Archive for February 21st, 2011

LA dodges basic wage debate

| 21/02/2011 | 49 Comments

(CNS): Despite government claims that it is committed to a minimum wage, it was not prepared to debate the subject during Monday’s legislative proceedings. Both the premier and the labour minister said that a committee stage amendment brought by the independent member for North Side was irrelevant to the changes government was bringing to the labour law and it should never have made it to the floor of the legislative committee. Attempts by Ezzard Miller to insert a clause into the government’s bill removing the 12 week cap on workers compensation and to introduce a minimum wage of $5 were, after a long protracted battle, thwarted. This was Miller’s third attempt to get government to introduce a minimum wage which has failed.

Government fought for some time during Monday’s committee session not to allow the amendment to go to a vote and invoked a number of standing orders as well as chapters in Erskine May, the UK’s handbook on parliamentary procedure, to stop the amendment being brought before legislators. Although the speaker had allowed the motion for the amendment to be placed on the agenda, the premier said that Miller’s amendment was not only irrelevant but was procedurally incorrect, inadmissible and the speaker and the clerks should never have accepted it.

“This has no business before the committee. It is irrelevant and should be withdrawn,” the premier said, adding that government should not be forced into a vote over such an important issue when the clerk and the speakers were wrong to accept the motion in the first place. The premier said the member should withdraw the amendment and government should not have to vote on it.

Miller said it was music to his ears that government had realized there were rules in the Legislative Assembly but strongly disputed the accusations that he was out of order, that there was anything procedurally incorrect, or that the bill was irrelevant, adding that the amendment was properly before the House.

He also pointed to various standing orders as well as the precedent not only on this particular issue but on other historical legislative changes in the parliament’s history. Miller expressed his disappointment that the government members seemed so reluctant to debate a bill that was designed to help the working people and refused to withdraw his amendment. “I am not withdrawing the amendment,” he said, adding that the speaker and the clerks were correct in accepting and circulating the proposal. “Government cannot cop out on a vote by saying someone erred and I’m not withdrawing it and helping government out of this one,” he added.

The opposition supported Miller in his arguments that the amendment was procedurally correct and that there should be a vote on the amendment. Alden McLaughlin, in his new role as leader of the opposition, described the government’s behaviour as preposterous. He said it was very clear the premier regarded the subject as very political but the speaker should not allow those considerations to stand in the way of the proposed amendment being dealt with as it should be.

During the lunchtime adjournment McKeeva Bush spoke with the press and acknowledged the political sensitivity of the subject but he said the UDP was fully committed to introducing a minimum wage in the right way. He said there were still many issues to iron out and that his government was not prepared to just rush through an amendment in this way. “The UDP is committed to it but we can’t say at what rate,” he said, adding that it could well be more than $5 and that there were “tremendous matters” still to be considered when it came to the actual legislation for a minimum wage.

With both government and opposition in favour of a minimum wage it would seem that its introduction should not be such a legislative difficulty. However, the matter has been in the political arena for discussion for several years and no administration has yet been ale to pass it. Bush said that he, of all politicians, was the one that had helped to improve legislation when it came to labour laws and he was committed to getting this through as well.

“There will be a minimum wage,” he promised.

However, it was clear when the legislatures returned after the adjournment that it would not be the day that the minimum wage finally made it to the country’s statute books as the premier insisted that the procedure was incorrect and the amendment irrelevant. Although the government had taken a vote in the past on Miller’s amendments and voted ‘no’, this time it seemed particularly reluctant to take the amendment to a vote at all as it continued to argue points over procedure and relevance.

Eventually, the speaker saved the government from having to vote ‘no’ and said that the motion had to be withdrawn as the member had not supplied an amendment to the schedule of the law with his amendment to the bill. Miller asked several times for clarity on her position as he said he was not entirely clear what schedule the speaker was referring to, and was told she was referring to the schedule in the law.

Speaking after the House adjourned, Miller said he had to accept the ruling by the speaker but he was still not sure what she meant by an amendment to the schedule of the law because the labour law has no schedule. “In the end it seems that the government, despite what it claims, is reluctant to commit to a minimum wage,” he added. “We could have had one today if they were,” he said.

