Archive for October 7th, 2009

Work-permit fees to double

Work-permit fees to double

| 07/10/2009 | 215 Comments

(CNS): The business community was given a glimpse of the steep increases that they could face on work permit fees when the financial secretary gave a couple of proposed examples of the new rates that employers will be required to pay. In his response to the budget debate in the Legislative Assembly on Wednesday morning, Kenneth Jefferson said that all fees, with the exception of nurses, teachers, religious ministers and domestic workers, would be increased. The scale of increase would range from a 50% on the lowest cost permits to almost 200% on others.

Referring to the permits at the bottom of the scale, such as those for gardeners as an example, Jefferson said they would increase from $250 to $375, but paralegal permits, on the other hand, would be more than doubled, increasing from $2,750 to $8,000. Although the financial secretary did not give any further illustrative examples, he warned that all work permits in the professional category are proposed to be increased by $3000.

He said government hoped to generate a further $11.29 million from the work permit increases, which, when added to the existing revenue raised from permits, would bring $45.79 million for the treasury. Jefferson also stated that the designation for key employee application processing fee would move from its current level of only $250 for all applications to the equivalent cost of the work permit for the position the key status is being requested. The financial secretary said that, based on the number of applications processed last year and the number currently being processed, the increase will realize $1.2 million more for government in this fiscal year.  He also said that work permits charged for people with permanent residency would increase in line with general permits bringing in an extra $2.47million.

Meanwhile, during his unexpected rebuttal speech on the revenue measures to the opposition’s statement in the budgetdebate, Leader of Government Business McKeeva Bush said that employers may face permit increases but they would be able to reduce their pension burden as a result of the government’s decision to remove their obligations to provide pensions for work permit holders.

“The government felt that the increase to work permit fees across the board is supportable only by the removal of an existing employer expense such as the pension obligation for work permit holders,” he said, adding that this would mean the cost of doing business would not necessarily increase. “Pension contributions for non-Caymanian employees or both the employer and employee would become voluntary.”

Bush said employers would be able to fund the fee increases by stopping their employee’s pensions. “In the case of unskilled and trade workers, the employers’ existing pension obligations would typically be higher than the projected increase in permit fees.”

He said employers were paying a $1000 per year on pension contribution for a worker on an annual salary of $20,000 but would likely see a permit increase of $500 and therefore the permit would result in a net benefit to the employer of small Caymanian businesses.

He also said thatthe custom duty increase, which he referred to again as 2%, although in real terms it is 10%, would be offset by the elimination of the annual garbage fees. “In an effort to keep costs down for our residents the government will terminate the annual garbage fees and consider the increase in duties as replacement for collecting garbage fees.   

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Jury clears Dixon

Jury clears Dixon

| 07/10/2009 | 53 Comments

(CNS):  The jury took less than two hours to return a not guilty verdict on both of the counts against the Deputy Police Commissioner Rudolph Dixon.  A clearly delighted Dixon said that he would not comment on the result until a later date when he would speak to the media regarding the trial and any future civil action. The not unexpected verdict completes the cases brought to the Cayman Islands courts by Operation Tempura and the Special Police Investigation Team.


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‘Exercising’ Right to Know

‘Exercising’ Right to Know

| 07/10/2009 | 0 Comments

(CNS): More than 100 people turned out to participate in the Fun Walk / Run / Ride-a-thon taking place this past Saturday morning, which was the last of several set up to help promote Right to Know Week 2009 and the Freedom of Information (FOI) law in the Cayman Islands. Right to Know Day is celebrated internationally on the 28th of September each year and this year the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) organized various outreach events that focused on educating the public on their rights under FOI and letting them know how they can exercise those rights.

The ICO gave educational talks to several schools and service clubs, hosted an open house at their offices and traveled to Cayman Brac to promote their message and role. The Fun Walk / Run / Ride-a-thon, which in previous years was run in conjunction with Sunshine Week, was again hosted by the FOI Unit. “I am thrilled to see so many people participating in the Fun Run” said Information Commissioner Jennifer Dilbert. “I would like to thank and commend the FOI Unit on all the hard work they put into executing this successful event. It is a perfect way to end Right to Know Week 2009.”

Right to Know Week 2009 was the first official outreach initiative by the Information Commissioner’s Office since it’s inception in January of this year. “I have been very encouraged by the public response we have had to Right to Know. There are more and more people who understand their rights under FOI and are now equipped with the tools to make requests and get more involved in the decision making process of government” said Mrs. Dilbert. She also confirmed that while the FOI Unit will continue to provide internal support for public authorities it is now the ICO that has been tasked with educating the public on both their rights under FOI and the role of the ICO in dealing with appeals under the law.


