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Bermuda flag flying

Bermuda's 2016 April History and News

Events that made the newspaper headlines in the fourth month of the current calendar year

By Keith Archibald Forbes (see About Us) exclusively for Bermuda Online

Bermuda atamps 1921

Admiral Sir George Somers, Bermuda 1609 Artists who painted Bermuda Bermuda, Britain & Commonwealth
Bermuda & Canada Bermuda & France Bermuda & USA
Bermuda's postage stamps Historic Houses History 1500 to 1699
History 1700 to 1799 History 1800 to 1899 History 1900 to 1939 pre-war
History 1939 to 1951 History 1952 to 1999 History  2000 to 2005
History 2006 Part 1 History 2006 Part 2 History 2007 Jan and Feb
History 2007 March History 2007 April History 2007 May
History 2007 June 1-15th History 2007 June 16 to 30th History 2007 July 1-15
History 2007 July 16th to 31st History 2007 August 1 to 7 History 2007 August 8 to 14
History 2007 August 15 to 21 History 2007 August 22-31 History 2007 September 1 to 10
History 2007 September 11 to December 31 History 2008 to 2010 History 2011 through 2012
History 2013 History 2014 part 1 History 2014 part 2
History 2015 January History 2015 February History 2015 March
History 2015 April History 2015 May History 2015 June
History 2015 July History 2015 August History 2015 September
History 2015 October History 2015 November History 2015 December
History 2016 January History 2016 February History 2016 March
History 2016 April History 2016 May History 2016 June
History 2016 July History 2016 August History 2016 September
History 2016 October History 2016 November History 2016 December
History 2017 January History 2017 February History 2017 March
History 2017 April History 2017 May History 2017 June

Bermuda's Royal Gazette newspaper is not published on Sundays or Public Holidays.

April 30. A team of volunteers descended on the replica of the Deliverance in St George’s yesterday to continue work on the major restoration project. The group from Markel Bermuda Ltd set about painting, scrubbing, weeding and sprucing up the 50-year-old replica that was damaged by back to back hurricanes in 2014 to get her ready for the first St George’s Marine Expo on Sunday. “The St George’s Foundation cannot thank enough for the hard work of these dedicated volunteers giving up their time to keep our history alive and looking the best it can for our children, visitors and residents alike,” Peter Frith, the foundation’s general manager said. The team of volunteers were led by Markel team leader, Albey Desilva, and included Tracey Burgess, Nancy Da Silva, Marie Rego, Lakeisha Smith, Thomas Strange, David Shead, Scheraine Basden, and Andrew Richardson. They were instructed by Deliverance project manager, David Chew, and project supervisor, Michaela Mobley.

April 30. The number of registered voters has risen by almost six per cent in the past six years, with 2,388 more people on the electoral roll now than in June 2010. Parliamentary registrar Tenia Woolridge told The Royal Gazette there were 41,355 Bermudians registered to vote in June 2010 and 43,743 as of April 15 this year. Ms Woolridge said she expected there to be another 500 added to the list before this summer’s referendum on same-sex marriage and civil unions, as she was working on approving a backlog of pending forms from the last by-election. She said she attributed the rise to factors including “an increase in awareness, new status Bermudians getting on the register and also the fact that we have field registration officers that go door-to-door in the constituencies, collecting and verifying the data”. “Many of those people may not have registered if we had not gone to them,” said Ms Woolridge. “The influx of forms has come through the field registration officers.” The figures shared by Ms Woolridge reveal there were: 41,464 voters as of June 2011; 42,542 as of November 2012; 43,474 as of June 2013; 43,277 as of June 2014; and 43,745 as of June 2015. The new Boundaries Commission, which has begun meeting to scrutinize the electoral boundaries map, will take into account the number of registered voters, as well as another 6,000 Bermudians identified as being aged 18 or over and believed to be living here but who have not registered to vote. According to Bermuda’s constitution, a commission must be appointed periodically to produce a report aimed at ensuring the 36 constituencies contain roughly equal numbers of voters. The last report tabled in 2010 saw a redrawing of the electoral map to take account of a boom in population in several areas. The changes altered several boundaries and affected 14 per cent of the voting population, or 6,594 voters. The new commission’s report should be tabled in the House of Assembly by the end of 2017 but chairman Francis Alexis, a QC from Grenada, told this newspaper it was hoped to have it completed well before then, ideally in the last quarter of this year. He said it was “too early to say” whether the commission would recommend any boundary changes. David Jenkins, the chief justice of Prince Edward Island in Canada, sits as the judicial member on the bipartisan Boundaries Commission. Government MPs Sylvan Richards and Mark Pettingill and Opposition MPs Michael Scott and Jamahl Simmons represent the two political parties.

April 30. Earlier this month, in a boardroom at the Parliamentary Registry on Wesley Street in Hamilton, a group of local politicians and two overseas visitors sat poring over a large map of Bermuda, discussing how best to divide this tiny island into constituencies containing roughly equal numbers of voters. And though their work mainly involved mathematics and geography, at the heart of it lay what one participant described as the “most important right” in any democracy: the right to exercise a vote and for that vote to be equal to all other votes. The Boundaries Commission was convened last November with the aim of producing a report on the electoral map well before the next General Election and, in April, over the course of a week, it began deciding whether any boundary changes would be necessary. The commission’s constitutional remit doesn’t necessarily attract wide-scale interest from the electorate — a recent public meeting at a school attracted just ten or 11 people — but it is vital in ensuring equality of voting in Bermuda, a country where for so long and until relatively recently there was huge inequality along racial and class lines. Shadow Attorney-General Michael Scott, who sits on the commission with fellow Opposition MP Jamahl Simmons and government members Mark Pettingill and Sylvan Richards, explained: “The history of the franchise in this country is the reason it’s so important. We’ve come from the dreary days or dark days of the land vote; we’ve come from the days when boundaries or constituencies were very unequal. The examples that come to mind are where Paget had 600 voters per election and Sandys may have had some 2,000 voters in the constituency.” He said allegations of gerrymandering — the manipulation of boundaries to favour one group of people in elections — were long part of the island’s narrative, so it was imperative to make “equal votes of equal value a gold standard in the country. I think we’ve come a great, good distance in achieving that with these exercises. " The constitution ensures the commission cannot take any account of the racial distribution of voters and may ignore parish boundaries if necessary. It is bipartisan, with equal numbers of MPs from both parties, and is chaired by Francis Alexis, a QC from Grenada. David Jenkins, the Chief Justice of Prince Edward Island in Canada, is also a member and served on the last commission. Dr Alexis said the commission took the number of eligible voters across the country — both registered to vote and not registered — and divided it by the constituencies, coming up with a mean number of voters per constituency. The ideal is to get as close to the mean in each constituency as possible; the commission is still deciding how far a deviation from that number is acceptable. “In the real world, there will be some constituencies having less than the mean and others having more than the mean,” said Dr Alexis. “All week we have been talking about what that deviation should be. We are narrowing it down [and] are getting to the point where we can, with confidence, say what the deviation from the mean is to be tolerated as.” Mr Justice Jenkins said the question of what amounted to an unacceptable deviation from the mean — i.e. “the point at which your vote is not worth as much as mine or mine not worth as much as yours” — raised legal, moral and constitutional questions. “In a democracy the right to exercise your franchise is the most important right there is and your constitution, like any constitution that I would be familiar with in a western democracy, contemplates equality of voting,” he said. Kevin Mayall, a specialist in geographic information systems and analysis, is the consultant to the commission and he has advised members that it will be hard to get closer than within five per cent of the mean. Right now, a draft map of the present boundaries shows that 11 of the 36 constituencies fall outside five per cent of the mean and three — St George’s South (Constituency 4), Paget East (22) and Sandys South (33) — fall outside ten per cent. “We’ve found that some constituencies fall outside the 10 per cent range; in other words, they have more than 110 per cent of the mean,” said Mr Justice Jenkins, “As a starting point, we are saying that those should be brought in and then we work down to what is reasonably practicable. How close to equality can you get? It’s a lot of trial and error. There’s a trade-off of [between] what causes the least disruption for voters and what creates the most precision for equality ... we try to not overdo the disruption.” For those around the table, the importance of their work cannot be overstated. Backbencher Mr Pettingill said: “The efforts of the committee are about finding a solution for having the fairest and most just boundary divisions. In truth it really is a case of making the math work. I have enjoyed working with all of the members in this important exercise.” Mr Simmons, Shadow Minister of Tourism and Economic Development, said: “It’s not a matter of us simply deciding how we are going to carve up the island but really trying to come up with an outcome of equal vote of equal value that benefits the country long after we are gone. It’s a very monumental responsibility when you look back at the members who’ve sat on previous commissions — sterling, strong members on both sides. It is important, we believe, in terms of facilitating democracy, that we work together and understand our remit and that we put Bermuda above all other considerations.”

April 29. The largest cruise ship to ever sail into Bermuda will roll into the West End at the beginning of next week. The Anthem of the Seas and its 4,500 passengers and 1,600 crew will make its maiden voyage to the island on Monday morning. The arrival of the Royal Caribbean International Quantum class vessel which is 136 feet wide and 1,141 feet long with a draft of 28 feet, required significant dredging and widening of the North Channel between St. George’s and Dockyard. The ship has a total of 16 public decks and is scheduled to make 21 calls from Cape Liberty in New Jersey, replacing the Liberty of the Seas. The Anthem of the Seas will be greeted by a senior Government delegation as well as city and town mayors. They will all attend a ceremony and plaque presentation on board the ship, prior to a special celebratory luncheon and a tour of the vessel.

