Archive for September 18th, 2014

Credit card probe stretched to other officials

Credit card probe stretched to other officials

| 18/09/2014 | 0 Comments

(CNS): Police investigating the alleged abuse of the former premier’s government credit card also requested statements and related credit card documents for four other government officials in the ministry at the time, the court heard Thursday. When the former chief officer in McKeeva Bush’s ministry of finance, Sonia McLaughlin, gave evidence to the court via video link from the US, she said she was asked to locate credit card related information for the then premier and four other individuals from the ministry and hand it all to the police. Understood to have been senior civil servants, their names were not revealed during the fourth day of Bush’s trial, when the evidence turned to the procedures and processes relating to credit card management.

Government officials were probed on how the premier received his statements and how he reconciled the payments of personal withdrawals as well as how and when he made some of those payments were revealed.

The jury also heard that Bush was not the only person to come under the police spotlight in the early stages of the investigation. However, despite the details of four other individuals’ cards being handed overto the police there was no indication from the crown what happened with those other officials or who those civil servants were.

During her evidence, McLaughlin also said she had been to a meeting at Bush’s house with Kenneth Jefferson when he had instructed the financial secretary to organize a review of all CIG credit cards and when he had spoken about using his own card in casinos. She said however, that she had only made a short note and was not able to remember much of the details. However, McLaughlin echoed the comments of Jefferson in his evidence Wednesday when she said Bush had told them that he had withdrawn the money on his CIG card to pay for security personnel.

The former chief officer confirmed that she was aware that in general orders there were guidelines relating to legitimate claims and allowances for officials traveling on government business. She recalled that they related to hotel, food, transport and other costs that government would cover when civil servants or ministers were overseas for work. 

Alongside Sonia McLaughlin Joseph Solomon, the deputy financial officer, Kerrilyn Rivers, accounts officer and Jodi Whittaker, Bush’s former PA when he held the office of premier were asked to detail there role in dealing with the statements, memos and other documents relating to the management and payments of Bush’s credit cards.

The crown emphasized its points that Bush had made random payments on his cards with personal cheques and that on a number of occasion’s staff made interim monthly payments on Bush’s card to ensure that he did not exceed his $15,000 limit while travelling or when there had been considerable activity on the card. Rivers told the court that Bush would usually itemize payments that were not work related, when he returned and request calculations. The court heard he would then make various payments with personal cheques that did not always equal the sums outstanding.

There were few revelations during the day’s evidence in the case against Bush in which he is accused of misusing his government credit card by making personal cash withdrawals at casinos in Las Vegas, Florida and the Bahamas and using the cash to gamble, during officials and personal trips.

The case continues at 10am tomorrow morning in Grand Court One.


Continue Reading

Prisoner comes close to choking on drugs

Prisoner comes close to choking on drugs

| 18/09/2014 | 30 Comments

(CNS): A suspect remanded in the courthouse cells Thursday almost choked on a parcel of what was believed to be ganja. The man, who was awaiting a summary court appearance, caused a commotion in the downstairs jail during the trial of McKeeva Bush and interrupted the morning’s proceedings. The audible commotion caused the court to temporarily suspend the former premier’s hearing when the noise from the inmate became so loud that the witness could no longer be heard in the court. Officials confirmed that the suspect had ganja concealed on his person and when prison guards attempted to seize the drugs the prisoner tried to swallow them.

However, the drugs were said to be wrapped in plastic and as a result the inmate came close to choking on the contraband before they were dislodged from his throat.

He was then literally dragged into the court room by police and prison guards and physically hauled into the dock and presented to Justice Mettyear who warned the prisoner that his time in custody would be extended further if he continued disturbing the trial.

Continue Reading

Cops warn drivers over unsafe loads

Cops warn drivers over unsafe loads

| 18/09/2014 | 33 Comments

(CNS): Motorists are being warned about overloading trucks and not carrying passengers safely after police say they have observed a number of infractions recently in George Town. An RCIPS spokesperson said officers would be clamping down on truck safety and drivers had now been forewarned and needed to take heed. The traffic laws says that  it is an offence to "drive a vehicle with a load which overhangs the vehicle  or carrying passengers or goods in a manner which is likely to cause danger to other road users ". With a number of vehicles being spotted where safety is in question the police are urging other motorists to report license plate numbers of trucks, pick-ups and other vehicles posing a risk to road users.

