Archive for August 26th, 2008

CAL cleared in near-miss incident

| 26/08/2008 | 0 Comments

(CNS): Cayman Airways Limited (CAL) say that a report by the US National Transport and Safety Board (NTSB) into an incident on 5 July involving a CAL jet at JFK International Airport supports what was previously stated by CAL, in that its pilots did everything according to procedure.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) defines a near midair collision as an incident in which aircraft come within less than 500 feet of each other or a report is received from a pilot or a flight crewmember stating that a collision hazard existed between two or more aircrafts. The report of the NTSB states this incident “did not meet thiscriterion and the flight crews did not submit NMAC reports.”

Air traffic controllers said at the time the planes came within 100 feet vertically and there was no observable distance horizontally between them, and air traffic recording of the incident the controller asks one pilot to make a hard left, the other a hard right to avoid a collision.

Barrett Byrnes, National Air Traffic Controllers Association spokesman, said Cayman Airways Flight 792 pulled up at the last minute instead of landing and just missed Chile Flight 533. Byrnes said, “To have 100 feet of separation and no lateral separation – its a very dangerous procedure."

At the time, the Cayman flight was executing a routine "go around" — an aborted landing, usually ordered by the control tower during periods of heavy congestion — while the Chilean plane was departing from a nearby runway.

According to CAL, their jet was on the VOR approach to runway 22L (the proper track to the airport) and in the correct geographical location to land. At this point the controllers have the sole responsibility for separation.

Charles Clifford, Minister responsible for the national airline, stated in the CAL release, “Now that the NTSB has concluded its investigation I feel it appropriate to publicly comment on the incident. I am pleased the official report is supportive of Cayman Airways and the actions of our crew. The pilots and staff at CAL have provided professional service to these islands for 40 years and safety remains their top priority. I am happy that this matter is now closed.”


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No crime over Turtle Farm

| 26/08/2008 | 0 Comments

(CNS): After more than a year long investigation, the Financial Crimes Unit (FCU) of the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service (RCIPS) has said that there is no evidence of a criminal offence surrounding the financial arrangements for the redevelopment of the Turtle Farm. Superintendent Mike Needham told the press that after a thorough investigation by his team there was nothing to substantiate a crime.

Speaking at a special press briefing at RCIPS headquarters this morning (Tuesday 26 August) David George, the Acting Police Commissioner, explained that the investigation into the financing of the Boatswain Beach Tourist Attraction and the Cayman Islands Turtle Farm would not lead to any further action by the police.

“After a full and protracted investigation, which has included full cooperation and advice from our legal department and from independent counsel in the UK, the decision had been made that there is no evidence that would support the institution of criminal charges in this matter,” the Commissioner said, adding the investigation was now closed from a police perspective.

Needham explained that the enquiry began in June 2007 following the submission of a report from the Auditor General’s office which had been presented to the Legislative Assembly.

“The terms of reference given were to establish whether or not any criminal offences were identified and had been committed by any person or persons involved in this project,” said Needham. “The FCU examined a large number of documents, financial transactions and accounting records. Officers travelled to Canada to conduct enquiries and interview a person involved in the financial arrangement of this project.”

Local interviews with what Needham described as all the key players were also conducted locally. Reports were submitted to the Legal Department along the way and independent advice sought as the enquiry progressed, and Needham added that the FCU had conducted a full and professional enquiry.

Needham said that the independent Senior Queens Counsel from Legal Chambers in London agreed that there was no evidence to warrant a prosecution. Both he and George told the press that there would be no recommendations and it was no longer a matter for the police. Needham noted that for a crime to have been committed the police need to prove dishonesty, and during the investigation, which he insisted was not hindered in any way, he had concluded that no criminal act had taken place.

Speaking in the wake of the police announcement, Dan Duguay, the Auditor General, said he was pleased that the police had concluded their investigation and he respected that the FCU had found no evidence of a crime. He added, however, that he stood by his earlier comments that there had been a wanton disregard for public funds during the financing of the project which he agreed was not necessarily a criminal offence.

