Archive for June 6th, 2013

New film examines tax avoidance from UK to Cayman

| 06/06/2013 | 34 Comments

film.JPG(CNS): As the backlash against international corporations and what many believe is their manipulation of the tax system to avoid paying their fair share continues, a new documentary film is set to premier in the UK later this month. UK Gold is narrated by Dominic West and follows a UK vicar, Father William Taylor, as he sets out to shed light on Britain's offshore tax havens, including the Cayman Islands. Filmed during the London 2012 Olympics, the feature-length documentary written and directed by Mark Donne reveals a modern Britain dominated by a financial sector that relies on what the film concludes is unfair play for profit.

The premiere will form part of London's East End film festival on 25 June, and according to the promoters, the film, produced by Brass Moustache, documents the “dramatic battle” of a vicar from a small north London parish in the borough of Hackney as he goes head-to-head with the City of London, revealing the Square Mile’s role as “thetax-haven nerve centre of the world”.

“From the Cayman Islands to Clapton, a huge, untold story unfurls which shakes our notions of nationhood and empire; a story seismic enough to shift perceptions of finance and flag forever,” the film makers say in promotional material.

"This is a political documentary, but more than anything else it is an extraordinary story,” Donne said about his movie. “To have a quintessentially English figure embarking on an odyssey to understand how London remains the financial capital of the world is in itself a fascinating narrative. To have this journey unfurling at the exact time that the eyes of the world were on this country, during the Jubilee and the Olympics, gives the story a powerful twist.”

See trailer here.

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Customs reveals gun seizure

| 06/06/2013 | 31 Comments

(CNS): Government officials have now revealed, two weeks after the incident, that customs officers discovered an unlicensed handgun in a woman’s baggage as she entered the Cayman Islands last month. HM Customs is now investigating the circumstances surrounding the recovery after the weapon was discovered on 20 May. The 23-year-old female passenger was arrested by Customs Officers on arrival at the Owen Roberts International Airport from Miami for the importation and possession of an unlicensed firearm and accessories. The woman had been selected for her baggage to be x-rayed, and during the x-ray an object that appeared to be a firearm part was detected.

Following a physical search of her bag, officers found various firearm parts, which when assembled revealed a completed .45 calibre handgun. The firearm accessories that were discovered included a gun holster, rifle scope and a firearm cleaning kit.

Aside from the late revelation, officials offered no further details relating to the woman’s nationality, her place of residence if it was not Cayman, or if she is currently in custody or has been released on bail.

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Police confirm on-going major operation

| 06/06/2013 | 9 Comments

(CNS): A police spokesperson has confirmed that the RCIPS is currently carrying out a major operation in the George Town area that includes a number of arrests. However, the authorities are not yet able to disclose the details. The RCIPS spokesperson told CNS that details would be released later today but at present they were unable to comment further while the operation remained underway. Police were seen by numerous witnesses on Shedden Road making arrests at Archie's Bar, among other places. Check back to CNS for more on this breaking story later.

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McTaggart joins government

| 06/06/2013 | 106 Comments

roymctaggart.jpg(CNS): In a surprise turn of events, C4C MLA Roy McTaggart has had a change of heart and is joining the PPM government. Premier Alden McLaughlin announced Thursday lunchtime that McTaggart has been appointed as a government councillor and will be working with Wayne Panton and Marco Archer in both the financial services and finance ministries. The U-turn on McTaggart's part, after he had elected to join the opposition, came after “careful consideration” in the face of the threats to Cayman's financial stability. McTaggart beleived his experience would be better used from the government benches, according to the Premier's Office. The premier confirmed that the former auditor would remain as chair of PAC but a PPM member of that committee would be resigning to pave the way to re-balance the committee. (Photo by Dennie Warren Jr)

Despite stating before the election that he was not prepared to work with McLaughlin, when McTaggart returns to the LA he will now join his C4C colleague Winston Connolly on the Progressive government's backbenches behind Tara Rivers, the C4C's Cabinet member.

In his announcement about the George Town C4C MLA's change of heart, McLaughlin said McTaggart had indicated his willingness to serve the country and his constituents as a member of the government and, in the spirit of inclusion that has characterized the new Progressive administration, the premier welcomed him to the team.

“We are confident that his experience in the financial services industry will provide additional support to Ministers Marco Archer and Wayne Panton at this critical juncture,” McLaughlin stated.

“Mr McTaggart has said that after careful consideration, in the face of the threats to the Cayman Islands’ financial stability from a new round of tax compliance regulations and the challenges which the country faces with respect to its finances, he believed his professional experience would be better employed in a proactive way from the government benches. He looks forward to serving the country and his constituents in this new capacity and remains committed to the role of independents within the government,” the premier added.

As McTaggart will now be on what has become a crowded government bench, the composition of the Public Accounts Committee will need to be changed to ensure proper balance.

The premier confirmed that McTaggart would retain the chairmanship but one other member of the government benches will resign to pave the way for another member of the non-government benches to sit on that committee at the next Legislative Assembly meeting.

