Archive for February 12th, 2014

Dump needs $1M equipment

| 12/02/2014 | 44 Comments

(CNS): The minister with responsibility for the dump has said that government will need to find as much as $1 million to address the management of the George Town landfill. Years of chronic under-investment have meant that the site is not being managed properly, Osbourne Bodden told CNS, and given the constraints imposed by the UK and the Framework for Fiscal Responsibility, which sets out the process government must follow on all public sector projects, it will be impossible to address the long-term solution any quicker than the two years he has already outlined – a timeframe that would still be the case even if the Dart Group proposal to move the dump was a consideration.

As a fire raged across the dump on Grand Cayman Wednesday, Minister Bodden, speaking to CNS from the dump (a.k.a. Mount Trashmore) pointed out that even if the solution proposed by Dart or others to move the dump was still on the table, the timeframe would not change as government is constrained by the FFR, which wassigned by the previous UDP government.
Bodden said that if the UK gave the Cayman government the go-ahead to do it more quickly then he would, but he said he had to follow the process and that would take about two years, no matter what the end solution was.

“That is the reality we are faced with,” he said. “This is not just an Ozzie problem, it’s a country problem,” the minister added, as he pointed to the long term chronic under-investment at the site. He explained that government would still have to spend some money in the meantime to manage the landfill more effectively outside the process towards a public-private partnership to establish an entirely new system.

He said there were short to medium term measures government could take to better manage the site until a new comprehensive waste-management solution was in place and that meant buying new equipment and fixing what could be repaired. Bodden said he would need to scrape together around one million dollars to purchase the right equipment to reduce fires and deal with Mount Trashmore more effectively.

The fire on Wednesday was difficult to put out, he explained, because it was “very deep inside the landfill because the department does not have the right kind of equipment it needs to properly deal with the garbage mound," causing fires to burn deep inside.

There are two types of fires, according to officials. One is a surface fire which burns and spreads predominantly at the surface; the other is a deep seated fire which burns much deeper within the layers of the landfill. These deep seated fires cause new fires to break out when surface fires are extinguished.

“Methods such as compaction are normally used to reduce waste and the air pockets in landfills areas, and as such can in turn minimise the occurrence of fires,” Bodden said. “While this type of fire is not uncommon in landfills, we obviously want to minimise their occurrence. This can be done through different measures, including minimising the working face of the landfill, effective compaction of the waste, and covering the waste with inert material.”

One of the challenges that the Department of Environmental Health (DEH), which manages the dump, faces is damaged and inadequate equipment. But, the minister said, government officials were currently looking at an immediate plan of action to bring in new equipment to mitigate the problem.

In the meantime, Director of DEH Roydell Carter confirmed that despite the lack of resources, there is a contingency plan. 

“This is not the first time we’ve had to deal with a fire situation like this one, and it differs from the fire before Christmas when the fire was in the tyres and scrap metal areas. This fire is in the waste mound, which is more common, and easier to manage and control.”

Some of DEH’s existing equipment is currently being repaired and should be restored later this week. In the meantime, private companies have also been called to assist. In the event that any future fires occur, re-installation of on-site deep wells is also being pursued. This will allow the Fire Service to tackle the fire from various locations.

As a longer term solution to the problem, once the new equipment is purchased, the ministry and DEH are looking into creating a functional, safe and inexpensive maintenance facility at DEH. Currently, there is no area where such things can be stored, cleaned or maintained in order to ensure longevity of the machines.

The landfill remained closed throughout Wednesday as the fire raged, with plumes of smoke stretching across George Town. As well as potential health hazard for residents, it was visible from the five cruise ships carrying more than 14,000 passengers that arrived.

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Counts reduced in robbery

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(CNS): Two men caught up in the getaway from a robbery of a supermarket in North Side last year have pleaded guilty to much lesser charges than the original counts of robbery and possession of imitation firearms after the crown reviewed the case. Odain Lloyd Ebanks (18) and Ian Fernando Ellington (29) appeared in court Wednesday for sentencing after one of the men admitted handling stolen goods and the other to being an accessory after the fact, as the prosecutor said there was no evidence that they were part of the robbery. Originally, the two men were accused of ‘casing the joint’ before the crime and then waiting to help the robbers' escape but, the court heard, changes in the case resulted in new charges.