“I certainly sent the report to FCU because I believed there was the potential for a crime but wasting public funds is not a crime and I have never said it was. They have clearly found no evidence of a criminal act,” said Duguay. He drew attention to what had raised his suspicions and pointed to the area in his report that indicated some $600,000 had been paid to financial advisers. He said he had questioned these fees because he and his team of auditors were unable to establish any work of substance to justify the sum.

 “The payment up front of excessive fees for introductions, advisory roles or facilitators in any government project would always be a red flag to a public auditor,” he said. “I have never been given any indication from anywhere that the content of the report was wrong.”

Duguay said that his office and the police look at these things from different perspectives, and explained that when he sees such incredible disregard for public money it is logical to suspect that there might be a criminal motivation, but that was clearly not proven in this case.



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Collect Passports Now!

| 26/08/2008 | 0 Comments

(CNS): The Passport and Corporate Services Office (PCSO) is reminding the public to pick up travel documents that are ready for collection, as soon as possible. PCSO head, Janice McLean said people with documents that have been processed by the Passport Office and are ready or have passed the due date for collection should pick them up now.

The Passport Office is open weekdays 9:00 am to 3:00pm. The Portfolio of Internal and External Affairs recently reminded residents to take personal responsibility for key aspects of their hurricane preparations. “All persons are reminded that they should check their travel documents now to ensure that they are in order, Deputy Chief Secretary in the Portfolio of Internal and External Affairs,” Donovan Ebanks said in a government release.

He explained that advance preparations are important for all, particularly if decisions are made to leave the Islands due to hurricane conditions. It is critical to remember that travel documents cannot be issued if weather conditions dictate the closure of government offices, including the Passport Office.

Passports and other documents such as birth and marriage certificates, naturalisation and registration papers, Caymanian status and permanent residence certificates, should be kept together in waterproof bags or other containers and stored in a secure place which is easily accessible in emergency situations, Mr. Ebanks said.

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CAL prepares for Gustav

| 26/08/2008 | 0 Comments

(CNS): Cayman Airways has announced that it will publish a new schedule and special rates if and when a hurricane warning is issued for the Cayman Islands. Track forecasts for Hurricane Gustav now indicate that the Cayman Islands could be facing a category 3 hurricane by Friday with the Sister Islands most adversely affected.

According to CAL, change fees/penalties are being waived for all passengers travelling to or from any Cayman Airways gateway during 26 – 31 August. Only two changes per ticket are permitted. For those customers who decide to cancel their reservations, a credit voucher for the full value of the ticket may be issued. This must be issued before departure of original travel date. The voucher is good for travel only on Cayman Airways and is valid for a year from the date of issuance.

Cayman Airways will publish an alternate flight schedule that will replace the current schedule at the time a hurricane warning is issued for the Cayman Islands. The airline’s primary objective will be to transport people off of Grand Cayman (and between the Sister Islands) to South Florida.

The one-way Hurricane fares for such a schedule will be US$250.00 (including taxes) for Grand Cayman to South Florida and US$75.00 (including taxes) between Grand Cayman and the Sister Islands. Passengers will be able to book on these flights using all normal means including Cayman Airways’ website, reservations call centre and ticket office and also through other travel agents. Passengers are strongly encouraged to use Web Check-in, now available at

Passengers are asked to ensure that all travel documents are in order, including visas, re-entry stamps and all other immigration requirements. Due to the uncertainty of the weather situation surrounding Hurricane Gustav, for the latest and most accurate flight information passengers are advised to check the Cayman Airways website or with the Cayman Airways Reservations Department at 949-2311.


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Economist calls for tax havensto be closed down

| 26/08/2008 | 2 Comments

(CNS): Continuing the chorus of international criticisms of offshore banking, Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz has called for an end to tax havens in a video interview with the Tax Justice Network-USA.