April 29. The Bermuda Bar Association’s re-elected president has warned of the dangers of outsourcing legal work outside of the island. Richard Horseman, who was reappointed to the post this month, said that the practice of outsourcing was “of real concern” to the association. “Last year’s agenda was dominated by the announcement that overseas law firms were intending to move to Bermuda,” Mr Horseman said. “Of real concern to the Bar Association is the outsourcing of the practice of Bermuda law to other jurisdictions. This is not just a concern for the local law firms and lawyers, but for Bermuda as well. Many of the normal services necessary to run a law firm can be done cheaper overseas. Likewise, corporate administration services can be easily administered from overseas where overhead costs and labour are much cheaper. Corporate administration jobs in Bermuda provide high-paying jobs for locals who are not attorneys. These jobs can be easily outsourced to other countries where they can be done for much less.” Mr Horseman said the association would want to see a continuing commitment to the island from new firms, and would not support any departure from the 60/40 rule governing incorporated law firms in Bermuda. He also revealed that the Bar Council was in the process of drafting new amendments to the law that would keep the legal playing field level. Mr Horseman said: “It is possible to have a large amount of legal work performed overseas which may result in a lack of opportunity for young lawyers in Bermuda. “That is not to say that some of the new firms are not affording opportunities for newly qualified attorneys. They are doing so. We need to ensure that the balance is struck so we do not find ourselves in a position where a large amount of legal work and accompanying support services are being outsourced from Bermuda. Further, all incorporated law firms are required to comply with our local laws and in particular in regard to ownership. A law firm incorporated in Bermuda must comply with the well-known 60/40 rule unless afforded an exemption by the Government. We would not support a relaxation of the rule at this juncture.” Mr Horseman’s reappointment as president was made at the Annual General Meeting of the Bermuda Bar Association last Wednesday. The vice-president’s position will be undertaken by Karen Williams-Smith, while Christian Luthi was named honorary secretary. The other Bar Council members will include Elizabeth Christopher, Barclay Simmons, Cindy Clarke, Mark Chudleigh, George Jones, Michael Hanson and Trevor Moniz, the Attorney-General. Mr Horseman said it was an “honour and a privilege” to be elected and described his first year in the position as a “busy and challenging” one. He added: “The 2015 legal year commenced with the Government’s introduction of the criminal law reforms, which the Bar Association had significant concerns regarding some of the proposed legislative changes. “We are pleased that during the consultation phase, the Government took on board some our reservations regarding some of the proposed changes, the most notable of which being a citizen’s right to silence. It has long been citizens’ right in this country to not be required to account to the police or the authorities for one’s movements through Bermuda or to say anything for that matter if under suspicion. In the United Kingdom, where the proposed law was modeled from, there is system of safeguards that provide for proper legal advice and representation that counterbalances the loss of the right to silence. There was no such effective system being proposed and that was of great concern to the Bar Association.”

April 29. Bermuda’s sovereign credit rating was affirmed at A+ by Standard & Poor’s Rating Services. The rating is important, as it influences the interest rate the Bermuda Government — which is carrying gross debt of more than $2.2 billion — will have to pay on new borrowings. In their commentary, Stephen Ogilvie and Paul Judson, the S&P analysts, said they expected the economy to grow, fuelled by the construction and tourism sectors. They expect real GDP growth — after inflation is taken into account — of about 2 per cent in 2016 and 3 per cent in 2017. This level of growth would assist the Government “in returning to fiscal balance by fiscal year 2017 or 2018”, S&P’s report stated. Bob Richards, the Minister of Finance, has set out plans to eliminate the annual budget deficit by 2018/19, predominantly through increasing revenue. The analysts expressed confidence in the island’s “institutional effectiveness” and added: “The territory’s policymaking is largely effective, predictable, and proactive; and its political institutions stable. We believe Bermuda has the ability and willingness to implement reforms to ensure the long-term sustainability of public finances.” S&P also affirmed its A-1 short-term rating on Bermuda with a stable outlook. It lowered its transfer and convertibility assessment on Bermuda to AA+ from AAA, but added that this had no impact on the sovereign credit rating. “The ratings reflect Bermuda’s status as a net external creditor, its moderate and improving fiscal deficits and low debt burden, effective and predictable policy-making, high GDP per capita, and lack of monetary flexibility,” the S&P commentary stated. “According to our estimates, real GDP increased about 0.4 per cent in 2015 and nominal GDP 3.5 per cent, the highest annual nominal growth rate since 2008. The return of positive real GDP growth ends six years of consecutive annual declines: from 2008 to 2014, real GDP declined 19 per cent and nominal GDP 8 per cent. Nevertheless, until a positive trend is established, our view that economic trend growth is below-average still tempers our assessment.” A year ago, S&P downgraded the island’s long-term issuer credit rating from AA- to A+. In its commentary, S&P said government was making progress with improving the fiscal situation, citing a 3 per cent reduction in general government (GG) spending in the past fiscal year, as well as an increase in payroll tax and a broadening of the tax base with the introduction of a general services tax. The government target is to increase revenues by $150 million in the 2016-2018 fiscal period,” S&P stated. “Despite these measures, we still view the government’s ability to raise GG revenue is limited by both pressure from competing jurisdictions and domestic political preferences and the need to retain and attract employers and jobs.” S&P was not unduly concerned by the scale of Bermuda’s national debt, stating: “Gross GG debt stood at 40 per cent of GDP at the end of fiscal 2015, a level we consider low.”

April 29. Premier Michael Dunkley has said he intends to announce a change to Cabinet before the resumption of Parliament next month. The Premier also told The Royal Gazette that the House of Assembly’s summer session would begin on May 20, a delay of one week. “Obviously everyone knows about the unfortunate resignation of Shawn Crockwell,” Mr Dunkley said, referring to Mr Crockwell’s decision on March 16 to step down as Minister of Tourism Development and Transport.  have been thinking about changes, and it was always my intention that changes be made before we go back.” The Premier commended Grant Gibbons, who has handled the portfolio in the wake of Mr Crockwell’s resignation “very capably”. “There are a number of issues that he has managed to continue moving forward,” Mr Dunkley added. There was “no problem” in connection with delaying Parliament: “The summer session is a long one and it’s important that we have legislation lined up so that we don’t have peaks and valleys in the agenda.” On the issue of Brexit — the UK exit from the European European, which will be put to a referendum in June — Mr Dunkley said Bermuda’s position would necessarily be “a secondary approach to what the UK wants to do”. However, he believed “communities and countries are better when they are connected; that’s the way of the world”. Mr Dunkley stuck to his guns on defending Bermuda’s reputation in the wake of comments by Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of the British Labour Party, that branded the island a centre for offshore banking, adding: “If someone wants to attack Bermuda they had better be willing to deal with what we will say back.” Mr Dunkley said the island had “for decades been very open, compliant and accountable. Our register of beneficial ownership was developed back in the 1940s. If you want to come and do business in Bermuda for the wrong reason, it’s not going to happen.” Mr Dunkley said he had received no reply to his letter of April 13. “The Opposition Leader has an important responsibility in the UK. I would love to see him speak of a position of knowledge.” Britain’s referendum of June 23 coincides with a likely date for Bermuda’s own ballot on same-sex marriage and civil union. Mr Dunkley said the notice would have to be published by May 11 and a referendum held at “an appropriate time.  I just urge all people to get involved. It’s a critical issue that the community is watching.” Saying that he personally supported civil unions, the Premier said he “would much rather take it out of the hands of the courts. It’s going to happen. I think people need to think about history and which side of history they want to be on.”

April 29. Validus Group’s first-quarter profit was $166.8 million, a fall of 3.8 per cent compared to the same period in 2015. However, year-on-year there was no change in the $1.98 net earnings per common share available to Validus. The group bought back 1.4 million of its shares during the first three months of the year. Underwriting income across the group’s various segments fell from $142.1 million to $122.7 million. Validus Re was the star performer with income rising from $76.1 million to $98.3 million, but things were not so rosy for its Lloyd’s insurance platform Talbot, where income dropped $36 million to $20.3 million. Meanwhile Validus Group’s US-based insurer Western World recorded a loss of $4.7 million, compared to underwriting income of $2.2 million a year ago. The group’s gross premiums written for the period were $1.172 billion, up from $1.119 billion. Ed Noonan, Validus’s chief executive officer, said: “I’m very pleased to report Validus’s strong results for the quarter which were driven by excellent underwriting and investment results. “Despite competitive conditions in the insurance and reinsurance markets combined with capital markets volatility, Validus generated an 18.1 per cent annualized return on average equity. We continue to build upon existing strengths in our Bermuda and London platforms while positioning our US operations for long-term success.” Validus has a market capitalization of $3.77 billion. Its shares closed at $44.35 on the New York Stock Exchange yesterday, down 55 cents, or 1.22 per cent.

April 29. Credit Suisse Group AG, the global investment bank, is using a Bermudian-based special purpose insurer as a vehicle for an innovative bond that would offload risk from events including rogue trading and cyber crime. The bond is reportedly similar to a catastrophe bond which insurers use to limit their exposures to natural disasters like hurricanes and earthquakes, but it covers different risks. The vehicle being used for the bond is Operational Re Ltd, an insurer licensed by the Bermuda Monetary Authority with its address listed as that of ILS specialist Horseshoe Group. The bond backs up an operational risk insurance policy provided by insurer Zurich, with Zurich retaining 10 per cent of the risk and the remainder being borne by investors in the ILS. The bond illustrates how the ILS market is broadening in the type of risks it is covering. This has implications for Bermuda’s traditional reinsurers who have already lost a large portion of catastrophe reinsurance market share to alternative capital in recent years. The island has emerged as the world’s major ILS hub and has benefited from the strong growth in this market. With more than $2 billion of new ILS issuance seen in the first quarter, according to Willis and Aon Benfield, the strong growth trend remains intact. Steve Evans, founder of the Artemis.bm website, an ILS news hub, said this was a significant development in the ILS market. “The Operational Re transaction is interesting as it demonstrates the use of the catastrophe bond structure, or at least a securitisation with a risk-linked trigger, as a useful tool for transferring a broader range of corporate risks,” Mr Evans told this newspaper. “It’s clear that the structure has much wider application than the catastrophe risk transfer that we are used to and it’s hoped that other innovative transactions will come to the fore, providing a new way for corporates to access risk capital from institutional markets. That said, these transactions are not for everyone and some of the traditional ILS market investors will find deals such as this do not fit their mandates or into their insurance-linked portfolios. But innovation and a broadening of ILS market perils in this way will help to attract new investors to the market and generate incremental deal flow from sponsors ILS funds have not encountered before.” According to a report by Bloomberg News, Credit Suisse has approached bond investors, hedge funds and asset managers in recent months with an offer for the insurance-linked, five-year bond of up to 630 million Swiss francs ($648 million). The securitized bond would cover losses of between 3.5 billion Swiss francs and 4.2 billion francs from operational failures, a broad category that includes unauthorised trading, computer system disruptions, fraudulent transactions and failures in regulatory compliance. According to Bloomberg, citing two sources, Credit Suisse has received backing for its plans from Switzerland’s financial regulator, Finma. HSBC said in a note to investors last week that regulators may have misgivings with alternative forms of risk mitigation.