Chief Inspector Angelique Howell, the George Town District Commander explained that overloading or having passengers in open bed trucks can be dangerous and puts people’s at risk. “There is a great possibility that debris and people can fall from these open back vehicles,” Howell added as she urged drivers to take more care and warned the RCIPs will be focusing on these offences.


Continue Reading

MLAs raise more concerns over CS recruitment

MLAs raise more concerns over CS recruitment

| 18/09/2014 | 35 Comments

(CNS):The independent members for North Side and East End raised further concerns in the Legislative Assembly last week over the government’s continued recruitment of ex-pats and what appears to be a breakdownin succession planning in the civil service. Eric Bush was asked to explain what had happened regarding the current chief financial officer’s post position in the home affairs ministry and it was revealed that no one in the ministry or the wider civil service had applied for the job. Eric Bush, who is currently acting deputy governor, said that the job was advertised in June and two Caymanians along with a permanent resident had been shortlisted for the first round but none were suitable.

Following a formal question submitted during members question time from Ezzard Miller, Bush explained that after one of the Caymanian applicants failed to respond to written questions at the pre-interview stage, the remaining two candidates were selected for interview. They were interviewed by a panel made up of ministry and HR government officials as well as a Caymanian expert from a local private sector accounting firm. But, Bush told legislators, the panel concluded that neither candidate were suitable for the senior job and both required further personal development and more experience before they were ready.

As a result, the current post-holder, who is an overseas national on contract, had his contract renewed for a further two years, Bush confirmed.

Miller probed the details regarding the professional qualifications of the individual but Bush said he was unable to confirm those details and would have them sent to the member. Miller pressed for reassurance from the acting deputy governor that the job ads had not been tailored to meet the existing post holder.

Bush said that to the best of his knowledge the job description was standard for the CFO post across the civil service. 

Arden McLean, the East End member, asked Bush in a supplementary question about the succession plan and raised concerns that the ministry was not fulfilling its duty in that respect.

“It is interesting that no one applied for the job given the people with CPAs and experience in the civil service," he said and asked, "What is government doing to prepare locals for these posts when they become available?” 

Bush said that succession planning was part of the civil service mandate, where the aspirations and ambitions of civil servants are set out and what is needed for them to move to their goals is monitored. He said employees and the organization work together to work out those plans and staff in the ministry all have succession plans relating to their careers.

McLean voiced his concern, however, that the CS continued to bring people in while seemingly leaving local public servants behind.

Continue Reading

Sixth chikungunya case identified

Sixth chikungunya case identified

| 18/09/2014 | 0 Comments

(CNS): Following several weeks with no new cases of chikungunya virus in the Cayman Islands public officials announced that among the results from the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) this week one sample had tested positive. This brings the total number of cases here since the first confirmed case in June, to six. The latest positive sample came from a patient who is no longer infectious and who as recovered from the virus. The person is a George Town resident who had recently travelled to Jamaica. Health officials also stated that among the most recent results another sample was also inconclusive.

Cayman has managed to contain the mosquito borne virus which is spreading around the region and of the six cases reported and two inconclusive results only one patient had acquired the virus locally.

Since 25 June 36 samples from patients potentially suffering from the virus have been sent for testing with 31 test results having now been returned. Six have come back positive, 23 negative and two inconclusive. Results of five blood samples sent on 15 September are awaited.

Of the six confirmed cases, five have reported a travel history to countries having an outbreak, two to Dominican Republic, two to Guyana, one to Jamaica, while only one had no travel historyAround the region there have been almost 11,000 cases from more than 30 Caribbean countries.

For more information visit

Continue Reading

Local movie showcases Cayman Islands talent

Local movie showcases Cayman Islands talent

| 18/09/2014 | 3 Comments

(CNS Business): A short film written, directed and produced by an entirely local team shows that movies shot here don’t have to be about money laundering or pirates. Although the Devil you Know film is shot almost entirely in Cayman, the location is unrelated to the story and demonstrates that the islands can provide the backdrop for movies unrelated to the more common labels attached to the jurisdiction. Watch trailer on CNS Business

Continue Reading

Living the differently abled life

Living the differently abled life

| 18/09/2014 | 6 Comments

Most don't get it … and I hope they never will … because the only way someone will ever "get it" is to LIVE IT. Living with a disability is hard enough – whether it be your own or that of someone you love – but to endure the struggles of physical difficulties while trying to navigate a society of cluelessness is downright impossible. The average person is blessed to avoid this reality and can only look upon those "less fortunate" with apathy or empathy. They will never truly understand the struggle. 

