Sir Vassel Johnson dies

| 14/11/2008

(CNS): The man often credited as the pioneer of the Cayman Islands; successful financial services sector, Sir Vassel Johnson has died. Cayman’s first and only knight, Sir Vassal  passed away on Wednesday 12 November at the age of 86. Born in Jamaica he arrived in Cayman from Cuba in 1934 when he was only twelve years old with his family.

Sir Vassel joined the Cayman Islands Government as a clerical officer as a young man steadily moved through the ranks utilising his accountancy skills. He eventually became Financial Secretary and played a key role in helping Cayman to establish its offshore financial services.

HE the Governor, Stuart Jack paid tribute to Sir Vassal in a statement yesterday when he said it was a day of great mourning for a man who had served his adopted country well.

“A quiet, gentle family man and a church elder, Sir Vassel received many accolades, including the OBE and the CBE. His crowning moment was being knighted by Her Majesty the Queen in front of the Legislative Assembly on 26 February 1994,” said the Governor.

“As one of the architects of modern Cayman, especially its financial industry, Sir Vassel guided the steady growth of these Islands as the first Financial Secretary. His remarkable vision set the foundation for the prosperity and economic stability of these Islands. Without his input, Cayman might well have remained the islands that time forgot. Indeed, he helped place the Islands firmly on the world map.”

The Governor noted that today, what we take for granted may not have come to pass if this man of great integrity had not helped to establish the Cayman Islands as an offshore centre.

“Even more so, he helped Cayman maintain its edge as a financial centre at a time when many other jurisdictions were going the same route. It is no exaggeration to say every man, woman and child in Cayman owes him a debt of gratitude,” the Governor added.

Sir Vassel rose from humble beginnings to greatness that he himself never made much of. Following his knighthood, Sir Vassel was quoted as saying, “I was grateful because my adopted home has been good to me. At the same time, I trust that I have been good for it.”

The governor said that he and his wife Mariko join the people of the Cayman Islands in extending our deepest condolences to Sir Vassel’s widow, Lady Rita; and all his family. “We will always cherish his memory – for who he was as a man, and for what he did for the country,” the Governor said.


The Cayman Islands Financial Services Association (CIFSA) also recognized the passing of Sir Vassel calling him one of the founding fathers of the financial services sector in the Cayman Islands. "In his role as the country’s first Financial Secretary Sir Vassel charted the course that led the Cayman Islands to establish itself as an important financial centre," said CIFSA. "His appreciation of Cayman as his adopted country motivated him to take up public service as a way to give back to it. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family of this important figure in Caymanian history.


The Cayman Islands Monetary Authority also expressed its sadness and explained that Sir Vassel was the Financial Secretary (originally designated as Treasurer) from 1965 to 1982 and was the first Chairman of the Cayman Islands Currency Board, one of CIMA’s predecessor organisations, from 1971 to1982. “In those capacities, he was primarily responsible for the introduction of legislation and policies that paved the way for the development
of the financial services sector, which CIMA now regulates, and he oversaw the introduction of the Cayman Islands currency, which CIMA now has responsibility for managing,” CIMA  said.
He made a direct contribution to the Cayman Islands Monetary Authority during its formative years, serving as a director from CIMA’s inception in 1997, until 2000.

"Sir Vassel was honoured for his contribution by CIMA last year as part of its 10th anniversary celebrations. The Authority’s Managing Director, Cindy Scotland, said, “Sir Vassel made a significant contribution to Cayman and specifically to CIMA. It was also wonderful for me personally to have had the opportunity to work, early in my career, with someone of his calibre.”


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