The opposition leader, who also supports a minimum wage, was concerned about what had happened with the amendment as he said the North Side member’s bill was properly before the House and should have been voted on. “How can the speaker approve a motion to amend the bill, circulate it to members, allow it to come to the floor of the committee and then after three hours of debate and browbeating by the government rule it to be unintelligible, incomplete and irrelevant?” McLaughlin asked rhetorically.

The government’s bill, which was the only piece of legislation for the day, amends the labour law to remove the 12 week cap on severance pay, compensation or pension benefits to employers who have worked for more than twelve years. The change was supported by both sides of the House and was eventually passed.

The members of the LA are due to return to the country’s parliament on Wednesday at 10am

See government’s bill and Miller’s proposed amendment below

Labour Law Amendment Bill 2011

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The Gwen Bush Memorial Scholarship Fund

| 21/02/2011 | 11 Comments

Reference the Government Information Service Press Release published by CNS, I am offended and indeed insulted at being totally ignored by whomsoever was responsible for organizing the announcement of the above ceremony and I am now further offended by the inaccuracies in the release. I can only say that if this is the standard of GIS accuracy, written by a group or member of a group that one would expect to be erudite, it is regrettable and unacceptable.

To report that the scholarship which has been added to the scholarship secretariat’s registry “is named for Cayman’s primary contact for the Southwell Recruiting Company, which hired seamen for National Bulk Carriers in the mid 1900s” is inaccurate, to say the least.

Let me try to set the record straight on this matter, once and for all.

On the death of my father, the late Albert C. Panton, MBE, JP, I was promptly appointed by National Bulk Carriers Inc. and affiliated Company Universe Tankships, Inc. to represent them in the recruitment, processing and dispatch of Seamen from Grand Cayman. The late Capt. Keith Tibbetts was their appointed agent in Cayman Brac. Prior to my father’s retirement from Government Service, Capt. McPherson Thompson and Mr Ernest Panton were also involved, in exactly what capacity I am not quite sure.

On the Monday morning following my father’s passing, I, along with Miss Gwen, attended the departure of quite a number of Seamen who had been processed to leave on a LACSA flight for assignment in a distant Port. Miss Gwen never missed a single day at work and willingly went, at all hours of the night, to see her boys safely off. In those days, everyone in Government and otherwise willingly jumped to facilitate the more often than not urgent processing of the Seamen. This included the issuing of a Visa Waiver by the Passport office and the necessary Police Clearance Certificate (then called a Police Record), the Medical Examination (God bless Mrs Maudie Seymour), the full co-operation of Mr Norman Bodden and LACSA, and the late Mr Tommy Adam of BWIA. I also cannot forget the inimitable Mr Leighton Christian and others of the Wireless cable office, who saw to it that the ‘calls’ from New York and elsewhere were promptly delivered. Not to mention also the ‘bush telegraph’ system of the day. It was all perfected synergism at its best.

I had returned home from England via the Harwich to Hook van Holland Ferry, then on to Hamburg, Germany where I joined the SS Sprucewoods of National Bulk Carriers, as what is called Supercargo, for the trip to Norfolk (Newport News), Virginia. This was a wonderful and enlightening experience for me as we sailed, in ballast, past the White Cliffs of Dover, into the Atlantic and the almost inevitable North Atlantic Gale. I was all over the ship, keeping watch on the Bridge including the ‘graveyard shift’, and in the engine room watching the Engineers, Oilers, Firemen and Wipers perform. This experience stood me in good stead later as I had experienced life at sea for even a short while and could relate to some of the stories I was later told.

I understand that the late Capt. Dell Bodden was responsible for initially introducing and recommending Cayman Islands Seamen to Mr Daniel K. Ludvig. Of course our seamen were world renowned from the days of the sailing ships and turtling and this reputation was further enhanced by the 300 or so who ‘volunteered’ to join the TRNVR or Trinidad Naval Volunteer Reserve. It has been said, and I believe correctly, that this represented the highest per capita contingent among all Allied Forces in WW II. Undoubtedly their prowess as Seamen was noticed by Mr Ludvig and many others at that stage in their shipping operations shortly after WW2.