It hurts me to no end that parents of specialneeds children are looked upon with sympathetic stares and teary eyed nods of encouragement, called amazing parents and wonderful people … just because we were given the monumental task of caring for someone who requires 24 hour love, support and attention. We are no different than any other parent, except that we are more tired, more stressed and more likely to face divorce, physical ailments (brought on by lack of rest and stress!) and a deeper look into the darkness of society vis a vie the lack of support on a daily basis.

Don't misinterpret what I am saying – as a recent recipient of the most wonderful kindness and generosity of this country, I am the first to say that we are a nation of philanthropic givers … but let's be honest, that's really only in crisis … as most find it easier to turn a blind eye to the plight of the disabled on a daily basis. Not because they are evil or cold-hearted, but because they simply do not grasp the struggles that these members of society endure and it is too uncomfortable to remain exposed to it for an extended period of time. Once in a while is good enough, thank you very much!

Unfortunately, those with disabilities do not have that luxury and must live with themselves 24/7/365 … no escape, no reprieve. Those primary caretakers, parents, grandparents, siblings, etc, likewise must learn to cope with "normal" life … that their own abilities permit … while experiencing the reality of life that their disabled family member brings to the table. Some days that life is amazing, wondrous and so rewarding … some days (and nights!) it really sucks.

So I do not expect anyone who is not living it to understand. What I DO expect is for those who do not understand to accept that we, the parents and those disabled with a voice, have SOMETHING to say. We want the needs of the disabled to be heard and answered. We want the support of the government to make and enforce laws that protect and help our children and family members. We are not asking for money, for hand-outs or for favours. We are asking for the people that sit in the big building to carve out some time to address this festering situation and make it a national priority. We are asking for some respect from the RCIPS and we are asking that the citizens of the Cayman Islands appreciate that life as a disabled person is hard enough … don't make it worse by being insensitive and ugly!

Recent comments by the RCIPS, defending the actions of their officers caught illegally parking in a Blue Spot (a specifically dedicated parking space for the disabled) brings to light the insensitivities at the highest levels of our society's protection echelons. For a body of authority to declare that the spot did not meet the requirements to officially be deemed a disabled parking space – despite being clearly painted the right shade of blue and despite it bearing the universal symbol of the disabled – was a slap in the face to every disabled man, woman and child in Cayman. What that utterance may very well have succeeded in doing was to discredit the exhaustive, hard work of so many dedicated and committed individuals who are trying to raise awareness for the disabled. In declaring that a spot without a sign, regardless of its colour, proximity to the front door or symbolic demarcation, was not good enough for someone in a wheelchair but just perfect for police officers wanting a short walk or quick spot, sent a message that anyone, anywhere can challenge the rights of the disabled. Thank you very much RCIPS for your support in our lame cause.

Forgive me for being too emotional. That's what becomes of parents who run on fumes, sacrificing a good night's rest to ensure that their disabled child is comfortable and their needs are met, even if it takes 3 or 4 awakenings throughout the night. Parents who are emotional say things that will get them in trouble; it kind of goes with the territory!

Clearly, emotional parents are the only ones who feel that it is wrong for teachers to mock the disabled children that they teach at special needs schools. Such was the case right here in Cayman, where parents were in utter shock and disbelief at the annual game of "Best Imitation of a Student", where the teachers competed to do their best and funniest impressions of their students. Golden moments! What would YOU as a parent expect from that school, should you learn of these activities? I can tell you what the parents involved expected, but as you can guess, there hasn't been much movement in that respect. The parents, meanwhile, as well as their own child, have been shunned at the school … for taking a stand and expecting at least a minimum of compassion for an already difficult and challenging life. Heart-warming.

How can we, as a society, not circle wagons to protect our vulnerable? How can we challenge those chosen to raise them, care for them and defend them? Whether it is for a parking spot or insurance coverage? When did it become ok for people to throw the defenceless to the mercies of the world?

