Archive for March 20th, 2014

Premier called to UK for Islamic finance meeting

| 20/03/2014 | 2 Comments

(CNS Business): Cayman Premier Alden McLaughlin and the leader of Bermuda, Craig Cannonie, have been appointed by the FCO to a new international group dealing with Global Islamic Finance and Investment, along with a number of international bankers and finance experts. Cayman is a popular jurisdiction for Islamic Finance, which is growing 50 percent faster than traditional banking. McLaughlin will be heading to London at the weekend with a delegation to attend the group’s first meeting, as well as meetings with the OT minister and, officials said, with Lord Blencathra, who, despite changes in the UK House of Lords rules, still appears to work for CIG. Read more on CNS Business

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Corruption fuels multiple global challenges

| 20/03/2014 | 2 Comments

(CNS): Corruption is a significant contributing factor to world crisis of all kinds from inequity to war, the chair of transparency international told the UCCI conference audience on Wednesday. Delivering the keynote address at the opening of the ethics conference, broadcast around the world on-line, chair Dr Huguette Labelle, said the event would provide a forum to take stock of the underlying reasons why no country is immune from corruption and why leaders, managers and those who deliver public service need to work on a strong set of ethical values to beat it. She said corruption takes a toll on all societies and is behind many challenges from extreme poverty to maintaining stability.

Labelle noted there was no difference for the victims of corruption from countries and corporations that lose billions of dollars to those who have to pay small bribes to get access to essential services. There was nothing petty she said, for someone earning $600 per annum in the developing world to pay 40% of that in bribes for basic services.

Even for wealthier countries corruption undermines business and more and more corporations are reporting their avoidance of, and departure from, countries where corruption is commonplace. Labelle also noted that corruption often fuels the illicit trade in drugs and guns that come back to bite the source countries in the form of violent crime.

Keenly, aware of her audience Labelle seemed to hesitate when she spoke about global tax evasion but she pointed to the trend in automatic exchange as a step in the right direction when she cited the tax justice network statistics that some $3trillion dollars has been lost in tax evasion and avoidance hidden offshore. With the development of technology she said it was easier and easier for people to move, hide and make money disappear. She also warned that the increasing sophistication of the corrupt and the wealth accumulated allows them to become more powerful than governments and infiltrate state institutions from the judiciary to parliaments.

However, Labelle said the future could be different if people fought back as she pointed to myriad ways to combat corruption. “We can have a different future,” the Transparency international boss said. “It is possible to deal with it as the people don't want their institutions being complicity in corruption people want open free safe just countries,” she said.

Not surprisingly given her role she said transparency was one the most important tools as she spoke about the need for freedom of information. Dr Labelle said the information held by public officials is not theirs alone but it belongs to the people they are merely custodians who should not make people beg on their knees for the information.

Leadership, too she said mattered a great deal both in the public and private arenas and it was important those at the top don’t look the other way. The rule of law is critical she said in combatting corruption which meant an independent well-resourced judiciary which treated all people treated in a fair and open way.

Moving to a topical issue for Cayman at present she noted the need for politicians to disclose all of their assets and interests as well as those of their immediate family members. Labelle also called for full transparency on political funding. Addressing some more innovative ideas about combatting political corruption and real transparency she spoke about the need to disclose those who have input in and who lobby for policy and legislative change.

In the public sector she said to have trust in those who deliver services and enforce regulations on a day to day basis, promotion in the civil service had to be on merit only. She said people lose faith when codes of ethics are just on paper they need to be seen to be guiding the work of the public sector, members of which should also be disclosing their assets.

And with 50% of most government budgets going on procurement this was where the focus had to be. She pointed to a system in In Brazil where now at midnight every day the government posts on line how much it collected in revenue and how much it spent. Although she said it sounds difficult once the system was established officials there say it has been easy to keep up offering a truly transparent view of public finances. She said e- procurement was a way for people to clearly see if there was something questionable about a tender or an award.

Noting that the private sector had a part to play too she said it takes two to tango but sometimes three to bribe. While some still think bribery is the way to do business more and more commercial entities are recognizing the folly and realize that it is getting harder to hide bribes.

Educating tomorrow’s leaders today she said was critical to the goal of a corruption free world in the future.  From primary to Phd she said students must be taught ethical and moral principles so they will become leaders who will turn their back on corruption.

