Archive for September 15th, 2014

Mac’s gambling revealed

| 15/09/2014 | 0 Comments

(CNS): The former Cayman Islands premier, McKeeva Bush, spent many hours and hundreds of thousands of dollars gambling on slot machines during overseas business trips while he was the country's leader. The crown revealed the extent of Bush's gambling as the corruption case against him opened in Grand Court Monday. Prosecuting counsel told the jury that from the thousands of dollars he fed into the slots between July 2009 and April 2010, some of that cash came from the public purse as an advance on his government credit card. Duncan Penny, QC, said the crown's case was a “simple story of a powerful man abusing his high office” for his own benefit. He said Bush breached the public’s trust to secure a line of credit from government coffers to help cover the costs of his gambling at the casinos where he played during his travels.

Describing Bush’s gambling and use of the government card as an "investment scheme" for his own enrichment as he attempted to win, the lawyer said that the former premier could only access this extra line of credit from the public purse because of his government role.

As he presented the crown’s case against Bush and the alleged abuse of his government card to the jury, Penny outlined a pattern of behaviour in which the former premier repeatedly withdrew cash on his own personal cards, and then when those lines of credit ran out as a result of daily limits, he would turn to the government card for more cash. Bush left a paper trail of his activities not only with his own credit cards and his government-issued card, but also as a result of his casino loyalty cards.

The prosecutor said Bush used his government credit card interchangeably with his own cards in a frenzied attempt to get the cash he needed to keep gambling. 

“He used his government card as an additional weapon in his gambling armoury,” Penny told the jury, as he offered up documents showing dozens of cash withdrawals and failed attempts to get money at casinos in Florida, the Bahamas and Vegas on a selection of trips between July 2009 and April 2010.

The prosecutor said that the former premier, now leader of the opposition, also lied about his conduct and tried to disguise the cash withdrawals for gambling as legitimate expenses to pay for security when travelling. 

Listing dozens of cash withdrawals, as well as even more failed attempts to get cash from casinos during a Vegas trip, on both his own and his government-issued card, the prosecutor told the jury that it was up to them to decide if the frequent and “frantic withdrawals of huge sums of cash” in the early morning hours was to help cover the cost of gambling or to pay unnamed security guards.

The prosecutor, who is representing the Cayman Islands’ director of public prosecutions, said that the former premier was well aware that what he was doing was wrong.

In the early days, the lawyer said, Bush had paid back the cash withdrawals he had made from the casinos relatively quickly. He had told civil servants dealing with the credit card management and statements that certain amounts were for personal use and wrote the cheques.

However, as time went on and the amounts he began to access from casinos increased, as well, according to the casino paper trail, his losses, he fell back on paying off his personal tabs.

Penny told the jury that Bush knew the cards were meant only for covering legitimate government expenses as he was present at the 2001 budget meeting of Finance Committee when a motion was passed to provide credit cards for ministers and civil servants. Bush had also signed memos regarding their use when issued with his cards each time he was elected to office.

During the times when the former premier was using his government and personal cards to access cash from either ATMS or at the cashier cages on the casino floors in question, records from his casino loyalty cards indicated he was playing the slot machines. As a result, Bush left a paper trail of gambling and a paper trail of cash withdrawals that, according to the crown’s case, infer that the money he took went into the slot machines and nothing to do with legitimate government expenditure.

Although Bush is facing charges that amount to withdrawals on the government credit card of a little under $50,000, there were also many, many more unsuccessful transactions that all came within minutes of each other until he was able to access money.

The crown prosecutor said the cards Bush used were frequently declined, often as a result of his daily cash limit being exceeded, as he would begin by attempting to get two or even three thousand dollars and then keep trying until the card cleared a transaction. During the afternoons, evenings and into the small hours of the morning Bush was, according to the paper trail, frequently playing the slots using significant sums of his own money as well as the government card on the trips he took for business and pleasure.

On just one short weekend business trip to Miami, Penny said, Bush spent over $18,000 in slot machines and some 17 hours playing. But as time went on his hours at the machines grew, as did the cash amounts he took out and lost. By the time Bush was in Vegas in February 2010 he was gambling through the night and losing thousands and thousands of dollars, according to the loyalty card records.

