Archive for January 12th, 2009

DoE lists Port concerns

| 12/01/2009 | 14 Comments

(CNS): The Department of Environment, which will be overseeing the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) regarding the redevelopment of the George Town Port, has raised some 14 preliminary issues, from water quality and reef destruction to increased vulnerability to hurricane damage, that need to be addressed during the study. However, the government has already said the EIA is not a decision maker, merely an informer. (Left: DoE Director Gina Ebanks-Petrie)

From the three names submitted to the DoE, CH2M HILL has been selected and phase 1 of the EIA will begin with public meetings this week to elicit ideas on the further proposed parameters for the scope of the assessment. So far, however, the DoE has already listed an extensive number of issues that it says will needs to be assessed, from the impact of sediment transport to the degrading of water quality.

Speaking at last week’s media briefing, the government made it quite clear that the results of the EIA would not determine whether or not the development would go ahead.

“It is important to say that the EIA, while not a decision maker, is a decision informer. It is meant to provide a sound basis upon which decisions can be made,” Leader of Government Business Kurt Tibbetts said.

Minister Charles Clifford, under whose ministry the DoE falls, admitted that if the assessment revealed that the project would destroy Seven Mile Beach then clearly that would be a show stopper. As a major project, the government was looking for the best way to design the new port with the minimum environmental impact but that the government was seeking to construct the new port somehow. “We have to upgrade our infrastructure. There is no question about this,” Clifford said.

However, speaking at the same briefing, DoE Director Gina Ebanks-Petrie said that, while the department did not have any one single major fear, there were a number concerns about the project which had been listed.

“We have outlined a number of concerns that the Department of Environment has identified and I think they are all important concerns,” she said. “The whole purpose of the EIA is to ensure that all of those concerns are addressed in such a way that the trade offs between the benefit of the project and the costs in terms of environmental damage or socio-economic issues will be very evident to the decision makers.”

Prior to public input, the DoE has already said that it wants the assessment to look at: wave energy under worst case and typical conditions and potential impact on shore; water quality including the potential for generating turbidities during and after construction; effects on existing coastal ecosystems and resources within the footprint and adjacent area of the project; effects of any construction blasting should this be required; effects on the existing operations of the port and other maritime related stakeholders; effects on adjacent historical/archaeological resources; extent and scale of impact on the adjacent downtown waterfront business district; effects of the proposed near shore berthing and operation of ships at berthing facility; effects of the proposed cargo facility on the road network; hazard vulnerability due to flooding, hurricanes, and storm surge; socio-economic analyses to identify possible negative economic impacts of project with respect to initial funding of the project and operation of the project; analysis of Alternatives to the Proposed Project; and identifying possible measures to prevent or reduce significant negative impacts both during and after construction.

Petrie said it was important that the trade offs were evident and the issues were very clearly articulated about such issues as what would happen to the local wrecks and reefs in the port, and the potential increased exposure to hurricanes.

However, the LoGB made it clear that once the project started there would be damage but the goal was to minimize the damage. “All construction projects have some kind of impact on our environment,” Tibbetts said. “The EIA will tell us what can be done to minimise the impacts and explore options to offset any negative outcomes which are anticipated.”

He added that the DoE had cast a broad net in terms of the factors which are to be considered that will impact the environmental, economic and social well being of the country, and that decisions would be made based upon reasonable scientific judgment and appropriateness.

Phase 1 of the EIA will begin with meetings on 13 January for the general public and on 14 January for stakeholders. Information will also be provided on a website to allow for public input via email to the DoE over the period of one week.  Phase 2 of the EIA, which involves actual testing, is due to commence once the terms of reference have been finalised. The LoGB said that CH2M HILL would prepare a final terms of reference for phase 2 of the EIA project. The final scope will clearly define the tasks to be accomplished and the effects to be studied.