For further information on the conference go to www.UCCIconference.ky.

 

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Alden points to election fraud

| 20/03/2014 | 83 Comments
 
(CNS): "Time and again we have heard stories of election fraud, of vote buying – whether its cash in an envelope, a bottle of rum, a new washer or refrigerator," Cayman Islands Premier Alden McLaughlin said at the anti-corruption conference at the UCCI. However, he was not referring to the local polls but elections "the world over". Having emphasised the clean bill of health given to the last general elections in the Cayman Islands by the independent observers, he stated, "We can’t keep ignoring election fraud if we are to truly going to stamp out corruption. Those who are guilty – both the candidate or party and the voter – must own up to it, admit it is wrong and help move their country, its people and the region forward."

 
Without acknowledging the widespread belief that a great deal of vote buying take place during election time in Cayman, McLaughlin stressed the role of election observers in the 2013 general election, who gave the process a nine out of ten score for a fair and proper voting system, and found that the "2013 general elections in the Cayman Islands met the international standards for democratic genuine and transparent elections and the results truly reflect the will of the people.”  
 
Speaking Thursday morning at the University College of the Cayman Islands conference "Towards a Corruption-free Caribbean: Ethics, Values, Trust and Morality" in a round able discussion on "Anti-corruption Assessment and Strategies in the region", the premier admitted that there was corruption in Cayman, though not the level seen in other parts of the world.
 
"I have no doubt that corruption is here. We are not perfect by any means," he said.
 
Corruption, however, does not just exist in government. "We also have to acknowledge that corruption exists in other areas throughout the region and the world, especially when it comes to elections, and especially in the Caribbean," McLaughlin said but was keen to distance Cayman from the taint of election fraud.
 
Noting that the observers came from the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, "despite objections from some candidates", he also pointed to the role of the Election Office, which worked "diligently to ensure the voting was free of corruption" and said they released two election workers for not complying with their oath of office.
 
"Even Police Commissioner David Baines got in on the anti-corruption act when he advised political camps and voters to file complaints of voter bribery, which he said would be investigated and prosecuted," McLaughlin said.
 
"If we are honest with ourselves – and we have to be if we want to develop a sustainable ethical and anti-corruption framework throughout the region – we have to admit that election irregularities have occurred and continue in the Caribbean," he said.
 
Without naming names or any reference to Cayman, he said, "There will be those like the candidates who don’t want elections to be observed, who get into office using illegal means, trying to thwart anti-corruption initiatives, but it is they who must be brushed to the side so that good governance and transparency can thrive in all branches of government."
 
Turning to Cayman’s Freedom of Information Law 2007, which was introduced by the first PPM government, he said it "went a long way to combatting and even revealing corruption in this country". 
 
Cayman also has a "robust Auditor General’s operation with an internal audit unit that has been instrumental in getting information to the public," he said.
 
"And that’s what it is really all about; getting pertinent information to the public about how government works and is functioning to put an end to real and perceived corruption," the premier told attendees at the conference.
 
"Governments, their authorities and agencies must be forthcoming with information that is requested. Better yet, government should be disseminating prudent information before media and the public request it. There is much information that should already be available to the public; that the public shouldn’t have to seek out 
 
He said, "We all have to work together to make sure the truth about our governments and who we work with is out in the open; thatour actions are transparent. It takes a willingness to comply with and working together while ensuring that the floors of our own houses are swept clean of corruption."

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Conference to help shape plan for CEDAW

| 20/03/2014 | 18 Comments

(CNS): As the Cayman Islands Government takes the final steps towards meeting the requirements for the UK to extend the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) to the Cayman Islands, the gender affairs minister says she is seeking input from the community towards that goal. Hosting the ministry's first conference on women’s affairs, Tara Rivers said the day-long event on 29 March will provide a forum for the public to contribute and discuss CEDAW and the social, cultural, economic and political challenges that girls and women experience in Cayman.

Following the passage of the gender discrimination law by, the former gender affairs minister, Mike Adams, during the previous UDP administration in December last year, the ministry asked the UK to extend CEDAW and the National Conference on Women is designed to help in that goal.

