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Gag order imposed in TCI corruption case

| 10/06/2014 | 0 Comments

(CNS): A visiting judge has imposed a gag order on a case in the Turks and Caicos courts involving the UK’s Special Investigation and Prosecution Team (SIPT). The case against two high-profile TCI lawyers facing prosecution as part of the on-going corruption case in the overseas territory that sprang from an enquiry led by Sir Robin Auld is being kept tightly under wraps. Although charges against the politicians, including the islands’ former premier, Michael Misick and local businessmen which appear to be linked have been widely publicized the charges against Timothy Patrick O'Sullivan (57) from Miller, Simons, O'Sullivan and Gordon William Kerr (52) of the law firm Misick and Stanbrook are being kept secret.

According to local media reports in the TCI Sir James Bruce Robertson, a New Zealand Judge who was brought in specially to hear the case, has said the media can only print "the identity of the parties, the name of the judge and of counsel representing the parties and the date of any future hearings" and has threatened some serious penalties for any breach.
Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of the Turks and Caicos SUN newspaper Hayden Boyce said it was ironic that in the other high-profile cases involving the former politicians and lawyers, there have been no restrictions on reporting their charges. 

"The SIPT has a website that lists the names of a number of individuals, their charges and the background to those charges. The SIPT and the Governor's office have routinely sent out press releases to local, regional and international media houses listing charges against those said individuals. What is so difference about this particular case?"

Boyce has also raised concerns that the judge’s order signalled a system of “apartheid” in TCI adding that he will be making an application to the Supreme Court to vary or discharge the court order.

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Report of NSA spying unnerves wider Caribbean

| 21/05/2014 | 13 Comments

(CNS): A story in the specialist media publication The Intercept, created to report on the documents leaked by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, about NSA spying on the Bahamas telephone network has unnerved the wider region and fuelled existing concerns about the covert operations of the region’s mighty neighbour. According to the report, Snowden’s documents reveal that the US authorities have been engaged in a mass surveillance operation in which they are listening to virtually all mobile calls coming in and out of the islands. The local government has described the allegations as “startling”.

The National Security Agency recorded the audio of the calls in a top secret phone surveillance, which was reportedly implemented without the knowledge or consent of The Bahamas government, even though the islands do not present a terrorism or national security threat to the US by its own admission. The State Department has described The Bahamas as a “stable democracy that shares democratic principles, personal freedoms, and rule of law with the United States" and said in its own report about the country, that "there is little to no threat facing Americans from domestic (Bahamian) terrorism, war, or civil unrest.” 

However, it appears that the US used its relationship with the country regarding the issue of drug trafficking to engage in the covert snooping. Spies have been listening in to calls looking for ammunition in the so-called “war on drugs” and this has prompted the question about where else the US is eavesdropping illegally in the region.

The Bahamas government said it was looking for some explanation or comment from the US regarding the authenticity of the allegations.

“The news that there is spying and the collecting of the audio of mobile phone calls of Bahamians by agencies of another country is clearly startling,” the Bahamian Foreign Ministry said in the statement. “The facts must be determined. Otherwise, the behaviour described would be clearly illegal and on the face of it an abuse of powers. It would also represent a great moral failing on the part of its perpetrators, in addition to illegality which challenges the founding principles of the rule of law. It would also be an invasion of the privacy of the individual, a cherished democratic value and a legal right.”

According to media reports, NSA has not denied the allegations and has claimed that by working “with other nations, under specific and regulated conditions, mutually strengthens the security of all.” However, it is clear that in this case the US authorities were not ‘working with’ the Bahmas government, as they had no clue.

“Every day, NSA provides valuable intelligence on issues of concern to all Americans – such as international terrorism, cybercrime, international narcotics trafficking, and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction,” NSA said. “NSA’s efforts are focused on ensuring the protection of the national security of the United States, its citizens, and our allies through the pursuit of valid foreign intelligence targets.”

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Bermuda premier resigns in face of political scandal

| 20/05/2014 | 12 Comments

(CNS): The premier of Bermuda, Craig Cannonier, resigned from office Monday night following a political scandal over his alleged dealings with US businessman and top Democratic fundraiser, Nathan Landow. Cannonier’s resignation came after days of speculation over his future as the islands’ leader  after Landow admitted that he and a group of real estate developers, builders and businessmen from Washington DC contributed some $300,000 to Cannonier’s party, the One Bermuda Alliance, during the 2012 election campaign via a group called the Bermuda Political Action Club. Although Landow has denied any quid pro quo in his dealings with Cannonier, the Bermuda premier said there was a failure to be transparent.

Cannonier (51) was sworn in as the country’s premier in December 2012. Having served as leader for just 17 months, this is the shortest term in Bermuda’s history, according to local and international media reports .

In a statement Cannonier said, “Nothing illegal was done, but I accept there was a failure over time to be completely transparent. This is a fundamental component of good governance and a core principle upon which the One Bermuda Alliance was founded."

