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SIPT Opening Statement brings anticipation for evidence, Proceedings resume today

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Providenciales, 15 Feb 2016 – Evidence will today begin being presented against the men and women accused of abusing their government power and connections to defraud the public purse of the Turks and Caicos of tens of millions of dollars.

When the Special Prosecution proceedings wrapped up on the Friday February 5, 2016, Andrew Mitchell laid out that in six years Michael Misick, the former premier managed to spend over $28 million dollars on a lavish lifestyle; and that it was ill gotten monies which he allegedly siphoned from the people of the TCI.

The special prosecutor says Misick used his government credit card for personal purchases, and allegedly tried to force TCIG to pay for it…. That he paid school fees for ex-wife LisaRaye’s daughter… that he chartered planes and yachts, allegedly at the expense of the people of the TCI and that he had many companies set up to allegedly launder money.

Misick had told media before the holidays in 2015 that he would not take a plea deal in this case because he is completely innocent of all charges.

Still, Mitchell painted a very different and compelling picture of Michael Eugene Misick and his colleagues in an opening statement which lasted three weeks.

When it came to the ex deputy premier, Mitchell summed up that Floyd and Lisa Hall went from having no declarations once he became a member of parliament to having a whole lot. The former PNP deputy leader is charged with funneling money on deals made while in office through the PNP account to his own; that he got, allegedly, some $1.13 million from government and as Mitchell put it, his spending was inconsistent with his government salary… $700,000 was said to have been his credit card bill alone.

When it came to McCallister Hanchell, the former Minister of Lands it was also about drawing the contrast between Hanchell’s beginnings in government and his declarations as a House of Assembly member over time. There were hardly any declaration of assets in the beginning, but that mushroomed as did Hanchell’s personal account and assets over the years. A one million dollar wedding, $1.2 million in credit card spending, a near million dollar house in Chalk Sound and payments from the PNP of $113,000 were all linked to Hanchell by the Special Prosecutor.

When it came to Lillian Boyce, the former Health and Education Minister it was about the $1 million cheque her brother, Earlson Robinson received from a North West Point land deal and money she told the SIPT was loaned to her by him and money loaned to Michael Misick by them both.

This is the one charge against Boyce, who is alleged to have gained $1.3 million from TCIG and who also never received any payment from the PNP party account.

Andrew Mitchell, QC also said Jeffrey Hall benefited from what he called the spoils power as his declarations showed amassing properties and showed hundreds of thousands of dollars in benefits to the former Minister of Housing.

This allegedly included a payment from the PNP party, often through the bank account of his wife and an individual named as Charles Hall.

Jeffrey Hall, unlike Lillian Boyce did not cooperate with an interview with the SIPT.

The Crown charges Chal Misick, attorney brother of Michael Misick with assisting the laundering of money from corrupt and dishonest activities for his brother and others. The SIPT charges that Chal Misick played a leading role, but he too declined to answer any SIPT questions.

Still the Crown said Chalmers must have known what he was doing and demonstrated various payments made on behalf of the former premier. Even a chart was created to show the rise of income for Mike Misick.

Another attorney, Clayton Greene, who is also former Speaker of the House of Assembly is caught up in a one million dollar transaction linked to the Juniper Hold land deal. Reportedly, Greene, who is Floyd Hall’s first cousin deposited the million dollars to TCI Bank in an account, owed by Quinten Hall, Floyd Hall’s brother.

The SIPT charges Greene with money laundering for this action.

The final presentation on that final opening statement day related to Melbourne Wilson, also an attorney who did cooperate with an interview but for the most part told the SIPT that he could not remember the finer details of a transaction related to the North West Point Land deal.

Wilson described himself as the close friend of Jeffrey Hall; he is answering for allegedly laundering $200,000.

When court resumes today, in all that Andrew Mitchell, QC has already laid out – he now says he will provide the evidence to support the allegations against the nine defendants.

Ralph Thorne, QC for Michael Misick is due to first give his response to the Opening Statement by Mitchell.

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Open Letter to Governor Dakin

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Dear H.E. Governor Dakin,

The time has come for us as a nation to stand as a unified front on matters regarding our beautiful country, the Turks & Caicos Islands. Our country, as it stands, is in a state of turmoil and I am afraid that if we do not act now, all will be lost. As such, I write on behalf of the people of the Turks and Caicos Islands, who are feeling neglected by this Government, the Commissioner of Police, and, regrettably, yourself.