April 29. Public Accounts Committee member Jeff Sousa has criticised Zane DeSilva for failing to “acknowledge mistakes” with the Port Royal Golf Course. Mr Sousa expressed his disappointment that the Progressive Labour Party MP used his appearance at the PAC meeting on Wednesday to undermine former Auditor-General Heather Jacobs Matthews. Mr Sousa, a One Bermuda Alliance backbencher, said in a statement: “The Auditor-General’s report into the project revealed a mess of unauthorised actions, conflicts of interest and disregard of financial instructions, including failures to tender and secure Cabinet approval where required. Instead of acknowledging the situation, Mr DeSilva, who was a Government MP at the time of the project and a member of the Port Royal board of trustees, attacked the credibility of the Auditor-General and her findings on the project that involved his firm, Island Construction. Mr DeSilva had the gall to defend Port Royal’s board payment of a $10,000 finder’s fee that ultimately went to a board member as not abnormal at all — a statement that contradicted the Auditor-General’s conclusion that the payment was inappropriate behaviour by any standards. I was disappointed with Mr DeSilva’s testimony because its tenor left no room for acknowledging mistakes that clearly infected the project, and which became the focus of the Auditor-General’s special report.” Mrs Matthews’ report, in 2014, said that the $24.5 million project, which went over budget by more than $10 million, suffered from lack of oversight, cost overruns and inadequate accounting.  Appearing before the PAC on Wednesday, Mr DeSilva said he believed the development had given value for money. 

April 29. The Spicelands Riding School in Warwick will close its doors for the last time today after nearly 50 years. The Warwick Riding School, as it was known when it opened in 1967, has been the starting point for thousands who have gone on to enjoy successful careers as international riders as well as trainers. But “high operating costs and constant repairs have prevented the business pursuing opportunities to maximize the full potential of the property”, a statement by Spicelands Equestrian Centre said last night. Liza Outerbridge, the operations manager who took over the riding centre seven years ago, told The Royal Gazette she had reached out to private investors and government bodies for support in the riding programme, but without success. “With a very heavy heart the plans to close the riding school were shared with parents at the beginning of April. The riders are very upset and the majority have no other opportunity to pursue riding. Moving forward, Spicelands Equestrian Centre will provide boarding and leasing opportunities and continue to offer their amazing trail rides around the beautiful South Shore area.” Ms Outerbridge revealed that the decision two years ago to turn down the Spicelands Riders Association’s application for charitable status had hampered the centre’s ability to attract donations from the corporate world. “We have had an amazing seven years,” she said. “We have enjoyed times with schoolchildren who integrated their classroom studies with stable activities, troubled youth who arrived with fears and grew to trust and love the horses, learning life skills they can use to transform their lives. There are our ‘barn rats’ who are the children who spend every moment they can helping out at the barn, and let’s not forget our adults, some of whom are returning to riding after a 15-year gap — for them the rewards are being able to de-stress and the physical fitness. We have a stable of wonderful horses and ponies who regularly win blue ribbons at the shows, a great show team and a full lesson programme.” Ms Outerbridge thanked all the local businesses for their support over the years. She said: “We have had amazing support from some local businesses; Bermuda Custom Mechanical, A1 Fencing, After Hour Plumbing, Sousa Landscaping, Peter Bromby Trucking and the Gino Group.”

April 29. Two men wielding a gun robbed a jewellery shop off Front Street near midday yesterday, marking the island’s tenth armed robbery since Boxing Day. The pair, their faces concealed by reflective helmet visors, struck the Gem Cellar in the Walker Arcade shortly before 11.30am, while the area was busy with shoppers, including tourists. No one was physically harmed, but the weapon was brandished at a female member of staff who was ordered to hand over jewellery and cash into a shopping bag. The two, described by police as black males of slim to medium build between 5ft 11in and 6ft 2in, escaped on a motorcycle. Staff at businesses close by heard sounds of a brief disturbance, but told The Royal Gazette that they attributed shouts to construction in the area. “Which one is next, that’s the question,” said one woman from a neighboring business. Another said: “All I heard was one of the employees coming out saying there had been a gun. She just seemed disbelieving. You never expect to see a gun.” The arcade runs between Front Street and Reid Street, with the jewellery store towards the back of the lower level. “I heard some commotion but I didn’t even realize there was anything going on,” said a male member of staff from a third business in the arcade. “Nothing like that has happened around here.” Police visited the premises to see if security cameras had caught the incident, he added. The Gem Cellar had a camera near its entrance, and within hours police released images of the pair walking through the arcade, one carrying a bag, both concealing their faces. Tinted or mirrored visors, a feature in many robberies, have been the subject of repeated calls for a ban, including a campaign by this newspaper. The Bermuda Government signaled in last November’s Throne Speech that a ban would come after a period of consultation. One businessman complained that “many of the tenants here have been asking the landlord for proper security cameras”, saying that the only cameras were those of private businesses. However, the facility manager declined to comment when contacted by The Royal Gazette. Paula Clarke, head of the Bermuda Chamber of Commerce’s retail division, expressed hope that swift police action would end with the perpetrators prosecuted “to the full extent of the law. Retailers will continue to tighten up their security measures to protect their employees and property in light of today’s event. This is a disappointing turn of events — our citizens and visitors should not have to witness this type of behavior. This is not the Bermuda we wish to showcase.” Police spokesman Dwayne Caines said any such incident was cause for concern, and that Community Action Team officers would canvass business owners to give crime prevention advice. Walter Roban, the Acting Deputy Leader of the Opposition, condemned the incident on behalf of the Progressive Labour Party, adding: “This behavior has become too frequent and too common in our community, and should not be tolerated. Our thoughts are with the staff who had to endure such a terrifying situation.” Mr Roban called on the public to assist the police with any possible information. “This behavior has no place in our society, and those that think they can act in this manner to our community will pay the price for their antisocial behavior,” he said.  Police are appealing for anyone who may have information to contact them on 295-0011, or to use the confidential Crime Stoppers hotline on 800-8477.

April 29.  Two Bulgarian nationals who plundered nearly $20,000 from cash points across the island using cloned gold credit cards have been jailed for four months. Chavdar Bachev and Georgi Todorov were caught red-handed with the cash as they tried to leave the island early after the crime spree. Last night the Department of Public Prosecutions said it would appeal against the “manifestly inadequate” sentences passed down on the pair by Puisne Judge Charles-Etta Simmons at Supreme Court. “The Crown will immediately file an appeal in this matter as we will seek an increase in sentence as the current sentences are manifestly inadequate in all the circumstances,” Larry Mussenden, Director of Public Prosecutions said. During yesterday’s sentencing hearing the court heard that Bachev and Todorov stole $4,500 from HSBC, $4,100 from Butterfield Bank and $11,300 from Clarien using bogus credit cards that were later recovered from the ATMs. The duo told police that they had found a bag containing the credit cards as well as a stash of cash in a bus stop as they sheltered from the rain. They admitted to officers that they used the cards to steal from ATMs and “got greedy” before trying to flee the island. Their lawyer, Richard Horseman, said: “They came to Bermuda to go diving, and they hope to come back. This was not a carefully planned exercise, it was a crime of opportunity.” Mr Horseman maintained that his clients, who have been in custody on remand for the last two months, should be sentenced to time served in custody for offences they admitted, which included theft and money laundering. He also revealed that all the money stolen had been returned. However prosecutor Loxly Ricketts insisted the sentence should be between three and four for the theft and one to two years for the money laundering due to the multiple withdrawals and the impact on the financial sector and customer confidence. Mr Mussenden said: “The court rejected the ranges suggested by the Crown and started with a range of 12 months for the theft. The Court then rejected all of the aggravating factors suggested by the Crown and relied only on the mitigating factors suggested by the defence. “The sentence given was four months concurrent on the theft offences and three months concurrent on the money-laundering offences.” Bachev, 42, and Todorov, 41, were arrested by police at LF Wade International on February 16, this year, as they tried to leave the island. The pair were searched and officers discovered $8,700 in Bermuda currency and $1,693 in US currency on Bachev, while Todorov had $9,500 in Bermudian money in a slipper in his luggage. Inquiries by the three banks revealed that the two Bulgarians had withdrawn $19,900 from several cash points in Hamilton and across the island between February 12 and 14. The duo had also wired $2,700 out of the country to a third party. Furthermore they cloned card details related to customers thousands of miles from Bermuda in Italy, Great Britain, Belize and Sweden. Bachev and Todorov pleaded guilty to three charges of theft, relating to money taken from the three banks. Bachev, 42, also admitted two counts of money laundering that involved him trying to transfer funds outside Bermuda, while Todorov, 41, admitted one similar money-laundering charge. Passing sentence Judge Simmons said she had made deductions from the 12-month starting point she felt appropriate due to the defendant’s previous good character, early guilty pleas and “loss of family life” adding: “The offences you have pleaded guilty to are not the most serious in our criminal law.”