Miss Gwen Bush had already been employed by my father and the others and so was singularly qualified when I came on board. She was a fast and accurate touch typist, second only to Mrs Hope Glidden-Borden, of blessed memory. Gwen quickly became my friend. I loved her like a sister and grieved on her passing. She was competent and dedicated to the welfare of ‘her boys’ and deserved being affectionately called the “Mother of the Seamen”.

As for me personally, I have never sought to obtain any particular recognition, praise or commendation for the part I played in what has been termed ‘the Southwell Years’. I have always been content to salute Miss Gwen and sing her praises and I like to tell the story of the young lady bank teller some years ago who, on seeing my name on my cheque, said “Oh, you are Mr Colin Panton, the man who worked for Miss Gwen!” I smiled and said, “Young lady, you have made my day!” Obviously, the fathers and grandfathers would mention and tell their children about Miss Gwen and not me, and I can well understand and accept that.

Maybe it is time to reveal that Gwen was privy to every and all confidences that were attached to the job we were doing. The statute of limitations must surely have expired by now on the infamous “Black List” the existence of which we could not even acknowledge. Another was the occasional arrival on the Island of what I termed an ‘insurance tourist’ with loud shirt and shorts, camera and recorder, to snoop on individuals who had brought suit against the Company for one reason or another, usually medically related. I could tell a few really good jokes about this.

Let me also advise that Pancarib Agencies not only processed and sent men ‘with Southwell’ but were also agents for Bernuth, Lembcke Inc. (Philadelphia), Mathiesen Tankers Inc., Imperial Oil (Esso of Canada) and Papachristidis (Montreal). This presented the opportunity to give ‘another chance’ to the less serious cases on the blacklist. Many of those went on to vindicate themselves admirably and excel in their seafaring careers. Would that the present system could do the same for so many of the young men and women of today who could be given “another chance”.

Let me introduce a little tidbit which could be of interest to some. I believe it happened on two occasions that we had to process and dispatch a number of replacement crew members to Cape Town, South Africa. They had to be sent via London to obtain a special Visa from the South African Embassy, required by ‘coloured’ West Indians, in order to travel on South African Airline to Cape Town or Johannesburg. How times have changed.

I cannot conclude without mentioning the several sad occasions when we had to inform a family that their husband, son or other family member had died, usually accidentally while away at sea. I could not have delivered those messages alone and although Gwen often knew the individuals more closely than I did and so had more reason to grieve and mourn than I did, she was always the emotional brick that I could cling to.

Obviously the Seamen/Seafarers of that era are fast passing on each year. The time will come when they have all passed. Should we not be making an effort to replace them? I am not suggesting necessarily for ocean going jobs but as a maritime island nation, Founded upon the Seas, the opportunity to learn the seafaring skills their forefathers learned and knew so well. In my opinion we should continue to educate and train our young men, and women, in the disciplines of Seamanship and I wonder why our present Cadet Corps, which I understand is doing a good job in their own way, was not designed originally towards being a sea related Cadet Corps.

And let me state clearly that in my opinion the Cayman Islands Seafarers Association hierarchy should not have allowed the award of a scholarship of this nature and relationship to be ostensibly politicised by involving the Government or any other allied entity, as it obviously has. I believe that the Seafarers Association could easily have funded this Scholarship on its own, guaranteeing that the name Gwen Bush would be properly and more effectively memorialized.

Oh well. It sometimes seems that my name happens to be anathema to some, and so be it.

This is a favourite little poem of mine, author unknown.

They were all well known Seamen
and their ranks are growing thin.
Their service should remind us
We may need their likes again.

If we do not show them honour
While here to hear the praise,
Then at least let’s give them homage
at the ending of their days.

RIP Miss Gwen. We all loved you.

I hope that this will prove to enlighten all and sundry of that wonderful period in our history, through my eyes.

Note: "The Bashful Billionaire Tanker Builder" about the late Mr. Daniel K. Ludvig is attached below.

GIS release: Maintaining Our Maritime Heritage
 

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Service club to illuminate polio message

| 21/02/2011 | 0 Comments

(CNS): Rotary Sunrise will be using bright lights to deliver a message about the need to eradicate polio. From Wednesday evening 23 February to 9 March a larger than life message declaring Rotary’s pledge to rid the world of this crippling childhood disease will be illuminating Camana Bay.The message will first appear in lights against the side of an e office building in Camana Bay on the 106th anniversary of the service organization’s inception. This building illumination is part of a worldwide drive to elevate public awareness of Rotary’s pledge to rid the earth of polio.

