Archive for August 21st, 2013

Mac adds to PAC concerns

| 21/08/2013 | 92 Comments

(CNS): The opposition leader has added his voice to concerns that the swearing in of two members of the Public Accounts Committee as Cabinet ministers, albeit on a temporary basis, is inappropriate or even a conflict of interest. Roy McTaggart is the PAC chairman and Winston Connolly is a member of the committee that is meant to scrutinize government accounts and spending based on the auditor general’s reports on behalf of parliament and, in turn, the public. However, they will both be spending some two weeks at the management table of government as they stand in for ministers on leave. UDP leader McKeeva Bush said that McTaggart is already conflicted and should not be chair as he is a government member and even more so now he is acting as a minister.

The appointment of McTaggart and Connolly has added to what is already a delicate political situation with PAC as the opposition leader is the only non-government member now on the committee. Although McTaggart and Connolly are both members of the Coalition for Cayman and not the Progressives, they have both committed to being part of what is being termed as an "inclusive" but not a coalition C4C/PPM government.

Asked about their taking up temporary Cabinet posts while still sitting on the body designed to scrutinize government expenditure, the auditor general said his office did not wish to comment on the situation. However, other sources have raised concerns, including those inside government, about the decision of serving PAC members taking up even short-term roles at the Cabinet level of government.

Bush told CNS that he already had serious concerns about McTaggart’s position, which he had raised at the recent closed door meeting even before he was sworn in as a minister. Emphasising that he would not be “opposition for opposition sake”, Bush told CNS, however, that he would not “shirk his duty” as the opposition leader.

In this case, he said, the appointment of McTaggart as chair while being what is basically a junior minister was "totally against the propriety, good governance and openness and transparency” that the current government had “most vehemently and in every public meeting, advertisement in all media and their manifestos” said they would adhere to. “Are they so doing?” Bush asked rhetorically. “No! Far from it.” 

In the first closed door meeting of PAC, which the opposition leader noted should have been open to the public, he said he had made his thoughts known and registered his objections.

“The Commonwealth of which the Cayman Islands are a part — and are told we must adhere to all their and other international standards of proper conduct, its conventions, precedents and parliamentary procedures all dictate that the chair of the PAC must come from other than the ruling government,” Bush said. “And once our Constitution as we have it now had been changed, we, the UDP, agreed to adhere to those principles also.

“It is wrong for Mr McTaggart to be chair of the PAC as he is now part and parcel of the government. It is an abomination to all the Commonwealth stands for, for him to be appointed a minister while he is the chairman of the PAC,” he added.

Bush stressed that during the appointment of the committee when the new parliament was sworn in following the election, he had made recommendations that one of the independent members, either Ezzard Miller or Arden McLean, should or could have been appointed.

“The PPM made sure that would not happen,” the leader of the opposition said. “If they will not support either of those members, well what about Mr Al Suckoo?” he asked. “He is their backbench member and I think is certainly capable of being the Chairman of PAC.”

At the time of McTaggart’s appointment, the C4C member was sitting on the opposition benches. However, soon after Swearing In Day, the second elected member for George Town took up the premier’s invitation to work as a councillor with the finance minister and the financial services minister in the Progressive government.

In the statement announcing the C4C member's decision, Premier Alden McLaughlin had noted that there would be a need to address the PAC situation. However, McTaggart has remained as chair.

Asked about the potential conflict by CNS on Wednesday, McTaggart made no comment on the issue but the premier issued a statement defending the situation for the short term.

“The Public Accounts Committee, for the foreseeable future, will be considering the accounts of the previous administration,” McLaughlin said. “For that period there will be absolutely no conflict of interest on the part of Councillor and temporary Minister McTaggart irrespective of what role he has in the current Government. When the point comes where the Public Accounts Committee is turning its attention to consideration of accounts of the Progressive Administration, I will reconsider this issue of chairmanship of the Public Accounts Committee,” he added.

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Lobo denies drug smuggling

| 21/08/2013 | 0 Comments

(CNS): A former Cayman Islands customs officer, David Lobo, stood before a seven panel jury in Grand Court Wednesday to give his account of the events that occurred on 8 September 2010 which led to the arrest of three men in London on the following day for the importation of cocaine from Cayman and ultimately his own arrest. Lobo (27) is charged with being involved in the smuggling by knowingly sending a fellow customs officer to deliver a bag containing the drugs concealed in Tortuga Rum Company cake boxes, along with some cigarettes. He denied the charges, stating that he knew nothing about the contraband contained in the usual duty free bags.

The jury of six women and one man heard from Crown Counsel Michael Snape that almost two kilosof cocaine were transported through Owen Roberts International Airport that day to the United Kingdom using the rum cakes as cover, after allegedly being retrieved from the customs office store room, where passengers' duty free goods are normally held.

