Archive for January 19th, 2010

Saxon is biggest loser

Saxon is biggest loser

| 19/01/2010 | 0 Comments

(CNS): Following dms Organisation’s collective efforts to get fit, which started back in November, the Cayman Islands-based business conglomerate said that Saxon Administration Ltd was the company within the group which emerged as the biggest loser. Teams were formed based on companies and departments, and Saxon lost a combined 102 lbs. Bringing international television sensation Biggest Loser  into the local workplace, dms played its own version of the popular hit show, enticing employees to kick off 2010  in healthier shape.

The winners were treated to a complimentary 15-minute back massages as a reward for their loss after the staff rose to the challenge and dropped between 2.5 lbs and 29 lbs each. “We congratulate the Saxon team on their phenomenal success – they each demonstrated admirable determination and were triumphant in their endeavours. We are grateful to all of the competitors for their participation and commitment to the challenge," said dms manager Sarah Lacey.

Saxon Finance Manager, Sharon Pegg, said it was fun to work as a team, encouraging each other regularly and ensuring that they stayed on track. “Winning the competition was dually rewarding as we not only received massages, but also improved overall health. It also allowed us to indulge a little bit more over the holiday season with less guilt, and now we are ready to jump back on the bandwagon of healthy living,” she added.

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Cops leave behind forensic evidence at gun shot scene

Cops leave behind forensic evidence at gun shot scene

| 19/01/2010 | 34 Comments

Cayman Islands News, Grand Cayman local news, Royal Cayman Islands Police Service(CNS): West Bayers reported their surprise on Monday when police left behind bullet fragments after examining a number of gun shot scenes following the four separate shooting incidents last Thursday 14 January.  News 27 spoke to residents near to where the shootings occurred who said they were concerned that police had left behind what was obviously evidence of a crime. One resident who narrowly escaped the shooting on Thursday night said she was unhappy with how the scene was handled. Having been alerted to the remaining bullet casings by the TV crews, Police said they would conduct a review.

Police have now returned to the scene and removed bullet fragments from a CUC metre. Detective Superintendent Marlon Bodden apologised for the delay but said police had to get electrical experts to the scene before they could take the bullets out. However, they offered no explanation for why the ones on the ground were not taken away and bagged into evidence.

Given the recent court room revelations concerning problems regarding the collection and integrity of evidence, police leadership has spoken of the need to improve evidence gathering and crime scene integrity.

Police have said very little about the latest shooting incident, in which no one was injured, but the resident of one of the homes shot at told News 27 that a relative of hers was recently injured in another shooting incident and wondered if the family had been targeted.

“We always keep an open mind but the circumstances are part of operational matters, which I am not prepared to discuss at this time,” Bodden told News 27.

The revelations about the failure to collect all of the possible evidence comes literally days after Attorney General Samuel Bulgin emphasised the vital importance of forensic evidence in the absence of eye witnesses willing to come forward. He called on government to invest in facilities that would enable Cayman to examine all of its own forensics and cut out the need to send items such as bullet fragments over seas for examination.

See News 27 exclusive report

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Bush issues message in wake of earth tremor

Bush issues message in wake of earth tremor

| 19/01/2010 | 19 Comments

(CNS): Following confirmation from Hazard Management Cayman Islands (HMCI) that no one was hurt and there was no damage to property across Grand Cayman as a result of this morning’s earthquake, the premier has issued a message to the people thanking God but reminded them not to underestimate the need to be prepared. Currently in Miami on personal medical business, McKeeva Bush said he wanted to reassure the people of the Cayman Islands that government is closely monitoring the follow up reports and committed to keeping the public informed of any developments.

“I thank the Almighty God for his mercies that no injuries or apparent structural damage resulting from this morning’s earthquake have been reported and that we can all return to business as usual,” Bush stated. “Our systems for disaster mitigation, under the leadership of HMCI, have once again proven to be invaluable and I want to express my appreciation to them fortheir quick and efficient response.

“While we can resume our normal course of business, we cannot underestimate the need for preparedness and I urge all residents and businesses to take a moment to review their plans in light of today’s events.”

