(Cayman News Service):As the former premier’s slot machine gambling appeared to intensify in the early months of 2010, the crown said McKeeva Bush ran up a debt of over $33,000 withdrawing cash on his Cayman Islands Government credit card to play in casinos in the US and the Bahamas. During a week’s trip to Vegas in February, Bush was gambling hard and withdrew over $12,000 cash on the card and just a few weeks later on a short official trip to the Bahamas and Miami he touched the card for more than $17,000, the court heard Tuesday as Bush’s trial continued. These amounts were on top of an existing and mounting cash debt already on the card. At that time, the crown said, Bush hadn’t made any payments back to government since December 2009 leaving the public purse to carry the debt burden.
During the second day of the leader of the opposition’s trial for corruption and misconduct offences the jury heard that Bush’s efforts to get cash intensified, in 2010 as did his hours at the slots as well as his losses
Counsel representing the crown, Duncan Penny QC, told the jury that while Bush paid back some of the $33,000 several weeks after his gambling trips there was a sum of more than $10,000 outstanding which remained that way for more than two and a half years. It was not until the premier learned that his credit card statements were being investigated by police that he paid back the remaining debt, Penny told the court, as he began to wrap up his opening statement describing the crown’s case relating to the abuse of Bush’s government corporate credit card.
Penny detailed the major withdrawals during two trips in 2010 where Bush’s use of his government card across the casinos grew as he accessed much larger amounts including his single largest cash withdrawal on the corporate card in Florida in March when he cashed $4000 on the casino floor.
Having lost over $57,000 in Vegas, during a week-long personal trip which he had combined with a brief official appearance at the Winter Olympics in Vancouver, where he also gambled, Bush lost a further $45,000 in Florida a month later. He also was said to have lost an unknown amount in the Bahamas, where he was drawing money from various casinos. All of this was adding to his own personal credit card debts as well as the mounting personal bill on his CIG card.
Describing the acceleration in the credit card debt, as he completed the summary of the crown’s case, Penny explained that Bush had begun to use the cashier system on the casino floors and sign for the credit card cash advances rather than use the ATMs. The lawyer said this was because Bush was able to access more cash that way than via the teller machines which limited his daily cash amounts.
“The defendant became wise to the fact that the credit card was limited at the ATM to just $1000 per day,” he said, explaining that Bush began using the cashier services where he could sign for cash. Having started the previous July taking $500 here and $100 there on the government card Bush was now making withdrawals in the $1000s.
The lawyers said that the money Bush was “so keen to get his hands on was going back into the hungry machines” as he added to his loses.
Following the loss of more than a quarter of a million dollars since July 09 of his own money as well as that he had borrowed from the public purse, the court heard that Bush appeared to be in no hurry to pay back what he owed when he returned from the March trip.
On his return from the Bahamas and Florida, having taken well over $17,000 in cash on the casino floors or from ATMs during the four day trip, which was for tourism related business, he made no immediate payments when he was sent the reconciliation memo as usual in the immediate wake of the official travel. Despite knowing, the crown’s attorney claimed, that the money he had taken on that card was not for any legitimate business purpose, Bush made no effort to make prompt payment to return the public money.
However, some six weeks later he made the first of three random payments.
The first was for CI$9,000 on 1 April then three weeks later a second cheque was written for US$13,000 and shortly after one for a CI$1000. A further trip after that in which he drew just $1000 in cash from a Florida Casino while playing the slots, according to the loyalty card, left an estimated debt of just over CI$10,000 which remained that way for about two and a half years.
Despite efforts being made by some civil servants to press Bush to reconcile his credit card either with receipts or a written explanation or to pay back outstanding personal sums there was no money forthcoming from the premier until the matter was under investigation by the police.
In early November 2012, the police issued a production order to the deputy governor for the premier’s credit card statements which were handed over to the investigating officers. Bush appears to have heard about the investigation into his cards and called Franz Manderson, the deputy governor, to ask him if his statements had been given to the police, which the top civil servant confirmed was correct. It was then that Bush said he had not known about the outstanding balance and made another payment of some $9000 to the government coffers.
As he summarized the crown’s case against him Penny told the jury that Bush had breached his duty as a premier when he abused the card and allowed the public purse to carry a growing debt burden which was down to the then premier’s risky and addictive gambling habit. He said Bush began treating the government card like his own personal card as soon as it was given to him and his using the card for gambling was an affront to his high office.
He said Bush had shown a disregard for the public trust when he used that card in casinos to get cash for gambling and then made no effort to pay it back before government began to carry the debt. “He allowed government to carry the burden to the tune of $10,000 for two and a half years and only paid it back when he was aware of the investigation,” the lawyer said.
Penny closed his opening statement to the jury at around 11-30am on Tuesday morning.
Bush has persistently denied the allegations against him, which include 11 counts of breach of trust and misconduct in public office, all of which relate to cash withdrawals at casinos made on a government credit card during his first year in office after he was re-elected in 2009 as the country’s leader. Bush has described the charges as a political witch-hunt to discredit him and the Cayman Islands by the FCO.
The case continues in Grand Court One on Wednesday at 10am with the crown’s first witness, the financial secretary Kenneth Jefferson.
BTC Water Sports Department Celebrates with staff
PROVIDENCIALES, Turks & Caicos Islands: In a show of appreciation for outstanding service over the past year, particularly with the addition of new offerings following the expansion of the Beaches Turks & Caicos waterpark, the resort management recently held a commemorative function for its dedicated watersports team.
The function, which took the form of a special luncheon in the resort’s lavish ballroom, was spearheaded by the resort’s leadership including General Manager, James McAnally and WaterSports Manager, Mark Henley.