Accepting responsibility, he added that he was “very disappointed with the ways things have turned out” but was quick to ensure his political colleagues were blameless. "In saying that, I want to make one thing completely clear: No Cabinet colleagues have done anything wrong in this or any other matter. As the leader, I accept responsibility."

Governor George Fergusson said he had accepted Cannonier’s resignation Monday and that Deputy Premier Michael H Dunkley would carry out the role of acting premier on an interim basis. Cannonier has not resigned his seat and well remain in the country's parliament.

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Wreck off coast of Haiti may be Columbus’s flag ship

| 18/05/2014 | 24 Comments

(CNS): As Cayman celebrates Discovery Day, some five centuries after Christopher Columbus allegedly spotted the islands archaeologists believe they may have identified the explorer’s flagship, the Santa Maria. Wrecked in the Caribbean, investigators think the vessel’s long-lost remains are lying at the bottom of the sea off the north coast of Haiti. The experts say that the geographical, underwater topography and archaeological evidence strongly suggests that this wreck is Columbus’ famous flagship, following a recent reconnaissance expedition to the site.The wreck is one that archaeologists have known about for some time but it was other discoveries that have led them to believe that it could very well be the remains of the Santa Maria.

Other archaeologists have suggested the probable location of Columbus’ fort relatively nearby. Armed with information about the fort, one of the USA’s topunderwater archaeological investigators, Barry Clifford was able to use data in Christopher Columbus’ diary to work out where the wreck should be.

Clifford, known for discovering a pirate ship off Cape Cod in 1984, said another factor is the location of the wreckage, in about 15 feet of water near where the crew of the Santa Maria is thought to have built a coastal settlement for crew members of the ship who were left behind after the sinking.

"The circumstantial evidence is overwhelming," Clifford said. He said that he and his son, Brandon, first explored the site and took photos in 2003. They decided to publicize their findings after a follow-up dive and examination of the photos led them to conclude they may have found the Santa Maria.

Clifford, whose exploration of the site is being backed by the History Channel, says he has asked the Haitian government to preserve the area around the wreck. "The next step is a careful, thorough and timely excavation," he said. The Haitian government, he added, had been very helpful and experts were continuing the work to carry out a detailed archaeological excavation of the wreck. So far the team has carried out purely non-invasive survey work at the site – measuring and photographing it.

Salim Succar, a special adviser to Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe, said the government will do "all that is needed" to protect the site "while deciding on the best options to feature this discovery."

If the ship is the Santa Maria, it would be the oldest known European shipwreck in the so-called New World and a find of major archaeological significance. But scientists say it's far too early to make any such declaration especially since there is likely to be very little left of the vessel. The ship sank slowly in 1492 and the crew had time to strip it and remove valuable items that would help document the identity of the vessel.

Much, if not all, of the ship's timbers would have broken down or been cosumed by a species of wood-consuming mollusc found in the tropical waters — if it hadn't been carted away by crew members who were left behind and never heard from again.

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UK court battle opens over Marley’s songs

| 14/05/2014 | 2 Comments

(CNS): The High Court in London began hearing arguments Tuesday, in a copyright dispute over 13 songs by the late Jamaican reggae icon Bob Marley. The publisher Cayman Music is attempting to retrieve the rights to the songs, among them No Woman, No Cry. It claims they were not included when it sold some of its rights in 1992 to Chris Blackwell’s Blue Mountain Music, as Bob Marley had penned them under other people's names. But Blue Mountain says the songs were covered under the transfer deal. The case is centred on an agreement the two companies signed in 1992, 11 years after the music star died of cancer.

According to Music-News.com this is a landmark trial and Cayman is represented by Hugo Cuddigan the man who retrieved the rights to 'A Whiter Shade of Pale' for Matthew Fisher. Chris Blackwell's company is represented by eminent music barrister Sir Ian Mill QC..

Cayman, a music company, which was created by the late Danny Sims, was the original, long-standing publishers of Bob Marley and represented his catalogue from 1967 to late 1976. The defendants are the then publishing arm of Island Records and sometime publisher of various Bob Marley titles, from the mid 1970s to later in his career. Both publishers retain some of Bob Marley's work to the present day. Bob Marley returned to ex-manager Sims prior to his death.

The songs under dispute include Crazy Baldhead; Johnny Was; Natty Dread; No Woman No Cry; Positive Vibration; Rastaman Vibration; Rat Race; Rebel Music (Road Block); So Jah Seh; Them Belly Full; Want More; War; Who The Cap Fit.