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Whistle blower plans to reveal more offshore secrets

Whistle blower plans to reveal more offshore secrets

| 19/01/2010 | 23 Comments

(CNS):  Rudolf Elmer, who ran the Caribbean operations of the Swiss bank Julius Baer for eight years until he was dismissed in 2002, is planning to reveal more secrets regarding tax evasion.  According to The New York Times, the whistle blower is heading for Germany, where authorities are putting him up in a five-star hotel as he prepares to divulge client secrets, many of which involve the Cayman Islands where he was based. “It is a global problem, and I am only the messenger who provides the bad news, or even better, the truth,” Elmer, 54, wrote in a recent e-mail message.

“Offshore tax evasion is the biggest theft among societies and neighbour states in this world,” he added.

Lawyers and Congressional investigators who have begun to review  Elmer’s claims say that his internal bank and client documents provide fresh ammunition for American authorities as they take their crackdown on offshore tax evasion beyond UBS to clients of other banks.

Elmer has given documents to the IRS that cover more than 100 trusts, dozens of companies and hedge funds, and more than 1,300 individuals from 1997 through 2002. Elmer contends that his documents detail the undisclosed role of American investment management companies in funnelling American, European and South American clients who wished to avoid taxes to Julius Baer; the backdating of documents to establish trusts and foundations used to evade taxes; and the funnelling of trades for hedge funds and private equity firms from high-tax jurisdictions through Baer entities in the Cayman Islands.

“What he has is the confirmation of something very important: that a number of other banks in the voluntary disclosure process are turning up,” his lawyer Jack Blum said, referring to 14,700 wealthy Americans, many of them UBS clients who came forward to disclose their secret accounts last year.

Nothing indicates that Julius Baer, a 120-year-old private bank, is under IRS investigation. The bank is known for intense privacy. Its board chairman, Raymond J. Baer, told shareholders last April that “the fiction of citizens being fully transparent must never become reality.”

Elmer worked for Julius Baer nearly two decades, the first 15 years in Switzerland and then as chief operating officer of Julius Baer Bank and Trust in Grand Cayman, beginning in 1994. As far as his own role in helping clients evade taxes, he said, “I didn’t realize what was going on.” Elmer said he discovered the tax evasion in 2002 and decided to expose Julius Baer’s operations.

Julius Baer denies that version of events. It contends that Elmer stole internal documents and client data around 2002, the year he was dismissed, after raising concerns about the bank in the wake of being passed over for a promotion. He moved to Mauritius a year later. “Shortly after leaving the employment of the Julius Baer Group in 2002, Cayman-based Elmer, clearly annoyed at having been dismissed and unable to secure a financial settlement to his satisfaction, engaged in a campaign to seek to discredit the Julius Baer group and certain of its clients,” the bank wrote by e-mail in December.

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Earthquake shakes Cayman

Earthquake shakes Cayman

| 19/01/2010 | 224 Comments

Earthquake Grand Cayman(CNS): Updated with full story 12:30. Although only a couple of seconds long, the earthquake which hit Grand Cayman 32 miles south of Bodden Town a little after 9:20am this morning (19 January) has shaken up the community. According to Hazard Management, the quake registered a 5.8 magnitude and was just over 6 miles deep. The earthquake comes days after the massive earthquake hit Haiti last week and more than five years since Cayman’s last major tremor in December 2004. Police said there were no reports of injury or damage to persons or property but are asking people to keep away from the sink hole in South Sound. (Photo by Simon Barwick – People pour from offices in Cricket Square as the earth shakes.)

All public buildings remain open, including the schools, but some private schools have told parents they may collect their children if they wish. While there has been no damage to property or people, Hazzard Maangement has confirmed that a sink hole has opened up in the Pirates Liar area of South Sound, a phenomena often associated with earthquakes.

Police said over 50 sightseers have now converged on the location and that number is rising very quickly. Superintendent Adrian Seales appealed for people to stay clear of the area. “We have police officers on the scene and efforts are being made to fence the sink hole off at present," he said. "However, the rising numbers of people converging on the area is causing us some concern. The roads are becoming congested and until the location is secured, and a safety assessment completed, we would not condone anyone going near to the property. I know people are curious – it’s a natural instinct – but I would urge people not to let their curiosity get the better of their common sense. Our colleagues from Hazard Management are at the location and are assessing the situation. I’m urging people to stay away from the area at present,” Seales added.