 

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Local leading poet to host elite workshop

| 12/01/2009 | 0 Comments

(CNS): The Cayman National Cultural Foundation is offering a poetry workshop in February with Cayman’s leading poet Leonard Dilbert. With limited space local poets must earn their place by submiting four different poems, which will then be reviewed and will form the basis for selecting a limited number of participants for the workshop.

The workshop is aimed at poets with some experience, it costs $100 and the four poems must be submitted by January 23 and must be typed on standard letter-size paper with the author’s name, address, telephone number and email address. Each poem must be on a separate sheet of paper. This is the second poetry workshop that Dilbert has tutored in association with CNCF.

Best known for his book of poems “Grown From This Ground” Dilbert’s poetry has won acclaim from many literary professionals. Wayne Brown, Arts Editor of the Jamaica Observer has said  “… his auditory imagination is trustworthy, sophisticated and often downright gorgeous.” Robin Behn of the University of Alabama described “Grown From This Ground” as an astonishing debut.

Selected applicants for the workshop will be notified on January 30 and must complete registration by February 6 when the $100 fee must be paid. It will be held at the Harquail Studio Theatre from February 9 to 13 at 7 pm.

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Offshore directors in firing line, warns Ridley

| 12/01/2009 | 0 Comments

(CNS): After years of avoiding litigation for their actions, the offshore director may no longer be able to preserve his unscathed position when things go wrong, Tim Ridley, the former Chair of Cayman Islands Monetary Authority, has warned. He said that directors and auditors should sit up and take note of the wake-up calls as they may no longer be able to avoid the fallout.

Speaking at Cayman’s second annual  International Fund Conference on Friday 9 January, Ridley said a number of directors, auditors and law firms based in the Cayman Islands have been and are being sued in the US courts, and that some locally based directors have been the subject of subpoenas issued by foreign regulatory authorities.

He said Bernie Madoff’s activities (which appear to be the biggest ponzi scheme in history) "should certainly make the directors and auditors (not to mention the promoters, investment advisors and administrators) of some fund of funds and feeder funds feel very nervous."

He added, "It will also not have escaped your notice that the US has brought tax conspiracy charges against a senior Zurich based officer of a major Swiss bank, that the Australian authorities are seeking extradition of an accountant in Jersey (Channel Islands) and will possibly seek the extradition of a fellow accountant in Monaco in connection with high profile tax evasion investigations involving Paul Hogan of Crocodile Dundee fame."

“There is a school of thought in the US — likely to grow under the Obama presidency — that offshore service providers that supply directors and other services to structures that enable US taxpayers to evade taxes should be sanctioned and put out of business by their home regulators, e.g. by the revocation of their licences on the grounds they are carrying on business contrary to the public interest or in a manner that is not fit and proper,” Ridley warned the gathered audience.

He said the only thing surprising about this was how long it has taken for onshore agencies, regulators and law enforcement to work out that the best way to deter offshore professionals from actively assisting in illegal activities is to pursue them as conspirators.

“Dropping a subpoena on someone in Miami airport to give evidence or produce documents is one thing,” he said. “Charging that person with criminal conspiracy is a much more serious matter. So the prudent professional would be well advised to carry in his or her wallet the 24 hour cell phone number of a retained criminal and immigration law firm in the US. It may be the best investment you ever make.”    

Ridley criticized the way that service companies and lawyers have provided directors for funds, as well as the conflict of interest of law firms acting as legal counsel and providing directors for the same fund.

“Arguing this is what the clients want and the market demands, misses the point. Lawyers should educate their clients and explain why it is in the clients’ best interests to avoid the conflicts of interest from day one. And they will get better legal advice, service and loyalty from their lawyers as well,” Ridley pointed out.  

He criticized the tendencies for directors to take on more directorships than they could realistically handle, which he said had been demonstrated by the number of high profile resignations from the boards of major corporations recently. He said that as offshore products have become increasingly sophisticated directors don’t always understand the risks involved even though the service providers are quick to sign to get the business.