Penny’s opening of the case against Bush continues in Grand Court One on Tuesday in a trial expected to last around four weeks. Justice Michael Mettyear, a visiting UK judge, is presiding over the case with a jury of four women and three men. Duncan Penny, QC, is instructed by the DPP’s office and Geoffrey Cox, QC, is representing Bush.

The former premier faces six counts of misconduct in public office under the common law and five counts of breach of trust under the anti-corruption law. All counts relate to Bush using ATMs or casino cashiers to withdraw money to the tune of just under $50,000 on his government credit card while traveling overseas.

Bush has emphatically denied all charges and accused the crown of pursuing a politically motivated case against him on behalf of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

Check back to CNS throughout the next month for full coverage on the Bush trial.

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Sanchez is murder suspect

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(CNS): The man accused of murdering Special Olympian Solomon Webster, who was gunned down in West Bay just over one week ago, was remanded in custody following his appearance in court Monday. Jose Sanchez (27) from West Bay was represented in his short appearance by defence attorney Guy Dilliway-Parry as his case was transmitted to the Grand Court for a mention on 26 September. Sanchez was also charged with an outstanding and unrelated charge of assault but the local man has not yet entered any pleas relating to the allegations. He is accused of shooting Solomon in the leg on the evening of Sunday 7 September. Shot in the groin the bullet hit a major artery and Webster died as a result of the wound.

A second man has also been charged with accessory after the fact to both murder and manslaughter. David Lauer (60), who is also from West Bay, is believed to have assisted Sanchez to make his escape after what turned out to be the fatal shooting.

Despite having charged two suspects, police are continuing their enquiries and are still appealing for witnesses. The RCIPS organised a walk through of the crime scene in Daisy Lane on Sunday night in an attempt to jog the memories of people in the area.

Police are appealing for anyone that could have any information about the killing who has not yet spoken to the police to contact the Incident Room at 649-3057 or George Town Police Station on 949-4222 or the RCIPS’ tip-line 949-7777 or Crime Stoppers 800-8477 (TIPS).

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Cops nab gas station robber

| 15/09/2014 | 0 Comments

(CNS): A 35-year-old man has been arrested and charged in connection with a robbery at a George Town gas station early Saturday morning. The man reportedly entered the Esso “On the Run” gas station at the junction of Boilers Road and Walkers Road at about 1:30 am on 13 September armed with a machete. Having approached one of the cashiers, the robber demanded cash as he banged the machete on the counter. The cashier opened the till and the suspect removed just over CI$800 and about US$24  in cash. He then fled on foot. Officers were sent to the scene and soon after arrested the suspect. Most of the cash was recovered, police said, and no one was physically injured. The alleged robber was set to appear in court Monday.

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‘Chicken Adoptions’ raise $1k for National Trust

| 15/09/2014 | 0 Comments

(CNS): Combining a marketing strategy with a fundraising effort for the National Trust, Massive Media Ltd raised $1000 with their recent Chicken Foundation campaign. The local creative agency created the – a satirical website fundraiser that invited people to name and ‘adopt’ one of the wild chickens featured on an online gallery. Each time a chicken was named or the website shared on social media Massive Media Ltd committed to making a donation to the National Trust. (Left: David Kirkaldy and Rich Dyer of Massive Media Ltd with Marketing Coordinator Danielle Watler of the National Trust)

“We were really happy with the local response to the campaign and we heard from people all over the island who had got a kick out of it and helped us reach our donation goal,” explained Massive Media’s David Kirkaldy. “We are already dreaming up our next campaign so stay tuned to Massive Media to see what we come up with next!”

“We are very grateful to Massive Media for the campaign. Not only have they given the Trust a valuable cash donation but we have also seen it raise great awareness for the charity and the work we do,” said Christina Pineda, Executive Director of the National Trust for the Cayman Islands.

The project was also supported by local video production company, CML TV, who created the teaser campaign video free of charge.

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McLean withdraws OMOV motion

| 15/09/2014 | 4 Comments

(CNS): Despite concerns that the government motion committing the PPM administration to establish an electoral boundary commission in order to implement introduce one man, one vote in single member constituencies before the next election does not go far enough, Arden McLean withdrew his own private member's motion on the issue Friday. In a day dealing with a laundry list of private member's motions covering a catalogue of issues, from inequity in the immigration law to home invasions, the member for East End pulled his motion, which had been filed several months earlier, saying that he would, despite his mistrust, wait and see what government did.