The Cayman Islands Emergency Communications Centre (CIEC911) reported receiving more than one hundred 911 telephone calls in the minutes following the earthquake. “There were no injuries and no reports of damage from the quake,” the 911 operators said, and the centre was in immediate contact with the Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre in Hawaii,which handles the Caribbean region, and was assured by the scientist on duty that there was no threat of a tsunami from this earthquake.

Emergency Communications Centre Manager Brent Finster said most of the calls were from people trying to find out what had happened: “911 calls received after the earthquake struck mostly dealt with people wanting to find out if an earthquake had really occurred or to notify us that they had evacuated their building and whether it was safe to go back inside. There were also a number of 911 calls regarding problems with telephone service,” he explained. Finster also reminded the public that the 911 emergency system should only be used by persons who need police, fire or Emergency Medical Services.

 The earthquake measuring 5.8 on the Richter scale occurred 32 miles south of Bodden Town, Grand Cayman at coordinates 19.021 N, 80 deg 50.77 minW at a depth of 6.2 miles. At 10 am, the Director of Hazard Management Cayman Islands, McCleary Frederick said residents were able to return to offices and homes.

“Obviously in light of what has happened in Haiti, our residents are very sensitive to this type of occurrence,” McCleary stated. “We are fortunate that the Cayman Islands appears to have come through unscathed, but it is reminder for everyone that they need to know how to respond during an earthquake. In particular it is important to duck under a strong piece of furniture, or at least protect the head with arms.”

 He reminded business organizations, schools or other entities that the HMCI can perform an earthquake education session or drill to better prepare for them for this type of impact.

Shortly after the tremor the premier, McKeeva Bush called into the Rooster morning phone in show, Crosstalk, from Miami and said there was no need to contact the international press about the event. However, the quake had already been registered on the USG website and was picked in by the US media and CNN by around 10am.

The Cayman Islands Government has commissioned a seismic monitoring network, consisting of four state-of-the-art seismograph stations. Two seismographs will be located in Grand Cayman, one in Little Cayman and another on the Island of Cayman Brac. One of these seismographs in Frank Sound is already fully functional and the earthquake was detected locally and the information relayed through to HMCI as expected.

McCleary noted that earthquakes do occur from time to time in the vicinity of the Cayman Islands as the islands are located near to the boundary of the North American plate, with the Caribbean plate sliding past to the south.  Although this is located near the same boundary of the North American plate that caused the recent earthquake in Haiti it is not along the same fault line. In December 2004 a 6.8 magnitude earthquake occurred 20 miles to the south of Grand Cayman.

Since the formation of HMCI in 2006, the agency has embarked on a proactive public education campaign to raise awareness of the earthquake threat in the Cayman Islands. Earthquake drills have been conducted involving both private and public sector entities and the program has also been instituted in Government schools.

During this brief earth tremor there were also reports of some considerable fear in government schools and officials confirmed that teachers and other staff on site, along with RCIPS officers, are doing everything possible to maintain calm following reports of children fleeing from the school site at John Gray and literally jumping over the perimeter fences.

Chief Education Officer Shirley Wahler said the schools remain open and have received the all clear from Hazard Management Cayman Islands to re-enter buildings. Department of Education facilities officers will continue conducting in-depth evaluations regarding building integrity throughout today. Ministry officials also confirmed that all pre-schools, except Kid’s Adventure which closes at noon, will remain open today. Pre-schools have been contacted and officials confirm that all is well. However, parents wishing to collect their children may do so.

Aside from reports of the odd broken window there appears to be no structural damage as a result of Grand Cayman’s latest shake up but public works has said it will make building checks. Officials from the department said the potential for significant structural or system damages as a result of the event was not considered a severe threat to well-constructed government buildings. “However, PWD recommend that each site be given a careful walk-through to inspect for new or expanded cracks in walls, cracked glass in doors and windows, and any changes in appearances of ceilings,” officials added.

If any concerns are noted the PWD is taking calls on the HelpDesk at 244.4838 or 916.6694 and will dispatch crews as available.

Anyone wanting more information regarding earthquakes can contact Simon Boxall or Omar Afflick at HMCI on 526 2027

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A whiff of independence?

A whiff of independence?

| 19/01/2010 | 68 Comments

Most politicians in the Cayman Islands, with the exception of Ezzard Miller, have generally refrained from offering full support to the idea of shaking off the UK’s colonial chains. However, the premier came very close on Friday to suggesting that it might not be a bad idea.