April 28. The Bermuda Government intends to lower the threshold for properties that can be purchased by non-Bermudians and non-permanent residents. However, senator Michael Fahy, the Minister of Home Affairs, said the move would maintain the number of properties available to such individuals rather than increase it, citing falling ARVs across the island. Until now only homes with an annual rental value of more than $153,000 had been available for purchase by such individuals but Mr Fahy said that limit would be lowered to $126,000. Meanwhile, the minimum ARV threshold for condos will be reduced from $32,400 to $25,800. He said yesterday that regulations already in place to protect land for Bermudians — such as a limit to the total acreage that can be held by restricted persons and anti-fronting provisions — would remain unchanged. “The motivating factor behind this decision is the reduction of the value of the property sector in recent years and the corresponding reduction of ARVs across the board in Bermuda,” he said. "This reduction came about during the preparation of the 2015 draft valuation list, which reflects an analysis of rental information across Bermuda. The draft list confirms the widely held opinion of many in the property sector, and in the community, that rental values in the open market generally have fallen between the valuation date of December 31, 2009, for the previous 2009 valuation list and July 1, 2014, which is the valuation date for the valuation units in the current 2015 draft valuation list. Now that the Department of Land Valuation has finalized the new valuation list, which takes effect retroactively from January 1, 2016, the new list has lowered ARVs, which will require an adjustment to the ARV threshold for residential property for restricted persons.” A total of 462 properties and 425 condos are purchasable by restricted persons based on the threshold, but Mr Fahy explained that 198 valuation units and 61 condos would fall below the threshold without the reduction. Penny MacIntyre, partner at Rego Sotheby’s International Realty, described the reduction as a “reasonable adjustment. The ARV thresholds need to correspond with the lower property values which Bermuda has experienced for almost seven plus years. This adjustment isn’t aimed at putting more properties on market but simply putting back the ones previously available to international buyers over the last few years that fell out of being internationally available when ARVs were reassessed to reflect lower property values. Bermudian buyers who were buying internationally available properties here walked away from their deals earlier this year when the property they were buying fell out of being internationally available. No one — Bermudian or non-Bermudian — will buy anything if they see one minute a house is available to the world of prospective buyers then the next it isn’t. Because when it isn’t, the value is far less and takes longer to sell. The adjustment shows Bermuda understands the need to be consistent and improve buyer confidence in real estate here. Holding values steady and restimulating the real estate market with international buyers is not just great for sellers and buyers but necessary for Bermuda’s future unless someone here has figured a way to make money grow on trees.” Mr Fahy said the move was intended to help the local real estate market, adding: “Liberalising real estate for PRCs and other non-Bermudians can be a sensitive topic for some Bermudians. But let me stress that our motivation in bringing this legislation forward is to stimulate a waning real estate market. Many of us know at least one property that remains empty. Some of us may even be in the unfortunate position of being unable to sell such property. It is clear to the ministry that it is Bermudians who are primarily hurt by a real estate market that is not as robust as it can be.” In addition to directly boosting the real estate market, Mr Fahy said the move was hoped to help the wider economy. “Based on detailed submissions received by industry stakeholders, I can report that when high-net-worth non-Bermudian purchasers acquire property in Bermuda, they almost always then expend considerable funds in the renovation of the property in order to have it suit their requirements. In certain cases, the renovation costs have almost matched or exceeded the initial purchase price itself. This contributes to an economic multiplier effect and feeds back into our economy through increased Government revenue by way of import duties and payroll tax on construction, landscaping and housekeeping workers. All of this is in aid of the Government’s efforts to foster job creation. This is, and will continue to be, the singular focus of this Government.”

April 28. The Government-wide hiring freeze has been extended through the 2016-17 fiscal year, the Ministry of Finance has announced. The One Bermuda Alliance will also revisit an early retirement programme for civil servants aged 55 and older, as part of cost-cutting measures. Bob Richards, the Deputy Premier and Minister of Finance, said that the move to continue the 2015-16 freeze into next year would help Government with its long-term goal of wiping out the annual deficit. “We must employ the most effective means possible to reduce spending, as we seek to get our fiscal house in order. The path towards that goal means assessing old and new methods every year to rebalance spending, relative to revenue. Today, we need to find ways to hold the line on hiring as much as is possible and we are asking all departments to keep this in mind.” The Voluntary Early Retirement Incentive Programme will also be reinstituted, increasing the number of employees who are eligible for retirement by lowering the necessary age and service requirements. This is intended to streamline transitional changes, as well as saving money by freezing the vacated positions for two years.

April 28. Michael Dunkley has written to Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of the British Labour Party, to defend Bermuda’s international reputation. The Premier said that he provided factual information about the island’s position in insurance and international business, compliance with global anti-money laundering and anti-terrorist financing standards, contribution to British business and employment, and other key aspects of its “global success”. He also stated his belief that the absence of direct taxation does not justify labeling Bermuda a tax haven, saying that the island’s level of taxation, mainly through import duties and payroll taxes, was in line with the federal government of the United States. The letter, dated Wednesday, April 13, came after Mr Corbyn made comments in Parliament about Bermuda after the Panama Papers’ release. At the end of Mr Dunkley’s correspondence, which also included a rebuttal of the suggestion Bermuda is an offshore banking centre, the Premier extended an invitation to meet Mr Corbyn in person. Mr Dunkley wrote: “In light of your recent public comments, I am writing to provide some factual and useful information, and also some initial context on our island’s contribution to the UK economy, and developing economies worldwide. I suggest there are several areas you may wish to consider in the first instance. Contribution to UK business and employment. Bermuda’s economy, predominantly insurance and reinsurance, directly contributes around 70,000 jobs to the UK economy (and many more globally), of which we estimate half are outside the Greater London area. Bermuda’s economy has provided over $10 billion of capital to the UK economy since 2008. Bermuda has historically been the UK’s third largest non-European investor, so we think a valued partner. In Tax, transparency, and compliance, we believe that the absence of direct taxation does not justify labeling a jurisdiction a tax haven. We are not a tax haven and the scale of taxes imposed by our Government is broadly in line with those prevailing in the countries with which we conduct the bulk of our foreign trade. In Bermuda, the estimated ratio of total government taxes in relation to GDP is approximately 17 to 18 per cent, which is collected mainly by way of import duties and payroll taxes, reflecting our status as an island entirely dependent on imports. This level of taxation is in line with the federal government of the United States. Some of the major corporates who use professional services here and billing services do so via EU states such as Ireland and Luxembourg, and largely pay no taxes in Bermuda, so we can hardly claim to be pursuing self-interest on that front. We are a service economy, in an incredibly competitive global market. The obligation to tax falls on the source and intermediary transporter of the money (Ireland, Luxembourg, the UK and other source and intermediary countries) not on the domestic tax system of the country where the money ends up. Bermuda has had for over 70 years a world-leading, public authority-held central register of beneficial ownership that long predates those in most developed countries, including the UK, and has at every opportunity shared the information requested by legitimate international authorities, within 24 hours including HMRC. We have just committed to provide a one-hour turnaround time on urgent enquiries with the National Crime Agency, placing us absolutely at the front rank of delivery in this area worldwide, from what was already a leading position. Bermuda is party to the OECD Multilateral Convention on Mutual Assistance on Tax Matters (providing for the exchange of information on request) with all G20 countries, all OECD countries apart from one and all EU Member States, and has concluded more than 40 bilateral Tax Information Exchange Agreements. Bermuda is also an early adopter of the OECD Convention on the Automatic Exchange of Information and signed the Multilateral Competent Authority Agreement. It is rated as ‘largely compliant’ by the OECD. The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists’ graphs on the most used jurisdictions do not list Bermuda as one of the principal jurisdictions involved in its papers, though the UK itself is listed. In fact we don’t rank in the top 50 of such jurisdictions. Bermuda is also compliant with global anti-money-laundering and antiterrorist financing standards, and does not have banking secrecy laws. According to the US 2016 International Narcotics Strategy Control Report, Bermuda is once again in the lowest risk category for money laundering. Bermuda ranks more favorably than the UK in the most recent Financial Secrecy Index, published by the Tax Justice Network. As a global insurance hub. Bermuda’s prosperity is not built nor dependent on tax-avoidance strategies by multinational corporations or individuals. A significant proportion of our financial services-dominated economy is reinsurance, which thrives in Bermuda because of its geographic and political independence, and because of its first-class regulatory system. Bermuda plays a unique and essential role in the global economy, providing reinsurance services to markets around the world and so reducing risk and the cost of capital in both developed and developing economies. Around 14 per cent of the aggregate global reinsurance premium is written out of Bermuda, employing 39,000 people worldwide and paying out the majority of claims for global catastrophes like the 2005 Buncefield oil terminal fires, the 2010 to 2011 New Zealand earthquakes, and the 2012 Costa Concordia sinking, as well as considerable proportions of the 2015-16 UK flooding and 2011 Japanese earthquakes. Bermuda provides over a quarter of the capacity for Lloyd’s of London. Bermuda’s commercial insurance regime reached full equivalence with the EU Solvency II Directive on 24 March 2016, reflecting our high regulatory standards. Bermuda was granted qualified jurisdiction status by the US National Association of Insurance Commissioners effective January 1, 2015. You will see from the above that we are not an ‘offshore banking’ centre, though of course there are banks in Bermuda which operate to UK standards of transparency and compliance, or rather better indeed.” Mr Dunkley’s letter concluded: “We noted your criticism of Bermuda’s role in facilitating Google’s tax avoidance during a speech to Parliament on 11 April, and so I feel it’s important to clarify that the UK’s diverted profit tax has already addressed this behavior. The OECD’s country-by-country reporting regime which Bermuda will join will establish a more efficient basis for the UK and other countries to tax MNEs’ transfer pricing practices. We trust this is of value as part of your understanding of the highly differentiated roles and functions of the British Overseas Territories, and of Bermuda’s unique and we believe world-leading position. I am always open to meet in person over the coming year to discuss any matters that you wish in an effort to provide accurate and timely information.”

April 28. A move to delay bringing schedules of the airport development agreement before the Public Accounts Committee has been turned down by David Burt, the chairman of the committee. At an often heated meeting of its Bermuda Government and Opposition MPs, Mr Burt said he regretted that the PAC’s investigation had descended into politics. Cole Simons of the One Bermuda Alliance proposed a motion that “we not pursue this matter until the final schedules are prepared and presented to us”. He added: “At this point, as far as public interests are concerned, it makes no sense to continue down this road because it’s still a moving target.” He asked for the withdrawal of a summons issued by Mr Burt, compelling financial secretary Anthony Manders to bring the schedules to the PAC’s next meeting on May 5. Bob Richards, the Minister of Finance, has said the schedules contained commercially sensitive information that the Government had agreed not to disclose at this juncture. Mr Burt told the PAC that the motion from Mr Simons was out of order and turned it down, pointing to the committee’s unanimous agreement in November to secure a copy of the agreement. The Acting Opposition Leader added that as chairman, he had been legally within his right to issue a fresh summons after the April 14 meeting failed to go ahead. However, in response to objections from OBA MP Susan Jackson that she felt “blindsided” by Mr Burt’s actions, he agreed to keep PAC members informed via e-mail of such actions in the future. Nonetheless, Mr Burt said: “I refuse to accept that every single thing inside those schedules can’t be shared with the one committee that has oversight.” Mr Simons denied that he had been asked by Mr Richards to bring his motion before the PAC, when asked by Progressive Labour Party MP Wayne Furbert. Mr Burt told The Royal Gazette that if the minister could adequately demonstrate the sensitivity of a piece of information, he would be receptive to having it not aired in the public domain — but he would not accept them being redacted wholesale. “We can also resolve to hear matters in a private session,” he added. The committee heard that Mr Manders will be obliged to produce the schedules for the agreement at the next session, as well as detailing instances where financial instructions were not followed.

