Archive for November 30th, 2012

Thieves steal cops’ techy van

| 30/11/2012 | 85 Comments

P1010039 (219x275)_0.jpgCNS): A police utility van was stolen from a car park in George Town almost five months ago, the RCIPS has now admitted. Sources told CNS this week that the surveillance vehicle had been stolen some time ago but the police had not gone public over the loss of the expensive piece of equipment, which has not been recovered. CNS requested information about the loss of the vehicle Friday and eventually received a statement admitting that the van had been taken. The RCIPS also revealed that an unmarked police motorcycle had also been stolen from the George Town area in September. However, a few weeks later it was recovered in West Bay and one man has now been charged in connection with the theft.

Sources told CNS that in both cases it is believed that the keys were left in the unattended vehicles. The police have said very little about the van but stated that it was stolen from a car park.

"We can confirm that an unmarked police utility van was stolen from a public car park in the George Town area in early July,” a police spokesperson said. “At the time of the theft the vehicle did not contain any police equipment. Despite extensive police enquiries the vehicle has not yet been recovered or the person responsible traced.”

Other sources had indicated that the van did contain expensive equipment, a point that the RCIPS have now denied.

Ezzard Miller, the member for North Side, spoke with CNS Friday about the theft as it had also come to his attention that a  police vehicle had been stolen and the RCIPS had elected not to inform the public.

“It is absurd that the police would not seek the assistance of the community to find the van when the money used to buy it came from the public purse,” he stated. “I find it unbelievable that this type of vehicle could have been stolen in the first place and there must be an enquiry as to how it could happen. How did such a sizeable vehicle with antennas and satellitesjust disappear?" he wondered.

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Murder conviction quashed

| 30/11/2012 | 0 Comments

martinez_0_0.JPG(CNS): William Martinez McLaughlin walked free from the Grand Court Friday, when his second murder conviction was quashed by the Court of Appeal. The man who had served four and a half years in jail for killing Brian Rankine Carter (20) in April 2008 was acquitted and the court said there would be no new trial. McLaughlin was tried twice for the murder, based almost entirely on the evidence of Jason Hinds, who was with McLaughlin on the night of the killing. He claimed he had seen McLaughlin viciously attack Carter with a machete and pleaded guilty to accessory after the fact. The appeal court found the jury had been misdirected, however, over what evidence, if any, existed to support Hinds’ account of the killing, leaving the question open as to which one of the two men had in fact weilded the machete.

 

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Corruption & despair

| 30/11/2012 | 16 Comments

What or who is the driving power the behind this Coalition for Cayman? The speakers at their recent rally did not offer themselves as potential contenders for seats in the 2013 election, neither did they speak of a leader. One is left to assume that T-shirts, food, and drinks were provided as part of an early rush of Christmas Cheer from Santa. I don’t think so. Santa does not practice giving at political rallies.

I have no doubt that those who were promoted as the benefactors for the event are more than capable of the sponsorship, I am just not satisfied with their explanation or lack of a game plan. They say that both parties are the problem. They may be right. However, are all thirteen party members a problem? What about the two Independent members in the House?

Ezzard Miller has been consistent and diligent in his responsibility to his constituents, the only Member of Parliament to have a living breathing working district committee. As chair of the Public Accounts Committee he made progress, getting accounts up to date until the tardiness of members forced him to either resign or to stand watch over what was fast becoming an unproductive committee.

Arden McLean resigned cleanly from the PPM earlier this year. I have not heard any mudslinging from him regarding PPM and I hope he will continue to take the high road. I sincerely wish that some in the UDP could find the moral fortitude to follow his example. His term as minister earned him the nickname “Action Man”, a title he genuinely earned. Arden has been unyielding in Opposition and solid supporter of Ezzard Miller.

Alden McLaughlin did a good job in getting the schools started. It used up all his political capital, but history will be kinder to him than his present day detractors. Public opinion today, saying Alden is in jeopardy as leader, we will have to wait and see.

The UDP has really been a disappointment. The “Better way forward” in reality turned into our worst nightmare – criminal investigations, rumors of corrupt practices, obvious incompetence, and contempt for public opinion, to list the obvious, have become the hallmark of ineptitude.

So in rides C4C, searching for independent candidates, but they want nothing to do with Ezzard or Arden! These two, who fought the OMOV battle with little or no help from big money! The word is that Ezzard is against business (read “for Cayman”) and Arden can’t be led by the nose into a feeding trough.

Is it too far-fetched to visualize a scenario in which colossal capital is apprehensive that a government devoid of kleptocracy could come to power, and prohibit further economic genocide in Cayman? 