Ellington and Ebanks were originally arrested along with Courtney Bryan, who has admitted being the main perpetrator in the armed daylight hold up at Chisholm’s supermarket last September, in which he and a teenager, who cannot be named, stole a phone, jewellery and cigarettes to the value of over $1,400. They escaped in a car that had been seen by the shop owners shortly before the crime, which they considered suspicions and had made a note of the licence plate.

As a result of that quick action the police soon picked up the speeding getaway vehicle on Frank Sound Road and pursued the car with the assistance of the police helicopter.

Ebanks has now admitted entering the store prior to the robbery and purchasing a patty, as well as touching one packet of cigarettes during the chase after the robbers had entered the car he was in as the front passenger when they were picked up by Ellington.

The crown accepted the plea that he had no knowledge of the crime until the robbers entered the car and on realizing the cigarettes he had handled were stolen, he threw them out of the window during the high speed chase. While his lawyer said he accepted that he should not have disposed of the evidence, he did so in panic when he learned how the other men had acquired them.

Meanwhile, Ellington, who admitted picking up the robbers, has denied entering the shop, and with no identification or any other evidence to say he was the second man, the crown accepted the plea that he too was not part of the planning in the crime. They accepted that he had picked up the two robbers as they fled from the supermarket on the afternoon 23 September without any admission of what point Ellington knew about the crime.

As the driver of the vehicle, which was involved in the high speed chase with the police, including a patrol vehicle and the police helicopter, Ellington will still be looking at a harsher penalty than his co-defendant, who has now servedalmost five months in jail on remand on a single count of handling a stolen packet of cigarettes, though the crown claimed it was a more serious offence of handling given the closeness in time and geographical proximity of Ebanks to the crime.

Although his defence attorney admitted that the crime just passed the custody threshold, given his client’s previously completely cleanrecord and a social enquiry report indicating that the crime was utterly out of character for Ellington, he asked for a lenient sentence.

Ellington was described as having a good job in construction and a man who has worked without incident since leaving school at various skilled jobs, including carpentry and more recently tiling. A father and a well-liked previously responsible citizen, whose employers are keen to have him back, the lawyer said Ellington, who was his family’s only breadwinner, was well aware he had let everyone down.

The judge who heard the case raised a number of concerns about the sudden change in charges but after discussions with counsel, stated that he would deliver his sentence ruling next Wednesday afternoon.

Courtney Bryan was given six years in jail, reduced to four for his guilty plea in the case and three years for possession of an imitation weapon to run concurrently, while the youngest member of gang will now face trial. Although the 16 year old, who cannot be named, admitted taking part in the robbery from the time he was arrested, he has denied having a weapon of any kind. The crown has refused to accept a plea just to robbery without the weapon and as a result the youngster will now stand trial on that count.

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Alden holds his own on BBC

| 12/02/2014 | 67 Comments

(CNS): The Cayman Islands premier managed to wave the flag for the financial sector without suffering too many wounds during the anticipated interview on the BBC's news channel’ flagship show HARDtalk with Steven Sackur. During the show, which was first broadcast at 11:30pm local time on Tuesday, Alden McLaughlin admitted the genesis of the CI financial sector may have been to assist corporations in tax avoidance but things today were very different. He said Cayman’s house was now in better order than almost any other country with a financial sector, and although he dodged questions about public transparency on beneficial ownership, McLaughlin delivered the message that Cayman would comply to any new standards so long as there was a level playing field.

As he opened the show, the host, Steven Sackur, asked if the pressure on tax havens would cause Cayman to lose its allure for corporations using the jurisdiction and the complex financial vehicles it offers.

The BBC host described Cayman as one of the strangest and most unbalanced micro-economies in the world before McLaughlin went on to briefly describethe success story of Cayman from a subsistence economy to its status as an international offshore financial centre.

Tackling the ‘Ugland House question’, he explained that it was right that none of the companies there had a physical presence as it was the home of an offshore law firm, but referred to 1209 Orange Street in Delaware, USA, which has even more registered companies without a physical presence.

McLaughlin described Cayman as being much better regulated than the US state, pointing to the numerous tax deals and exchange agreements Cayman has, as well as the scrutiny from international regulators, onshore authorities and the OECD, which have found that Cayman has one of the best and most robust regulatory regimes in the world.

“The modern day Cayman is an open, transparent jurisdiction,” he said as he listed all of Cayman’s TIEA and multilateral agreements.