“This poses real difficulties for individuals who are asked to serve as directors and approve and oversee the structures and transactions,” Ridley said. “One solution is to turn the business down (increasingly likely post 2008); another is to reach out to persons who have the necessary knowledge and expertise to serve.”

He said there are very few in Cayman and they are becoming very expensive. He suggested training employees to give them the skill sets they need.

“Perhaps the best long-term solution is to recognise that the directors may not have the in depth knowledge to understand the intricacies of a broad range of structures and transactions and to build into the deal the wherewithal for the directors to retain outside advisors who can fill the gaps in their expertise,” he suggested.

He said that there were a number of important regulatory reasons why local service providers and directors should be alert and proactive at the moment, and that the need for experienced and strong directors would increase, and the demands and pressures on them would increase too.

“Litigation over the sins of the past both locally and overseas will increase,” he added. “The 2007 amendments to the Cayman Companies Law will increase the statutory obligations of directors. There will be continuing calls for direct statutory regulation of professional directors, and not merely of those who serve as directors of funds regulated by CIMA — all licensed entities, such as banks and insurance companies must already have their directors approved by CIMA — for greater limits on exculpation and indemnification and the possibility of disqualification of directors generally.”

He warned that they were all knotty issues, but the key thing was improving the talent pool and performance of directors.

Ridley’s full speech can be found here

 

 

 

 

                            

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LIME $1m goes to Dominica

| 12/01/2009 | 0 Comments

(CNS): Cayman Islands’ customers of LIME were sure to have been disappointed on Friday evening when none of them won the telecommunication company’s big regional promotion prize draw of $1 million. However Lucille Worrell, from Fond Cole, Roseau in Dominica had plenty to celebrate. The new millionaire received her prize cheque from Jeffrey Baptiste, newly appointed Country Manager for LIME in Dominica shortly after the results of the draw were announced on Friday 9 January 2009.

The draw, which was done live from Samaan’s Park in Castries, St. Lucia was broadcast across the 13 Caribbean countries where LIME operates.

 

 

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Talks stay secret

| 12/01/2009 | 8 Comments

(CNS):  The second round of negotiations with the UK on a new Cayman Islands Constitution open tomorrow, but besides the opening session and the concluding session, the four day talks will, once again, be held behind closed doors. Beginning Tuesday, 13 January, through until Friday, 16 January, daily, they will take place at the Westin Casuarina Resort, Leader of Government Business Kurt Tibbetts said.

“The format will include an opening session wherein all participants are welcome to deliver an introductory statement,” he said. “This session will be open to the public and the media and a final concluding session on Friday morning will also be open to the public and media.”

Tibbetts said the sessions were closed at the request of the UK government. At the last round of talks Sir Ian Hendry, the leader of the UK delegation, said the negotiations cannot take place against the backdrop of political posturing. However, the opposition United Democratic Party did leak various details from the first round as they had persistently stated that the talksshould be open and transparent.

Leader of the Opposition McKeeva Bush openly circulated the draft document, which was composed by the UK in the wake of the first set of negotiations. Since then, both the opposition party and the two religious groups have raised concerns about the content. The Cayman Ministers’ Association (CMA) has said that the draft is still unacceptable in its current form. The issue of freedom of religion and the fact that the constitution doesn’t explicitly prohibit at any future time the possibility of same sex marriage are some of the concerns with regards to the bill of rights from the religious groups. The establishment of a National Security Council is also one of a number of other issues that the opposition has objected to.

The opening session on Tuesday should see the various representatives, including the Chamber of Commerce, the Human Rights Committee, the Seventh Day Adventists and CMA, as well as the government and opposition, making their introductory statements based on the draft and raising their specific concerns.

The Leader of Government Business said that this second round of talks will determine whether the final round will take place in London in early February. The timeline, which has already been reduced further after the scheduled December talks were cancelled as a result of Hurricane Poloma striking the Brac in November, is tight if the government is to have a fully drafted and agreed document to put up for referendum at the same time as the May General Election.

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