Stiglitz, a former Senior Vice President and Chief Economist of the World Bank who is known for his critical view of free-market economics, pounded on tax shelters in the interview, particularly the Cayman Islands, accusing them of enabling money laundering, drug trafficking, corruption, and even terrorism.

With a notable lapse in his knowledge ofthe geography and history of these islands, he said, “It was so clear that the reason there is 500 billion dollars is in the Cayman Islands is not because the Cayman Islands provides a better climate for banking than New York City. They might be able to grow better sugar canes in the Cayman Islands but…why is it better for banks? There is clearly one reason why banking goes on in the Cayman Islands – because it is a place where people can avoid taxes, regulations of all kinds. So the question is, why do we pass regulations to stop certain behaviour but we clearly condone, allow for these tax havens to continue.”

Stiglitz claimed, “Secret tax havens … are bad for developing countries, bad for money laundering, drugs corruption – bad in every dimension.”

He recalled that after he gave a lecture in an unnamed tax haven, “A couple of bankers came up to me a little bit sheepish and said, ‘We’re not as bad as you seem to think we are. We don’t do bank secrecy for corruption, drugs – all the nefarious things you accuse us of. We only do tax evasion.’”

He noted that the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OEDC) had drawn up a convention to reduce bank secrecy but that the Bush administration had vetoed it in 2001.

“In a way, the timing could not have been worse because we all know what happened in September of 2001,” he said, maintaining that tax havens also helped terrorists. Since then, the Bush administration had shown that it is possible to stop bank secrecy but that it had only been used for terrorism and North Korea, he said.

“All the united States would have to say is that no American bank can do business with any bank that operates in any jurisdiction that doesn’t subscribe to these basic transparency codes – these basic codes of conduct…for appropriate banking behaviour.”

Stiglitz said that if tax havens could not deal with the US and other G7 countries they would not be able to function as banks and their viability would be greatly undermined.

He asked the question, “How do we do something about this problem which I think costs all of our society in so many ways so much and benefit so few?”


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Hurricane Gustav rolls on

| 26/08/2008 | 0 Comments

(CNS):  As predicted Gustav reached hurricane status this morning and could become a Category 2 hurricane later today. Cayman Islands National Weather Service and Hazard Management said it is closely monitoring Gustav and  residents should stay tuned to the media for updates. With a change in Gustav’s original path Cayman is now in its sights.

At 8 a.m. Eastern the National Hurricane Centre in Miami said maximum sustained winds were near 90 miles-per-hour with higher gusts and the hurricane was centred about 75 miles south-southeast of Port-au-Prince and 265 miles Southeast of Guantanamo, Cuba. Gustav was moving toward the northwest near 9 miles-per-hour and the centre noted that interests such as Cayman such closely monitor the path of the hurricane.

Gustav is expected to move in a west to northwest direction and after hitting Haiti later today will head towards Cuba and Jamaica. With plenty of very warm water and low amounts of wind shear, Hurricane Gustav will rapidly intensify into a Category Three storm by the weekend forecasters say.

The seventh storm of the 2008 Atlantic season, Gustav is the third hurricane and comes some ten days after Haiti was hit by Tropical Storm Fay. The Haitian government urged its population to take precautions and appealed for international help to deal with the storm’s aftermath, which left about 47 people dead or missing on the impoverished island.

On Monday, Carnival Cruise Lines diverted one of its ships to a Mexican port instead of Montego Bay, Jamaica, to avoid the storm and other liners are said to be closely tracking its path.

The commander of the Guantanamo military base in Cuba, where the US still holds some 265 men, ordered U.S. military personnel to prepare for a hit late Tuesday or early Wednesday.

Dominican authorities also issued warnings and advised small boats to remain in port, even on the north side of the island of 17 million people.