He dismissed the findings of the Tax Justice Network, which ranks Cayman as the fifth most secret international financial centre in the world, but also refused to say whether or not Cayman would be publishing the information it keeps on beneficial owners. He told Sackur that consultation was ongoing and that “no country in the world” reveals all the beneficial ownership of corporations to the wider public, though he acknowledged that the UK was heading that way.

The Cayman leader explained that Cayman has never had direct taxation so it creates a tax neutral jurisdiction for international companies to find cheaper financing as the jurisdiction adds no extra layers of tax liability, which is why it would remain an attractive jurisdiction for international finance.

McLaughlin agreed that it was not right for people or corporations to avoid paying tax where it was due and stated that Cayman was no longer a place where corporations came to avoid tax. He said companies and wealthy individuals know that the Cayman Islands authorities will now tell their country of origin about their business or wealth when asked.

The Cayman premier admitted that the world was moving towards automatic exchange but that would not mean an end to Cayman’s success as an offshore jurisdiction. He said increasing regulation and transparency had fuelled Cayman’s success in past years as businesses are increasingly more attracted to reputable well regulated jurisdictions.

Sackur referred to comments made by former CIMA chair, Tim Ridley, about Cayman losing its competitive edge if there was too much regulation but McLaughlin pointed out that for fifteen years Cayman had met the challenge of increasing regulation and the sector continued to grow and prosper.

Despite painting a picture of a well regulated jurisdiction, Sackur’s question about Cayman successfully prosecuting only six cases of money laundering in over seven years proved tough for McLaughlin, who nevertheless insisted that the jurisdiction had been rated as having one of the best anti-money laundering regime’s in the world.

Addressing questions about UK pressure, McLaughlin indicated that the Cayman Islands was not fed up of the mother country yet, and while a few people waved the flag of independence, the relationship with the UK was a good one.

Despite some tensions from time to time, he said the country was happy with its constitutional relationship with Britain. He did, however, press home the issue that Cayman should not be a scapegoat for the world’s financial ills as perceptions about the islands were still a long way from reality.

The show will air again locally at 4:30pm on BBC World but it is also now available on Youtube or the HARDtalk website.

Podcasts and audio versions will also be available on the BBC Worldservice website later.

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Two small cruise ships heading to Cayman Brac

| 12/02/2014 | 0 Comments

Cayman Islands(CNS Business): A sailing cruise ship is scheduled to call on Cayman Brac this Friday, and if sea conditions enable it to disembark passengers, it will be the first cruise ship for six years to make a call on the Sister Island. The last ship scheduled, the 300-passenger MS Delphin, passed by in March 2013 without stopping due to choppy waters on the north coast of Cayman Brac. Officials said the captain of the ship decided the anchorage site was not safe for getting the passengers off and on the ship. The last ship to actually visit the island was on Easter Monday in 2008. However, not only is the MS Star Flyer scheduled to make regular visits this season but the 114-passenger luxury MV Island Sky is scheduled to call on the Brac 18 March. Read more on CNS Business

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Young footballers lend a much needed hand

| 12/02/2014 | 1 Comment

(CIYFP): Players and coaches from the Cayman Islands Youth Football Programme’s Under 14 team participated in a yard clean-up at the residence of Tommy and Mechon Ebanks in West Bay this past Saturday. The Ebanks’ daughter, Skylar May, was born in May last year with Anaplastic Ependyomoma (malignant brain cancer) and since then the parents have been travelling back and forth from the United States seeking treatment for their daughter. With the Ebanks working, the Programme’s coaches decided that they would lend a helping hand and clean-up their overgrown yard.

On Saturday afternoon after a two-hour training session at the Old Man Bay Field in North Side under the watchful of head coach Ernie “Gillie” Seymour, the players and coaches ventured to West Bay to tackle the family’s yard. Two hours later, the Ebanks’ yard was “reborn”, much to the delight of Mr Ebanks.

Over the last four months, players, parents and coaches from the Cayman Islands Youth Football Programme have been fundraising to cover expenses for their trip to Las Vegas to participate in the 2014 Mayor’s International Showcase in February. As part of their fundraising efforts, it was decided that a donation be made to the Ebanks family to offset some of their travel and medical expenses as they seek treatment for little Skylar.