While there have been strides over the past years to paint parking spaces blue, the reality is that most of those spaces are simply blue painted, normal parking spots – not wide enough to allow a wheelchair ramp to come down without hitting the closely parked car beside it. While there is a planning requirement to have disabled parking at every establishment, the reality is that there aren't ramps at many of them, preventing wheelchairs from even making it onto the sidewalk. While many establishments have engineered ramps from the parking lot to the sidewalk, the reality is that the doors into their premises are not wide enough or there is a step up that makes it impossible to get inside. While many of these situations do not exist in places, the reality is that there are often no elevators to the 2nd level of restaurants or businesses, eliminating those options and shrinking the world of someone who cannot climb stairs due to their disability.

Why? Because it is not a priority to make the Cayman Islands accessible to all.

Medical bills mount. Insurance premiums sky rocket. Opportunities are few and far between and continued education, employment and meaningful adulthood is all but a wish of the parents who once looked upon the impending birth of their perfect child with hope and dreams of greatness.

The life of a differently abled person is fraught with dilemma, disappointment, frustration and depression. Please consider that the next time you make fun of them, park in a disabled spot or choose to look the other way, rather than face them head on like a real person who deserves a smile, a hello, a chance.

Continue Reading

Ocean energy project on cards for North Side

Ocean energy project on cards for North Side

| 18/09/2014 | 33 Comments

(CNS): A US-based company wants to develop a floating platform off the coast of North Side to supply renewable energy to the Cayman Islands via Ocean Thermal Energy. What would be the first power plant of its kind in the world, if it goes ahead, is proposing to generate 6.25 megawatts of wholesale electric power to CUC via a buried cable under the ocean. OTEC International (OTI) is now seeking input from the public for an environmental impact assessment for the floating ocean power station. Having already met with North Siders, the company said it will be hosting an open house meeting next Tuesday in the district to present its proposal to a wider audience.

Although Cayman has been slow off the mark in exploring alternative energy, under CUC’s licensing agreement the firm is now obligated to supply at least a small part of its power via renewable energy.

In 2013 the firm stated that it had identified two companies it was working with to provide two 5-megawatt solar photovoltaic power plants and one 3MW small scale wind turbine project: New Generation Power (NGP), which proposed to provide 3 megawatts of wind power and 5 megawatts solar, and Electric Power LLC, which plans to provide an additional 5megawatts of solar energy.

A spokesperson for OTI stated this week that CUC has been in discussions with OTEC about energy alternatives since the 90’s. On this latest proposal CUC has provided some guidance and assistance with the firm’s efforts to obtain the permissions from the relevant authorities and has agreed to purchase the energy output from the plant.

“As CUC gets closer to bringing new technologies to the business that may reduce the cost of electricity, International Electric Power, one the two companies chosen to provide solar photovoltaic power plants, is at the permitting stage and recently applied for planning permission for their 5 MW photovoltaic plant in the Bodden Town district,” the firm added.

The ocean thermal project is a longer term proposal, however, and OTI said that in 2011 they and CUC entered into “a term sheet for the development of OTEC as a renewable resource” within the local power provider’s generation portfolio.

“The companies have an agreement in principle on OTI eventually supplying 25 megawatts of wholesale renewable power, starting with this first proposed phase of a 6.25 megawatt floating power platform (FPP). OTI is now beginning the EIA phase as it seeks various government and regulatory licenses and permits,” a spokesperson for the project stated.

An environmental impact assessment has now been initiated for the floating plant, which proposes to use Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion, a technology that coverts solar energy stored in tropical oceans to utility-scale power through a process that exploits the large temperature gradient between the water on the surface and that found at depth.

“This is a demonstrated technology that’s been around for more than 30 years,” said OTEC International President Eileen O’Rourke. “OTEC provides consistent, renewable power delivered 24 hours a day, seven days a week.”

She described the power plant as “a low-profile platform moored off the north coast of Grand Cayman and connected to the power grid through a buried cable running to a substation on shore".

Before the EIA begins the public can review and comment on the draft Terms of Reference document, which is published on the Department of Environment’s website.

There will also be an Open House session for the public to review and comment on the EIA process on Tuesday 23 September at the North Side Civic Centre at 7:00pm followed by a 7:30pm presentation and question-and-answer period.