McAnally thanked the team for their unwavering efforts in providing stellar service over the past year and reminded them “The resort recently received recognition from the Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI) for more than 25 years of certification which means that you as our valued team members, have been providing world-class watersports experience for our guests.”
“Among you, there are three team members who have been recognized for over 60 years of diving experience, combined. As a team, you have all continued to give nothing but outstanding service as you provide amazing experiences for our guests every day. This is just one way for us to let you know that we see you, and we appreciate you. Thank you all for your continued support as we remain committed to not only exceeding our guests’ expectations but to also elevate our brand offerings and positioning as the best place to work in the Turks & Caicos Islands,” said McAnally.
For his part, Henley stated, “each of you here today has shown tremendous will and determination to make this resort the best family resort on the Islands. For the three men who have each given more than 21 years of service each, I encourage you to continue to show the way forward to those who are not as experienced in this field. Let us continue to grow as a team, having fun as we work hard together. We believe that, together everyone achieves more.”
Evanz Inelus, Pool and Waterpark supervisor while sharing his commendation for the team noted, “we are forever a team in this department and the resort in general. As we continue to grow in our professional life, let us look forward to the new year with getting more certifications from the Sandals Corporate University (SCU). Beaches Turks and Caicos has made it possible for us to grow professionally in what we love in this department by allowing us to be certified while we are doing what we enjoy in the water sports department.”
Three members of the team were given special recognition for their years of service to the resort; Jacquelin Pierre, Marion Pierre and Charitable Sertune August. Marion Pierre, while sharing his gratitude for the recognition added, “Beaches Turks and Caicos is the best place for anyone to start their career. My team and I are very grateful for this award as the resort continues to build us into becoming the best professionals that we can be. The training and exposure provided, allow us opportunities at other Sandals and Beaches resorts across the Caribbean and to get certification from some of the most recognised institutions in the world. Working with this company has given me and my family the opportunity to live a prosperous and comfortable life.”
Two team members, Jed Arkim Reggie and Nicorge Edward, from Sandals La Toc, St Lucia who were on training and experiencing the resort, were recognised for their contribution to the department. Edward stated, “what I love most about this company is the opportunity to gain professional experience in different cultures and regions. My colleague and I came here to gain valuable leadership experience while learning more about the daily operational duties of the watersports department at this, the largest and most equipped resort. We are grateful for the exposure and look forward to going back home to share the best practices we have learned.”
The Ministry of Tourism, Investments & Aviation on Visitor Arrivals
#TheBahamas, January 30, 2023 – The Ministry of Tourism is extremely excited to announce that visitor arrivals to The Bahamas eclipsed seven million in 2022, signaling a return to pre-pandemic tourism numbers.
In total 7,000,706 visitors came to The Bahamas in 2022.
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Tourism, Investments, and Aviation Chester Cooper praised The Bahamas’ performance and the work put in by industry professionals across the board.
“The fact that we have exceeded expectations and attracted more than 7 million visitors to our country in 2022, something only done once before in a single year was no accident,” he said.
“Countless stakeholders in the Bahamian tourism industry, including our international partners, worked tirelessly to achieve this. We sought to strengthen relationships to open new air routes. We sought to make travel to The Bahamas easier, more accessible, and affordable and took the message that we were open for business during our Missions and provided insight on our wonderful offerings to the world.”
“According to statistics the second half of 2022 outperformed the second half of 2019,” he said. In 2022, 1,470,244 visitors came to our shores by air; another 5,530,462 visitors arrived by sea.
Nassau and Grand Bahama remained our most popular destinations by air, while Nassau and The Berry Islands remained our most popular destinations by sea. Foreign air and sea arrivals for 2022 were up by 233 percent over the same period in 2021 and just 3.4 percent shy of record arrivals in 2019. December 2022 saw total arrivals eclipse 900,000 visitors, more than any month in our history. Cruise arrivals in 2022 increased by nearly 400 percent over 2021 and were less than 1 percent below 2019 cruise arrivals.
Air and cruise arrivals monthly from July to December 2022 surpassed the corresponding month in 2019.
Occupancy rates for 2022 eclipsed occupancy rates for every corresponding month in 2021.
The average daily room rate in 2022 outperformed that category for every corresponding month in 2021. The Bahamas carved out new ground with more than 55 percent of first-time arrivals to The Bahamas, with increases in the United States, Canada, Europe, Africa, Asia, and the Middle East.
DPM Cooper confirmed that the last six months are the strongest The Bahamas has ever seen. He firmly concluded by saying; “What the Ministry of Tourism, Investments, and Aviation are forecasting so far and what forward bookings indicate, is that we are on track to break records in 2023. We don’t see this slowing down anytime soon.”
Mrs. Latia Duncombe, Director General of Tourism added that everyone should understand that tourism is critical to our economy and all Bahamians, even those who do not directly work in the tourism industry, should always seek to lift the industry up.
“We are all in the tourism business in The Bahamas. And it’s a great business to be in. We want to keep our brand fresh and evergreen. And that’s everyone’s job, especially mine. I have a great, hardworking team at our ministry and we have some incredible things in store this year.”
GB’s tourism numbers have returned a significant 80 percent of pre-Dorian, pre-pandemic
#TheBahamas, January 30, 2023 – “The future for tourism looks great and the future for Grand Bahama looks phenomenal,” Minister of Tourism, Aviation and Investments, Chester Cooper told Tourism partners, during a special welcome reception at the Lighthouse Pointe Resort on Friday, January 27, 2023.
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