On Sunday, February 9, at the morning church service at the Boatswain Bay Presbyterian Church, MrEbanks was presented with a cheque by the players from the Programme.
Following the church service, assistant coach Antwan Seymour said, “We are more than happy to assistTommy, Mechon and Skylar. No parent should have to endure what they are currently going through as they strive to get the best treatment for their daughter. In this Youth Football Programme, it is mandatory that our players give back to their community anyway they can and our donation to the Ebanks family was a testament to the character our players possess.”

The Cayman Islands Youth Programme consists of 45 of the best players in the Under 14 age group from all clubs in the Cayman Islands. The ultimate goal of the Programme over the next few years is to prepare players to represent the Cayman Islands at the Under 15, Under 17, Under 20 and Under 23 levels as members of the Cayman Islands National Teams.

Teams from the Programme will continue to participate in overseas tournaments in the United States and other countries to gain exposure for players in the hope that they will be seen by high school and college coaches and potentially earn scholarships to further their education and play at a higher level. Also, the Programme will expose players to professional youth academies in the United Kingdom and other parts of Europe.

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Runners wanted for local ultra-marathon

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(CNS): Organisers are encouraging runners to register as soon as possible for the fifth annual  Off the Beaten Trac, a 50k ultra-marathon and relay race set for Sunday 23 February. Competitors can participate in Cayman’s toughest race either individually, or in a team of six. Originally devised by race founder and KRyS Global’s Executive Chairman Kenneth Krys, Off the Beaten Track is a unique test of endurance, that will see contestants run through some of Cayman’s toughest terrain, including bush trails, dyke roads and on the beach. In a bid to ensure that this year’s course will continue challenge seasoned participants, Derek Larner from Race Caribbean is designing the course.

The idea came about after Krys had participated in the famous Marathon des Sables in Africa’s Sahara desert, the toughest race known to man that takes participants through some of the most inhospitable terrain of the world.

With the running scene so popular and competitive in Cayman, Krys wanted to offer this unique and challenging experience to the local running community.

“It’s as much about mental endurance as physical ability,” he stated. “Off the Beaten Track is a great way to test yourself and at the same time raise money for Facing Africa as well as our chosen local charity, which I’m pleased to say this year is Meals on Wheels.”

Krys is hoping to beat last year’s record turnout on this fifth anniversary of the event.

“Last year we had an impressive 36 relay teams and 15 individuals (a total of 231 participants in all) and this year we hope very much to further increase those numbers, so please register now and join in this wonderful adventure.”

The layout of the course won’t be released until a week before the race. “Keeping the layout a surprise will undoubtedly add to the excitement for participants,” Derek confirmed.  “It will be challenging for competitors but incredibly rewarding at the same time.” 

KRyS Global, has been the main organiser of Off the Beaten Track since its inception with support from, Tower and sponsors Brown Rudnick, Ritch & Conolly and CaymanActive.com.

Entry to the race costs $300 for a team of six people and $100 for individuals and all proceeds will go towards helping the needy both in Africa and in Cayman as well. Online registration is now open at www.offthebeatentrack.ky. Corporate sponsorship is still available and volunteers are welcome.  Interested parties should contact Catherine Healy at 947 4700 or OTBT@KRyS-Global.com.

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Crews contain dump fire

| 12/02/2014 | 44 Comments

(CNS) Update 5pm: Local firefighters on Grand Cayman have now managed to get the George Town dump blaze under control. The fire-fighting crew has been working at the site since they were alerted to the fire at around 6am this morning when it began smoldering but then later ignited into a much larger blaze. Officials recommended those living near to the dump to leave the area and the fire service called in all off-duty personnel to help with the ongoing battle throughout the day. Although all available resources were used to fight the fire, as it was extinguished in one place it recaught in another because it was deepseated underground in the heart of the landfill. Officials said changes in wind direction also caused further blazes.

With additional fire trucks arriving mid-morning, the fire was contained and has not spread to any surrounding areas.

"The white smoke from the fire has risen and remained at high enough levels to minimise impacts on residents and surrounding areas, and is being carried off-shore by the prevailing winds. Residents are asked to avoid this area, especially if persons have respiratory related issues," officials stated

Fire Services and DEH staff said they would continue their efforts to control the fire until it has been extinguished. The areas around the fire have been saturated to prevent it from spreading into additional on-site waste.