Camana Bay will join famous landmarks around the world in displaying the "End Polio Now" message including the Trevi Fountain in Rome; the parliament building in The Hague; the soccer stadium in Cape Town, South Africa; a gate at the Lantern Festival in Taiwan; Kanazawa Castle in Kanazawa, Japan; the government building in Karachi, Pakistan; the planetarium in Seoul, Korea; the Globe of the Mall of Asia in the Philippines; Byblos Castle in Byblos, Lebanon, and the Charminar in Hyderabad, India.

Tony Catalanotto, the Polio Plus Director and Vice President of the Rotary Club of Grand Cayman Sunrise, has planned additional supporting activities that will coincide with the building illumination at Camana Bay.

"We plan to have fellow Rotarians at Camana Bay soliciting for donations and also to better explain this great worldwide initiative," says Catalanotto. In addition, many of the Camana Bay merchants will have “Polio Plus” collection boxes where the general public can pop in and make a donation. "It is important to note that the bottom line is this: As long as polio threatens even one child anywhere in the world, all children — wherever they live — remain at risk," he adds.
Polio eradication has been Rotary’s top priority for more than two decades. The international humanitarian service organization is a spearheading partner in the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, along with the World Health Organization, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and UNICEF.

Rotary has pledged to raise US$200 million to match $355 million in challenge grants from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The entire $555 million will be spent in support of eradication activities.

Great progress has been made: The number of cases of polio infection has plunged from about 350,000 in 1988 to fewer than 2,000 in 2009. More than two billion children have been immunized in 122 countries, preventing five million cases of paralysis and 250,000 pediatric deaths.

Rotary club members worldwide have contributed more than $900 million and countless volunteer hours to the effort and are now working aggressively to raise the $200 million needed to match the Gates Foundation grants. The money is needed to ensure that the progress made over more than two decades will continue. To learn more about polio eradication, including how to participate in this historic effort, visit www.rotary.org/endpolio today. If you would like to make a donation, please visit any of the participating merchants at Camana Bay, approach any local Rotarian, or call Tony Catalanotto at 926-7368.
 

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LA returns with new opposition leader

| 21/02/2011 | 14 Comments

(CNS): There is only one piece of legislation on the agenda when the country’s legislators return to the Legislative Assembly on Monday morning. However, there will be a special ceremony before the lawmakers get down to debating an amendment to the Labour Law to formally present the instrument of appointment to Alden McLaughlin, the new of leader of the opposition, by the governor. In the first sitting of the fourth meeting of the 2010/11 session, although there is only one bill on the table, a significant number of the backlog of annual reports are expected to be presented. According to the draft order paper, the National Roads Authority will be presenting six years worth of financial reports, bringing the authority completely up to date. (Photo Dennie Warren Jr)

The Ministry of District Administration, Planning, Agriculture and Housing is also handing in three years worth of reports up to the end of the financial year 07/08 which means the ministry is still two years behind in accounting to the public for its spending. Financial Statements are also expected from Cayman Turtle Farm up 2008 and from The Water Authority for the 08/09 financial year. The Cayman Islands National Insurance Company ‘s Annual Report for 09/10 will bring CINICO, the government owned insurance company, up to date, along with the Electricity Regulatory Authority, which will also be presenting financial statements for the year ended 30 June, 2010.

The independent MLA for North Side will be moving his own amendment to the government’s bill, which if adopted would introduce a minimum wage. The move is the third attempt by Ezzard Miller to get government to introduce a minimum wage via an amendment to a law brought to the Legislative Assembly but it is unlikely to be accepted. However, the introduction of the amendment allows the subject to be debated and will force the labour minister to reveal the reasons for his opposition to introducing a basic minimum wage for adult workers. 