“Through an interactive agenda, the morning session will provide an opportunity for attendees to discuss the key areas relating to CEDAW in focus groups and for the Ministry to collect qualitative data regarding priority issues and any potential areas of concern,” officials stated.

During the afternoon session, Dr Glenda P. Simms, a CEDAW expert from Jamaica who served on the United Nations CEDAW Committee for four years, will deliver a keynote address focusing on how we can all become ‘Architects of Change’ in our personal lives and in our society.

Lady Rabia, a well-known local performer and advocate for gender equality, will also deliver a spoken word performance, and Rivers will address attendees on the government’s commitments to empowering women and promoting gender equality.

“We welcome and value the contributions of all attendees and will use these diverse perspectives to help inform the implementation plan for CEDAW and Government’s work to promote gender equality in the Cayman Islands,” Rivers said.  

The gender affairs unit has planned the conference as part of honouring women month, which is observed in March each year, and participants may attend the full day or just the morning or afternoon session. There is no registration fee and complimentary continental breakfast and lunch are included, However, spaces are limited and pre-registration is essential. Registration forms are available online or from the Government Administration Building.

The conference takes place at the Westin Grand Cayman Seven Mile Beach Resort Governor's Ballroom on Saturday, 29 March 2014. For more information, please visit www.genderequality.gov.ky or contact the Gender Affairs Unit at genderequality@gov.ky or on 244-3226.

See more details and registration form below.

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Merren could face 10+ years

| 20/03/2014 | 0 Comments

(CNS): Bryce Merren is facing more than a decade in an American jail if he is found guilty of the drug conspiracy and money laundering charges that US law enforcement agencies have filed against him, according to the latest court documents. An order signed by US magistrate Camille Velez-Rive, who refused the 47 year old Caymanian bail on Tuesday, indicates that the maximum penalty for this offence is over ten years and Merren was a flight risk who may also “endanger the safety of another person or the community.” Merren was also remanded on the basis that so far no rebuttal to the charges has been made, despite what the judge said in a court order was “clear and convincing evidence”.

The recent revelations that Merren may have been caught up in a conspiracy to traffic more than 3000 kilos of cocaine and to launder hundreds of thousands of dollars have shocked the local community and are understood to have triggered an investigation in Cayman by US officials.

Merren is accused of wiring $200,000 from a Cayman bank to an account in Puerto Rico which was set up by an undercover US agent acting as a drug dealer, to pay for the first shipment of a proposed cocaine deal.

He is currently being detained in the Guaynabo jail in Puerto Rico and is next appearance is expected to be before a grand jury to test the evidence against him.

 

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Corruption expectations high

| 20/03/2014 | 46 Comments

(CNS): The Cayman Islands premier said that while the region has reached the point where people are now saying they will no longer tolerate corruption, everyone believes all politicians are corrupt. Alden McLaughlin said that the expectations that anyone elected to office is a thief are so high that the good politicians are still defined as thieves – but ones who share the gains. Speaking at the opening of the UCCI anti-corruption and ethics conference on Wednesday evening, the premier said things had become so bad that voters no longer expect corruption -free representation. But, he warned, they don't always see corruption for what it is unless it is being committed by supporters of political groups on the other side.

With people only seeing favours, benefits or bribes as bad when others do it, they were perpetuating the culture of tolerance, he said. After more than fourteen years in Cayman politics, the premier said he could say “without hesitation” he had seen and felt the corruption and the damage it does here too.

McLaughlin told the audience of over 250 people that the UCCI ethics conference was an important step as the region seeks to try and change this culture, not just in the political and public arena but in the business community as well. He pointed out the bribes to politicians were paid by or received from them by the private sector paying for what they want.

“We must work collectively to educate and have everyone understand how widespread and how much of a negative impact corruption has on the future of our people,” he said, as he welcomed the conference delegates and those spearheading the fight against corruption, which, he added, benefits only the few and impoverishes the many.

The governor, Helen Kilpatrick, said that good governance was a primary part of her role and it was important that public funds were kept under close scrutiny. Despite the government’s ongoing failure to produce a set of accounts that can be looked at and understood by the public, the governor said the Cayman government was aware of the need to account for public spending properly and to demonstrate value for money.

Kilpatrick said she believed the political arm of government was as keen as she was to see transparency in all public spending decisions.

