Archive for October 6th, 2014

Cops arrest over 30 for anti-social behaviour

| 06/10/2014 | 49 Comments

(CNS): A clamp down by police at the weekend on driving infractions, anti-social behaviour and petty offences resulted in more than 30 people being arrested for speeding, drunk driving, disorderly conduct and for warrants re their failure to appear in court. Superintendent Adrian Seales said that officers in the eastern districts joined forces with the K-9 unit and also carried out operations dealing with, illegal drug use and antisocial behaviour on the beach leading to one teenager being arrested for smoking ganja in public.

Police said the 19 year old man who was a resident of East End was arrested for both possession and consumption after a quantity of ganja was recovered from a vehicle. 

“It is sad to see that persons now think they can consume drugs in public and it is okay. They are wrong – persons breaking the law can look forward to more police company, especially on weekends,” said the Eastern Districts Area Commander Chief inspector Brad Ebanks.
During the clampdown which followed complaints of excessive speeding throughout the Eastern districts by motorist on weekends, especially on Sundays eight drivers were prosecuted for speeding. Police said that some people were travelling at more than twice the speed limit when they were stopped.

“Much of the traffic commute goes to the Rum Point and Kaibo areas, however we have decided to step up the intensity,” he said , of what was a broader police operation and one the RCIPS said they will be repeating over the next few weeks.

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Harris to go it alone with morning chat

| 06/10/2014 | 116 Comments

(CNS): Rooster’s long-standing talk show host, Austin Harris, has taken to the morning mike alone after his co-host, Jonathan Piercy, was dropped by the owners of Rooster, the station broadcasting the long running breakfast phone-in chat show, Crosstalk. According to the station boss, the duo appeared to be vying for the lead host spot, and as a result the format of the talk show was no longer working. With what appears to be room for only one ‘ego’, where the hosts often do much more talking than their guests or listeners calling in, Harris, who has been wearing the cans longest, won out, despite his on-going charges in the court over allegations of assault.

“After listening to show it was clear that the show no longer had a lead host and co-host,” Randy Merren confirmed Monday when Crosstalk returned to the air with Harris as sole host. “We had two lead hosts and it was not working. We feel that Austin is capable of hosting the show by himself.”

The radio boss said that they hoped that Piercy would still be available, however, as a stand-in for Harris when he is on leave.

Harris has had another difficult year following his arrest for assault causing actual bodily harm after he allegedly attacked a female friend at a social gathering in the Snug Harbour area of Seven Mile Beach in March. The talk show host denied the charges last month and is due to face trial next May.

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Ex UCCI boss looks for new lawyer in $200k theft case

| 06/10/2014 | 0 Comments

(CNS): The former president of the UCCI, who is accused of going on a $200,000 spending spree on a government credit card, is changing attorneys and has still not formally answered the charges against him. The 47-year-old, who is in poor health, appeared in court briefly on Friday to say that his attorney, James Austin-Smith, was coming off record and he would be seeking new counsel. The court heard that Syed is expected to answer the five counts of theft, three counts of obtaining a pecuniary advantage and seven counts of obtaining property by deception in November ahead of a trail set for March and will need to move quickly to find new representation.

Syed returned to Cayman from Switzerland earlier this year after he was arrested with assistance from Interpol. He volunteered to return to Cayman to answer the charges provided he was bailed in order to get the medical treatment he needs to fight cancer. He was granted bail on an electronic tag, with a surety of $400,000 and cash security of $50,000.

The arrest of the former university boss and subsequent extradition came as the result of several alleged unauthorized transactions on the university’s credit card during his time as president. With the highly publicized circumstances surrounding the investigation, the charges that were eventually laid against him included absconding from the Cayman Islands. He has been a fugitive since 2008.

Syed disappeared shortly after claiming to be extremely ill that year and having taken a salary advance to pay for medical expenses. During his first appearance the court heard that Syed had allegedly asked a colleague to wipe certain computer files clean and left for Jamaica.

At the time of leaving, he was still employed as the university’s president, though not long afterwards he resigned via phone. The credit card spending was then discovered by the auditor general. Syed is alleged to have bought Tiffany jewellery and paid for extravagant weekends away on the government credit card, running up bills of around $200,000.

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No ‘evil agents’ say crown

| 06/10/2014 | 0 Comments

(CNS): The crown prosecutor told the jury that there were no evil agents of the state urging McKeeva Bush to use his government credit cards in casinos and then lie about it, as he drew the crown's case agaisnt the former permier to a close. Bush is facing 11 counts of abusing his corporate credit card, and after some four weeks Duncan Penny QC adressed the jury Friday morning. He said that the claims Bush had made about a political witch-hunt were a distraction from his own actions as he knew he should not have been drawing cash on the government card to gamble with. He said the lies the former premier told were powerful evidence that he knew his conduct was dishonest and a breach of the trust placed in him by the people.

The crown’s lawyer stuck to his position that this was about a powerful man abusing his high office.

Penny reminded the jury that there are no witches in a court and if they focused on the evidence the jury would get it right. He said that the cash was withdrawn with gambling in mind, and for all the drama, the decision to charge Bush was not taken by the governor, Duncan Taylor, or the police commissioner but by the director of public prosecutions and the controversial emails were given to the defence by that office.