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Cayman gears up for ‘green’ tourists

Cayman gears up for ‘green’ tourists

| 07/10/2009 | 21 Comments

(CNS): Fivetourism businesses in the Cayman Islands are going the extra mile to become environmentally and socio-economically responsible through their participation in the Cayman Islands Environmental Project for the Tourism Sector (CEPTS), a joint pilot project between the Departments of Tourism and Environment  (DoT and DoE) and the tourism private sector for improved environmental performance within the industry, the DoT said in a release. (Left: Recycling Caybrew beer bottles is part of Compass Point’s Green Team initiatives)

Cobalt Coast Resort, Compass Point Dive Resort and the Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park in Grand Cayman; and Little Cayman Beach Resort and Southern Cross Club in Little Cayman, are currently undergoing the processes to become Green Globe Certified, a highly recognized and internationally respected green certification for the travel and tourism industry.

“We are so excited to watch these pilot properties and a major attraction go through the Certification process and be the first businesses in the Cayman Islands to become Green Globe Certified,” said Sharon Banfield-Bovell, the Department of Tourism’s Deputy Director responsible for Product Development. “Green Globe is the leading green certification for the travel and tourism industry and only businesses awarded the Green Globe seal can claim to be independently recognized as sustainable.”

The Green Globe Certification process consists of three stages: Indexing, Auditing and Certification. Little Cayman Beach Resort is currently preparing to complete the Indexing phase, which consists of 30 questions directed at their sustainability initiatives. The property is given a score depending on how many and what kind of initiatives they have in place. Businesses can review their scores in each category to see where they are doing well, or falling short. Some of the initiatives that will appear on their score card include the use of energy-efficient light bulbs and a water catchment system that utilizes rain water to supply their property as well as other properties on Little Cayman.

Southern Cross Club in Little Cayman and Compass Point Dive Resort, Cobalt Coast Resort and the Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park in Grand Cayman are already Indexed and in the process of being Certified. During this stage, businesses are asked to evaluate their operations against the Green Globe Certification criteria. Once the property completes their own internal evaluation, Green Globe will come on property to verify the properties’ answers.

Each of these tourism businesses has already adopted “best practices” and purchased energy and water saving features. Southern Cross Club has implemented the use of solar water heating for its kitchen as well as toilet paper and office paper made from recycled products. Cobalt Coast Resort provides its guests with a list of environmentally-friendly practices that they can doon holiday to help the resort be as sustainable as possible. The property has also installed low-flow shower heads in all guest rooms to reduce water consumption. Taking it a step further, they supplied staff members with LED light bulbs in order to encourage sustainability at home.

In East End, Compass Point Dive Resort has enlisted one staff member from each department to form a Green Team within the resort. The team reviews the sustainability initiatives each month to ensure they are meeting their standards. The resort has begun to recycle its aluminium cans through National Recycling and also rents bicycles to its visitors to encourage guests not to drive their cars and explore the island in a more environmentally friendly manner.

The Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park is in the final stages of implementing a drip irrigation system, which will reduce their consumption dramatically. The Park is also a driving force in the rehabilitation of our indigenous blue iguana species and educates guests and the general public on the important of the species.

Once the five entities have been audited and meet the minimum criteria, the properties become Green Globe Certified.

All businesses certified by Green Globe receive a variety of promotional opportunities. Businesses are recognized by AAA (American Automobile Club), British Airways Holidays, Air Canada Vacations, Travelocity, and other tour operators. Certified businesses are also promoted across all Green Globe websites, including, and in popular travel magazine Islands.

For more information about becoming Green Globe Certified, contact the Department of Tourism at 949-0623.

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Legislators to tackle budget

Legislators to tackle budget

| 07/10/2009 | 22 Comments

(CNS): Following Financial Secretary Kenneth Jefferson’s closing remarks on the budget debate this morning (Wednesday 6 October) in the Legislative Assembly, members of the House will be going into Finance Committee to scrutinize the budget and break down government spending plans for this financial year. The budget has already been described as overly optimistic by the opposition and the LA’s only independent member, and has also  raised concern from the wider community about its impact on small businesses.