For him to come right out and say that the United Democratic Party is taking the policy position of independence very much sooner rather than later is, probably, a step too far but there can be no doubt in the mind of anyone who attended the governor’s reception on Friday evening that McKeeva Bush likes the idea of not having anyone around from ‘Her Majesty’s’ government interfering in his affairs.

During his short address at the final ‘welcome do’ for new Governor Duncan Taylor, Bush told him that the Cayman Islands had managed fine without anyone from the UK for the last two and a half months. He said he was proud to chair Cabinet with the first ever Caymanian acting governor by his side and all had gone well. Bush said that, while many believed that Caymanians were not capable of running their own affairs, the last few months had shown otherwise. “There were no fights and no wounds … all was quiet on the western front,” Bush told Taylor in a short speech that came as close as anyone ever has to telling a governor he was surplus to requirement.

In the last few months since taking office, Bush’s confidence in himself as a leader has grown and it is apparent he believes that under the new moniker of ‘premier’ (which he seems to delight in reminding us he didn’t vote for) he can run Cayman’s affairs without the help of the UK (some have even said without the help of Cabinet as well, but that’s a bit harsh), but coming right out and saying so could prove political suicide.

Despite the trappings of office, from chauffeured car, the butler/chef, the new gate house at the Bush residence, that have come with his new title and his obvious delight in his new responsibilities, Bush has still not voiced his genuine feelings about a timeline for Cayman’s independence from the mother country. Ironically, during the public consultation period to shape the 2009 Constitution, Bush persistently accused the then PPM administration of pushing an agenda of independence.

Despite his own feelings, Bush is politically astute enough to know it can be very dangerous ground to voice an all out desire to go it alone. However, it could well be that Bush could have been ‘crowned king’ at a time when he may be able to take that political risk and enough of the people could back him.

In the final days of the previous governor (who has arguably gone down in history as one of the Cayman Islands’ most unpopular), the debate about independence was given what can only be described as a vigorous airing. There was certainly more vocal support for the idea than ever before, and while the Caymanians didn’t exactly take to the streets, those who believe it is time began to raise their voices. Whether this was down to Stuart Jack’s style of governing (not to mention Operation Tempura), combined with the global economic crisis and the surge of negative attention on offshore financial jurisdictions that resulted, or whether it was a genuine feeling that perhaps it was just time, it is clear the debate is no longer taboo. People have also seen and recently experienced what can very reasonably be described as very unreasonable behaviour from the UK.

Bush may not be prepared to declare his hand just yet, but it is quite apparent that he believes he is ready to govern alone and that the UK is becoming far more of a liability than a help. Very few people in Cayman today believe in maintaining the colonial relationship with the UK because it so great to be British, or for any love for queen and empire, but because the Union Jack on the corner of the Cayman flag is perceived to bestow a label of stability and, of course, ‘good governance’ to reassure the international investors and multinational conglomerates that have created Cayman’s wealth that their cash will be safe here.

However, the price for the Union Jack is that Cayman’s elected officials cannot run their affairs entirely autonomously, something which Bush is acutely aware after his experiences with the need to gain approval for borrowing in order to balance the 2009/10 budget. His desire to keep the UK out of the financial business of government as much as possible has been illustrated by his aim of eliminating the islands’ $80 million plus deficit in one fiscal year, a task which many believe is impossible, despite the fee hikes.

It is apparent from his welcome address for Taylor, both in the Legislative Assembly and at Pedro Castle, that Bush has no particular beef with the man himself, he simply wants him to ‘butt out’. When he spoke of “working with him”, it is clear that means following along with Bush’s aspirations for his country – ones which, whether people voted for Bush or not, he genuinely believes and is passionate about.

The new premier’s goal is no secret: he wants to make Cayman rich again. That may mean circumventing the odd rule or regulation, something which his people, if they begin to feel richer as a result, will forgive him.  However, Bush knows that, on the other hand, the UK will demand he plays everything by the book. The budget crisis has left the elected government far more vulnerable to interference from the UK representative than ever before – a situation that quite clearly pains the premier but also gives him a very conveniently large stick with which to continue beating the opposition.