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Man acquitted of male rape

| 21/02/2011 | 0 Comments

(CNS): A forty-year-old man from West Bay has been acquitted of rape of another man in connection with an alleged incident in January last year. The man was accused of forcing a 32-year-old man to have anal and oral intercourse against his will inside a van at a garage located in West Bay on the night of 8 January 2010. However, the judge, who was sitting alone in the case, returned a verdict of not guilty on Friday afternoon when she said that there was no corroborating evidence for the complainant’s account, which, she said, raised serious doubts about his version of events. Justice Marva McDonald-Bishop said as she delivered the verdict that she had “reasonable and not flimsy doubt” that the accused was guilty and the crown had not met the burden of proof.

The judge explained that since neither the medical report nor the scientific evidence supported the crown’s case against Leonard Ebanks, it came down to the complainant’s word againstthe accused, who vehemently denied the accusation. Although she said it was curious that the complainant would make up such details about what could be seen as a humiliating attack, the two men were known to each other and had a history of dispute. She said it was possible that the complainant had a motive to lie, as he said he was being bullied by Ebanks.

Given the description of the rape, which the complainant described as a lengthy, forced, rough and painful, that he was injured and in discomfort for several days after the event and that it was the first time he had ever had anal intercourse, the judge said common sense told her that there would have been some medical evidence of this rape. But, she noted, the medical exam conducted less than five hours after the alleged attack showed no lesions, tears or injuries to the alleged victim.

The judge also found in her ruling that the forensic evidence did not support the crown’s case. She said that although some of the accused’s blood was found in the van on a coil of electrical wire, Ebanks had admitted stealing from the van the previous evening and had dropped the coil on his shin, opening up a wound he had sustained that day. There was no other DNA in the van belonging to the defendant, despite the fact that the complainant had said his attacker did not use a condom.

The complainant’s DNA was, however, found in the van and on a tissue from the van mixed with another unknown person’s DNA but not that of the accused. Nor was any of the accuser’s DNA found on the complainant’s clothes or vice versa, despite the alleged close proximity of the assault and the arrest of Ebanks hours after the alleged attack. DNA found on the accused’s clothes was that of a female, and during his defence Ebanks had consistently stated that he was with two women and another male friend when the complainant said the rape had taken place.

According to the complainant, as he walked along a road in West Bay that night he was stopped by his attacker who threatened to hurt him unless he helped him moved some stolen tools in the garage on the road. The complainant said he felt something metal on his neck and believed all through the attack that the rapist had a gun. This, he said, was why he never attempted to run away, even though they had both had to climb over a fence to get to the garage and that during the alleged rape the attacker was not actually holding a weapon.

The defendant had persistently denied the allegation, stating that he was drinking with his three friends on the night in question but had been at the garage the night before, where he did steal a drill. He said the only time he was alone on the night of the allegation was when he walked to an address in Birch Tree Hill, where he purchased crack cocaine.

Both Ebanks and the accused had taken the stand during the three day trial and both men’s previous convictions had been aired in the court, calling into question both men’s character and credibility, the judge explained, and although she said that someone’s bad character did not necessarily mean a person would lie and although it was strange that the complainant would make up such a detailed rape, she did not think his account was credible.

Taking everything together, as the case boiled down to word of mouth, the judge stated, and given that the scientific evidence leant more support to Ebanks’ assertion that he did not commit the rape, she handed down the not guilty verdict.
 

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Expert says Asia place to be for offshore lawyers

| 21/02/2011 | 0 Comments

(The Lawyer): While caution should attend any upbeat assessment of economic prospects, there’s every sign that 2011 – the Chinese Year of the Rabbit – will prove to have some bounce, writes Marcus Leese. Across Asia there is a sense of an economy that is optimistic, robust and buoyant. Asia is by no means immune from global ailments, but high levels of growth and low household and government debt have warded off the kind of malaise that has afflicted much of the world. From a legal practice perspective, including offshore jurisdictions such as the British Virgin Islands (BVI), the Cayman Islands, Guernsey and Jersey, this means it is all hands on deck.

With Cayman companies having long been the most popular offshore corporate vehicles for listing on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, and Jersey and BVI companies now also able to be used as listing vehicles, considerable offshore legal work is expected.