Criticisms are already being made from a number of quarters that, while government has increased fees across the board to raise $126million over the next 12 months, digging deep into people’s pockets, it has not introduced measures to cut government spending by any significant amount. In contrast to the $94million extra the government says it will earn this year by those fee increases, it has only cut spending by $5 million.

In an attempt to address last year’s $81 million deficit in just one financial year, the government has introduced a range of new fees and increased a number of existing fees quite significantly. There has already been a considerable reaction from the business community that the increase in duty billed at 2% is extremely misleading as it is in fact a 10%-plus increase, as goods currently rated at 20% duty will be rated at 22% in future and likewise those at 25% will go to 27% which is likely to see an increase in prices.

Several small business owners have already told CNS that, with the duty increase on the goods they purchase, the business premises fee of 10% on rental rates for commercial tenants, as well as work permit fee increases, they have no choice but to increase prices to stay in business.

Despite small businesses taking a significant hit in the budget, the bulk ofthe $94 million that government plans to collect during the fiscal year to 30 June 2010 will come from fees impacting the financial services industry. CNS understand that a response from the industry body Cayman Finance (formerly the Cayman Islands Financial Services Association – CIFSA) will be forthcoming today.

The leader of government business has said, however, that the fee increases were done in close consultation with the industry in order to ensure that business would not be undermined. McKeeva Bush told the LA on Monday that the industry had helped government come to some tough decisions.

“There has been particular consultation with the financial services industry as we have resisted great pressure to introduce direct taxes. However, in the present situation, some new and enhanced revenue measures are unavoidable,” he said.

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Dixon case a mess, says Rose

Dixon case a mess, says Rose

| 07/10/2009 | 0 Comments

(CNS): Defence counsel for Deputy Police Commissioner Rudolph Dixon told the jury on Wednesday that the Crown’s evidence against his client was a “mess” and a “million miles from the truth". During his closing submissions Jonathan Rose said the prosecution was “clutching at straws” and had not proved its case. He noted that a defendant does not have to prove his innocence but that the Crown should prove guilt. However, in this case the evidence had proven Dixon’s innocence. Rose noted that the Crown selected from the evidence as it suited them and entirely ignored the conflicting testimony.

Rose noted, too, that this was the last case initiated by the Operation Tempura team, which has all come to nothing. Here, he said, the jury was presented with a man who had given more than 30 years to public service, and who, despite what PC Graham Summers has to say about it, had every right to be proud of his many achievements. Rose said the arrival of Operation Tempura, an investigation which had cost millions and millions of dollars, had caused scandal with judges being arrested, chambers being searched, top police officers also arrested and commissioners suspended. “All because of a man called Bridger, who I don’t suppose will be returning to Cayman for his holidays,” Rose noted.

The defence counsel went on to say that the Crown was trying to distance itself from the investigation, but it had caused a feeding frenzy where rumours became truth and gossip fact. He demonstrated how that had led to distorted beliefs, such as that by Fabien Sambula who believed Evans and Dixon were good friends. Yet, when cross examined the only evidence he had for that was seeing them chat in the police canteen. “So what!” exclaimed Rose, who went on to say the Crown’s persistent position that Evans and Dixon were friends was just not true and there was no evidence at all to suggest such a relationship.

Rose told the jury that the evidence in general against his client was wholly insufficient to support any conviction and, if anything, it pointed to his innocence.   

Rose noted how the Crown had also accused Buel Braggs of being involved in a whitewash of Summers’ report without a shred of evidence or even giving him chance to address their accusations. He said the investigation had not even contacted Braggs until a few months ago, and that was only because the defence had asked for the Crown to disclose the report that Dixon had given to him. All along the Operation Tempura investigation had been far from balanced and skewed in one direction, he said.

Rose told the jury that the Crown had entirely ignored the conflicting testimony given by their witnesses and glossed over all the evidence that pointed to the issue that all of the uniform officers that night had been mucking around, and it was clear that Rudy Evans’ arrest was in question long before Dixon’s phone had even rung. Despite the fact that the Crown was suggesting that the only reason why Rudolph Evans was released that night was because of Dixon, the evidence demonstrated that it all began far earlier, Rose said.

With the admission of the Cumber case file — the basis for the advice Dixon gave to Inspector Burmon Scott — it was demonstrated that, given the circumstances, Dixon had offered sound advice in good faith, Rose said. He noted that Scott’s conflicting testimony, which differed from that given by PC Summers, PC Boxwell and Dixon’s own evidence, as well as the widely differing stories offered by the other uniformed officers on duty that night, was likely down to the arrival of Operation Tempura, which had given them all reason enough to lie.