However, that will not solve the problem of how the premier continues to run Cayman’s affairs if the budget doesn’t balance in June or if Taylor, as is likely, takes a greater interest in governance than Bush would like. While he may not be ready to stand on the political soap box and campaign for a free and independent Cayman Islands, those with their eyes open can already read the thought balloons, and there is most definitely a whiff of independence in the UDP air.

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Conflict over new court

Conflict over new court

| 19/01/2010 | 30 Comments

(CNS):  With case loads doubling in the last ten years, the chief justice has said that there is a very real need for the new court house building. Plans to develop a new home for the Cayman judiciary were shelved by the previous administration when the recession began to bite, but Anthony Smellie is now urging government to fulfil the commitment to build it as soon as possible. However, the premier has said that when the current court house was built there were only 35 lawyers here, and now, when there are close to 400, government does not have the money and wants to see the legal fraternity make a bigger contribution.

While Chief Justice Smellie spelt out the pressing need for the building to help the judiciary cope with the increasing pressure to resolve the growing cases coming before the courts as quickly as possible, the premier has a different view. McKeeva Bush has said that with so many lawyers on island that have acquired considerable wealth from working in this jurisdiction, it is ironic that the profession is pressing government to provide them with a new court house when they are so reluctant to give back to the Cayman Islands community, in particular with regard to legal aid.

“Legal entities have grown and prospered since we built the first court house,” Bush said in his speech on Friday to the new governor, adding that he was bound to hear about the legal aid debate. The premier told the audience in the Legislative Assembly that he believed the lawyers must become more involved in the financing of justice. “Why now with nearly 400 lawyers do we have a system where we can’t afford to build a court house, when lawyers are retiring early having made hundreds of thousands of dollars?”he asked.

However, the chief justice noted that the lack of space could have a detrimental impact on the commercial side of Cayman’s legal system, which is a major pillar in the jurisdiction’s offshore sector and economic fortunes. Although judicial services has now created a dedicated court for the financial industry and introduced new judges (including Sir Peter Cresswell) to serve in that division, space was still a major problem.

“The new building is very badly needed,” Smellie said during his speech at the Grand Court opening. “There is simply no room for the expansion that is required to meet the demands of the massive increases in the case load.”

The current building was constructed in 1972 and he said there was no meaningful comparison to case loads then to those coming through the courts today. “There are noteven available statistics going that far back as there may have appeared no need to keep them,” Smellie observed, adding that a comparison with the situation just a decade ago in the Summary Court made the point in that cases had more than doubled in the last ten years. He also noted that legal and judicial services had not grown excessively when compared to the rest of the civil service.

“This kind of massive increase in case volume was bound to translate into the need for more court rooms, judicial and support staff for dealing with them,” the senior judge added.  “But, to keep matters in perspective, these increasing demands of the courts may well be entirely proportionate to the increasing demands of the other arms of government, even though it seems they are the last to be addressed.”

The CJ reported that 88 cases were disposed of last year in the Grand Court but another 62 were carried over and of those 16 date back to 2008 and one to 2007. “What this means is that a significant number of cases were not resolved within the benchmark period of 12 months which has been maintained in the Grand Court for the past several years,” Smellie lamented. “Without any immediate prospect of dealing with this problem simply by way of case management, I must once more emphasise the need for more space if the courts are going to continue to be able to ensure a timely trial for people charged with criminal offences.” 

He observed that many cases come up to the Grand Court because defendants elect to bring them up, although they could, quite appropriately, be dealt with in the Summary Court. “This is a matter that can only be addressed by legislative change and about which I have already communicated with the attorney general,” he said.

Attorney General Samuel Bulgin backed the CJ’s call and noted that the only reason why the judiciary was managing to keep up with the mounting case load was because of the relentless hard work of lawyers and court staff. He said everyone had hoped that the rolling out of the Commercial Division would have coincided with the availability of additional accommodation. However, despite the delay, the court has sat in at least four divisions in recent weeks.

“This has been achieved by means of singular fortitude on the part of judges and court staff,” Bulgin noted. “Chambers have had to be used as open courts and vice versa. Judges have had to be using the library as chambers and in one instance, counsels’ common room was used as chambers. While financial constraints have delayed the building of new court facilities, the need cannot be overstated and it is hoped that plans, which have gone some far way, will be given new life as financial constraints lessen.”

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