April 28. Jason Hayward, the president of the Bermuda Public Services Union, has issued a full apology for comments he made on television about Bob Richards, the Minister of Finance. Mr Richards filed a lawsuit in June 2015 against Mr Hayward for defamatory remarks made on a paid ZBM broadcast on behalf of the People’s Campaign on May 11. Yesterday afternoon, Mr Hayward’s apology was read to the Supreme Court by his lawyer, Chen Foley, after which the case was discontinued by Mr Richards’s lawyer, Saul Froomkin QC. The apology stated: “On 14th July, I was sued by the Minister of Finance, Bob Richards, in respect of statements made during the course of a broadcast sponsored by the People’s Campaign, including allegations of corruption, collusion and scandalous behavior. My intention was to highlight concerns about aspects of the airport development as a representative of the People’s Campaign, not to deride the minister. It was never my intention to insult the minister or to cause the public to think less of him as a person. I unreservedly apologize to him if those words had that effect.” Judge Stephen Hellman said: “I am glad the matter has resolved itself in a consensual way.” Mr Richards, who was in court for the brief hearing, said he was “glad it’s over” and confirmed that he would be paying his own legal fees. “To somebody with my responsibility for the public purse, allegations of this nature cannot go unanswered,” Mr Richards said. “People need to have confidence in the management of the Government’s finances. We have done what we have had to do.” He admitted that he wished the matter had been dealt with quicker, but acknowledged it probably could not have been. Mr Hayward later told The Royal Gazette he had decided to settle because of the cost burden. “The legal action can best be categorized as a strategic lawsuit against public participation,” Mr Hayward said. “SLAPPs are described as lawsuits that are intended to censor, intimidate, and silence critics by burdening them with the cost of a legal defence until they abandon their criticism or opposition. Justice in this matter would have been awarded to the person with the heaviest pockets. I am glad this ordeal is over and I thank the community for all the support which they have given me throughout this process.” Initially, Mr Richards had said that the public would foot the bill for the defamation action, but last September he pledged to personally pay his costs for the case. In a statement at the time, Mr Richards said the matter, which led to a succession of objections from unions and other organisations, had become a distraction from “the real issues surrounding the case”. Meanwhile, the People’s Campaign accused the Minister of Finance of suppressing free speech and freedom of expression in launching the defamation case.

April 28. Progressive Labour Party MP Zane DeSilva delivered a spirited defence of his links to the Port Royal Golf Course development at the latest meeting of the Public Accounts Committee. “There’s no doubt in my mind that we have got value for money,” Mr DeSilva told the bipartisan group tasked with investigating government accounts. Opting to appear at the PAC’s latest deliberations on the project, which was the subject of a critical 2014 special report by Auditor-General Heather Jacobs Matthews, the Island Construction CEO was adamant that he had recused himself as a Port Royal board member from any discussions involving the use of the company. Mr DeSilva also criticised the Auditor-General’s work, telling the committee she made “statements in this report that are factually wrong. One of them is calling me a minister,” he said. “That’s 101 reporting. I would challenge the present Government to get a real Auditor-General to do a good job.” As for the project’s increase in budget, to $24.5 million from early estimates that were $20 million less, Mr DeSilva told the PAC that the magnitude of the project had increased dramatically, including the onus of meeting Professional Golfers’ Association standards. “Port Royal is one of the top public golf courses in the world. When we had the Grand Slam it was beamed to 80 million homes. Value for money, you ask?” Mr DeSilva said, suggesting the PAC look into the budgets of renovations such as Belmont or Tucker’s Point. Mr DeSilva told the committee that Island Construction had originally been asked to submit hourly equipment rates back in 2007, at the behest of project manager Daniel Lemoine. “I at no time had any involvement with my board with regard to those rates,” he added. “I didn’t have any involvement as a trustee.” Questioned by One Bermuda Alliance MP Jeff Sousa, Mr DeSilva repeatedly denied any conflict of interest with the $24.5 million refurbishment from 2007 to 2011. He also said Mr Sousa had wrongly charged his company with getting the Port Royal irrigation contract, which he said it had not. Defending the choice of the company, Mr DeSilva said that Island Construction had handled excavation and restoration for every golf course on the island, with the exception of Belmont, over the past 25 years. His brother Allan DeSilva, who handled the company’s business at Port Royal, joined him yesterday in the Senate chamber. The committee heard that the company provided sand for the course, along with renting varieties of equipment. The company’s rates were “very competitive”, he said, while discrepancies such as a payment of $1.7 million for equipment rental when the initial contract was $1.6 million were nothing unusual for a company working by the hour. Meanwhile, the awarding of a $10,000 by Port Royal’s board to enable the payment of a finder’s fee to a board member, which the Auditor-General branded inappropriate, was “not abnormal at all”. Asked by OBA MP Cole Simons if Port Royal’s board was advised on meeting government financial instructions, he said Adam Barboza and former tourism permanent secretary Cherie Whitter had helped with oversight. “The Auditor-General has highlighted infractions in regards to financial instructions, yet you have indicated that Mr Barboza and Ms Whitter were there to guide you?” Mr Simons asked him, to which Mr DeSilva responded: “From time to time.” In my estimation, you did not have good enough guidance,” Mr Simons said. “You as a Cabinet minister would know.” Mr DeSilva pointed out that he was not a minister at the time, adding: “Hindsight is 20-20.” PAC chairman David Burt interjected to point out that financial instructions had been different at the time of the Port Royal work, while Mr DeSilva said Ms Whitter had already informed the PAC that there had been “detailed monitoring” of expenses. Asked by Glen Smith of the OBA if the project had delivered value for money, Mr DeSilva asked if Bermuda was getting good value for the 2017 America’s Cup after spending $77 million. He added: “Ask the PGA if the course met their standards; ask Roger Rulewich, one of the world’s most renowned golf course architects, if Bermuda taxpayers got value for money.” He said he did not believe that costs “ever got out of control”, adding: “What we had was a continuum of changes for us to host a world-class event.” In addition, the Auditor-General’s report was highly critical of the project being moved from the oversight of the then Ministry of Works and Engineering. However, Mr Burt pointed out that the requirement for the project to be delegated to Works and Engineering had not been in place at the time. Asked by Mr Simons why Port Royal had made that decision, Mr DeSilva responded: “I would think it’s the same reason why Bob Richards has taken over the airport, rather than leave it to the Ministry of Transport.” He said “no one” at Works and Engineering had expertise comparable to that of his brother. “Does anyone in Tourism build golf courses? Does anyone in Cabinet?” Mr Simons asked, to which Mr DeSilva said: “Has the finance minister built an airport? The trustees had the wherewithal to hire the best people to get the job done, and that’s what we did.”

April 28. Wayne Scott, the Minister of Education, has written to primary school parents, teachers and principals insisting the Bermuda Government is determined to address infrastructure problems in public school buildings. The move comes just days after scores of teachers and children took part in an island-wide demonstration to voice their concerns about the state of the island public schools. In the letter Mr Scott maintained that “immediate steps were taken to address these issues. When I released the Score Report in February 2016, I made a commitment to everyone involved in the public education system that the Government would find resources to address the serious infrastructure problems facing our schools. Immediate steps were taken to address these issues. I was able to visit every primary school, along with our principals, facilities managers, and others to see first-hand the problems raised in the Score Report and by others. Following consultation with school principals, the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Public Works have developed a maintenance works schedule to address the most urgent concerns.” Mr Scott said that health and safety issues had been identified as a first priority and that work to resolve the problems would continue during summer break. “In order for parents and staff to be provided more information on our improvement efforts, the Acting Commissioner of Education has requested that all principals share with their PTAs, parent councils and staff all of the problem areas identified within schools and the schedule for repair and maintenance. I again wish to again thank all students, parents, PTAs, parent councils, primary school alumni, department and school staff, retired educators, unions, community organisations and other interested community members who participated in the school reorganization consultation. Your contributions are valued and are an important part of this process. I have received over 60 formal written submissions, in addition to the numerous verbal and written submissions obtained at each of the public consultation meetings. At this time each submission is being carefully reviewed and considered. This phase of the process is expected to be completed in the upcoming weeks.”

April 28. XL Group’s first-quarter earnings missed Wall Street estimates as increases in catastrophe losses and integration costs hit results. The business insurer’s operating earnings were $103.4 million, or 35 cents per share, down from the $194.4 million XL made in the first quarter of 2015 and well short of the 50 cents per share consensus forecast of analysts tracked by Yahoo Finance. Natural-catastrophe pre-tax losses in the quarter amounted to $52.8 million, up from $14.7 million in the same period of last year. The combined ratio for property-and-casualty operations — reflecting the proportion of premium dollars spent on claims and expenses — was 92.5 per cent compared to 88.9 per cent a year earlier. Last year, XL acquired Bermudian-based insurer and reinsurer Catlin Group in a $4.1 billion deal. The company said that integration costs related to the merger totaled about $55 million in the first three months of the year. Also weighing on earnings were hedge fund investments. XL said net income from affiliates fell by nearly $50 million to $8 million. “This decrease was driven primarily by our hedge fund affiliates where equity and credit market volatility fed through to returns,” XL stated. Annualized operating return on equity excluding investment gains and losses was 3.9 per cent, or 5.9 per cent when integration costs were stripped out the company said. Mike McGavick, chief executive officer of XL Group, said the combination with Catlin was working out well. “While we see difficult market conditions continuing in the near term, we firmly believe our focus on the bottom line is the right long-term strategy and that we remain very well positioned. Near the one-year anniversary of XL Catlin, we continue to exceed all of our integration targets and are seeing new opportunities aligned with our global reach and market relevance.” Gross premiums written in the first quarter were $4.36 billion, up by nearly $1.9 billion, or 75.7 per cent, from a year before. The increase was chiefly due to the acquisition of Catlin. Underwriting profit was $175.5 million compared to $146.8 million in 2015. XL said ongoing operating expenses, excluding integration costs, were 46 per cent higher, due to the company’s larger scale since the Catlin combination. “However, overall run-rate expenses for the quarter continue to indicate that synergy savings are being achieved in line with or ahead of expectations,” XL stated. XL’s book value per share rose by $1.10, or 3.5 per cent during the quarter, to $32.62 at March 31. The increase was aided by the repurchase of around 10 million shares at a cost of $355.1 million. At the end of the quarter, XL’s buyback programme allowed for the repurchase of a further $348.2 million worth of common shares. XL’s share price fell six cents, or 0.2 per cent, to close on $35.86 in New York trading yesterday.

