(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.
Warning! Pedophile loose in Provo; Hunt on for child sex stalker
By Deandrea Hamilton
#TurksandCaicos, May 11, 2022 – A man, posing as a jitney driver, has sexually assaulted a school girl and now warnings are issued and police are on the hunt for the pedophile.
The information from the Royal TCI Police has been a double shocker; firstly because a letter was leaked exposing that officials were aware of the situation but there had not been more urgent notice the public and because the suspect is among us and is still at large.
The leaked communication was dated May 12, 2022. It came from woman police, Irene Butterfield, Assistant Superintendent of the Royal TCI Police and was issued to Edgar Howell, the Director of Education for the Ministry of Education.
On Friday, that notice was shared with parents in English, Creole and Spanish. It was leaked the day prior.
From the Police issued WARNING: “The Safeguarding and Public Protection Unit is actively investigating a report of an unknown male who is operating what appears to be an illegal jitney. H e picked up a school girl and subjected her to a sexual attack. The victim is now safe and being cared for. We are seeking the assistance of families and communities in disseminating this information that is of vital importance to both government and private schools to put measures in place for the safety of children after school. Parents and guardians are asked to be aware and take precautions and make provisions for their children to be collected safely from schools by someone who is trusted and to desist from allowing their child / children to ride home in illegal jitneys.”
The original letter said the “Safeguarding and Public Protection Unit is actively investigating a report of an unknown male, ‘pedophile’ who is operating what can be an illegal jitney and frequents schools, picking up children and committing sexual acts.”
The Police was asking the Education Department to disseminate the information to all public and private schools so that parents were put on the alert.
While the letter is dated May 12, which was on Thursday, what the public does not know is how long ago this investigation was opened; how many children would have been sexually assaulted and how intrusive were those attacks.
On Friday, the Royal TCI Police issued a statement and its contents lent more insight, but were extremely disturbing as the public now has official notice that a girl was sexually assaulted and it seems the attack was enormously traumatizing.
The victim is now safe and cared for says the Safeguarding unit and the male is unknown and was operating a jitney when the unsuspecting child climbed into the vehicle for what now can only be called a ride from hell.
“Se les pide a los padres y tutores que sean conscientes y tomen precauciones y hagan provisiones para que sus hijos sean recogidos de manera segura de las escuelas por alguien de confianza y que desistan de permitir que sus hijos viajen a casa en taxi colectivo ilegales. También se les pide a los padres y tutores que escuchen a sus hijos y les enseñen a no guardar secretos inseguros.”
This is the warning in Spanish and it also asks parents to ensure their children are not keeping secrets about what may have happened to them.
Make sure whoever is around your child, says the release, is a trusted person and to desist from allowing your children from riding in illegal jitneys. You get in the tone of the statement, it is simply not worth the heartache and damage which can be done. Specially trained officers are on standby to deal with these cases, when they present themselves and this includes confidentiality.
Sadly, in the absence of proper or sufficient legal public transportation, illegal jitneys, which are manned by unregistered and unknown individuals are a customary go to for thousands of residents who need to get around the island. These jitneys are an illegal mode of public transport, but they operate unencumbered. Legal community cabs are now in service, but the sector is slow growing, unable to meet the current transportation demands.
“Nou mande paran ak ak moun ki responsab yo tou pou koute pitit ou yo epi anseye yo pou yo pa kenbe sekrè ki pa an sekirite. Pifò abizè kiltive relasyon solid ak timoun yo anvan yo pwogrese pa yon ofans seksyèl. Souvan, yo kòmanse teste limit yon timoun lè yo aji nan yon fason ki pa apwopriye avèk yo tankou achte kado pou yo, ba yo lajan epi fè yo santi yo espesyal. Paran ak moun ki responsab yo ta dwe fè atansyon ak siy sa yo epi avèti lapolis. Inite Sovgad RTCIPF la gen ofisye ki resevwa fòmasyon espesyal ki pral trete nenpòt rapò avèk anpil konfyans. Yo pral koute w epi sipòte moun ki pi vilnerab yo.”
The largest portion of the expatriate community in Turks and Caicos is of Haitian origin; the warning in Creole calls for better stewardship of children even as parents try to get them to school and while there was no information provided on the perpetrator, there were numbers provided to contact the Unit.
Contact 232-6696 or 338-4013.
“Parents and guardians are also asked to listen to your children and teach them not to keep unsafe secrets. Most abusers cultivate strong relationships with children before progressing to sexual offences. Often, they start by testing a child’s boundaries by being inappropriate in other ways such as buying them gifts, giving them money and making them feel special. Parents and guardians should look out for these signs and alert the police. The RTCIPF Safeguarding Unit has specially trained officers who will deal with any reports in strict confidence. They will listen to you and support those most vulnerable.”
Schools have now posted and issued the warnings to parents.
WHO says COVID deaths THREE TIMES higher
By Dana Malcolm
May 14, 2022 – Weeks ago the world marked an awful milestone 6 million COVID-19 deaths now the WHO says the real number may be almost three times higher.
In a recent press release the organization said new estimates from its data show that the full death toll or excess mortality associated directly or indirectly with the COVID-19 pandemic between 1 January 2020 and 31 December 2021 was approximately 14.9 million but might be as high as 16.6 million.
The organization explained that, “Excess mortality is calculated as the difference between the number of deaths that have occurred and the number that would be expected in the absence of the pandemic based on data from earlier years.”
