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David MarchantEditor at OffshoreAlert
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Cayman Gov't in third-world attack on local newspaper

June 08, 2015 by David Marchant 4 Comments


As someone who was thrown out of Bermuda in 1996 for no other reason than being an investigative journalist (or 'a nuisance', as the occupation is known locally), I'm well aware of how sensitive small countries are to criticism.

Their economies are fragile and journalists are expected to be part of a jurisdiction's promotional effort, more than a purveyor of truth. The message to foreign workers is clear: If you don't like it, clear off.

Over the weekend, the publisher of Cayman's daily newspaper, United States national David Legge, did indeed 'clear off', at least temporarily, flying to the safety of the U.S. after the island's Premier, Alden McLaughlin, accused him of treason, no less.

Legge's 'crime' was that his Cayman Compass newspaper, inspired by the arrest in Switzerland of Caymanian FIFA VP Jeffrey Webb for suspected corruption, published an editorial that can best be described as an exercise in stating the obvious, i.e. corruption was so much part of Cayman's culture that locals "don't know it when they see it".

The opinion echoed comments made by Cayman's former Auditor General, Canadian Dan Duguay, at The OffshoreAlert Conference in 2013 during a session entitled "Corruption in OFCs: How Big Is the Problem & What Is Its Impact on International Business?", a video of which can be viewed above. Corruption was "endemic in the country", said Duguay, who reeled off a few of the most egregious examples, including a scam whereby "pretty much everyone in Cayman" has a card to illegally obtain free gas from a fuel facility intended for government vehicles only. The "sense of entitlement" was so strong that the average person couldn't see anything wrong with it, said Duguay.

This culture of corruption was never more evident than last year when Cayman's former Premier McKeeva Bush - a notoriously crooked politician - was unanimously acquitted of all 11 corruption charges he faced, with not a single member of a seven-person jury finding anything criminal with him gambling away tens of thousands of dollars of government funds in foreign casinos. Adding to the farce was the fact that his local counsel was Michael Alberga, who, in 2010, dishonestly provided OffshoreAlert with a falsified copy of a share register to protect U. S. securities fraudster Rani Jarkas, a fraudulent act that seemed to come to Alberga as easy as breathing.

Both Alberga and Bush not only remain unpunished for their actions but they continue to be pillars of the private and public sectors in Cayman, where Alberga is managing partner of prominent law firm Travers Thorp Alberga and Bush is leader of the Opposition, likely to become Premier again in the not-too-distant future.

Despite a plethora of evidence to the contrary, Cayman's current Premier claimed in his response to the local newspaper's opinion on corruption that "Cayman operates a zero tolerance approach to anyone carrying out illicit activities in these islands" before describing the editorial as "a treasonous attack on the Cayman Islands and on all the people of Cayman". Cayman's Finance Committee then voted to stop spending public cash on advertisements in the newspaper, a significant financial blow in such a small market.

With such a 'head-in-the-sand, cry-baby' approach to the most pernicious financial crime facing the world today, McLaughlin's words and the Finance Committee's actions will do little to inspire confidence among the outside world that a jurisdiction routinely-described as 'the world's fifth largest financial center' will do its part to fight what is a global problem. Yes, that's right, whatever corruption exists in Cayman pales with what takes place in countries like the United States and the United Kingdom. At least in those countries, however, there is recognition that a problem exists and journalists are free to report about it without some hot-head leader putting their safety at risk. McLaughlin needs to act more like Obama and Cameron and less like Putin. Cayman's first-class financial services sector can ill-afford to have a third-world political leader.

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4 COMMENTS

  • Thomas Rivers
    By Thomas Riverson Tuesday, June 9, 2015 2:02:02 PM

    This article demonstrates poor journalism and lacks credibility. Very one-sided and the claims lack substance. David Marchant, if you were in a country where the only daily printed newspaper was constantly replete of anti-local rhetoric, you'd too stand up for your country as did Premier McLaughlin. Corruption is not endemic here. The alleged astronomic and exponential greed of one person, Jeffrey Web, does NOT represent the entire nation's attitude towards corruption. Remember, corruption is found everywhere in the world and not just on these tiny islands.

      Replies(1)
      • David Marchant

        It's a blog, not an article, which means it's my opinion. And it's ridiculous to accuse me of "poor journalism" just because you disagree with that opinion. I'm not even sure you even read the blog in its entirety because I wrote that "whatever corruption exists in Cayman pales with what takes place in countries like the United States and the United Kingdom" and you responded with "Remember, corruption is found everywhere in the world and not just on these tiny islands". Cayman's former Auditor General, Dan Duguay, believes that corruption in Cayman is "endemic" and he provided examples to back up that view. Further evidence comes from the fact that McKeeva Bush, one of the most corrupt politicians in the Caribbean, is described as the 'Father of the House' on the Cayman Government's web-site and is revered by many on the island, despite his crude corruption. You come across as a "homer". Your opinion seems to be based on emotion.

      • Thomas Rivers
        By Thomas Riverson Tuesday, June 9, 2015 2:14:27 PM

        If you can prove to the entire world that Dan Duguay's belief that "corruption in Cayman is endemic", then please do so. And if your proof relies on the activities McKeeva Bush engaged in, please note that his actions do not represent the entire populace. He is one politician who is not elected by the country, but by his small constituency of 10,000 people. To say a handful of individuals are corrupt is one thing, for David Legge to outright accuse and entire country of being practicing a corruption culture is outrageous. I don't entirely disagree with you, I just feel that this blog post lacks balance and is one-sided.

          Replies(1)
          • David Marchant

            You see that great big image of Dan Duguay at the top of the blog - the one that you can't miss? Click on the play button and you can see and hear him say it. If you don't want to watch the entire recording, you can fast-forward to the 25 min. 30 sec mark and watch for 30 seconds or so. That you missed this is evidence that you haven't even read my blog or certainly not comprehended it. Later on, Duguay states that Cayman's Anti-Corruption Commission has "no investigative resources". As for McKeeva Bush, he is Cayman's "Father of the House", for goodness sake, and Cayman's on-again, off-again leader. You have a democracy in Cayman and this is the guy who represents - and reflects - your country. Cayman's politicians want to have their cake and eat it too, i.e. they won't do anything about crude corruption, yet still want to be able to claim they won't tolerate it. It's extremely childish and delusional.

          • KimberleeP6152
            By KimberleeP6152on Tuesday, June 9, 2015 4:52:56 PM

            Duguay should stick to facts. He claims that "pretty much everyone in Cayman" has a card to illegally obtain free gas, but the Compass reports that 378 cards were active. Even allowing for sharing cards, 378 is hardly "pretty much everyone" in a population of 60,000. http://www.compasscayman.com/caycompass/2015/02/17/Five-years-on,-discredited-gas-card-system-still-in-use/

              Replies(1)
              • David Marchant

                Perhaps you should stick to the facts. According to Duguay's "Special Report" on "Fuel Card Usage and Management" in February, 2010, there were "over 1,600 active personal cards" at the time. "Over 30% of transactions were regarded by the Internal Audit Unit as suspicious and 25% of cards during the period under review were issued to non-employees," it was stated in the report. It was estimated that "25% or more of fuel usage" might be fraudulent. Nothing wrong there then!

              • David Marchant
                By David Marchanton Wednesday, June 10, 2015 8:22:53 AM

                If Cayman is serious about clamping down on corruption, it has to do something about McKeeva Bush. You can't have it both ways: Have an openly corrupt politician holding high office (and described as 'Father of the House' on the Gov't web-site, no less) and claim to be tough on corruption. One contradicts the other. One of these has to go.

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