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‘Son of FATCA’ to be discussed in London

| 30/11/2012 | 0 Comments

westminster.jpg(CNS Business): Although it was only revealed to the public last week, discussions between the Cayman Islands and the UK government on Britain’s plans to impose its own version of the US Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) on its Crown Dependencies and Overseas Territories began in July this year, Cayman’s finance ministry said. The leaking of the draft document on the enforced open exchange agreement last week came ahead the annual meeting in London of the leaders of the British Overseas Territories with the UK, which begins Monday, and a ministry spokesperson said it was “highly likely that it will be discussed in London sometime next week”. Read more on CNS Business

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Lord Blencathra threatens legal action

| 30/11/2012 | 21 Comments

Lord Blencathra.jpg(CNS): Following the publication by the UK’s House of Lords Sub-Committee on Conduct of the official report dismissing complaints against the director of the Cayman Islands London Office, Lord Blencathra, the Tory peer who is paid to promote the interests of Cayman in the UK and Europe, issued a statement to Cayman News Service saying that he was seeking legal advice on whether to take action against those in the UK who initiated the “libel” that provoked the complaint and any news outlets overseas who repeated it. Meanwhile, there has been no statement from the London Office concerning the revelations that the UK is planning to impose drastic tax information sharing rules on its dependencies, including Cayman.

In his report, the Commissioner for Standards Paul Kernaghan cleared Blencathra of breaching the House of Lords Code of Conduct. Citing a report of the Sub-Committee on Lords' Interests (as it then was), he stated: “The distinction between advocacy and advice is crucial. Inevitably, however, there are borderline issues. These may place too great a burden on the judgment of the individual Member and may lead him to cross the boundary between what is legitimate and what is not.

"Members willing to take money in return for parliamentary services place themselves in great danger of crossing the boundary, knowingly or inadvertently. Even when a Member's intention is limited to obtaining information, the very fact of approaching, on behalf of paying clients, MPs, other Lords, Ministers and civil servants, may give rise to a perception of advocacy and lobbying. The impression can easily be given that not only advice but also advocacy has been bought by the client. Whether or not a Member has indeed crossed the boundary from the permissible depends on the facts of each case."

The complainant in the case was made by Labour MP Paul Flynn, who wrote to the commissioner requesting that he investigate Lord Blencathra on the basis of an article in The Independent on 17 April 2012.

The complainant alleged that Lord Blencathra provided parliamentary services to the government of the Cayman Islands Office in the United Kingdom. The complainant specified five instances where it is alleged that occurred, and provided a transcript of a press conference given by Lord Blencathra on Cayman27 in which he spoke about his role.

The Commissioner found Lord Blencathra not to have breached the Code of Conduct, finding that the instances complained of did not amount to the provision of parliamentary advice or services.

In his statement addressed specifically to CNS, Lord Blencathra said, “This was always a bogus complaint fabricated by the discredited Bureau of Investigative Journalism. That is an organization funded by Labour Party supporters. Its ethos is anti-Conservative, anti-Lords, anti-IFCs and anti-Thatcher. The journalist and the Independent explicitly made those links in the article in order to discredit me as well as making the highly libelous allegation that my expenses were subject to special scrutiny which is a lie.”

“Now that the Commissioner has exonerated me I have consulted the lawyers acting for Lord McAlpine [a Tory peer who was wrongfully identified in a BBC documentary as a paedophile] who is also taking action against the Bureau of Investigative Journalism. Depending on the legal advice, it is my intention to take action against those in the UK who initiated the libel and any news outlets overseas who repeated that libel.”

Neither the Bureau of Investigative Journalism nor The Independent have received any correspondence from Lord Blencathra on his intentions regarding possible legal action.

Lord Blencathra was appointed director of the London Officer a year ago and it has since been revealed through an FOI request that he and his consultancy company, Two Lions, are costing the public purse more than CI$19,500 per month. Redacted correspondence between Blencathra and Cayman civil servants implies that his appointment was timed to ensure that he could attend the London meeting the premier had with the OT minister at the time, Henry Bellingham, in November 2011, during which McKeeva Bush signed the Framework for Fiscal Responsibility agreement, which the premier now says he did under duress.

The details of Blencathra’s contract, revealed through the freedom of information request, shows that government felt in the “changing global financial circumstances” that the London office needed to expand its traditional goals to include strengthening the relationship between the Cayman government and the FCO, as well as other UK and European organisations, and actively promote Cayman in the business communities there. The contract also points to the need for someone to help identify opportunities for development and inward investment to diversify the Cayman economy and expand the islands’ revenue base.

