a pointed reference to the former incumbent) the governor ought to make a report to the Legislative Assembly about how he spends money and what he receives.

The opposition leader said the governor earns more than anyone else and receives significant benefits and allowances. Bush said “he” is allowed to accept gifts, hospitality and “spend public money entertaining his friends at Government House”, as he referred to Duncan Taylor. Bush said that whatever the constitution states, the governor should be held accountable as he also appoints people to boards and commissions, whom legislators cannot remove, and has significant influence.

He noted that the governor is the only senior person in public life that the law will not apply to and that was not right. Bush added that in the interest of fairness and transparency the governor should be accountable.  “We can’t force it but they should do so and we should receive that report as members of this House,” the opposition leader said.

One of the last members to speak in the debate on yet another historic bill for the new government, which lasted all day, Bush offered support on behalf of the opposition. He said the bill repealed the register of interests law, which had been the only legislation of this kind and which he had piloted through the Legislative Assembly. He said that then, as now, he felt it was something that could only contribute and preserve public confidence in the system, as he described it as a foundation piece of legislation. The new bill was a continuation of that, he said.

In a mixed presentation in which Bush welcomed the law, he spoke about the hatred and jealousy that members would face regardless and lamented the past suspicions that have historically surrounded members who acquired homes and cars. He said no matter what law was in place, it would not “stop evil minded people” from making unfounded allegations. He said politicians would always be targeted, regardless of legislation.

Referring to the ability for people to report to the commission, he said the authorities had to ensure that whatever was being said about anyone was “said with facts” and not political vendettas or other vindictive reasons. “Perception is one thing, while fact will be fact,” he added.

In support of the law the leader of the opposition said, “We operate a democratic system and we must always be concerned about the efficacy and integrity of the political system.” When people were elected they gave up their private life to serve the public and had to understand they would be scrutinized, he said.

He welcomed the scrutiny and the need for board appointees to declare their relevant interests as well as politicians but said that while there was a need to strength democracy, they could not make it “so you can’t get anything done”. As a small jurisdiction the government had to be careful of not being able to find “good people to work” on the boards because they would be “scared to have their names smeared”, he said and queried what kind of democracy that would be.

Bush said he had always declared everything he had in the register of interests and despite all the investigating and the allegations he endured, he had never hidden any money or assets in anyone’s name or in any companies.

Bush is facing several charges relating to corruption, abuse of office and the misuse of government credit cards relating to his time as premier. Several theft charges have been dropped for lack of evidence and despite ongoing probes into otherissues, no further charges have been brought against the opposition leader, who ran for office at the height of the probe into his time as premier and was still returned with a significant percentage of the vote by his West Bay constituents. Bush has categorically denied all of the allegations and said he will be vindicated when he has his day in court. He is currently set to stand trial in September.

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Fake US $100 bills picked up across Grand Cayman

| 30/01/2014 | 6 Comments

(CNS): Police officers from the RCIPS Financial Crime Unit are warning members of the public and the business community to be on their guard for fake cash. A number of counterfeit US banknotes have surfaced on Grand Cayman, the finance cops have said and they are urging people to take extra care handling and receiving cash. The banknotes, which have been passed at various locations across the island, are $100 USD notes from the 2003 series. They display the serial numbers DD28078629B, DB28078627B and CC91191334A. “If you receive a forged note, or suspect one to be forged, observe and note the appearance of the person passing the note, as well as that of any companions,” said Detective Inspector Ian Lavine.

“Do not return the note to the passer. Instead, first initial and date the note on the white border then tag the note with a copy of the transaction receipt and call the police,” he warned.  “If you have forged report forms issued by the Financial Crime Unit, obtain as much information as possible from the person passing the note and write it on the form. Also check for the security features of the note, which include the colour shifting ink in the number located on the lower right-hand corner of the note when it is viewed from different angles.”

The RCIPS form for reporting forged currency notes can be found on the CIMA website www.cimoney.com.ky under “Currency.” To speak to an officer from the Financial Crime Unit, or find out more information call 949-8797.

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Bermuda probes cop suicide

| 30/01/2014 | 19 Comments

(CNS): The death of a police officer who is believed to have taken his own life is being investigated by police officers from Bermuda. Police Constable Raphael Williams’ body was found in the bush area of East End on Sunday 12 January, two days after the 45-year-old officer was released on bail, having been arrested on suspicion of blackmail and breach of trust. Police Commissioner David Baines is said to have ordered an independent review of the circumstances surrounding the arrest and the subsequent death of the officer, which the RCIPS has now confirmed began on Tuesday with the arrival of officers from the Bermuda Police Service.

“It is normal practice in the UK and in other jurisdictions that such circumstances would be subject to independent review,” said Baines. “I felt it was important to ensure that the RCIPS also adopts this approach to ensure that all aspects of the arrest and death are reviewed in an open, transparent and independent way. The enquiry team will outline their findings in a report to the Commissioner of the Bermuda Police Service who will in then make the findings available to Governor Helen Kilpatrick,” he said. It was anticipated that the report would also be made public, he said.

Williams was arrested on Thursday 9 January on suspicion of blackmail and breach of trust but he was not identified publicly. Few details for the reason for the arrest were revealed but it is understood that Williams was not trying to extort cash. Suspended from duty, he was released on police bail on Friday 10 January and two days later he hanged himself.  When his body was discovered, the immediate local police investigation determined that there were no suspicious circumstances surrounding the death as it appeared to be suicide.

A memorial service will take place for Williams on Saturday 1 February at the Victory Tabernacle Church of God Prophecy in George Town at 3pm ahead of the funeral in Jamaica next week.

