Archive for January 30th, 2014

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 He said the bill repealed the register of interests law, which had been the only legislation of this kind and which he had piloted through the Legislative Assembly.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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Local arts fest promises kaleidoscope of talent

| 30/01/2014 | 0 Comments

(CNS): The Cayman National Cultural foundation is now gearing up for this year’s Cayman Islands National Festival of the Arts which is scheduled for next month. Emphasizing local arts and culture, showcasing Cayman’s finest talent, with a mix of visual arts, music, theatre, film, fashion design, photography and cultural discussions, Cayfest 2014 is a three-day programme from February 27 to March 1 which includesthe National Arts & Culture Awards, a Dress for Culture Day and the Red Sky at Night festival, where the full spectrum of the arts in Cayman will be on display.

“Think of a colour wheel with all its nuance, brilliance, contrast and harmony. These are the qualities our national festival, Cayfest uncovers and celebrates. It is truly a marvelous festival that brings together people of all ages and backgrounds to take advantage of the abundance of amazing talent that we have right here in Cayman when it comes to our creative industries,” said Marcia Muttoo, CNCF Managing Director. Of the much loved local festival.

On February 27th CNCF will reveal the winners of the 20th Annual National Arts & Culture Awards. The National Arts and Culture Awards recognise those who attain a level of merit in their artistic discipline or contribute to the arts, culture and heritage of the Cayman Islands.

The 2013 Heritage Cross Awards and Star for Creativity Awards will be presented, along with recognitions for Volunteer of the Year, Sponsor of the Year and for outstanding long-term support of CNCF’s work (the Chairman’s Award). The awards ceremony is a CNCF initiative that began in 1990. Each year there is a call for nominations from cultural and heritage organisations, in collaboration with the general public.

Past winners include artist Bendel Hydes, Dave Martins, the creator of Rundown; visual artists Ed Oliver and Joanne Sibley; architect John Doak, dancer/choreographer Jackie Balls and musical legend Aunt Julia Hydes.

Dress for Culture Day on will celebrate Cayman’s cultural tapestry by inviting the public to wear something that represents their roots or heritage to work or school on Friday February 28.  Donations raised from this dress down day will go directly to CNCF youth and cultural programming.

"We must realise that we are more alike than different in our various cultural expressions and by working together we can have a more significant impact on our development as human beings.  Setting aside one day specifically to showcase our national dress, food or other memorabilia, is a good start to the weaving of our cultural tapestry,"  said Lorna Bush, CNCF Programmes and Public Education Officer.

For more information on how to get your organisation involved, email marketcncf@candw.ky or call CNCF on (345) 949 5477.

The Red Sky at Night’ festival on Saturday, 1 March 4pm to 12 midnight at the F.J. Harquail Cultural Centre, will feature the work of over 50 artists, performers and craftspeople.  Patrons will be treated to live performances from singers, dancers, actors and storytellers, as well as creative work by local visual artists and crafts people, including exquisite handmade items, art installations and sculptures.

Celebrated films from around the Caribbean and inspiring live performances will be featured within the festival theatres. Besides all of this, there will be plenty of food on sale, from popular hot local dishes, to snacks and desserts, to fresh juices and organically grown produce. CNCF has invited over ten other non-profit organisations to participate, including the National Museum, National Gallery, Catboat Club, National Archive, Visual Arts Society, Cayman Drama Society and the Astronomical Society, to name a few.

Programmes Manager Rita Estevanovich explained, “We are always happy to connect creatively with our sister organisations on events such as Cayfest. Cayfest is Cayman’s national festival of the arts, so it is fitting to have as many of our sister organisations involved as much as possible; the more each of us contributes to the overall festival, the more enjoyable the festival experience is for our residents and visitors alike. It will give the community a chance to learn about the many important cultural, environmental, historical and artistic programmes we each administer, with the convenience of having representatives from each organisation in one location. It’s a win- win for everyone.”  