Your Excellency, while crime prevention is a shared responsibility, it is expected that the relevant authorities and persons placed in key positions for crime prevention would have the strongest impact. However, I am sure that you are aware that the citizens have lost complete faith in our police force and continue to live in fear in what is supposed to be a peaceful and safe Turks and Caicos Islands. This only causes one to wonder, what can and should be done to regain control?

The People’s Democratic Movement has, on a number of occasions, stated our position on this crime matter, even offering a number of solutions to combat crime, for instance, the parties’ 12 point crime plan approach. The sad reality is that crime will always exist in any country, but as leaders we must ensure that the right deterrents are in place to reduce the risk.

I am no expert in the field of combating crime, but I do know that by taking the basic preventative measures, such as those that have been mentioned by my party and many citizens alike, we will see a swift reduction in crime.

Nevertheless, I call on you, Your Excellency, to stand on your role in national Security, as we all have come to the realization that the current approach isn’t working. Your Excellency, we are nearing a state of emergency. As you are responsible for national security of which crime is included, we need you to make those bold decisions, even if this means requesting the assistance of the military. I hereby also offer these measures that should be implemented in the interim:

  • Construct new Police stations in each community on the island of Providenciales, with a minimum of two patrol units stationed within those communities, with daily patrols and adequate staff.

  • Investment of 30-50 new patrol units.

  • Investment of a mobile police station that can be visible in other areas at various times throughout each day. We need more police officers on the streets, who can be accessible by our citizens.

Your Excellency, I say again, the current approach is failing. We need experts who will come to work and not use the opportunity to vacation. Let’s also invest in hiring some of the best experts who can assist with solving these crimes and bringing closure to the families who have lost love ones. The fact of the matter remains – there are too many unsolved cases in this country! The people of this beautiful country are not asking for much, we just want those in positions to do what they are being paid to do.

We cannot have our people living in fear, Your Excellency. I believe we need stricter penalties in place, such as the approach Jamaica recently took with a mandatory 15 years in person if caught with an illegal firearm. In addition, we can consider cancelling all bail applications for serious crimes offences. These are the kind of approaches that just may reduce or have one second guessing their decision before committing criminal acts.

In closing, I ask that you provide the people of Turks and Caicos with some reassurance, not in the form of words in a speech but swift and effective action. Your Excellency, please also note, that if these matters aren’t addressed prior to your departure as Governor, then you would have also failed the great people of Turks and Caicos Islands.

I thank you for your time and I do hope that this letter resonates with you and encourages change.

 

Robert Been

Deputy Leader

People’s Democratic Movement

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Bahamas News

BFN urges Bahamians to pay attention to hunger ‘crisis’

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Great Commission Ministries thanks network for nearly a decade of support

 

#TheBahamas, September 26, 2022 – Bahamas Feeding Network (BFN) director, Mario Carey, is making an urgent plea to the public to pay attention to the hunger crisis that many face in The Bahamas.

Carey made the comments as he and BFN Executive Director Archdeacon James Palacious paid a visit to Great Commission Ministries, one of nearly 100 feeding centres that BFN regularly supports and a beneficiary of the network for nearly 10 years.

“It’s sad and shocking to see the extent of this issue in The Bahamas,” said Carey.

“This is a crisis that isn’t being adequately addressed. How is it that in The Bahamas so many people go hungry every day and it’s such a struggle to feed them?”

The plea came just days ahead of the BFN’s inaugural golf tournament, ‘Tee Off for Hunger’ which BFN hopes will raise funds to provide more than 50,000 meals in the fight against hunger.

In recent months, BFN has been providing more than 70,000 meals per month to the most vulnerable in The Bahamas. And Palacious said the hunger problem in the country continues to be a dire one.

Palacious said the demand BFN is facing has remained steadily high, particularly as Bahamians continue to struggle with an increasing cost of living and continued high unemployment.

“It’s concerning to see the extent of the need in our country,” said Palacious.

“And at the Bahamas Feeding Network, we do all we can to provide assistance, but the demand is great and ceaseless. We deeply appreciate and ask for the continued support of the business community and the public at large to be able to carry on our work in these difficult times.”

Bishop Walter Hanchell, founder and president of Great Commission Ministries, said the organization has been seeing a sustained increase in people seeking help with the basic necessities in recent months.