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Murder trial adjourned over legal complications

| 30/01/2014 | 0 Comments

(CNS): The case against a West Bay man accused of killing Robert Bush has been adjourned once again as a result of ongoing legal complications. Brian Borden, who was due to face trial on Wednesday for the murder, has denied being involved in the fatal shooting but has now been incarcerated for some 18 months on remand. Borden was arrested in August 2012 and then charged with murder almost one year after Bush was gunned down in West Bay in September 2011 in what is believed to be a gang related killing. However, a catalogue of issues, which continued this week, have served to delay his trial. Borden has been remanded in custody and is due to return to court Friday. Police have also recently charged David Tomassa with the same crime.

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Syed arrested in Switzerland

| 30/01/2014 | 0 Comments

(CNS): The former president of the University College in the Cayman Islands has been arrested in Switzerland, RCIPS officials confirmed Thursday. 47-year-old Hassan Iftikar Syed is currently being detained there in relation to a number of offences which took place in the Cayman Islands some five years ago. Syed was reportedly arrested in November following the international circulation of information that he was wanted by police here. The RCIPS is currently liaising with the director of public prosecutions and the Swiss authorities in an effort to secure Syed’s extradition to the Cayman Islands as expeditiously as possible but warned it could take some time.

“It should be noted that extradition can be a lengthy and complicated process, as such, it would be inappropriate to comment further at this time and a further update will be provided as and when appropriate,” an RCIPS spokesperson stated.

The Swiss police have arrested Syed in connection with several offences of theft, obtaining money transfer by deception and obtaining a pecuniary advantage by deception.

Syed disappeared from the Cayman Islands shortly after claiming to be extremely ill and having taken a salary advance to pay for medical expenses. However, shortly after the finger of suspicion was pointed at the former university boss, after the Office of the Auditor General examined the university books in 2008 and turned up a number of ‘financial irregularities’, a term used by officials to describe possible theft.

Syed was suspected of purchasing Tiffany jewellery and paying for extravagant weekends away on a government credit card to the tune of some $200,000. It also appeared that Syed misled the college authorities and had lied about his qualifications and experience.

After absconding and turning up in Canada at the Toronto’s Centennial College a few months later, he disappeared once again. Syed was spotted by a CNS reader in Las Vegas in May 2012 (as seen in the photo above) but there has been no news of the fugitive since until today’s news.

Syed joined UCCI in 2003 and worked for three years as the chairman of the Department of Computer Science and Technology before he was appointed president of the college in 2006.

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Consultation extended on beneficial ownership

| 30/01/2014 | 0 Comments

(CNS Business): The deadline for public input on the critical issue of beneficial ownership of Cayman registered companies has been extended for another month. The financial services ministry is appealing to people working in financial services and commerce, their clients and the general public, including small-business owners, to provide comments before the end of February. Government is committed to finding a way to be transparent about who benefits from Cayman registered companies, both on and offshore, to meet with the UK’s expectations and the G8 agenda. Cayman does not have to go as far as a fully open public register, as the UK prime minister has proposed for Britain, but the jurisdiction must find a way to collate the necessary information in one place and decide who gets to access it. Read more on CNS Business

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Rotarians return to Guatemala with books

| 30/01/2014 | 0 Comments

CNS): Six local Rotarians from the Grand Cayman club will be returning to Guatemala shortly to join Cooperative for Education (CoEd) and Rotarians from the USA, Canada, and the United Kingdom to deliver books to secondary schools and open a new computer center. Rotarians Trevor Neckles, Brian Hurley, Lawrence Edwards, Alistair Walters, along with Past Presidents, Chris Johnson and Derek Haines, will assist in the project during the 10 days self-funded trip from 31 January to 9 February where they will cover several hundred miles over bumpy roads in mountainous terrain.

“Through the programmes, the organisation strives to address the root causes of poverty in Guatemala, rather than merely treating its symptoms,” said Neckles who will going on his 6th trip  to the centrl American country.

Currently, there are more than 25,000 children using CoEd textbooks, 17,000 students being trained at CoEd computer centers, 33 schools with the Culture of Reading Program, and 669 one-year scholarships given.

On what will be his fifth trip Haines said, “Rural Guatemala has one of the highest rates of poverty, illiteracy, and inequality in the Western Hemisphere. One out of every two adults cannot read or write. The vast majority of indigenous young people drop out of school before reaching the sixth grade. Without education and training, they will repeat the cycle of poverty.”

Johnsons who will be going on his first trip said he was excited about seeing the project first hand. “The enthusiasm shown by my Rotary chums is infectious and I feel the project is rewarding and most worthwhile. This is what Rotary is all about,” he added.

Besides supporting the programme financially, Rotary Grand Cayman has provided funds for sporting equipment and is sponsoring a school this year. Cayman attendees have provided the funds for computers and a toilet block at one school. Additionally, Trevor and Derek each sponsor a student in the scholarship programme.

The Cooperative for Education (CoEd) was founded by brothers Joe and Jeff Berninger in 1996 with the mission of helping Guatemalan schoolchildren break the cycle of poverty through education.  CoEd accomplishes this mission by providing sustainable educational tools (like books and computers), training, and scholarships. Education can break the cycle of poverty in Guatemala and CoEd has worked in nearly 300 communities to empower students and teachers to accomplish this mission.

CoEd delivers sustainable programmes that thrive and survive into the future. The innovative revolving fund model requires beneficiaries to make a small financial contribution to their school’s program, giving them a vested interest in its success. CoEd also builds local capacity by training community members to manage and maintain the programmes.

Learn more about the Cooperative for Education at www.cooperativeforeducation.org
 

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