Basically the excess mortality rate tells us how many people will be alive were it not for COVID. It is important to know what that figures including spikes associated with omicron are not included in this data set so the number could very well be higher.
“These sobering data not only point to the impact of the pandemic but also to the need for all countries to invest in more resilient health systems that can sustain essential health services during crises, including stronger health information systems,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director of the organization.
South-east Asia and the Americas were the worst hit by the pandemic in terms of death toll.
WHO data shows 20 countries, containing approximately 50% of the global population, account for over 80% of the estimated global excess mortality for the January 2020 to December 2021 period.
These countries are: Brazil, Colombia, Egypt, Germany, India, Indonesia, the Islamic Republic of Iran, Italy, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Peru, the Philippines, Poland, the Russian Federation, South Africa, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Turkey, Ukraine, and the United States of America (USA).
WHO COVID DEATHS Photo caption: File photo in Jakarta; at a time when there were fears about running out of space to bury its dead.
(Supplied: Arbain Rambey)
TCI Opposition Leader ‘Missed’ A lot; Leader of Government Business delivers Roasting Rebuttal during Budget Debate
By Deandrea Hamilton & Dana Malcolm
#TurksandCaicos, May 14, 2022 – With so many pages in a mammoth sized document which captures all of the national spending for the upcoming fiscal year, it is possible that the Leader of the Opposition missed important allocations.
When Edwin Astwood, Leader of the Opposition PDM stood to respond to the Budget Communication delivered on Tuesday May 3, he blasted the government for a number of areas he claimed was underfunded.
Akierra Missick, who is the Government’s Lead in the House of Assembly, rebutted his remarks and accusations as untrue and pointed to a lack of research and thorough examination of the Budget on Astwood’s part.
“Some amazing comments were shared by my colleague opposite, the Leader of the Opposition …he knows some facts need to be cleared up,” said Hon Akierra Misick, who is the Minister for Physical Planning and Infrastructure Development and the Member for the Long Bay and Leeward District of Providenciales.
During his submission on the Budget, there were harsh words about insufficient funding to the Royal TCI Police, however, the Minister said the statement is untrue.
“I heard the Police Commissioner himself say it during the Appropriations Committee, he has presented a Budget is accepted and adopted by the Executive, by the Budget Department, by the Ministry of Finance. Of course there will always be a scope for increased funding in every single budget, in every single department but there must be a balance and National Security is a priority of this Administration and it is reflected in our budget because you would note, in the Budget Book the Police force funding for last financial year was $27 million this year it is increased to $31.5 million, which is an increase of $3.6 million.
So to say that that is not us putting our money where our mouth is just plain untrue,” said the Minister who defended spending on national and border security.
She also pointed out that the Opposition Leader must have missed the announcement of at least three new vessels.
“In the capitals projects pages he would note that there is a vessel for national security, secretariat alone; in the police budget he would note that there is a vessel for the police. In the DECR budget, there is a vessel for the DECR and maybe he missed it in the Capital Projects pages which shows that the Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office of the UK Government is investing $1 million in the DECR equipment and resources to assist us in protecting our borders.”
She assured there is allocation for CCTV cameras and a whopping 229 percent increase in training for Police officers.
“Their increase in the training alone shows that we are pouring our time and energy into the resources of the police force to assist us in our national security goals. On the heels of that, my brother colleague must have missed that under the Border Force initiative, again contained in our Budget, we are installing two radar stations one in the North West Point area, one in the Leeward Long Bay area; again to assist with meeting our national security goals and needs.”
In respect of Edwin Astwood’s strong remarks on the infrastructural projects or lack thereof across constituencies, she said contrary to his statement work was being done in the constituencies citing the bridge in Salt Cay and, the dump in Wheeland and other projects in Blue Hills, Leeward and Long Bay.
An improvement identified by the minister, ‘street lighting.’
“I know it’s a big book. I know the Appropriations Committee did the best that they could in the time that they had, so I’m not going to say that my colleague would have intentionally overlooked these vessels in the Budget Book during his presentation but as one who believes in consensus building and building bridges – like I did in Salt Cay, which I will talk about a little later on, ‘cause my brother doesn’t seem to have visited that part of his constituency in the last few weeks to see the work happening in Salt Cay- I’m here to build bridges and let you know we are putting our money, our energy and our time into national security, into police force training, into upgrades.”
She said her ministry was “co-sponsoring” on the construction of a law enforcement recruitment and training center, to the tune of $2 million and she reminded the LOO about several moratoriums to prioritize TCI Islanders’ employment opportunities.
“On the heels of genuine concerns that we would have had about Turks and Caicos Islander businesses having a true opportunity to bid for these larger scale construction works under the large contractors’ business license, the Ministry of Finance took the position that we would freeze large construction licenses that did not have a TC Islander majority ownership in them.
This provides us as Islanders another opportunity for us to get our affairs in order and be the movers and shakers and the builders of the bigger projects in these islands.”
Misick told the Speaker of the $2.3 million investment into smaller contractors and the ministry is seeking to incentivize the hiring of more Turks and Caicos Islanders in the construction industry.
Citing the support to entrepreneurs, the coming review to support livable wages and the cumulative millions directly to TCI homes through her government’s initiatives, Misick said these are a reflection that the Budget is “people centered.”
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