April 28. Arch Capital Group increased its gross premiums written during the first quarter but saw its profits fall. The net income available to common shareholders was $149.3 million, down from $277 million for the same period last year. That result, which equates to $1.20 per common share, beat analysts’ estimates of $1.10. Pre-tax foreign exchange losses of $22 million were a drag on Arch’s earnings. In the corresponding period in 2015 the company had made $66.9 million of foreign exchange gains. In a statement the company pointed out that the majority of those amounts are unrealized “and resulted from the effects of revaluing the company’s net insurance liabilities required to be settled in foreign currencies at each balance sheet date”. Pre-tax net realized investment gains dropped year-on-year from $61.9 million to $29.9 million. Gross written premiums rose to $1.39 billion, up 6.1 per cent, while the underwriting combined ratio edged down a fraction to 87.1 per cent. Among its business units, Arch reported a big jump in the gross premiums written by its mortgage segment, which rose 83.8 per cent to $111.2 million. Gross written premiums in the insurance segment were $798.5 million, up 4.2 per cent, while the reinsurance segment was little changed year-on-year at $481 million. During the first quarter Arch repurchased 1.1 million shares, at a cost of $75.3 million. At the end of March there were $446.5 million of repurchases available under the company’s buyback programme. In New York, Arch shares closed yesterday at $71.40, up 10 cents, or 0.14 per cent.

April 28. Anticipated public transport issues from Dockyard failed to materialize this morning, as cruise ship holidaymakers headed out to enjoy Bermuda. Bus delays caused frustration yesterday, as the 6,000 passengers aboard the Norwegian Breakaway were left waiting for 45 minutes or more to head to Horseshoe Bay. However, despite the Summit bringing an extra 3,000 people to Dockyard early this morning, there were no major issues for visitors catching buses and ferries to popular destinations. The weather could have been a factor in preventing overcrowding, as heavy rain began to pour from around 10am. This year, visitors have been steered away from using public transport - with taxis and minibuses aiming to make up for the lack of buses. A spokesman for the Ministry of Transport confirmed that no additional buses had been provided to cope with the influx of cruise ship passengers. Jenny and Richard Frey from Connecticut arrived onboard the Summit, which set sail from Puerto Rico and made stops in St Thomas and St Martin before reaching Bermuda. Mr Frey told The Royal Gazette that it was his and his wife’s third time coming to the island, and that they will return on the same vessel next week along with their daughter and son-in-law. “We love it here. The people are so friendly and there are a lot of interesting places to see and revisit,” he added. Mrs Frey added that it was the first time they had experienced rain on the island, and that she was looking forward to showing off its delights next week. “We plan to take a private tour and show our daughter and her husband St George’s and the Gibbs Hill Lighthouse. Bermuda is just beautiful and I told them once they come, they will come again. It’s that kind of place.” Breakaway passenger Bryan Kelsey said that taking a $20 taxi journey from Dockyard to Horseshoe Bay yesterday proved an enjoyable experience. “The driver gave us a lot of information - he was telling us all about the America’s Cup - and he was making my son Sam laugh the entire time,” the Upstate New Yorker said. “My wife and I have been on a few Caribbean tours. We haven’t had a lot of time here, but it’s probably one of the most beautiful islands I’ve seen. It’s pretty stunning driving around, and I’m going to take my son to some of the historical sites because he’s interested in that.” Stephen Currier from Hudson Falls, New York said he had also been impressed with Bermuda since arriving on the Breakaway. “My wife wanted to go on a cruise, so we planned the trip a year ago,” he said. “This is the first island I’ve ever been to, it’s nice. We spent basically the whole day at Horseshoe Bay yesterday, we’re supposed to be going jet skiing today and we’ll go to the Crystal and Fantasy Caves tomorrow before the ship leaves mid-afternoon.”

April 27. HOUSTON (Bloomberg) — Nabors Industries fell the most in more than two months after the world’s largest land-rig owner missed analyst estimates partly due to pricing discounts handed out to several customers during the oil industry’s worst financial crisis in a generation. The Bermuda-based company fell almost 10 per cent in New York to $9.34, after earlier sliding as much as 12.3 per cent, the biggest intraday drop since February 9. Earnings before interest taxes, depreciation and amortization in the first three months of the year fell by 57 per cent from a year ago to $162 million, the company said late on Monday in a statement. Analysts had expected Ebitda of $195 million, according to the average of 20 estimates compiled by Bloomberg. “Nabors reported a weaker than expected quarter as activity declines, pricing concessions, and unfavorable international costs weighed on results,” Marshall Adkins, an analyst at Raymond James, wrote on Monday in a note to investors. The company was forced to give pricing concessions in the first quarter to three key international customers, chief executive officer Tony Petrello told analysts and investors yesterday on a conference call. Ebitda in its international segment is now expected to drop another 6 to 8 per cent in the second quarter, he said.

April 27. David Burt, the Shadow Minister of Finance, has admitted he knew in advance that Government members of the Public Accounts Committee could not attend its last meeting, as all had sent their apologies to him beforehand. Committee chairman Mr Burt told the media at the April 14 meeting that it was being called off because One Bermuda Alliance MPs Cole Simons, Susan Jackson, Glen Smith and Jeff Sousa had failed to show up. He said Mr Smith and Mr Sousa advised him that they would not be attending but “there was no such indication” from Mr Simons and Ms Jackson that they would not be at the session, when the $250 million airport redevelopment deal was due to be discussed. “For whatever reason, the members that had indicated they were going to be here are not present at this time,” Mr Burt said. Yesterday, after The Royal Gazette asked him if Mr Simons and Ms Jackson had sent apologies in advance, Mr Burt confirmed they had. He agreed that he was aware on April 13 that they would not be able to attend and that there would not be enough members present to reach a quorum, as required by the standing orders of the House of Assembly; he added that he had told ZBM and Bernews that he knew all four members would not be attending due to other commitments. The acting Opposition leader told this newspaper yesterday: “I was informed the day prior, after press notices were sent and the meeting was confirmed, that the two OBA members who had given every indication that they would attend — even going so far as to say they wanted to meet in private session ahead of the public session — would not be present.” Explaining why he chose to hold the meeting and invite the media to attend, knowing it could not take place, Mr Burt said: “The meeting was not cancelled, as parliamentary business should be a priority and that would set a bad precedent. “Transparency is important to me and the PAC under my chairmanship has held numerous public meetings shedding light on critical matters.” Ms Jackson, who shared with this newspaper a copy of the e-mail she sent the chairman at 9.42am on April 13, said: “I’m very concerned that it’s getting political.” In her e-mail to Mr Burt, she wrote: “Please accept my apologies for not attending tomorrow’s PAC public hearing. The World Bank and the CPA [Commonwealth Parliamentary Association] have just finalized travel for me to meet with officials to discuss PAC priority issues. There are a number of work-related mandatory commitments I must fulfill before end-of-week travel.” She said yesterday: “In my particular case, I had Government business that’s designed to strengthen the Public Accounts Committee. I can’t think of a better apology [for not attending]. If he wants to make it seem as if I’m doing something untoward, I’m upset about it. I’m trying to do the best that I can to bring credibility to the committees that I serve on.” Mr Simons shared an e-mail he sent to Mr Burt and the other committee members at 3.15pm on April 13. It read: “Good afternoon team. This is a short note to let you know that I will not be available to join you at the PAC meeting tomorrow. I had all intentions of attending but, unexpectedly, a client will be on the island tomorrow and they want to meet with me ... Again, I do apologize for this short notice.” Mr Simons told this newspaper he “absolutely” would have gone to the PAC meeting if it were not for his work commitment. Mr Burt had sent a summons to government financial secretary Anthony Manders to attend the April 14 PAC session with a copy of the airport agreement — a document which Bob Richards, the Minister of Finance, has so far refused to release to the public in full. On April 14, Mr Burt delayed the start of the PAC meeting for 15 minutes before calling it off because of the OBA’s non-attendance. Mr Richards said afterwards that the summons for Mr Manders was not legally valid and the issue of the summons played a part in the non-attendance of the OBA members. “Some members had business elsewhere,” Mr Richards said. “There was no point in having that meeting and they had other things they had to do. It was a combination of factors but certainly the fact that the summons was not valid was one reason.” Mr Burt said yesterday that at a private meeting of the PAC on April 7, Mr Smith and Mr Sousa gave their advance apologies for April 14 and Ms Jackson and Mr Simons confirmed they would attend. He insisted he was talking solely about the April 7 meeting when he said the latter two MPs gave “no such indication” of their intended absence. “If on April 7 it was made clear to me that there would not be a quorum on the 14th, the meeting would have been scheduled for a day that we had a quorum,” he said. “However, as I stated on April 14 to the public and the media, that was not the case . I stand by my statement made that day, especially in light of the fact that members were planning on attending as they asked for a private session before the public session. The public can be the judge. As was revealed the day after, my reasoning was correct as the Minister of Finance indicated that the non-attendance may have been due to a political nature and that is wholly unacceptable when dealing with the Public Accounts Committee. Again, the public can come to their own conclusions.” As revealed by this newspaper last week, Ms Jackson told Mr Burt in an e-mail on April 8 she was offended and “taken aback” by his actions in issuing the summons to Mr Manders. She said she planned to table a motion for the summons to be withdrawn but Mr Burt said he had the power to issue it and her motion would be ruled “out of order”. Ms Jackson said yesterday she would not table the motion, knowing it would fail, but would like the committee to “clear the air” and agree on how it should conduct its role in scrutinizing the public purse. The PAC will meet today at 2.30pm in the Senate Chamber at the Cabinet Building on Front Street. Yesterday, Mr Burt said that Mr Manders has informed the committee that due to travel he would be unable to attend the meeting today, and had confirmed his attendance for next Thursday. Timeline of events. April 5: Public Accounts Committee chairman David Burt issues a summons under the Parliament Act 1957 requiring financial secretary Anthony Manders to produce the airport development agreement, with accompanying schedules, at the next PAC public hearing on April 14. April 7: A private meeting of the PAC takes place. Mr Burt informs members about the summons. Two government MPs, Jeff Sousa and Glen Smith, give advance apologies for April 14. The other committee members — OBA MPs Susan Jackson and Cole Simons and PLP members Lovitta Foggo and Wayne Furbert — confirm they will be in attendance. April 8: Ms Jackson e-mails Mr Burt to say she is offended and “taken aback” by his actions in issuing the summons without discussing first with the committee. She asks for a private session before the public hearing on April 14 to table a motion for the summons to be withdrawn. April 12: At 5.58pm, a press notice regarding the April 14 meeting is issued. Later that evening, Mr Burt confirms in an e-mail to the committee that the PAC will meet in public session on April 14. He tells Ms Jackson her motion will be ruled “out of order”. April 13: At 9.42am, Ms Jackson sends her apologies in an e-mail to Mr Burt regarding the April 14 meeting. She says she has to travel overseas to discuss “PAC priority issues”. At 3.15pm, Mr Simons sends his apologies in an e-mail to Mr Burt. He cites an unexpected professional commitment. April 14: The PAC meeting is due to start at 2.30pm at the Senate chambers. None of the OBA members are in attendance so the required quorum of four members cannot be reached. Mr Burt delays the start of the meeting until 2.45pm. He then calls off the meeting, telling the media: “There are two members, MP Glen Smith and MP Jeff Sousa, who had indicated at our meeting last week that they would not be able to attend this week’s meeting. However, there was no such indication from the other two members and there was actually discussion that they wanted to meet in private session today to look to rescind summons which should have been issued ... for whatever reason, the members who had indicated that they were going to be here, are not here at this time.” He later tells ZBM in a televised interview: “All of the OBA members were not in attendance. Two of them last week had indicated they would not be able to make it as they had prior commitments and yesterday, after the other members had indicated that they would be in attendance, yesterday, it was said they would not be able to make it due to other commitments. Unfortunately, we did not have a quorum.” He added: “I don’t want to make this any more political than it has already become.”