Public Comments on the Terms of Reference may be provided through submissions during the open house session, via email to, posted to Department of Environment, PO Box 10202, Grand Cayman, KY1-1002, or hand delivered to Department of Environment, Environmental Centre, 580 North Sound Road, George Town, Grand Cayman.

Continue Reading

Cop’s death ruled suicide; RCIPS ‘lacks sensitivity’

Cop’s death ruled suicide; RCIPS ‘lacks sensitivity’

| 18/09/2014 | 4 Comments

(CNS): After deliberating for about 90 minutes, the jury at the inquest into the death of PC Raphael Williams, who was found hanging from a tree in East End 12 January, reached a verdict of death by suicide, noting the policeman “felt embarrassed and humiliated by his arrest and felt extremely stressed and distraught with the fear of going to prison”. Williams had been arrested on 9 January for allegedly soliciting sexual favours in exchange for not issuing a traffic ticket. The unanimous verdict by the seven jurors came after Coroner Eileen Nervik directed the jury on the various options available to them.

To return a verdict of suicide, the jury had to be sure beyond a reasonable doubt that the deceased intended his own death and acted on that intention. After the verdict was read, while declaring the inquest was complete, the coroner, in what she acknowledged was an unusual step, addressed the courtroom.

The coroner told the court, “It was clear during this inquest that police officers found this tragedy and death of a colleague under these circumstances very troubling.” She noted a lack of counselling, people skills and sensitivity training.

Her remarks were apparently in reference to testimony heard during the inquest, which included William’s widow as well as numerous police officers discussing his state of mind during custody at George Town Police Station and while on bail.

Several statements read out in court Monday, 15 September, said he was stressed, embarrassed and ashamed, and that he felt he was being treated like a criminal by his fellow officers. His wife previously testified that he told her Richard Oliver, head of the Anti-Corruption Unit, informed Williams at the time of his bail that when he returned on the following Tuesday to answer his bail he would be “booked into Northward”.

Natalee Williams had testified her husband told her what Oliver had said, telling her he had sent a number of prisoners to Northward and was afraid they would kill him, that going there was his biggest fear.

The coroner continued, saying that while she wasn’t intending to be critical, “The RCIPS may wish to consider providing grief counseling and other counseling services to its members that are specifically designed for the RCIPS.” She added that the police would benefit from sensitivity and people-skills training on an ongoing basis, pointing out that such training actually took place in Cayman in the late-90s.

After the verdict, the RCIPS issued a statement saying an officer “took notes of the coroner’s comments that the RCIPS should consider future ‘sensitivity training’ of its officers and the availability of ‘grief counselling’ for its staff under such circumstances. The RCIPS utilizes the services of its police chaplain and Employee Assistance Programme.”

Lastly, noting she has been a coroner in this jurisdiction since 2012 and has presided over about 140 inquests, she said, “I would like to mention knowledge, or lack thereof, of attorneys in private practice in this court.”

She suggested that attorneys instructed to appear take the time tolearn about procedure in a coroner’s inquest. “It would also be helpful to sit in and observe an inquest,” she said, adding it would benefit all parties, including the court, helping to ensure “the smooth running of the inquest and less time for irrelevant matters.”

Continue Reading

FS admits c/c policy mistake

FS admits c/c policy mistake

| 18/09/2014 | 0 Comments

(CNS): Defence attorney Geoffrey Cox QC wasted no time Wednesday getting the financial secretary to admit he had “made a mistake” about an important piece of evidence relating to the charges against his client, McKeeva Bush. Ken Jefferson conceded that there was no formal, written policy that directly related to the use of government credit cards before July 2010, despite what he told the police. Cross examining the financial secretary, Cox asked how Jefferson could have made such a mistake in his statement on such an important issue. Pressing him to explain to the jury, Cox said, “Tell them, Mr Jefferson, tell them! They want to know why their premier is in the dock.”

Admitting that there was no written policy he said, “I made a mistake,” as he acknowledged that he had left the police with the impression that there was a formal policy in place prior to July 2010 when a written policy was circulated to government ministers and officials. The Financial Secretary (FS) also admitted that he had not rectified that impression until after Bush was ousted from office and until after the general election.