Rose suggested that, in order to keep themselves out of trouble, they had probably defaulted to what was usual procedure in such circumstances rather than what really happened that night when they were questioned by the UK cops. That explained why they all testified it was a normal arrest but with stories which were very different from events as described by Summers and Scott, he said.

When it came to the testimony offered by Scott that Evans and Dixon had spoken that night, Rose said, given the circumstances which Scott faced, it was perhaps understandable he would have lied. “When Operation Tempura came to see Scott they arrested him, they cautioned and interviewed him as a suspect,’ Rose said. “He must’ve been terrified to find himself involved in this.”

The defence lawyer noted that, given his immunity from prosecution and his efforts to seek compensation, Scott had to stick to his story even though it conflicted not just with Dixon’s account of the phone call but with the other officers testimony from that evening, and in particular that of Summers, who has stated that when he spoke to Scott and told him Evans was coming in Scott had made the telling comment that he couldn’t do that as Evanshad put pips on his shoulder.

“The prosecution accepts this but ignores the implications,” Rose said, adding that, coupled with the messing around at the scene and more messing around at the police station, it pointed to the fact that the problem had set in long before any advice came from Dixon.

Rose also noted the lack of custody record for the night’s events, which Scott testified he had written out and then endorsed with the orders from Dixon but it has never been found on the computer records. Rose suggested that if Dixon had, as Scott suggested, given him an unlawful order to release someone, it would be expected that Scott would want to keep that evidence for his own sake.

Rose also argued the point that Dixon had never covered up the advice he gave to Scott. He had discussed it the next morning with his colleague Derek Haines and that, far from plotting a cover-up, he had simply run it by someone. He pointed to the absurdity of the Crown’s suggestion that this conversation was the first step in a deception when it was utterly impossible for Dixon to know in May 2004 that Operation Tempura would turn up and arrest him four years later.  

Speaking directly to the jury with often amusing asides, Rose took over two hours on Tuesday morning to argue his client’s innocence and point out to them that there was just no evidence that Dixon had ordered the release of Evans that night but had merely, on the face of the information given to him, offered the inspector on duty advice on how to proceed with what was suspected to be an unlawful arrest.

Justice Charles Quin, the presiding judge will offer his directions to the jury this morning (Wednesday) before dismissing the members to discuss their verdict.

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Perez denies the murder of Martin Gareau

Perez denies the murder of Martin Gareau

| 07/10/2009 | 0 Comments

(CNS): The man accused of murdering Martin Gareau at his home in Beach Bay Bodden Town in May 2008 took the witness stand on Tuesday and told the court he did not kill Gareau, a man whom he said he considered a friend. Already in its fourth week the trial of Josue Carillo Perez which is being heard by judge alone, has been dominated with legal argument and major disagreements between crown and defence counsel over evidence and expert witnesses.


Relating his account of that holiday weekend when the murder took place, Perez told the court who he was with at what times and how he had gone to a hotel with his girlfriend checking in around 4 O’clock Sunday afternoon.  

Defence counsel had begun answering the crown’s case on Monday afternoon with a witness who was jogging in the area of the deceased’s house on the Sunday morning who said he had witnessed someone at the door of Gareau’s home around 10:00am.

Although the prosecution have been unable to pin-point Gareau’s time of death he is known to have been alive around 1 O’clock in the afternoon on the Sunday before his murder as he spoke with his cousin on the phone. His body was then discovered on Tuesday morning and the crown has suggested that the Canadian national could have been killed anytime on Sunday afternoon or Monday.

Perez told the court that he spent the Sunday morning at his sister’s house where he lived in Bodden Town washing cars then he visited a friend in Windsor Park, and then collected his girlfriend from tropical gardens before they checked into a hotel on Seven Mile Beach for the remainder of the holiday weekend at around 4pm.

Perez said he had spoken to Gareau sometime on Sunday and they had chatted about Maria a friend of Perez’s girlfriend and a woman whom Gareau was interested in dating. Perez denied going to Gareau’s house that Sunday and said when the deceased had asked him about his plans he said he was going to spend it with his girlfriend. Perez told the court how he had visited the deceased’s home with Maria and his own girlfriend for dinner a few weeks before and he said he was friendly with Gareau. He said they had both experienced separations from their wives which they spoke of to each other about and that Gareau also had discussed his interest in Maria with the defendant.

