Archive for November 24th, 2010

Opposition walk out of LA

| 24/11/2010 | 119 Comments

(CNS): Following a heated exchange between the premier and the member for East End, the entire opposition walked out of the Legislative Assembly in a show of party solidarity on Wednesday afternoon. During the debate on the Tax Concessions (Amendment) Bill, Arden McLean said the changes to the law had some worrying implications and suggested the premier was seeking to circumvent the rule of law. Protesting to the speaker, McKeeva Bush loudly demanded that the opposition member withdraw the accusation. However, McLean refused to do so and as a result the speaker asked him to leave. In a gesture of support his four opposition colleagues went with him. (Photo Dennie Warren Jr)

With the independent member for North Side absent from the chamber overseas, that left the government facing empty opposition benches as it pushed through legislation which will enable Cabinet to exempt any company, not just offshore exempted companies, from any future new taxes that could be introduced without consulting the parliament.

Before the opposition walkout the premier had given a very brief introduction to the bill saying it would be a tool which government could use to offer future incentives to new business that may be attracted to the islands. Bush said it was a positive amendment and one which would be easy for the opposition to support.

However, responding to the presentation and the bill itself, the East End member said he was puzzled that the premier would think it would be easy for them to support given the obvious concerns regarding the legislation.

McLean pointed out that it was essentially giving the premier the power to offer anyone tax exemptions behind closed doors in Cabinet without any indication of the criteria for that exemption. He suggested that, should government introduce a tax and then offer concessions to one company trading in the Cayman Islands but not another, it was easy to see how that would be competitively unfair.

“For example, if someone was to come along and want to build a port in East End, well then, the premier could circumvent the law …,” McLean said before the premier leapt to his feet and accused the opposition member of being in Never-Neverland and called on the Speaker of the House. Mary Lawrence asked McLean to withdraw the statement as she said no member was allowed to impugn another.

However, McLean said that he was not prepared to withdraw what he said given that the premier had recently gone on television and admitted openly that he was prepared to circumvent the law when he felt it was necessary, as he had recently regarding the Central Tenders Committee.

The speaker insisted that the member withdraw the comment, and when McLean continued to refuse she called an abrupt adjournment and asked him to go to her office. She later returned and announced that the East End MLA was still refusing to withdraw the comment and she then asked the member to leave the House for the rest of the afternoon’s proceedings.

Although McLean pointed out that the procedure was incorrect, not wishing to escalate the situation, he and all of his colleagues collected their papers and left together.

Bush insisted that McLean’s comments were struck from the record before he accused the opposition of playing to the gallery and attempting to upstage government. He said the accusations about the bill gave a false impression to the country. “Do they think that if there was something untoward about a certificate the governor would sign it,” Bush asked the empty opposition bench. He said there was nothing new in the law but he said the country had an opposition that was trying to destroy the government.

Following the adjournment of the House, the opposition denied playing to the gallery and pointed out that they walkout was because all of the PPM members were in support of McLean’s comments and believed that the bill was an attempt to circumvent democracy.

McLean said there were significant future implications with the bill and he would not allow the premier to truncate the future of the country without raising his objections. “I was hired to protect the interests of the people of this country, especially the people of East End,” said McLean. “The people sent me there to represent them and I’m going to do it the best way I know how and I will speak up as government is trying to circumvent every tenet of democracy we have.”

His colleague Alden McLaughlin raised serious questions about the bill’s implications and said that the walkout was not a performance but was because the member for East End should have been allowed to make his point. “What this is all about is conferring yet another power on Cabinet to make decisions behind closed doors,” McLaughlin said.

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Mac blames industry on dormant accounts law issues

| 24/11/2010 | 22 Comments

(CNS): The premier has said it was the failure of the representatives in the financial industry to respond to government at the appropriate time that has led to the need for substantive amendments to a law passed only four months ago. The controversy surrounding the Dormant Accounts Bill 2010, which was passed in July, continued in the Legislative Assembly on Wednesday morning when McKeeva Bush said government had reached out to some thirteen industry bodies before the law, which will allow government to take unclaimed cash and property from local financial institutions, was written but only the Bankers Association had responded.