The contract states that Lord Blencathra and his firm, Two Lions Consultancy, had been identified as having the experience and skills to undertake the proposed expansion of the London Office, working alongside the deputy director, Charles Parchment, who would continue to take on the more traditional duties of the London office. According to the Department of Commerce and Investment, the London Office, not counting the Department of Tourism side, has three staff members, and its budget for 2011/12 totalled CI$817, 763. 

According to a release issued at the time of his appointment, Lord Blencathra’s immediate agenda included developing a more comprehensive understanding with the FCO and other governmental organizations in the UK of the financial management of the Cayman Islands, its economy and its day to day operations.

Tasked with promoting the Cayman Islands' interests in the UK and Europe, officials said after his appointment that he would be liaising with and promoting the interests of the Cayman Islands at last year’s Overseas Territories Consultative Council. In particular, the peer would be assisting the CIG in developing the new accord for the Overseas Territories with the UK government.

Now that it has been revealed that the UK may impose “Son of FATCA” rules on its OTs and Crown Dependencies, CNS has asked Lord Blencathra via email what action has been, or is being, taken by him, the London Office or Two Lions in response to this news, and also what effect this will have on the offshore financial services industry and, in particular, the Cayman Islands.

We also asked: “Given this latest development, can you say if the Cayman Islands London Office has been in any way effective in changing the narrative in Europe or the UK concerning the negativity towards the Cayman Islands since you were appointed as director? If so, can you specify what you have achieved?”

But although we received earlier that day the statement concerning his personal issues, there has so far been no response to our enquiries concerning these latest moves by the UK.

See Standards Commissioner's full report

Related articles:

‘Son of FATCA’ talks in UK (CNS Business 30 November 2012)

UK commissioner clears Lord (CNS 7 October 2012)

UK Lord costs £14k+ pcm (22 June 2012) 

Lord gets top UK Cayman job (CNS 14 November 2011) 

David Maclean: expense claims of MP who led fight to keep payouts secret (The Telegraph 17 May 2009)

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OT director says CI needs environmental protection

| 30/11/2012 | 11 Comments

20080203_mangroves.jpg(CNS): The UK’s new overseas territories director has pointed to the environment as a crucial Caymanian asset that needs to be protected. Speaking during a brief press conference during a short visit to the Cayman Islands on Thursday, Dr Peter Hayes said that the protection of the environment in the territories is a major part of the new Whitepaper outlining the future relationship between Britain and its former colonies. He said that there would be help available to the OTs in this regard and he wanted to see the legislature also take action to protect the islands’ natural resources. He indicated that the UKsaw the natural environment as the driving force in the success of the tourism product, so it had to be protected in order to protect the countries' revenue. 

Asked what he believed Cayman should be doing to improve its financial situation, the environment was the first thing the senior FCO technocrat pointed to.

Hayes, who has had a long career in the FCO, took up the new post just a few weeks ago and was on a flying visit to Cayman, he said, to get a brief first impression of the place, the people and the key issues. He said that he was getting to know the issues and challenges faced by Cayman in the face of the global economic crisis.

Although the new UK boss was in Cayman for just one day, he said it was clear that it was a beautiful place and protecting the natural environment was essential. He said that any development could not be to the detriment to what was obviously a key selling point. Hayes indicated that there is support available from the UK for environmental protection and thatthe territories are able to bid for financial support in this area.

Hayes said he was unaware, however, of the history of Cayman’s national conservation law but stated that it was clear, given that the environment was a hugely important asset to the local economy, it needed attention from the local Legislative Assembly as well as the UK.

Related article on CNS:

UK drilling down to environment in territories

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UK will advise on Dart deal

| 30/11/2012 | 124 Comments

dart.jpg(CNS): The Cayman Islands governor has indicated that the FCO views the ForCayman Investment Alliance (FCIA) differently from the development of the cruise berthing facilities at the George Town Port and the expansion of Owen Roberts International Airport. Duncan Taylor said that the proposed agreement between the Dart Group and government is not a traditional procurement as it involves swaps of crown assets to further what is largely a private sector development. However, the governor said that during recent meetings with Dart he had indicated that the project should be looked at by the Richard Holmwood, the UK’s economic advisor.

The FCO’s expert tasked with assisting Cayman with the management of its public finances will offer his advice on whether or not the deal offers value for money and complies with the requirements of the Framework for Fiscal Responsibility which is now part of Cayman’s Public Management and Finance Law, Taylor suggested.

Although the islands’ largest investor signed one part of the deal almost one year ago, which paved the way for work to start on the Esterley Tibbetts Highway extension and the imminent closure of the West Bay Road, the full deal has not yet been signed. Despite recent indications that government was ready to sign the full deal, a review of the proposal by a local consultancy company, which was completed sometime in the spring, has never been made public.