With all three C4C members now in the PPM government, there will be 12 elected members on the government benches, giving McLaughlin an overwhelming majority over the fractured opposition of three UDP members and two independents.

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Competition winners get up close with marine life

| 06/06/2013 | 1 Comment

CCMI-on-Little-Cayman-(Read-Only).jpg(CNS): As winners of the marine education competition One Ocean One Planet, developed by the Central Caribbean Marine Institute (CCMI), kids from George Town Primary School enjoyed a two-day stay at the Little Cayman Research Centre. The students snorkelled in the pristine seagrass beds and coral reefs around Little Cayman, where they had the opportunity to use their newly acquired skills learned during the contest to identify native fish and coral species. For many, this was the first time they had been snorkelling, which opened up a whole new underwater world. They also learned about Cayman cultural history and terrestrial conservation at the National Trust, located at the Booby Pond Reserve, one of the last nesting grounds for the red footed booby.

The students also had a close encounter with the Sister Islands’ biggest and rarest land creature, the rock iguana, and local guides explained about the threats to these gentle giants and ways to help protect them.

One of the main benefits of staying at the LCRC is that students have the opportunity to see the scientists in action and interact with them throughout the day. CCMI says that lionfish dissections are always popular with visiting students, who observe CCMI researchers as they examine the lionfish’ stomach contents to learn more about which native fish they consume on Cayman reefs. 

The students also played their part by removing 244 pounds of garbage from the coast and participated in ‘paint a fish’, which is a petition to protect fish stocks.

Red Bay Primary School placed second in the One Ocean One Planet competition and won a tour on the Nautilus submarine with CCMI staff. Student were captivated by the shipwrecks and the different marine species, including fish, stingrays, jellyfish and a hawksbill turtle, as well as the corals found on Cayman’s reefs.

Both prizes were designed to teach the young Caymanian students about the local oceans and their value to the tourism industry in the Cayman Islands, as well as ways in which the community can work to protect the environment for future generations.

The One Ocean One Planet Competition is sponsored by KMPG with CNB and DOT partners, allowing  CCMI to provide young students exciting ways to learn about marine conservaiton. Over  fifty Ocean Literacy Scholarships  have also been awarded to winning students.

Founded in 1998, the Central Caribbean Marine Institute (CCMI) is guided by its mission to conduct and facilitate research, education, conservation and outreach that will sustain marine diversity for future generations. The Little Cayman Research Centre was opened in 2006. The multi-million dollar tropical biological research facility has become home to a number of research programs at top universities, and to scientists focused on important topics relevant to coral reef sustainability.

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Baptism of fire for Archer

| 06/06/2013 | 42 Comments

marcoarcher5.jpg(CNS): With the newly elected Progressive government facing myriad issues, all of its new ministers, whose roles were finalised Tuesday, will need to hit the ground running but Marco Archer, the new finance minister, has perhaps the most daunting task of all. The first time MLA who now has responsibility for public finance has no more than three weeks to deliver an interim budget and just three months to deliver a full budget for the 2013/14 financial year. Arriving in office to a surplus that falls far short of that promised to the UK government last year by the former premier and finance minister, McKeeva Bush, Archer also has to work within the plan agreed to by the UK. Photo Dennie Warren Jr

This all comes at a time of growing demands on government’s dwindling resources and a slew of campaign promises to deliver on.

Archer confirmed Thursday at the newgovernment’s first press briefing that the Treasury was reporting an anticipated surplus of around $40 million, which, while offering some level of comfort, is $40 million short of that promised by his predecessor.

Over the next few weeks Archer will need to pass an emergency interim budget in order to allow government to spend money after the 2012/13 appropriations expire on 30 June. The short term budget will be based on the allocations on last year’s financial plan, which will tide the new government over until it can begin to define its own earning and spending plan for 2013/14.

A big campaign promise of the PPM was to cut operational expense through efficiency and consolidation in the civil service but it is still the government payroll which consumes around 50% of operating revenue.

While committed to not cutting public sector jobs at present, government workers, including statutory authorities and government companies, account for 15% of the entire labour force in Cayman, with some 5,700 people on payroll.

Reducing the government’s staff costs without cutting services and without any major job losses among locals will not be an easy road for Archer, who is also bound by the tight impositions that the UK has placed on the Cayman budget as a result of the current borrowing levels still being outside the parameters of the levels set by the Public Management and Finance Law.

However, the new premier is hoping to talk to the UK to persuade them to let up on the demands for significant surpluses and allow Cayman to tackle its earning and spending problems over a longer period and move towards more sustainable budgets, while at the same time creating some form of economic stimulus to address the local unemployment problem andthe stagnant economy, which is also impacting the public purse.

Although Archer is new to the political arena, he is no stranger to government and on paper has the experience required to tackle the mess that is Cayman’s public finances. Archer, who is an economist and statistician as well as a lawyer and MBA, spent several years working in government finances before his time in the private sector.