The Department of Environmental Health (DEH) offered its apologises to the public for any inconvenience that may have been caused by the fire, and the minister emphasized his gratitude to the hardworking firecrews.

This latest blaze comes in the wake of a fire which took hold of tyres located at the dump (a.k.a. Mount Trashmore) just a few weeks ago and following the announcement by the ministry that a committee has been formed to assess the way forward for the island's pressing waste management problem.

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PPM too quick to sign FATCA deals, says Bush

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(CNS Business): Opposition Leader McKeeva Bush has criticised both Premier Alden McLaughlin and Financial Services Minister Wayne Panton for being too quick to sign the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act deal with the US and a similar deal  with the UK at the same time as committing to the revelations of beneficial ownership. Bush, the former minister of finance, said there were ongoing problems with the US act on foreign accounts which may lead to further delays in the already postponed implementation and the CIG didn’t need to rush to sign on the dotted line so far ahead of it coming into effect. He also accused the two men of not having the backbone to stand up for the Cayman Islands and the sector they both profited from in the past. Read more on CNS Business

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Cash-forge mum gets break from jail

| 12/02/2014 | 12 Comments

(CNS): A 30-year-old Bodden Town woman convicted of using counterfeit local currency has avoided jail after the judge used his discretion to allow Shannon F. D. Ebanks to serve her punishment under strict house arrest. Justice Alex Henderson gave Ebanks a two-year probation order recently, following her conviction in December by a jury for possessing and using a fake $10 local bill note at a bar in Bodden Town in February 2011 and of having partially-made $25 notes and equipment used in counterfeiting. During that two year probation Ebanks will be under house arrest in her own home, except for going to a part time job three times per week. Once the nine month home lock down ends, Ebanks will then need to serve 120 hours of community service for her crimes.

She was also ordered to take part in such counsellingand random drug testing.

Justice Henderson indicated that he was inclined to agree with the findings in a social inquiry report that the person taking the lead role in making the fake cash had been Ebanks’ boyfriend, Shane Bodden, who was living with her at the time the house was searched. Although he was arrested and interviewed, he was not charged in the case.

Nevertheless, Bodden was recently convicted of possessing an imitation firearm and shooting it at a man in West Bay. He was handed a four year sentence last month but the judge’s decision in this recent case means that Ebanks will be able to remain with the couple’s three children.

 

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Teen begins flying towards his dream

| 12/02/2014 | 1 Comment

(CNS): Seventeen-year-old Samuel Hale Whitney of South Sound has been awarded the Zak Quappé Flight Scholarship for 2014. Whitney, who was born in George Town and has had a fascination for flying from an early age, has dreams of becoming a commercial pilot for Cayman Airways. The scholarship committee said the funding would give him the opportunity to begin his private pilot training this month and the cash he needed to achieve his dream. On his entry application he told the selection committee that it was an opportunity he would not have had otherwise. “I plan to give back to keep the ZQFS growing so that more young adults receive the chance to follow dreams that might not be possible without foundations such as this." 

Having attended the two-week long Embry Riddle University Flight Introduction camp in thesummer at Daytona Beach, Florida, Whitney has already logged his first flight hours in a Cessna 172. 

This is precisely where the late Zak Quappé, whom the scholarship is in memory of, logged his first flight hours some nine years ago. Zak Quappé, whose young life was taken in a tragic accident this past May, was only 21 years old. He logged nearly 400 hours of flight time and had earned his commercial pilot's licence and was a Certified Flight Instructor for the Cayman Flying Club.

Based locally in Grand Cayman, he had already taught over 100 hours of flight instruction to his students. He was well respected amongst his peers and students and will be forever remembered as a truly gifted aviator. In honour of Quappe’s memory, the ZQFS committee hopes to contribute to the dreams of other young Caymanian adults in their pursuit of flight training. In order to accomplish this goal, the scholarship relies heavily on financial support from the Cayman Islands community.

Contributors, such as Marcus Cumber of Island Air, Jeff and Kelly McGlashan of Trees4Life Cayman, Surf Side Restaurant and other local businesses who have given their time and resources have played an important role to help get the scholarship off the ground.  

Organisers also thanked all the kind individuals and those who supported through attending 'Cocktails and Cabaret' for their generous donations. 

If you wish to support this foundation, the ZQFS can be contacted either through Sheree Ebanks at sebanks@me.com, or via the Cayman Flying Club at info@caymanflyingclub.com.

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