He suggested financial entities on the island were reluctant to give up the abandoned cash and had deliberately sought to delay the law by ignoring government’s requests. The premier indicated that it was not until the bill was enacted that the industry then came “running to government” with its suggestions. He said that despite their response after the fact, government had demonstrated that it was still more than willing to listen and address their concerns, and so had now brought the amendments.

Contrary to the accusations made by the opposition, Bush said, there had been extensive consultation with the industry before the law was brought to the Legislative Assembly, but it was the associations and representatives that had opted not to engage with government. He said government had discussed the proposed legislation at length with the CI Bankers Association.

Bush told his legislative colleagues that he had got a "shellacking" over the bill and was accused of rushing it through, but he said government circulated proposals in April and it was the industry not government that was at fault. He said he hoped lessons had been learned on both sides – government and private sector — and that next time the stakeholders would come forward in the time frame given. He also said he hoped that the financial sector could see government was willing to listen to their concerns and had acted on them immediately.

“Every effort has been made now to accommodate their concerns while still achieving government’s goal of gaining access to abandoned property,” Bush said. “We wish we had received feedback from the private sector during the consultation period … I hope next time government proposes new legislation we receive more robust responses before it is debated in the Legislative Assembly.”

During its response to the amended legislation the opposition noted that this time it had been given an adequate consultation period to examine the changes and were happy to support them.

Noting the unusual circumstances, even for “this government”, Alden McLaughlin said that four months after it was passed government was bringing 17 pages of amendments for a law that was 17 pages in the first place. He added that when the original bill was brought, the opposition had only one day’s notice to look at a bill that turned out to be nothing short of disastrous.

Even government’s own committee had described the bill as “fundamentally flawed and unworkable”, he stated, adding that he was stunned that the government would have risked bringing the law with such potentially dangerous consequences for the country’s main industry.

The George Town MLA said the opposition had pointed out the dangers of the bill and the problems of rushing such important legislation without consultation when the premier brought the law before the House in July, but he had not listened. “This is the clearest evidence yet that it is unwise to dismiss everything from the opposition benches as politics as the premier has a tendency to do,” McLaughlin noted.

The opposition member said it was impossible to measure the fallout from the government bringing the flawed legislation but he was certain it would not be positive, especially when it could have been avoided through proper open consultation.

“Speed is no substitute for accuracy,” McLaughlin said and took government to task over what he described as an attitude of “do it now and fix it later” with the country’s key industry. He noted, however, that at least the government had the forthrightness to come to the Legislative Assembly and put right its mistakes.

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Robbers wore party masks

| 24/11/2010 | 162 Comments

(CNS): Updated 5:30pm – Police have now released descriptions of the three armed men who robbed Butterfield Bank (Cayman) on North Sound Road this morning. Police said the gunmen were all wearing Halloween party masks one of which was said to be of the US president Barack Obama. The three suspects are all described as having dark complexions and were wearing dark clothing. During the robbery  which occurred around 11:20am staff were threatened and one shot was fired into the ceiling before the robbers escaped with an undisclosed sum of cash. Although police did not reveal how the robbers made their escape road blocks were set up in the surrounding area and the Air Operations Unit was deployed in the search for the suspects. (Photo Dennie Warren Jr)

The RCIPS said only one of the three men appeared to be armed with a handgun and although staff were shaken and one was taken to hospital no one was injured.  News27, reporting live from the scene in the immediate wake of the robbery interviewed a wtiness who was at the ATM when she heard a sound within the bank. When she looked she saw everyone was on the ground and knew it was a bank robbery. She said she ran away and called 911.