During his cross examination of Jefferson on the evidence he gave the police in connection with the charges against his client, Cox also raised the issue of the direct involvement in the case of the former governor, Duncan Taylor, and evidence of an unusual exchange about Jefferson from the lead investigator of the Anti-Corruption Unit. Cox revealed that an email sent by Richard Oliver to Commissioner of Police David Baines indicated they believed Jefferson would be “committed to our cause” when speaking about the financial secretary signing a statement for the investigation.

Jefferson denied being part of or knowing anything about the “cause” that the anti-corruption cop was referring to. He did, however, admit that he had copied the then governor, Duncan Taylor, on an email he had sent to Deputy Governor Franz Manderson about a meeting with Bush the day after his arrest. But the financial secretary said it was a matter of being complete, given the circumstances, and denied knowing that Taylor had forwarded that email to the police commissioner.

The court heard that Jefferson had composed an email to the deputy governor about a meeting he had been summoned to at Bush’s own residence the day after the then premier’s arrest and the day before a no confidence motion was moved in the Legislative Assembly ousting Bush from office in December 2012.

The FS stated in the email that the premier had given him an assignment to gather all of the credit card statements held by senior government officials, with a few exceptions, and details of expenses at Government House. He then instructed Jefferson to organize an independent review of the statements and the use of credit cards. Jefferson also related, in that email, some of the uses Bush had said he had put his own government card to and the reasons for withdrawing cash in casinos, which had included paying for security personnel.

The email was sent to Franz Manderson andcopied to Sonia McLaughlin, the chief officer of the finance ministry (who accompanied Jefferson to Bush’s home for the meeting) and, the jury heard, the governor. The court was told that, having received the email, Duncan Taylor had forwarded the correspondence immediately to the police commissioner, stating, “David, you need to see this.”

Jefferson said he was unaware of the governor’s involvement in the investigation and to the best of his recollection he had no conversations with Taylor about the Bush enquiry.

During his time on the stand Jefferson admitted that in his first statement to the police he had referred to an earlier policy regarding the management of credit cards. But he told the court that he had later corrected that, explaining that what he referred to as a policy was the memo sent out with claim forms to ministers or civil service bosses when they returned from travel. These memos directed officials on how to reconcile their travel expenses. The court heard that these memos also referred card holders to the civil service General Orders, which covered the management of travel and entertainment expenses for government officials. Those orders set out the do's and don’ts regarding what were legitimate expenses, the court heard.

However, during his cross examination of the crown witness, Cox established that not only was there no formal written policy relating directly to government credit cards, there appeared to be no ban on the personal use of those cards. Pointing to the forms being used at the time that Bush is charged with abusing his government credit card in casinos, the lawyer noted a section on the reconciliation forms asking for holders to detail any personal expenses. He questioned why, if officials were not allowed to charge personal items, the forms would include such a provision for personal expenditures and a system for paying them back.

Cox suggested that not only did the forms make it clear that personal expenditure was common, with a provision for officials to list what they owed, the document offered officials three different ways to pay the money back – cash, cheque or salary deduction.

The defence attorney also noted that Bush’s efforts to have Jefferson initiate an independent review of credit card use was because “everyone else was doing the same thing”, as he asked the financial secretary why he believed Bush had set him such and assignment. “You are not a twit, Mr Jefferson. Why do you think Mr Bush had requested such an assignment?”

Responding to the lawyer, Jefferson acknowledged that the thought had crossed his mind.

During his first appearance before the jury, Bush’s attorney established that there did not appear to be a specific ban on personal use for credit cards, that there was a provision for the debts to be repaid and that Bush was far from the only person making personal charges on his CIG card. Jefferson also confirmed, when asked by Cox, that to his knowledge no public servant or minister had ever been reprimanded or suffered any consequences as a result of personal use on a government credit card.

When he re-examined the crown witness, Duncan Penny QC, who is prosecuting the case against Bush on behalf of the the crown, questioned Jefferson further about the General Orders.

He established that there were policy guidelines about what was legitimate and what wasn’t when it came to expenses before the July 2010 policy. Jefferson said that government officials were guided by the General Orders, which was what he had referred to when he originally spoke to the police about a policy. 

Penny also asked Jefferson about the provision in the General Orders requiring officials using cash advances, at the time, to pay personal charges back. The lawyer asked him if he believed that section meant government officials could do whatever they liked so long as they paid it back. Jefferson said in hisopinion it did not.

Continue Reading