April 27. The West End faces its first big test of the cruise ship season today as the Norwegian Breakaway delivers up to 6,000 people, with the Summit bringing 3,000 more tomorrow. This year’s policy for Dockyard has come under fire for steering visitors away from public transport, while others say that taxis and minibuses are up for the challenge. “Let’s see how it really works out, and then we can make an informed opinion,” said Tafari Outerbridge of Bermuda Island Taxis. “There’s a bit of trial and error because it’s a new initiative.” Public transport has struggled in previous years, but Mr Outerbridge said taxi operators “have felt for a long time that we should not be competing with the buses — they have decreased their amount of lift with the cruise ships, thereby increasing the lift for locals who need to get around. It’s a good initiative and we’re making an effort to have it work out.” Bus operators held a round of meetings yesterday at the Bermuda Industrial Union, but will be back on the job with normal service running today. Accommodating the high volume of visitors coming into Dockyard proved a challenge for buses on heavy days last year. Ferries have also switched over to the summer schedule, effective this week, with the Orange route serving St George’s up and running once more. The charter vessel Millennium is scheduled to head for Bermuda tomorrow out of Rhode Island, and will pick up the St George’s route once it is readied for service. A spokesman for the Ministry of Tourism Development and Transport said the Millennium’s crossing usually took about three days. Meanwhile, Glenn Smith of the Bermuda Tourism Authority confirmed that the BTA was aiming to have an extra complement of tourism ambassadors on hand this morning at the West End. “With the first arrival of the Breakaway we’ll have more people up there to help everybody get to where they’re going and answer questions.” It will be the fourth year that the mega-ship calls on Dockyard. Another change to this year’s tourism policy will be a charge passed on to vendors for the bus schedules, maps and brochures, which remain in high demand for visitors. The BTA announced earlier in the month that it was introducing a fee: businesses stocking up to 1,000 schedules will pay 25 cents for each, with a 20 cent charge per map. Brochure charges will vary according to type. The fees drop for larger orders. The paperwork was printed by the Department of Public Transportation until 2012, when it was passed on to the Department of Tourism, and then to the BTA. An e-mail to vendors described the cost as burdensome and something the BTA “can no longer carry alone” — although it will continue to cover part of the cost. “This method is fair because BTA resources for printing are now used more equitably for all stakeholders,” the statement added.

April 27. Progressive Labour Party MP Zane DeSilva will appear before the Public Accounts Committee this afternoon to give evidence about the Port Royal Golf Course improvement project. The initiative came under fire in a special report by the Auditor-General on the “Port Royal Golf Course Improvements Capital Development Project” that was issued in October 2014. Auditor-General Heather Jacobs Matthews criticised the $24.5 million project for going over budget by more than $10 million. The report also said the project was flawed from “lack of oversight, cost overruns and inadequate accounting”. In May 2015 the PAC heard that the excavation contract for the project went to Island Construction, owned by Mr DeSilva, which was the only company that submitted a bid. Contracts were handled by a project manager who had been strongly recommended for the job after handling a similar project in Barbados, while Island Construction also got the contract for irrigation and importing sand for the golf course. Mr DeSilva is expected to appear before the PAC in the Senate Chamber at 2.30pm. A statement released by the Public Accounts Committee yesterday evening stated: “It is expected that the Standing Committee will deliberate on matters relating to the golf course renovations and facilities improvements work during the Port Royal Golf Course renovation project, as highlighted in the special report of the Auditor-General on the Port Royal Golf Course Improvements Capital Development Project, dated October 2014. MP Zane DeSilva will appear to give testimony to the committee on this matter.” At the same hearing in May 2015, Wendell Brown, the former chairman of the board, defended the project going more than $10 million over budget. “We built a course that Bermuda could be proud of. OK, we went over budget, but it’s a PGA course and that was the mandate. I make no apologies that we blew the budget. We delivered this so Bermuda could benefit from the PGA [Grand Slam of Golf].” The Public Accounts Committee is chaired by David Burt, the Shadow Minister of Finance, and is made up of Members of Parliament. It is authorised by the House of Assembly to look at public expenditure. The committee also investigates findings reported by the Auditor-General in the annual and other special reports.

April 27. Scores of parents, teachers and students gathered across the island yesterday evening to voice concerns about the state of Bermuda’s schools. Groups with placards greeted rush-hour traffic at various locations, including several schools, King Street in Hamilton, outside the Cabinet Building and at Barker’s Hill, Devonshire. The placards highlighted a range of concerns about the condition and safety of buildings and carried messages such as “Don’t monkey around with education” and “Safety first”. Shannon James, the president of the Bermuda Union of Teachers, joined a group of about 20 campaigners on Front Street, in front of the Cabinet Building, to express disquiet about the education system. “This is just a tap on the shoulder to remind everyone that the children are our future,” Mr James said. “We are very concerned about the poor condition our schools are in and we are worried about the management of these schools. We don’t see the same concerted effort being put towards education as we do other areas of Government, such as the economy and tourism. When we don’t have the supplies we need and when the buildings are in desperate need of repair, the children are the ones that suffer.” Last night, Wayne Scott, the Minister of Education, responded to the demonstration saying: “We are dealing with the issues that have been raised but some of the problems have been brewing for years”. He told The Royal Gazette: “We empathize with the concerns that have been raised and we support them. We recognise there are challenges with our schools and that is exactly why we put the report and this whole issue in the public domain. Some of the immediate health and safety issues have been dealt with, while other concerns will be more thoroughly resolved once school is out so we can gain access to the buildings. We are working with the Department of Works to develop a schedule for what needs to be done and this will be shared with PTAs and parents.” The campaigners began to gather at about 4.30pm at various locations in Hamilton as well as schools and artery routes outside the city, and remained until 6pm. Their actions follow the Government-commissioned Score report that highlighted widespread failings across the public primary school system and outlined several scenarios to address the problems, including the potential closure of four schools — Heron Bay Primary School, St David’s Primary School, Gilbert Institute and Prospect Primary School. Tammisha Francis-Wainwright, a Department of Education employee and career pathways co-ordinator who works with Berkeley Institute students, said: “I am here in solidarity with my colleagues to voice our concerns about the state of our schools. They have limited resources and there are health issues associated with the mould and the state of the buildings. It is important for our students to be safe. That is why my sign says: “Safety First”. Tamicia Darrell, the deputy principal of West End Primary School, joined the campaigners on Front Street in Hamilton. “We are here because we want to educate the people that education has to be a priority for this Government,” she said. “I do not think it is a priority. I understand education is expensive, but ignorance is more so. I would like to see the Government take more of a vested interest in education. We are doing this on our own time, and we are not disrupting the school day because we don’t want to do that. We love our little pumpkins and that is why we are here.”

April 27. Victoria Row, the West End’s historic but ageing housing development, is now being demolished, according to the West End Development Corporation. The landowner announced in October that it had exhausted all avenues in trying to find investment or a developer for the dilapidated buildings. In a statement issued this evening, Wedco said it had “reluctantly” begun their removal. The statement continues: “Wedco has done everything they can to save the buildings; they have approached organisations like Habitat for Humanity, the National Trust and even the Naval Dockyards Society in the United Kingdom. No group has been able or willing to assist with any financial support, and although in principle Wedco agrees with the preservation groups, they simply do not have the funds available. Recently completed surveys indicate it would take approximately $11m to renovate Victoria Row, which would mean that the interest alone on the renovation for each unit would be $2,500 per month which far exceeds any rental return they may be able to earn. It is not easy to say ‘let’s demolish a building’, and Wedco are doing this reluctantly. Wedco has spent millions of dollars recently on renovating and restoring properties throughout the Royal Naval Dockyard and the West End, but this particular project is simply, and regrettably, not financially viable. Wedco has met with different groups and offered to let Victoria Row go for free, on the condition that it was renovated according to codes. It was simply not financially viable and had it been, Wedco would have renovated it themselves.”