Perez admitted having financial problems after losing his job at CUC and having his car repossessed but in the end he had not sought to regain possession of the car because he had had several problems and accidents with the car and it would cost too much to fix.

Following Perez’s evidence, the defence called PC Leslie who testified about an encounter with a man at the cordon he was guarding at the crime scene following the discovery of Gareau’s body. He said a man with a Caymanian accent had aggressively approached him at the cordon who wanted to speak with him. PC Leslie said the man behaved in a way that suggested he did not want people seeing him talk with a police officer and moved away from him when people passed, he  had asked if the officer was wired or if their was video pointed at him. When they spoke however, PC Leslie said he’d asked him if he knew who rents the Harley Davidson bikes. PC Leslie said he made notes at the time about the conversation, along with a description of the man whom he said had a tattoo and blondish/brownish hair with a Caymanian accent and passed it on to his Sergeant.

The defence continues its response with further witnesses on Wednesday morning.  



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Travers takes UK Lord to task over metaphor

Travers takes UK Lord to task over metaphor

| 07/10/2009 | 43 Comments

(CNS): The chair of Cayman Finance has been quick off the mark again to respond to what he described as a “grimly ill-conceived metaphor” by Lord Myners, the UK’s City of London Minister, who compared the Cayman Islands to Afghanistan and Columbia in a recent parliamentary debate in the UK. Anthony Travers wrote to the Financial Times, which is where Myners’ comments were quoted, to take the Lord to task about his suggestion that offshore financial centres, like addicts, should be "weaned off tax if that is the only source of competitive advantage that they offer."

Travers, the chair of the Cayman Islands Stock Exchange and Cayman’s financial industry body (formerly the Cayman Islands Financial Service Association but recently renamed Cayman Finance) suggested in his correspondence with the UKs leading financial broadsheet that there was an irony in the comments quoted in the article Tension eases as London backs Cayman loan on 1 October.

Myners had stated that low taxation might not be a sustainable economic model for offshore centres. "In the same way as we are having to wean the farmers of Afghanistan off the poppy and the farmers of Colombia off coca, we have to wean offshore financial centres off tax if that is the only source of competitive advantage that they offer," the UK Lord and financial minister said during a debate.

Travers suggested that Lord Myners take a look in the mirror. “It is better argued that it is the UK government’s addiction to high taxes and irrelevant regulation that is causing the diminishing benefits to the UK Treasury, and indeed if the EU initiative is not derailed, UK taxable income will decline further and Chancellor Alastair Darling’s woeful projections will look increasingly optimistic,” Travers wrote in defence of offshore financial service centres.

“Rather than the drug-crazed one-trick ponies Lord Myners suggests, it is the comparative clarity of a superior legislative regime, an indirect tax system and a relevant regulatory approach that is the cornerstone of the Cayman financial model. No Cayman financial institution has failed, and Cayman continues to experience net inflows of business.”

Travers pointed out for the umpteenth time that throughout the financial crisis the Cayman Islands debt to gross domestic product ratio has been less than 30 per cent of the real UK figure. “The Cayman budget today will again be balanced,” he wrote in a letter published on Tuesday. “Perhaps there is a message here to those with clarity of thought. Lord Myners: do get the metaphor straight.”

With a persistent distortion of the facts in the international media regarding the situation in the Cayman Islands, Travers, as an increasingly high profile spokesperson for Cayman Finance has had his work cut out for him recently as criticisms of the jurisdiction mount and he seeks to counter those criticisms wherever they are made.

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Storm warning for west from Cayman’s fiscal crisis

Storm warning for west from Cayman’s fiscal crisis

| 07/10/2009 | 2 Comments

(FT.Com): The gods of global tax do not often have a sense of humour. Right now, however, they might chuckle at a little storm that has hit the Cayman Islands. In recent years, these pleasant Caribbean islands have prompted ire from social justice groups – and some western finance ministries – by playing host to numerous hedge funds and other financial vehicles. As an offshore centre, the Cayman Islands have been a handy place for financiers when they did not want to pay onshore taxes. But now the Cayman Islands are in crisis because they are running short of . . . er . . . tax revenues.

Last week its government secured a £38m ($61m, €42m) loan to prevent an immediate fiscal crunch. However, the UK government – which runs the external affairs of this British overseas territory – has told the Cayman government it must implement fiscal reforms urgently. Most notably, London is urging the Cayman Islands to widen its own tax base. That has some intriguing implications – not just for the Caribbean, but for the western world too.

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