Butterfield released a statement this afternoon stating that it was unable to confirm official details but that the Compass Banking Centre was closed for the remainder of the day. "We can report our staff and customers are safe and that the Banking Centre is secure. Butterfield management is working with the RCIP and will continue to provide updates as they become available. The safety of our staff and our customers is our number one priority, at this time," the bank stated.

The bank went on to say that a formal communication will be released to the press as soon as additional information is confirmed.

Anyone with any information about this crime should call George Town police station on 949-
4222 or the confidential Crime Stoppers number 800-8477(TIPS).

See Cayman 27 video

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Many fat women think they are slim

| 24/11/2010 | 0 Comments

(Daily Telegraph): An American study questioned over 2,000 women about their size, diet and exercise habits and took measurements. It found that many women were often unaware about whether they were a healthy weight or not. Co-author Dr Mahbubur Rahman, of University of Texas, said: "As obesity numbers climb, many women identify overweight as normal, not based on the scale but on how they view themselves." It was found that 25 per cent of overweight women misjudged their body weight along with 16 per cent of normal weight women. The findings have serious consequences for obesity prevention, the researchers said, as many women do not recognise they are overweight and so will not join programmes.

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Scientists say early universe was primordial ‘soup’

| 24/11/2010 | 0 Comments

(TG Daily): The ALICE detector team at CERN has discovered that the very early universe consisted of a hot, dense liquid, rather than a gas. By colliding lead nuclei together at the Large Hadron Collider, the ALICE experiment generated sub-atomic fireballs with a temperature of over ten trillion degrees, mimicking conditions during the first moments of the existence of the universe. At these temperatures, normal matter is expected to melt into a primordial ‘soup’ known as quark-gluon plasma. Althoughprevious research indicated that the fireballs behaved like a liquid, many expected the quark-gluon plasma to act like a gas at these much higher energies.

"Although it is very early days, we are already learning more about the early universe," says Dr David Evans, of the University of Birmingham and UK lead investigator for ALICE. "These firstresults would seem to suggest that the universe would have behaved like a super-hot liquid immediately after the Big Bang."

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Howell returns to court in company battle

| 24/11/2010 | 0 Comments

(Jamaica Gleaner): Lawyers for the Turks and Caicos Islands-based firm, First Financial Caribbean Trust, have asked the courts in Jamaica to cite for contempt, and possibly jail, businessmen Delroy Howell and Kenarthur Mitchell for allegedly snubbing a Jamaican judge’s order that they account for nearly US$14 million in assets claimed by the TCI firm. The amount includes, the plaintiff alleges, US$3.7 million, which is part of the estimated US$11 million that Jamaica National group paid Howell for his Cayman Islands based Quickcash money transfer company, as well as a Jamaican property. But yesterday Paul Beswick, the lawyer for Howell and Mitchell, described the application as "completely baseless and without merit".

"I can assure you that the lawyers for the complainants know that it is utter nonsense," Beswick told Wednesday Business. If the court finds Howell, Mitchell and their firms in contempt, the complainant wants an order that they be sent to prison or fined and their assets confiscated.

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Canada’s NDP calls for tax haven clamp down

| 24/11/2010 | 0 Comments

(Toronto Sun): The Canadian opposition party the NDP is calling on the government to get tough on tax cheats. The party says some corporations and wealthy Canadians avoid paying billions in taxes each year by burying the money in offshore tax havens, which is unfair to average Canadians who have to pick up the slack. NDP Leader Jack Layton accused Prime Minister Stephen Harper Tuesday of being lax with tax evaders, despite all the government’s rhetoric about getting tough on crime. "They claim to want to be tough on crime, well come on. Let’s get with it with the billionaires and those corporations that are milking the Canadian taxpayer," Layton said.

"Mr. Harper cannot keep standing by while the wealthy tax cheats and the biggest corporations that get involved in this essentially take tax dollars out of the pockets of hard-working Canadians. It’s not right." According to the NDP’s figures, Canadians have $80 billion invested in Bermuda, Barbados, and the Cayman Islands — many times those countries’ GDP.