Great Commission Ministries provides hot meals to roughly 500 people each day, in addition to distributing meals to the sick and shut-in, as well as the provision of grocery packages to struggling families.

Hanchell, who has been helping to feed Bahamians for over three decades, said the past few months have been challenging, as more and more new faces show up seeking assistance. Although the organization receives monetary and in-kind support, the need frequently outweighs the supply.

“Every day you see it,” said Hanchell. “And we are seeing more middle-class people who are now struggling. We help as many as we can, but of course we have limited resources.”

Carey said Hanchell’s observations point clearly to a worsening problem.

“The thing is, this is just one organization, and there are hundreds of them,” said Carey.

The Bahamas Feeding Network spends over $120,000 on its monthly efforts. And Palacious said a generous patron who covers the network’s monthly rent helps to ensure that just a small percentage of donations goes towards administration costs.

Carey said now is the time for everyone to take the issue of hunger in The Bahamas seriously.

“This is beatable,” he said. “We can beat this if people buy into it and everyone makes a contribution.”

Hanchell echoed his sentiments, noting that homelessness is another serious issue that he is working to combat, with plans underway to construct a 100-bed shelter next year.

“We are going to be asking a lot of corporate Bahamas, and the government and private citizens to make that happen,” he said.

Hanchell added, “In November we celebrate 35 years of nonstop ministry and we thank God for the Bahamas Feeding Network and all that they have done to support us over the years. They have been a tremendous blessing.

“It’s not been an easy road but the Lord has been with us.”

 

Photo Caption: Bahamas Feeding Network (BFN) representatives visit long-time beneficiary Great Commission Ministries. L-R: Great Commission Ministries Elder Mina Hanchell, Great Commission Ministries President Bishop Walter Hanchell, BFN Executive Director Archdeacon James Palacious, BFN Director Mario Carey, Aventus Ventures CEO Kevin Hobbs, Great Commission Ministries Operations Manager Maxine Bethel

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Caribbean News

CHTA President calls for “Dynamic Tax” to address high cost of air travel

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#CaymanIslands, September 26, 2022 – The President of the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association (CHTA) is recommending a tiered “dynamic taxation system” as a novel and potential solution to address ongoing concerns about the high cost of air travel within and to and from the region.

Calling for a flexible approach to levying airline taxes, CHTA’s President Nicola Madden-Greig said one of the major constraints facing Caribbean travel is the heavy burden of taxation, and governments could well consider successful revenue management tactics employed within the tourism and aviation sector.

Understanding that the full removal of taxes may be challenging, the CHTA president suggested a tax policy that is responsive to international travel demand seasonality. “For example, governments can affix a higher airline ticket tax in the peak winter season and lower taxes in the summer when demand is weak,” she said, adding that giving consumers better prices to drive visitation during the slow season could boost tourism, commerce and intra-regional VFR (Visiting Friends and Relatives) travel.

Speaking recently at IATA Caribbean Aviation Day in Grand Cayman, the successful Jamaican hotelier said the economics of such a variable policy may in fact result in a net gain in tax revenue to Caribbean governments. “As travel becomes more affordable and we stimulate more travel, this will result in more local spending, and consequently an increase in local tax collections,” she said, underscoring there will be an overall net benefit to the consumer thanks to lower ticket prices.

“I think it’s a concept that should be explored,” said Madden-Greig, who argued that a well-developed strategy could address diverse perspectives on taxation. “There’s a way to do it that allows for flexibility so you still have taxation on the front end, but when you need to drive demand, you can reduce those taxes and make up the difference on the tail end,” she said. The taxation details however must be transparent, she warned.

Madden-Greig, the Jamaica-based Group Director of Marketing & Sales at The Courtleigh Hospitality Group, said she hopes to explore the “dynamic taxation strategy” at the upcoming Caribbean Travel Forum, taking place at CHTA’s Caribbean Travel Marketplace in San Juan, Puerto Rico, October 3 to 5, 2022.

“This could definitely answer the call for reduction in taxes, but not a reduction necessarily all year-round,” the CHTA president explained, suggesting that policy makers could consider alternate tax regimes for regional and international flights in order to drive multi-destination and intra-regional travel.

She admitted that research is required on the technological options to implement the system: “It may not be an immediate solution, but it’s a solution we can work towards.”

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