Meanwhile, the remnants of Fay brought heavy rain and winds from Georgia to Louisiana. Floridians were still mopping up floodwaters from a storm that stuck around for a week and made a historic four landfalls, dumping more than 30 inches of rain along the central Atlantic coast.


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DeLay might be cleared of charges

| 26/08/2008 | 0 Comments

( Money-laundering charges against former U.S. Rep. Tom DeLay and two indicted co-conspirators may be dismissed because the 2002 campaign finance case involved checks and not cash, a lawyer for DeLay said Sunday night. "We win," said Dick DeGuerin, DeLay’s lawyer, "because there’s nothing but checks in the case." Go to article

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Extent of quarrying revealed

| 26/08/2008 | 1 Comment

(CNS): Even if Whiterock Investments is refused planning permission to continue quarrying in the Beach Bay area, the damage to the bluff by earlier excavation and blasting could be irreversible. The residents of Mahogany Estates have released photographs (left) of the site revealing the extensive damage already done to the bluff by the developer Lorenzo Berry.

The pictures show the depth of the excavation and the size of the crater that Berry has already removed, and it is his intention to do the same to the rest of the 44-acre plot which he owns, should he be granted planning permission to legalise an operation that the residents say he has continued illegally on and off for more than a decade.

Since going public with their plight, Jean Ebanks, one of the local residents on the estate, says that they have received a great deal of interest and support from the wider Caymanian community who are shocked by what has been allowed to happen. However, she and her fellow residents are still dismayed by how government is failing to act over what has gone on in their neighbourhood. In particular she thinks that the National Roads Authority’s (NRA) use of fill from the illegal quarrying should not just be dismissed.

“The NRA’s comment that they only bought $15,000 worth of fill and that ‘it’s a drop in the ocean’ gives the impression that it’s okay because it was only a ‘small’ amount,” she told CNS. “The truth is that the fill was quarried illegally and it was therefore illegal for government to buy the fill.  If government does not have the necessary controls in place to stop any type of illegal activity, it is encouraging people to break the law.”

She pointed out that anyone who steals $100 from their employer is no less a thief than the person who steals $1M from his employer and warned that government should be careful to ensure that they are not encouraging people to commit illegal acts because they do not have the procedures, funds or manpower to enforce laws. “If people know there are no consequences then why should they stop?” she asked.

The NRA recently admittedthat they had used the illegally quarried fill but stopped doing business with Berry’s company when what they described as the dubious nature of the fill was revealed. Ebanks and the other residents however believe that because there have been no sanctions against anyone involved in the purchase or Berry’s continued operation regardless of requests by the Planning Department to stop, this makes a mockery of the law.

The residents also continue to be concerned about the land which is now locked because of the huge crater which has been created by Berry’s excavation. At least four sold plots are now inaccessible because of the quarry and as far as Ebanks is aware no compensation has been offered to these landowners. “These lots are now completely landlocked and the owners will not be able to sell the land. Even if they are given back their original investment, that will no longer be enough for them to buy an equivalent plot,” explained Ebanks.

CNS has learned from sources close to the developer that Berry intends to level the 44-acre site to extract what is estimated to be more than $100 million worth of fill. Once the land is reduced to some five feet above sea level there are plans to create a residential canal subdivision.

One of the many concerns of the existing Mahogany Estates residents is that if the bluff were allowed to be levelled to this extent the flooding in the area during storms would be extensive, not just in their immediate vicinity but across the entire Beach Bay neighbourhood. This includes a number of other residential communities which have until now enjoyed the protection of the bluff from high seas and storm surge during bad weather.

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Obama camp hits out at Romney’s Cayman connection

| 26/08/2008 | 0 Comments

(Detnews): The head of Barack Obama’s presidential campaign has described Mitt Romney as "a job killing machine" who would hurt the John McCain campaign’s economic appeal if he joins the Republican presidential ticket. Obama’s campaign manager David Plouffe said Romney had been proficient at using tax havens in places like the Cayman Islands that Americans have become increasingly tired of. Go to article.

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