"Each tax dollar that’s hidden in Bermuda is a dollar that someone else must pay, or it’s a dollar that cannot be invested in public services," Layton said, lamenting Harper’s cuts to the Canada Revenue Agency’s enforcement branch.

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Local liquidator reveals cause of Hadsphaltic demise

| 24/11/2010 | 0 Comments

(CNS): Chris Johnson, who was appointed one of the joint liquidators, will be examining the roll that the directors of Oxford Ventures Ltd, once owned by the UK Conservative peer and billionaire Lord Ashcroft, played in the demise of local construction firm Hadsphaltic. The company which went into liquidation in July of this year had been a successful contractor in the Cayman Islands for more than four decades. However,Johnson believes that it could have collapsed because other firms in the Oxford group owed the company millions of dollars which they could never have paid, in particular Johnston International Limited in the Turks and Caicos Islands.


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TCI debt downfall of Hadsphaltic

| 24/11/2010 | 0 Comments

(CNS): The demise of local construction company Hadsphaltic was down to the financial woes of its parent company Oxford Ventures Ltd, which was propping up failing businesses in the Turks and Caicos Islands. Chris Johnson, the joint liquidator for Hadsphaltic who has now been named one of the joint liquidators for Oxford, said that the real reason why the firm went into liquidation was because of the heavy loses incurred by Johnston International Limited in TCI, which owed money to Hadsphaltic, and which, in the end, brought Oxford down as well. Johnson said he and his joint liquidator will be investigating why companies within the complex web of holdings across the Caribbean were continuing to trade even while they were incurring losses which could have made them insolvent.

Johnson told CNS on Tuesday that he wanted to take a look at the conduct of the directors within the group of companies, once owned by Lord Ashcroft, and establish why money was being pushed into companies that may not have been viable at the expense of others.

“Hadsphaltic went into liquidation largely because Johnston International Limited owed it $5 million which it could not repay,’” he said, adding that while the firm was incurring massive losses the directors allowed the firm to continue trading, incurring more debt.

“In March 2006 Oxford Ventures Ltd, the parent company in the BVI, was worth $17 million; it is now worth nothing,” the Cayman based liquidator stated. “By far the largest loss in the group was the $20 million lost by JIL, which drained the top company.”

He said that it appeared the directors had felt the need to support the loss making entities at the expense of Hadsphaltic, which was penalised by the decisions those directors made.

News that the local construction company, which had been building in the Cayman islands for more than four decades, came in July this year when it was part way through the construction of the new $4.5 million MRCU hanger at the airport, only yards away from where the firm had constructed its first project some 44 years ago.

The contractor set up shop in the Cayman Islands in 1966 to work on the airport runway project. It became one of the country’s leading construction companies and built anumber of schools, three of the islands’ main hotels, the port building and Cayman National on Elgin Avenue.

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Cancun’s vanishing mangroves hold climate promise

| 24/11/2010 | 0 Comments

(Reuters): The famous Mexican beach resort, which will next week host international climate change talks, was itself born from the destruction of a potent resource to fight global warming. Thick mangrove forests lined the canals and waterways here before developers dredged the land to make way for the upscale hotels that now draw several million tourists every year. In the 40 years since Cancun was founded, countless acres of mangrove forests up and down Mexico’s Caribbean Coast have been lost — and the destruction continues. Now many scientists say that mangrove forests can help slow climate change, and are desperate to save them. (Photo Dennie Warren Jr)

"We still have a lot to learn but the potential is huge for mangroves," said Gail Chmura, a climate change researcher at McGill University in Montreal who studies how much carbon is stored in these knobby, tidal forests.As they process sunlight into food, mangroves suck an uncommon amount of industrial carbon out of the atmosphere and bury it deep within their underground network of roots.
As nations looks desperately for "carbon sinks" that can capture and store carbon linked to climate change, mangroves are increasingly seen as a resource worth saving.

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