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Misick claims political persecution by British

| 12/05/2014 | 12 Comments

(CNS): The former premier of the Turks and Caicos Islands, Michael Misick, has been speaking out about his legal troubles and accused the British of seeking a conviction against him at all costs for political reasons. Speaking to the local television news network SunTV, he said that he had fled to Brazil to seek political asylum because he believed the UK investigators were more interested in political persecution against him than in any genuine investigation. He accused them of going to great lengths, changing the laws to make their chances of getting convictions greater. He also accused the UK’s interim government of putting the islands' economy in a worse situation than when he left office, wiping out gains that he claimed had been made. 

He expressed his concerns about how many British people were in places of high office and had also taken over the local businesses, pushing local people out of the commercial environment. He said there had been a systematic destruction of the local middle class by the UK.

Misick is facing a number of corruption charges relating to a massive and costly investigation that has been undertaken by the UK after the elected local government was suspended and British rule re-imposed in the territory. An enquiry uncovered what it said was systemic and serious corruption throughout the public and private sectors.

See full video interview here

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Misick hires leading UK lawyer in corruption case

| 01/05/2014 | 19 Comments

(CNS): Jamaican born UK attorney Courtenay Griffiths, QC, who has represented, among other controversial clients, the former Liberian warlord Charles Taylor, has been hired by the former premier of the Turks and Caicos Islands to defend him against the charges he faces in connection with the controversial UK corruption investigation. Michael Misick, who was extradited back to his home country in January after he was arrested in Brazil and held in jail there more than a year, was due to stand trial in July. However, one of Griffiths’ first moves was to making an application to postpone the trial as he said the special investigators and other defendants have had years to prepare their case.

In order to properly represent Misick, he told TCI media, it is only fair he gets more time to put the case together and that there is a proper democratic resolution to the whole investigation.

Griffiths and Misick know each other as they met in London when the former premier was at law school. Griffiths has stated in the past that he "relishes defending clients"regarded by others as indefensible.

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Heartbleed Bug:Public urged to reset all passwords

| 09/04/2014 | 7 Comments

(BBC): Several tech firms are urging people to change all their passwords after the discovery of a major security flaw. The Yahoo blogging platform Tumblr has advised the public to "change your passwords everywhere – especially your high-security services like email, file storage and banking". Security advisers have given similar warnings about the Heartbleed Bug. It follows news that a product used to safeguard data could be compromised to allow eavesdropping. OpenSSL is a popular cryptographic library used to digitally scramble sensitive data as it passes to and from computer servers so that only the service provider and the intended recipients can make sense of it.

If an organisation employs OpenSSL, users see a padlock icon in their web browser – although this can also be triggered by rival products. Those affected include Canada's tax collecting agency, which halted online services "to safeguard the integrity of the information we hold". Google Security and Codenomicon – a Finnish security company – revealed on Monday that a flaw had existed in OpenSSL for more than two years that could be used to expose the secret keys that identify service providers employing the code.

They said that if attackers made copies of these keys they could steal the names and passwords of people using the services, as well as take copies of their data and set up spoof sites that would appear legitimate because they used the stolen credentials.

Other security experts have been shocked by the revelation "Catastrophic is the right word. On the scale of one to 10, this is an 11,” said Bruce Schneier.

Go to full BBC article
 

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US created ‘Cuban Twitter’ to stir unrest

| 03/04/2014 | 0 Comments

(BBC): The US created a text-message social network designed to foment unrest in Cuba, according to an investigation by the Associated Press news agency. ZunZuneo, dubbed a "Cuban Twitter", had 40,000 subscribers at its height in a country with limited web access. The project reportedly lasted from 2009-12 when the grant money ran out. The US is said to have concealed its links to the network through a series of shell companies and by funnelling messages through other countries. The BBC's Sarah Rainsford in the Cuban capital of Havana says there is a thirst for information on the island, which has no independent media. There has been no official Cuban government reaction to the story.

The scheme was reportedly operated by the US Agency for International Development (USAID), a federal international development organisation run under the aegis of the Department of State.

Go to full article

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Tax dodging strip club owner keeps Cayman condo

| 22/03/2014 | 14 Comments

(CNS): The owner of two strip clubs in Wisconsin who tried to hide $240,000 from the IRS to buy a property in the Cayman Islands has evaded jail and got to keep his condo because, a court heard, of his efforts to pay back to the IRS the money he tried to hide here.  Dale Trostorff, 60, of Milwaukee pleaded guilty to "structuring", which is breaking up bank deposits to avoid transaction reports to the Internal Revenue Service, and sentenced Friday to two years of probation, with six months on home lock-down and fined$10,000.

According to court records, U.S. District Judge Lynn Adelman said that, "Cheating on taxes is extremely serious. It's stealing from the public," adding that Trostorff could have gone to prison were it not because of his "extraordinary" effort to pay the government in order to prevent them from seizing his Grand Cayman condo. He also agreed to re-file taxes for three years .

Trostorff made 30 deposits from his strip club takings into a half-dozen accounts in 2009, all below the $10,000 threshold that triggers a currency transaction report. He opened an account at a bank in Grand Cayman and used the cash for a condo.

 

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