The details of the preliminary deal that was signed between Dart, the NRA and the government last December were never voluntarily revealed to the public but were published by CNS when the documents were leaked to North Side MLA Ezzard Miller. Since then, the NRA filed a complaint with the police, which triggered an investigation into the leak.

The governor made his comments regarding the FCIA at a short press briefing at the government office building, where he introduced Dr Peter Hayes, the new overseas territories director, who was on a flying visit to Cayman Thursday after a trip to the Turks and Caicos Islands.

Having taken up the post some four weeks ago, the new senior FCO technocrat said his short stop was to provide him with at least a brief opportunity to see Cayman and meet the people he will be working with to help get the public finances back on track. However, he said that he was not able to comment on the FCIA deal after just a few weeks in the job.

Nevertheless, the governor indicated that the proposed agreement was an area that the FCO’s economic advisor needed to examine.

The entire agreement will not only involve the proposed new hotel on the site of the old Courtyard Marriott but will also include the swapping of the George Town landfill site for land in Bodden Town that Dart has offered to construct a basic lined landfill, where government can then start a new waste-management facility while it caps the old dump.

Although the people campaigning against the proposal to move the landfill to Midland Acres and close the West Bay Road believe that the entire deal does not meet the requirements of the FFR, the governor indicated that the FCO is not clear yet on its position.

Activists have written to Mark Simmonds, the current overseas territories minister, about the issue but so far there has been no indication of the minister’s position on the deal.

In regards to the cruise port project, the UK made clear for many months that it was not in compliance with FFR before putting a stop to the deal on the eve of government’s plans to sign with CHEC. However, the UK is looking at the FCIA differently.

Although the Dart project involves a complex web of land swabs, cash donations and the diversion of future tax revenues, as well as the relocation of the dump and the closure of the West Bay Road, the governor said it was a different kind of proposal to the cruise port and not what would be seen as a regular procurement, hence the need for the advisor to take a closer look.

Related article:

FCO boss admits tension

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FCO boss admits tensions

| 30/11/2012 | 24 Comments

hayes.jpg(CNS): The new overseas territories director has admitted that the nature of the relationship between the UK and its territories can be tense as a result of the UK’s obligations and responsibilities. Dr Peter Hayes said, however, that it was important that the differences did not become personal and the parties retained a cool professional attitude so they could work together to face the current challenges common to countries all over the world. He denied that the UK had taken control of Cayman’s purse strings but rather that the Framework for Financial Responsibility was an agreement placing boundaries on finances, leaving the local government free to make decisions within those boundaries.

Hayes said the FFR was an agreement between both the Cayman government and the UK that set the parameters regarding what is and what is not acceptable. “We are not second guessing every decision,” the OT director stated at a press briefing held at the government administration building on Thursday during Hayes' short visit to Cayman.

He added that the UK was not in control of everything that the local government did but they had agreed a framework within which the finances would be controlled.

Now the FFR had been agreed and passed into law, he explained,  the ongoing challenge was to determine what that FFR means in practice. He said discussions about how the local government worked within the FFR would continue as he recognised the balance required to find money to invest ingrowth and at the same time having to be cautious when faced with limited expenditure.

The Cayman Islands government was still free, he said, to make decisions within the boundaries and had retained local autonomy. Hayes indicated that the FFR was not an austerity measure but an agreement about sound fiscal management and sensible financial decisions that do not cause more austerity.

The OT director said the UK was not opposed to the development of cruise berthing facilities, as he had seen for himself the importance of cruise tourism when he saw five cruise ships that morning in the harbour. However, he said, the UK’s concern was to ensure that if the Cayman government was spending a significant about of money on such a large project that it did not end up regretting its decision years down the line when it was still paying back the costs. The government had to ensure value for money, hence the need to focus on the process.

Hayes took over the top technocrat post at the FCO in October, replacing the former director, Colin Roberts. He is a career diplomat who has served in the Foreign Office for several years and his most recent posting was as the High Commissioner to Sri Lanka and the Maldives.

Hayes' visitwas short as he passed through Cayman after visiting the Turks and Caicos Islands, heading back to the UK for the forthcoming overseas territories meeting in London, now known as the Joint Ministerial Council. Hayes said he would, however, be returning to Cayman for a longer visit in the not too distant future.

Since he arrived in Cayman after the premier had left for London, the two men have not yet met. Before he left on his trip to the UK McKeeva Bush said he regretted that his commitments in London did not permit him to be here for Hayes’ initial visit.

“I nevertheless wish him a successful visit and I look forward to meeting him at the JMC in London,” Bush said.

The premier made it clear recently that he was pleased that Colin Roberts had moved on, indicating that there were tensions between them.  Bush said he was hoping for a better relationship with the new director.

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