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Visiting octogenarian dies snorkelling

| 21/02/2011 | 5 Comments

(CNS): An 83-year-old visitor from New York died yesterday afternoon while snorkelling at Kaibo. Police said that at about 5.00pm Sunday 20 February the RCIPS received a report that an 83-year-old man, who had been snorkelling close to his apartment in the Kaibo area, was not moving. A number of people in the vicinity assisted in bringing the unconscious man to shore. Emergency services attended the scene and medical personnel performed CPR. The man was conveyed to the Cayman Islands Hospital, George Town, but was found to be dead or arrival. The man was on vacation with his wife, daughter and other family members.

This is the fourth water sports related death of 2011.
 

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United starts weekly direct flight to Washington

| 21/02/2011 | 10 Comments

(CNS): United Airlines has begun a weekly non-stop Saturday service between Grand Cayman and Washington Dulles International Airport . United will use an Airbus A320 for the new service with seating for 138 passengers – twelve in first class and 126 in economy. The three-and-a-half-hour flight (UA695) will depart Grand Cayman at 12:40pm, arriving in Dulles at 4:04pm. The return flight (UA690) will depart Dulles at 8:21am arriving in Grand Cayman at 11:43am. United Airlines said it will be able to offer connections to and from dozens of cities in the United States as Dulles International is one of the airline’s hub airports.

United Airlines is a wholly owned subsidiary of United Continental Holdings, operating more than 3,300 flights a day on United and United Express to more than 230 domestic and international destinations. With key global air rights in the Asia-Pacific region, Europe and Latin America, United is a founding member of Star Alliance, which overall offers 21,000 daily flights to 1,160 airports in 181 countries.
 

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Cayman hedge fund servicefirm expands into Asia

| 21/02/2011 | 5 Comments

(CNS): Local hedge fund firm dms Management Ltd has opened an office in the Asia-Pacific region. The firm said the dms Management (Hong Kong) Limited ensures real-time service for DMS’ Asia-Pacific clientele and solidifies the global strength of the firm’s infrastructure. The firm stated that, with support from Cayman, the Hong Kong office will provide localised client services, further strengthening the relationships between Hong Kong and Cayman Islands service providers. This global reach, it said, would provide unparalleled accessibility for the firm’s clients. David Lyons will be leading the Hong Kong team, overseeing all aspects of client service delivery for the regions.

Lyons will also spearhead business development opportunities and the growth of DMS’ infrastructure in Hong Kong. Formerly a senior associate in the Cayman office, where he was heavily involved in business development across Asia, Lyons said it was an incredible opportunity to provide real-time service to Asia-Pacific clients and grow DMS. “With our state-of-the-art fund governance support platform, we ensure that our global client base continues to receive a service that is first in its class. The Hong Kong office affirms DMS’ long-term commitment to the region and its clients,” he added.

DMS Managing Director David Bree said the Hong Kong office was purpose-built to serve the needs of the modern-day hedge fund with real-time service. “Our heightened presence in the Asia-Pacific market further builds our strength and depth across multiple jurisdictions, and complements our expanding strategic locations, in addition to our headquarters in the Cayman Islands, including Brazil and Ireland,” he said. “By extending our commitment and coverage in the Asia-Pacific region, we will be able to provide continued seamless integration with the Cayman Islands and are confident that this move will only further reinforce DMS’ internationally-renowned reputation as the industry leader in fund governance.”

DMS focuses on serving the hedge fund industry with principals serving as independent directors, as well as advising on hedge funds in distressed conditions, structure and service offshore hedge fund business solutions. With 12 directors and more than 50 industry professionals leveraging proprietary leading-edge technology, DMS said it is internationally recognized as the industry leader.

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Travers’ nemesis turns on McTaggart in wake of letter

| 21/02/2011 | 8 Comments

(CNS): Following the recent letter from the chair of Cayman Finance to Ronnie Campbell, a UK member of parliament, Richard Murphy, from Tax Research UK has accused Roy McTaggart of sellinga myth. In his blog the former chair’s nemesis said that he had hoped that after the excesses of the (Anthony) Travers years that the new chair might have toned down the rhetoric, and realised the folly of “tilting against windmills.” Murphy said that the absurd letters from Cayman Finance show how far removed from reality the jurisdiction is when it says that tax havens do something other than let people and companies avoid their obligations to society.


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