“Was there an evil agent of the state on the casino floor urging him to use the credit card and lie about it?” Penny asked rhetorically, pointing out that it was Bush alone who had made the attempted and successful cash withdrawals on dozens of occasions as he gambled away more than a quarter of a million dollars during the period in question of his own and government cash.

The lawyer pressed home that the case is about what Bush did and how he used the card, which was given to him for public benefit, for his own ends. He said no one fabricated the evidence and no one stood behind the former premier telling him to withdraw the cash on the government gold card and put it in slot machines in the early hours of the morning.

During a two hour address, in which he summed up the crown’s case against Bush, Penny emphasised the narrow issues in question and the policy regarding whether or not he could use the card. Given the email sent by the then chief financial officer, Josephine Sambula, in April 2009  which clearly stipulated that government credit cards were for official use only, Penny questioned how that could be interpreted as 'anything goes'.

Pointing to what he described as the escalating pattern of dishonest usage of the government card to supplement his own cash in his long slot machine gambling sessions, there was little doubt he was abusing the power to use the card. 

He said civil servants in his office may have been reluctant to press Bush about the card use because of his powerful position. While Sambula had drawn the cash withdrawals to the attention of her boss, the chief officer Carson Ebanks, he had waved away herconcerns and said getting the money back was the important thing. But Penny said they did not know this money was being cashed in casinos and what use it was being put to. And they could not have known then that abuse would continue and that it would escalate.

The lies too, the lawyer said, showed that Bush knew full well he should not have used his CIG card to access a line of credit in casino. This demonstrated his culpability as he had tried to conceal the real purpose those cash advances were being put to, Penny said as he invited the jury to return guilty verdicts in all eleven counts.

Having opted not to take the stand and called no witnesses, Bush’s one opportunity to present his case will come with the former premier’s QC, Geoffrey Cox’s closing argument to the jury on Monday. Cox is expected to focus heavily on the lack of a formal written policy and the conspiracy to oust Bush from office.

Following the defence statement, the judge is expected to summarize the case for the jury and direct them in accordance with the law before sending them to deliberate later this week.

Keep following CNS for the latest reports from the trial.

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Cubans report horrors of journey to Mexico

| 06/10/2014 | 36 Comments

(CNS): A group of Cuban migrants drank their own urine and blood after the engine of their homemade boat failed, leaving them adrift in the Caribbean for three weeks without food or water, according to survivors who reached the United States this week. Six passengers are missing after they tried to swim to shore, while 11 others died of dehydration. The group set off from eastern Cuba in early August, but ran into trouble about 40 miles from the Cayman Islands when the boat's motor – a Hyundai diesel car engine, attached to a homemade propeller – failed on the second day at sea.

The group was eventually rescued by Mexican fishermen 150 miles northeast of the Yucatan peninsula and were briefly detained in Mexico before being released. Their story was told to Reuters by some of the survivors.

The migrants were in a 20-foot, home-made craft, made from aluminium roofing sheets riveted together and sealed with cloth and resin. When the engine failed, the vessel drifted up the Cuban coast as the passengers tried to flag down passing ships.

"No-one stopped even though they could see we were desperate," said Mailin Perez, 30, another survivor recovering in Austin, Texas.

The passengers heaved the engine overboard to reduce weight and fashioned a makeshift sail from sheets sewn together with cord. Six of the men decided to swim for the Cuban coast clinging to inner tubes, but have not been heard from since. Brief rain showers every three or four days provided the only water, rationed out in doses by medical syringes. One woman who was six months pregnant received extra rations. Eleven passengers died and their bodies were slid overboard.

More Cubans than ever appear to be leaving Cayman’s neighbouring island but their journey to the US is becoming even more treacherous. US authorities said last month more than 16,200 Cubans arrived without visas at the border with Mexico in the past 11 months, the highest number in a decade.

Last month Cayman signed a new MOU with the Cuban authorities to repatriate any Cubans who land in Cayman. However many opt to press on with their journeys regardless of the state of their boats or their limited supplies.

The US Coast Guard has virtually shut down the shorter route through the Florida Straits, which separates Cuba and Florida by only 90 miles at its narrowest point. So the longer western route to Honduras via the Cayman Islands, which is around 675 miles, is increasingly popular as the Honduran authorities give the refugees temporary visas allowing them to head north for the United States.

Boats that can withstand the journey charge around $500 and take around 10 days to cross the sea but with boats leaving weekly many do not make it and Cuban officials blame the US policy for encouraging migrants to risk their lives. The migrants told Reuters that economic reforms in Cuba have so far failed to improve living standards and conditions are getting worse. Those seeking to leave legally were told it could take five years before their cases would be determined by consular officials.

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Case of $1M theft from security firm, adjourned

| 06/10/2014 | 0 Comments

(CNS): Patti Jane Ebanks (49), who is accused of stealing almost $1 million from a local security company, will return to court at the end of this month to answer the charges against her. Although Ebanks was expected to formally respond on Friday, her case was adjourned, the court heard, because of delays in disclosure and legal discussions. Her attorney said he expected she would be able to respond to the allegations that she stole $936,048.90 over a three year period from the Security Centre Limited on 31 October. Ebanks is also charged with money laundering, forgery and making documents without authority. She was bailed until her next appearance.

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