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Raleigh Quay to remain closed to end of June

| 06/06/2013 | 36 Comments

IMG-20130606-00616 (227x300).jpgCNS): Despite plans to re-open Raleigh Quay over one month ago, Dart Realty has said the road will remain closed until the end of this month as a result of the unexpected level of work required to utilities in the area. The closure of the road, which provides access to Foster Bay villas and St Matthew’s residency hall from theWest Bay Road, was closed at the beginning of April as the developer worked on the Esterly Tibbetts Highway and the areas around that part of the West Bay Road, which was closed by government and given to the developer as part of the NRA deal. The access road runs parallel to the site where Dart proposes to develop a new hotel but there are few signs of work there now that the negotiations between the islands largest developer and government have gone south. 

A spokesperson for Dart said Wednesday that the Esterley Tibbetts Highway works in general, including the work at Raleigh Quay, gave local utilities companies, Cayman Water, CUC, Weststar and Logic, the opportunity to replace or upgrade infrastructure and the works are still taking place at Yacht Drive, Governor’s Way and Raleigh Quay.

“The Raleigh Quay work has required road access be blocked, while works at the other locations are taking place off the carriageway,” a Dart spokesperson told CNS. “The team made an assessment of the anticipated utilities timeline prior to closing Raleigh Quay, but the full extent of what needed to be done wasn’t apparent until the area was closed, and work by the various companies was underway.  Work that is still continuing there includes the replacement of the existing force main sewer, renewing sections of water mains, as well as upgrades to CUC, Weststar and Logic infrastructure, the bulk of which is underground.” 

Dart said that the crews working in the area estimated that all work in the area will be completed by the end of the month.

The reopening of Raleigh Quay will also allow drivers back on to the stretch of the West Bay Road which has not yet been gazetted, from the Tiki Beach bar to Yacht Drive. Although that stretch of the road was due to close under the NRA agreement signed by former premier McKeeva Bush between government, the National Roads Authority and Dart in December 2011, negotiations about the value for money of that deal collapsed when the interim government began to up the ante on what it wanted from Dart, as it was clear the agreement as it stood did not represent a good deal for the Cayman people or the public purse.

Ahead of the elections the talks between the previous minority PNA cabinet and Dart ended when the developer announced its decision to pull out of further negotiations and revert back to the position of what was termed the second agreement made. While Dart awaits on government gazetting the closure of the remaining part of the West Bay Road, a move which is now very unlikely to happen, the developer has indicated it believes the Cayman government is in breach of the deal. However, the failure of Dart to commence the development of the 5-star beach front resort, as promised, was, the previous government stated, also in breach of the deal.

Former ministers Cline Glidden and Mark Scotland said ahead of the election that this made Dart also in breach and the issue was something the next government would be forced to address. With the PPM now at the helm of government, not only is it very unlikely, given the Progressives' campaign promises, that Dart will get any further road closures and the entire ForCayman Investment Alliance is likely to be renegotiated.

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First storm of season forms off coast of Florida

| 06/06/2013 | 0 Comments

(CNS): The National Hurricane Centre in Miami issued warnings of possible tornadoes across central Florida this morning following the formation of Tropical Storm Andrea in the Gulf of Mexico on Wednesday night. By Thursday morning the first tropical storm of the Atlantic season was heading northeast moving at 14mph towards the Florida big bend, giving residents in the area little preparation time. Located at around 160 miles west of Tampa and about 140 Miles south of Apalachicola Florida, forecasters said that Andrea was packing winds of 60mph and was some 140 miles across but it was not expected to strengthen further before reaching the coast.

It was predicted to head across Florida then southeastern Georgia and towards the Carolinas. Officials warned of storm surge, flooding from surge and heavy rain as well as tornadoes across the Florida Peninsula.

Well north of the local area, the storm poses no threat to the Cayman Islands, where moderate to fresh southeasterly winds and rough seas were expected to continue in association with a high pressure system over the central Atlantic Ocean and small craft are still being warned to exercise caution as wave heights reach 4-6 feet.

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Old phones wanted to give women in crisis a new voice

| 06/06/2013 | 5 Comments

recycle-your-mobile.jpg(CNS): The Cayman Islands Crisis Centre, the islands’ only refuge for women in abusive situations, where they can find safety and sanctuary, is calling on the community to help give its clients a new voice with their old phones. The 'Find Your Voice' initiative is asking people to donate their old phones, which can be recycled in the United States and turned into cash for new mobile phones and numbers to help the women get a fresh start. The phones will give them the means to find an apartment, set up employment and connect with family and friends.

“We send your old phones and accessories to the United States for recycling,” a spokesperson for the charity stated. “The proceeds of this sale will go towards the purchase of new phones, pre-paid minutes, and other programme needs.”

Looking for phones and accessories, the Crisis Centre is asking people to drop them in the collection boxes at all Fosters supermarkets, Kirk Market and LIME retail stores.

The CI Crisis Centre is the only locally run charitable company, established in 2003, with a mission to provide a safe haven for abused women and their children. Programmes provided include: case and risk management, individual/group counseling, support groups, referral services and a Children and Youth Programme (sponsored by Hedge Funds Care Cayman).

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