In his evidence earlier this week, Customs Officer Bruce Powery told the court that Lobo had asked him to go to the strong room and give the large yellow Tortuga Rum Company shopping bag to Earl Reeves McLaughlin, a man who was later charged in the UK with smuggling offences. Powery was told that he would be waiting in the departure lounge. He told the court that Lobo had given a full description of the man's clothing and that once he'd delivered the bag containing the drugs, McLaughlin had a peculiar look on his face.

During the trial the jury heard that Powery was among the 32 customs officers on duty around the time that the smuggling occurred who were interviewed during a massive investigation in the customs department after the three men were arrested in Britain.

While he was on the stand during cross examination, Lobo told the court that he had difficulties remembering the events of that day because nothing had seemed out of the ordinary at the time before the men were arrested in London and because it was a considerably long time ago.

Snape suggested to the defendant that he had a selective memory and had changed his account of that day multiple times. The crown prosecutor also asked how he could forget to mention to the police when questioned that he'd given the direction for the delivery of the bag to McLaughlin, whom he'd described so accurately to Powery.

The defendant responded by asking, "Do you remember the lady in the red dress you were speaking to a few months ago?" inferring that it was common to make such mistakes or have difficulty recollecting things which seemed ordinary at the time.

Because Lobo’s fingerprints were found on the outer and inner surfaces of the Tortuga Rum Company bag containing the cocaine, the crown suggested this was reason to believe that he had handled the bag, despite his evidence that he had not. Crown counsel stated that the plan to conceal the drugs and transport them was effective but they needed an "inside man" in the customs department to seal the deal. Lobo disagreed with this suggestion and said his job was to stop the trafficking of illicit substances, such as in this case.

In the crown's closing arguments in its case against Lobo, Snape indicated that the defendant had asked Powery to hand over the drugs to McLaughlin because he did not want it to seem as though he had any involvement in the matter. Counsel also stated that Lobo's inconsistencies were not an issue of faded recollection but rather having a selective memory, and in being selective, he was changing his story because he had a guilty mind.

However, Lobo’s defence attorney, Trevor Burke, QC, told the jury that the crown had a lack of evidence to support the case against his client. "When you analyse the prosecution's case, all they really have is the fingerprints on the bag, which the defendant had eventually admitted to handling, and the word of a man," Burke said.

Because of the strenuous efforts made by the three smugglers to conceal the substance, Burke rejected any suggestion that they needed a customs officer's assistance. The men had used a false space in an additional suitcase carried by Luis Christian, one of the men charged in the British legal case, made from fiberglass and lined with carbon paper, which is understood to frustrate the X-ray machines. Burke said that after all their hard work of trying to defeat detection, the men would not have informed a person having such authority — a customs officer — of their sophisticated plan.

The defence also raised the point that Powery’s fingerprints were not recovered from the bag, even though he said he had not used protective gloves.

Burke suggested that Lobo was oblivious to the cocaine inside of the passenger's bag and therefore had no reason to hide his prints or make any efforts to exclude himself from any alleged involvement.

With the case drawing to a close Wednesday in Grand Court Five, the presiding judge was expected to sum up the case for the jury on Thursday morning.

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Cops still hunting two inmates

| 21/08/2013 | 46 Comments

(CNS): Searches continued in North Side Tuesday night after one of three escaped convicts was cornered and captured in the Rum Point area. Despite some concerns from the community that two prisoners remain at large and could still be in the area, the police said that the North Side police station will not be reopened or manned. However, the RCIPS said officers were detailed to perform patrol duties in the area during each tour of duty.

The hunt continues for the remaining two escaped prisoners, Steve Manderson (left) and Marcus Manderson (right), based on intelligence coming into the major incident room.

“There was a heavy police presence in the area yesterday and officers remained there overnight,” an RCIPS spokesperson confirmed and said that the police conducted further searches around Grand Cayman on Wednesday. The future deployment of officers in relation to the searches will be reviewed and determined by the information and intelligence gathered during the course of the investigation, the RCIPS spokesperson added.

Although Chadwick Dale is now back in custody, the search for 44-year-old Steve Manderson and 25-year-old Marcus Manderson are ongoing as the father and son duo remain on the run one week after the three men broke out of Northward via the kitchen block and after cutting through two parameter fences.

The police continue to appeal to the public to remain alert and vigilant and to check all outbuildings on their property and to check and secure their boats. People are asked to report any suspicious activity, thefts or break-ins immediately to the police but to call 911 if they suspect that they have seenthe two escapees.