Tickets for the Red Sky at Night Festival cost from $5 – $15 and are available from the Harquail Theatre, Fosters Food Fair (Airport) and Funky Tangs.  Call 949-5477 for more information and to find out about discounts. Join CNCF in remembering and discovering all the reasons we love arts and culture in the Cayman Islands! www.artscayman.org/cayfest

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Middlebury College heading to Cayman

| 30/01/2014 | 0 Comments

(CRFU): Whilst local rugby players will get some respite from playing against other local residents the Rugby action will not stop in South Sound with Middlebury College Rugby Club visiting for a 3 game series in early February. The Cayman Rugby Union has played host to some quality US college sides in recent years such as Dartmouth, Princeton, Loyola to name and a few and Middlebury promises to yet against provide stiff competition as Cayman prepares for its international Rugby match-ups in 2014.

Middlebury’s recent achievements include:
D-IAA East Coast Rugby Conference Champions: 2012
DII Men’s Collegiate NERFU Champions: 2001, 2002, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2010
DII Men’s Collegiate NRU Champions: 2001, 2002, 2008, 2010
DII Men’s Collegiate National Sweet 16: 2010
DII Men’s Collegiate National Semi-finalists: 2008
DII Men’s Collegiate National Runner-up: 2011
DII Men’s Collegiate National Champions: 2007, 2009

Schedule of Games:
2 February: 3pm KO – Cayman Select XV (Iguanas RFC & Cayman Storm RFC) v Middlebury College XV
4 February: 4pm KO – Cayman Select XV (Pigs Trotters RFC & Buccaneers RFC) v Middlebury College XV
7 February: 4pm KO – Cayman National XV v Middlebury College XV

All games are free to watch at the South Sound Rugby Ground or viewable online at www.caymanrugbytv.com

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Changes pave way for court-prison video link

| 30/01/2014 | 2 Comments

(CNS): Although government announced over two years ago that it had plans to use video links for remand prisons at Northward for short court appearances, so far not one prisoner has made a court appearance via the equipment. This seems to be as a result of the relevant law, which appeared to hinder the ability of the courts to hear cases via teleconferencing. However, an amendment to section 60 of the criminal procedure code, which passed in the Legislative Assembly on Wednesday, will finally enable judges at their discretion to hear remand cases and mentions via a link between the court and the prisons.

The hope is that this will cut costs for the prison and courts, lower security risks and keep more prison officers at Northward rather than policing the court jails.

Although many remand prisoners are brought to the courts every day for a variety of reasons, a significant proportion of the appearances are very brief, sometimes a matter of a few minutes. Requests for adjournments for numerous reasons, attorneys seeking documents and disclosures setting and altering trial dates, and making elections for trial can be a matter of seconds, yet every prisoner is brought to the courts and has to be kept in the overcrowded and poor quality facilities there often for the whole day, despite making a less than five minute appearance.

The use of a video link will enable "virtual" remand hearings and cut costs for government.

Two years ago, when the equipment was expected to be in use within a view weeks of the announcement, Dwight Scott, the then prison director, revealed that around 100 Category-A and -B prisoners and persons on remand are transported to and from the courts every week, including those charged with murder, rape and serious violence.

At least three prison staff and two vehicles are dedicated to processing and transporting remand prisoners each day.

Although it is not clear if the intention is to follow the original plan, but in January 2012 officials had said the CCTV system will use two separate sound-proof rooms at Northward. One will be with a 'dock' that will enable the judiciary to confirm that the inmate is secured in custody and allow hearings and questioning from the courtroom. A separate room, also equipped with CCTV, will allow confidential conversations between persons on remand and their attorneys.

"Deploying this technology removes the need to transport dangerous persons outside the prison gates, thereby removing many risk factors,” Portfolio of Internal and External Affairs Deputy Chief Officer Eric Bush said at the time. He also said that many issues had been taken into consideration, including the human rights of those detained, but apparently not the law.

Government laid out some $85,000 on the technology, which it had hoped to recoup within eight months. However, because it has not been used yet, government is still out of pocket.

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