She also spoke about more transparency in the financial services sector and pointed to the UK leading the way on this with its buy-in to the automatic exchange of tax information sharing and its decision in public disclosure of beneficial ownership. She said that the CIG had just finished its consultation on the issue of beneficial ownership locally, as she applied more subtle pressure about transparency, anti-corruption and promoting an ethical environment with a public register here too.

Welcoming delegates to the UCCI, she said she was pleased to see not just politicians at the conference but the practitioners here who will be taking part, as they were the ones that deliver those services and can make a stand against corruption as the region works toward building culture of integrity and transparency.

Roy Bodden the UCCI president, said it was a pleasure for UCCI to host the conference on such an important issue and to bring it to the fore, helping to make the Caribbean a better place. Bodden said that he hoped everyone would leave with commitment to fight corruption wherever they see it and at whatever cost.

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Athletics officials release CARIFTA qualifying targets

| 20/03/2014 | 0 Comments

(CNS): With the CARIFTA Games quickly approaching the Cayman Islands Athletic Association has released the qualification standards be released immediately to the public to guide potential competitors. Recently approved by the Executive Committee of the Association, once an athlete achieves the qualification standard the details will be announced. The next event is the West Bay District Track Meet being held at the John A. Cumber Primary School Playing Field on Saturday, 25 January at 9:00am.  The event will be hosted by Mustang Track Club and everyone is invited to participate. Also see registraiton form attahced.

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UK reduces long haul air tax to Caribbean

| 20/03/2014 | 0 Comments

(CNS Business): British Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, has announced a reduction in Air Passenger Duty (APD) for long haul visitors from the United Kingdom, though it will not be implemented until April 2015. The additional tax for passengers flying from a United Kingdom airport has long been criticised by Caribbean islands, which have claimed that it is detrimental to tourism to the region and that it is unfair, since it is calculated based on the location of a country’s capital. Therefore, the APD was less for passengers travelling to the US, even as far as Hawaii, than to this region. The Caribbean Tourism Organization has been rigorously lobbying for change since it was introduced in 2010. Read more on CNS Business

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CI money men arrested in US

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(CNS): The managing director of Clover Asset Management, a Cayman Islands investment management firm, along with two other men with Cayman Islands connections have been charged in the US with money laundering. The men are expected to appear in court in Virginia Friday to answer charges involving the alleged transfer of ill-gotten gains from a bank fraud in the US to the Cayman Islands via the Turks and Caicos Islands. A Canadian national who set up Clover in 2007, Eric St-Cyr was arrested earlier this week along with his lawyer, Patrick Poulin, who is based in TCI, and Joshua Van Dyke, a third Canadian national who works for Clover.

CNS has obtained copies of the court documents with the assistance of Miami-based watch-dog OffshoreAlert (posted below), which allege a detailed conspiracy in which the men agreed to launder the proceeds of a criminal enterprise on behalf of a client who was, in fact, a US law enforcement agent acting undercover.

Speculation that the alleged conspiracy was also connected to the recent arrest of Bryce Merren on drug trafficking and money laundering charges could not be confirmed. This case alleges a conspiracy to transfer the proceeds of crime from the US to Cayman via TCI, and although the figure is the same amount as that in the Merren case, there appears to be no connection at this stage.

Court documents accuse the men of soliciting clients and of hiding assets from the US government as a result of the money laundering scheme. Lulled into a set up by the US agents, the Cayman financiers were told that the proceeds they were being asked to launder were from a US bank fraud. The men then reportedly created an offshore foundation domiciled in Cayman called "Zero Exposure Inc".

The men allegedly wired $200,000 from the USA last December from a bank in Arlington, Virginia, first to the Turks and Caicos Islands and then a few days later on to Cayman, where the cash was invested.

During the process of the alleged conspiracy, which was meant to see some $2 million launder through Cayman, the court documents say that Vandyk and St Cyr told the US agents that they charged clients “more to launder criminal proceeds than to assist in tax evasion.”

According to the court documents, before going further the US agents said they wanted to see how the money could come back, and so just under $200,000 was wired back to TCI and then to Chesterfield, Virginia, in January.

A resident of Cayman for several years, St-Cry is also an amateur chef, having won the Bon Vivant contest at the 2012 Cayman Cook-off.

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