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West Bay man found guilty of indecent assault on teen

| 21/08/2013 | 22 Comments

(CNS): A 52-year-old man from West Bay was found guilty by a Grand Court jury Wednesday of one count of indecent assault on a teenage girl. The man, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was accused of indecently touching the girl while she was staying at the man's house. The teen was sleeping in a room with a female relative when the convicted man came into the room and touched the girl's breasts and genitalia. During the short trial the man did not give evidence but when he was arrested following the crime he told the police that it was a "terrible mistake" and, having consumed alcohol earlier on that evening, he had mistaken the teen for his wife in the darkened room.

The man claimed that his wife was not sleeping in the room where she normally slept and he went looking for her. Having seen the sleeping teenager, who he said was similar looking and the same skin colour as his wife, he began touching her in the belief that it was his wife. It wasn't until the girl spoke, he claimed, and told him to stop that he realized his dreadful mistake.

However, the jury members were unconvinced and returned a guilty verdict after just over an hour and a half of deliberation. They found that the assault was intentional and there was no case of mistaken identity.

Justice Charles Quin, the presiding judge in the case, denied an application from the defence to continue the convicted man's bail until the sentencing hearing as he was persuaded by crown counsel’s observations that because the starting point for the punishment was a custodial sentence of 12 months, he should be remanded. The judge, however, allowed for a social enquiry report and set the sentencing hearing for 12 September.

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West Bay teen missing since Sunday

| 21/08/2013 | 18 Comments

(CNS): The RCIPS is asking the public to keep a look out for a 16-year-old girl from West Bay who has been missing since Sunday evening, 18 August. Nekayla Evanda Walton was last seen by her mother as they were driving in Mount Pleasant Road, West Bay, around 9:50pm on Sunday. According to police, at this time a disagreement took place and Nekayla opened the car door and ran off. She has not been in contact with family members since. The teenager, who has been reported missing previously, is about 5’7” with a light brown complexion. She has the initials DW tattooed on her left thumb and stars tattooed on her shoulder. When last seen she was wearing a tan coloured V-neck t-shirt, short blue jeans and tan Timberland boots with pink trimmings.

Anyone who has information about Nekayla’s current whereabouts or of her movements since Sunday evening should contact West Bay police station on 949-3999 or the RCIPS tip-line 949-7777.

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Ritch gives up LIME top job for work-life balance

| 21/08/2013 | 0 Comments

(CNS Business): After almost three decades with Cable & Wireless and some five years at the helm of the local branch of the telecommunications firm which morphed into LIME, Tony Ritch is stepping down from the post of general manager. Ritch will remain in a consultative role as the non-executive chairman on the company’s board. He said he was looking forward to acting in a new capacity but was also keen to focus on his family and other interests with the greater work-life-balance offered by the different role. LIME has not yet named a replacement for Ritch, who will leave the firm’s top Cayman job at the end of next month. Read more and comment on CNS Business

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Cayman leaves tournament despite another victory

| 21/08/2013 | 7 Comments

(CNS): The Cayman islands U15 football squad was forced out of the CONCACAF tournament on Tuesday despite another great win for the teen players. Cayman beat Aruba 4-2 in their final game and young. Leighton Thomas was the Man of the Match again after another hatrick in the 6th, 9th and 52nd minutes of the game. Ryan Johnson also scored in the 44th minute in the a fourth victory during a tournament when the players did the country proud. Aruba’s Derrick Lopez scored in the 35th minute and Jean Pierre Van Der Linden in the 46th. Despite this final victory Cayman’s defeat on Friday by Bermuda had sealed their fate as the miracle of St Maarten beating the Bermuda team unsurprisingly never materialized.

Bermuda defeated St Maarten 5-0 at the Ed Bush Play Stadium earlier in the day securing the team’s position at the top of Group A and a place in the semis. .
In group B Belize defeated Grenada 6-1 and Guatemala defeated Jamaica securing their place in the semis.

Wednesday will see the teams from group C and D play their final games with a battle on for who will advance in group D. At present Honduras, which faces Curacao, will qualify if they win, tie or even lose by three goals or less. However in group D the decisive match is between El Salvador and Haiti. El Salvador, are currently in first place and will advance to the semi-finals if they win or tie but Haiti has everything to play for as they too can make the semis with a win.

 

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CIG in job talks with CEC as benefits remain elusive

| 21/08/2013 | 2 Comments

(CNS Business): Education Minister Tara Rivers met with the board of what has become the controversial special economic zone, Cayman Enterprise City, recently to discuss “training, employment and advancement of Caymanians” in the zone, according to a government release. At present, the much heralded initiative has brought limited benefits to both government coffers and local workers. On its website the zone heavily promotes the fact that it can acquire five year work permits in five days for companies relocating there so they can “hire who you want from wherever you want”, with local workers being offered as only an afterthought, which has led to many people viewing the zone with some scepticism. Read more on CNS Business

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