McLean had stated in the debate last week on the government motion, which passed through the Legislative Assembly without his support, that he had genuine concerns that the government had a hidden agenda. He pointed to a failure to introduce a specific time line, the fact that it was waiting on the boundary commission before amending the actual law, and above all, that the government would not solidify the number of seats, leaving it open to increase the numbers to nineteen via the back door of the commission.

Nevertheless, despite his publicly declared mistrust of his former party colleague, Premier Alden McLaughlin, when it comes to his political position on issues, McLean said that he was willing to wait and hoped he would “be pleasantly surprised". He added that he would hold off to see if government would do what it had promised and introduce OMOV in 18 SMCs long before the country goes to the polls in 2017. However, the independent member warned government that withdrawing the motion did not mean it could not come back again.

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Cop caught parking in disabled slot, again

| 15/09/2014 | 27 Comments

(CNS): Another police officer has been caught ‘red handed’ in a blue spot (reserved for people who are disabled) parking bay at Camana Bay. According to the person who took the picture, the car was captured on film on 9 September in the covered parking area at the shopping centre in one of the disabled slots. With no blue lights flashing it appears that cop in question was not making an emergency stop.

This is by no means the first time that police cars have been caught illegally parked when officers are not making emergency calls. Organisers of the Blue Spot Campaign, which tries to keep local drivers stay out of disabled spots leaving them clear for those who need them, are livid.

The picture was forwarded to the police commissioner but so far the RCIPS has made no comment on this latest infraction by one of their officers. 

Members of the Blue Spot Campaign said it was “a disgrace” but they had no expectations that the police would do anything about this on-going issue. A spokesperson told CNS that there would come a point when the “people would be pushed too far” when it comes to the authorities disregarding the law while expecting the public to toe the line.

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Shame only sanction for COs

| 15/09/2014 | 76 Comments

(CNS):The only consequence against civil service bosses who fail to meet their obligations under the Public Management and Finance Law is a red face, the financial secretary has stated. The Cayman Islands Government has been unable to produce a consolidated set of accounts and report on how public cash has been spent for more than ten years due to a catalogue of deficiencies in the government system and an inability of CS bosses to follow the PMFL and the Public Service Management Law. However, there are no real sanctions against those at the top who are responsible for the failures.

Appearing as a witness before the Public Accounts Committee earlier this month as they examined a series of auditor general reports on good governance, Kenneth Jefferson, who is now also the chief officer in the finance ministry, said that the consequences for not getting it right was the embarrassment top managers faced over such failures.

Winston Connolly, the C4C’s government backbencher for George Town and a member of the committee, asked what was the accountability or the penalties handed out for chief officers or financial officers who do not meet their obligations under the law. In response Jefferson said that to his knowledge there were no “specified penalties” for those who fail to do their jobs.

“I can’t say to the committee that at the moment that there is a defined penalty for non-compliance,” he said. “The penalty would come in the form of embarrassment to the minister, the chief officer when it is publicly known that there is non-compliance. That is the penalty.”

He added that the deputy governor, who is taking the leadership role when it comes to the performance of chief officers, “would take a stern look” and that questions would be asked regarding their performance, but he said there was no other consequences.

Connolly pressed the issue about poor performance, accountability and the waste of public money because of bad management and poor decisions. Michael Nixon, the deputy financial secretary, said people falling short in their jobs would be dealt with under the PSML, which governs the performance of civil servants, including those at the top as well as in the lower ranks of the public sector.

However, the former PAC chair, the independent member for North Side, Ezzard Miller, said that there are sanctions under the Public Management and Finance Law. When he was head of the parliamentary oversight committee that is designed to probe public finances and government’s adherence to the law, he said he believed the law provided consequences.

Miller had approached the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions and the attorney general to press that law and seek to take legal action against those responsible for not meeting the requirements under the PMFL but he said his request was dismissed.

During the PAC meeting on 3 September, Jefferson said only one government entity missed the 31 August deadline to submit their annual reports to the Office ofthe Auditor General. While this claim has been made for several years, OAG reports indicate that the quality of those accounts still falls far short of international standards and prevents a full set of consolidate accounts to be produced.

Nevertheless, Jefferson stated that this was the year that government would produce not just financial statements but the annual report explaining how government spent the half billion dollars it collects from the community. Government has not produced an annual report since the PMFL was implemented in2004.

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