April 27. Seven incarcerated foreign nationals have been deported to their home countries, the Ministry of Home Affairs has announced. The inmates, originally from Jamaica, Grenada, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Barbados and St Maarten, were flown out on Sunday thanks to a collaboration between the Department of Immigration, the Department of Corrections, the Royal Bermuda Regiment and their local immigration authorities. The inmates were all due to be released from prison between this year and 2020 and had been approved for early release by the Governor. Michael Fahy, the Minister of Home Affairs, said: “Over the past year, the Department of Immigration has been faced with many challenges regarding the deportation of foreign nationals who have been incarcerated in Bermuda for a range of offences. As a result of recent restrictions imposed by Bermuda’s gateway countries — United States, Canada and the United Kingdom — the deportation process has been extremely difficult, thereby making it virtually impossible to secure passage through any of the aforementioned countries. As a consequence of the information above, the Department of Immigration feverishly explored several options to deport the foreign nationals including, but not limited to, chartering a corporate aircraft for each deportation, which had the potential of being extremely costly for the Bermuda Government. Upon learning that the Royal Bermuda Regiment was planning to hold their annual overseas camp in Kingston, Jamaica, the Department of Immigration capitalized on this opportunity by arranging a deportation exercise led by the Department of Immigration’s compliance section. Three of the inmates had previously been approved for early release, while the early release of the other four was approved last Wednesday. Between Wednesday and Sunday, the Department of Immigration, in collaboration with Government House, the Attorney-General’s Chambers, the Department of Corrections, and the Ministry of National Security worked tirelessly to ensure that the necessary processes and protocols were followed, thereby making it possible to deport a total of seven foreign nationals out of Bermuda. This is good news for the taxpayer as it means that we will no longer be paying the incarceration fees and associated costs for these individuals. This exercise would not have been possible had it not been for the countless hours of hard work, dedication and collaboration between all agencies involved.” The issues facing foreign nationals imprisoned in Bermuda was recently raised in the court case of Leighton Griffiths who, after serving a third of his sentence, found he was ineligible for parole because he would likely be deported upon his release. While he was otherwise eligible, inmates must have permission to reside on the island to be paroled. Legislation does allow prisoners of certain nationalities to be repatriated and released on parole, but a Court of Appeal judgment dated April 1 stated that Jamaica and Bermuda did not have such an agreement. A spokeswoman for the Ministry of Home Affairs was unable to confirm by press time last night if Griffiths was one of the Jamaican nationals repatriated.

April 27. Bermuda is set to join with other nations this Saturday in celebration of International Jazz Day. While the focal point for the event will be in Washington DC, which was selected as the global host city, the island will be able to enjoy a free jazz concert on the steps of Hamilton’s City Hall. The concert is scheduled to begin at noon and continue until 4pm. For more information about International Jazz Day, visit www.jazzday.com or www.unesco.org/jazzday.

April 26. Airlift to the island has increased 22 per cent year-on-year, according to the Bermuda Tourism Authority. In a statement, the BTA said that the number of commercial airline seats available on routes to the island increased by 19,085 in the first quarter of the year compared to the same period of 2015. And while visitor arrival numbers for the period are not expected to be released until next week, Bill Hanbury, the CEO of the BTA, said the increased airlift was a positive development. “A greater number of airline seats increases our chances to put vacationers in those seats,” he said. “That’s why a year ago we worked so hard with our partners in the public and private sector to advance this issue. We consider a 22 per cent increase in seats, during the shoulder season, to be a very positive development. These additional seats also serve the local community in a positive way because when supply increases, cost typically decreases. This is good news for Bermuda residents and businesses since the cost of air travel becomes more affordable for all of us, not just for our visitors.” The increase in airlift was directly attributed to the introduction of additional American Airline flights to New York and the return of winter service by United Airlines to Newark. Since the end of the first quarter American Airlines has resumed direct daily service from Philadelphia, and the airline will offer daily flights to Washington National Airport and weekly flights to Charlotte Douglas International Airport this summer. Meanwhile United Airlines is set to increase service between Bermuda and New York/Newark Liberty International Airport on May 5 and Jet Blue is set to increase service to both Boston and New York next month. Ross Weber, CEO of the Bermuda Business Development Agency, added: “It is encouraging to see this uplift in capacity. We are happy to work alongside the BTA to ensure routes are available, convenient and, ultimately, better priced. The BDA has worked tenaciously throughout the year encouraging more people to fly to Bermuda. We have been instrumental in attracting and sponsoring on-island events that draw business travelers to the Island from all parts of the world. Hosting conferences like the Legal Week Client Forum Americas, which drew senior executives to Bermuda in February, helps keep routes open. The additional American Airlines flight into JFK has made travel to the Big Apple and onwards on connecting flights far more conducive for business travel.” The statement noted multiple steps that were taken over the last year to increase airlift, including meeting with local leaders and multiple airlines.

April 26. The Bermuda National Trust has expressed disappointment about the recent delisting of Hureka House in St David’s. However, the group applauded the listing of Princess Royal Union Lodge — also known as Samaritan’s Hall — on Cobb’s Hill. Both changes were included in separate government notices, appearing in Friday’s edition of The Royal Gazette. Jennifer Gray, the executive director for the BNT, said yesterday: “Without a doubt we are very sad that Hureka House has been delisted. We do understand that it was irreparably damaged by Hurricane Gonzalo in 2014. Hureka House is one of Bermuda’s few remaining wooden houses and typifies this unusual style of building. Wooden houses were introduced to Bermuda from the West Indies about the turn of the 20th century and adapted well to traditional Bermuda proportions. On the other hand, we are very happy that Princess Royal Union Lodge in Warwick, a former Samaritans’ Lodge and Friendly Society, has been listed a Grade 3 building. In doing so, it now benefits from protection under the Planning Act and is recognized as a building of architectural and historical significance. We understand that the listing was voluntary and we congratulate the owners for their foresight in submitting the building for consideration.” Hureka House, which stands on Lighthouse Lane, was one of several wooden homes featured in the book Wooden Houses of Bermuda by Dale Butler. The book notes the house had been repainted in several bright colours over the years. The book also describes the house as a gable-ended structure with horizontal lap-boarding on the exterior and a roof made with concrete on corrugated iron sheeting. It also notes an “architrave” around the windows where they meet the horizontal lap-boarding — a common feature in “Georgian architecture”.

April 26. The cost of Bermuda’s basic health premium (a small part of the usual healthcare package) has been kept unchanged through better healthcare coordination, a reduction in duplicated services and a decrease in utilization, according to the Bermuda Health Council. And to better manage patient care and improve service access, four new benefits will be added to the Standard Health Benefit for the fiscal year 2016 to 2017. “As we reflect on the past year’s utilization of Standard Health Benefit, this is an important time to embrace insurance coverage for care that contributes to ‘complete physical, mental and social well-being’,” BHeC CEO Tawanna Wedderburn said. “In the future, greater emphasis will be placed on preventive care and home care benefits, and enhancing access to affordable insurance coverage for all residents.” BHeC prepares an actuarial review annually to review the cost of the Standard Health Benefit that must be included in every health insurance policy. By collaborating with the Ministry of Health, Seniors and Environment, the Bermuda Hospitals Board and BHeC, it was determined that the calculated premium for these set benefits and programs will remain at $338.07 this year. According to the BHeC, this was possible because of greater coordination of care, reductions in the utilization of hospital services, and lower rates of overseas care. BHeC health economist Ricky Brathwaite said: “It is very important that we as a society collaborate to create healthy environments and access to appropriate services for all. The priority this year was to ensure that we did not make it more difficult for members of our community to manage their health. Although progress has been made, there is much work to do to create stability within our system and to work collaboratively to earn the trust of all who demand high levels of quality in their care. The conversations that have taken place over the last six months in preparation for setting the SPR should give us all that assurance that we are moving in the right collaborative direction,” Dr Brathwaite added. The new benefits include the Zio Patch, a device attached to the chest for more accurate diagnosis of heart conditions, as well as peripheral artery disease screening; developing screening and diagnostic services for vascular disease. The new benefits also include plasma exchange, which cleans the blood by extracting and replacing plasma to treat patients with long-term immune conditions, and high-risk foot podiatry, which involves providing care for patients at risk for lower limb amputations due to peripheral disease and non-healing wounds.

April 25. Bloomberg View. Leonid Bershidsky, a Bloomberg View contributor, is a Berlin-based writer. "Discussions of a possible British exit from the European Union often centre on how the move would affect Britain itself. It’s only natural, since British voters are the ones who will make the decision, and they care mainly about their own country. There are two sides to any divorce, however, and the relatively passive partner — in this case the EU — must also consider the impact of losing Britain. The most obvious and most talked-about consequence for the EU would be the bad precedent: Britain’s departure would establish for the first time that the bloc can shrink, not just expand. But that may not be too important. Other EU countries will not necessarily want to leave just because Britain does. The London-based Centre for European Reform, a think tank with powerful corporate donors, has just published a report identifying more specific effects that a British exit, or Brexit, might have on the EU. It didn’t find too many of them. Britain’s departure might actually be beneficial to the bloc’s cohesion, though it will lose an important voice on policy matters. That has been a dissenting voice, for the most part. Between 2009 and 2015, Britain was among the minority of states either voting against or abstaining from legislation in 13.3 per cent of the cases — more than any other EU member. Yet Britain’s input was influential: it’s been the bloc’s strongest force for economic liberalization. In a 2015 paper, the strategic advisory firm Global Counsel wrote that, without Britain present, “it would become harder to block illiberal measures. Moreover, there would likely be a new regulatory dynamic.” The firm pointed out, however, that the EU would still be pressured to liberalize its policies because it would be competing with Britain for investment. The Centre for European Reform also points out that Northern European countries such as the Netherlands would still advocate relatively liberal policies within the EU, though they won’t be as vigorous as the Brits in defending free trade. “There has been a broad consensus across the Union in favour of moves to liberalize markets for goods, services and labour,” the think tank’s report says. “Much of this has been driven by Eurozone countries’ attempt to improve their competitiveness.” The EU probably won’t reverse the trend towards deregulation, but it might move more resolutely to pull its entire membership into the euro arena, or put the “euro outs” at a distinct disadvantage. Today, Britain is the biggest champion of the “outs”; the eastern European and Scandinavian countries that have steered clear of the common currency won’t have as much clout against pro-euro France and Germany. There might also be a push towards supranational regulation of capital markets and the harmonization of rules that govern them, including those on tax and bankruptcy. London might lose — and another financial centre might gain — the big euro clearinghouses. Though the British capital would remain an important financial centre, the finance industry will have to shift some operations to the continent. As the Global Counsel report pointed out: “EU regulations would make it harder for London to serve European markets, particularly [but not only] for retail banking and euro trading. “Some business would be likely to move to Eurozone financial centres or be lost to Europe. Competition to take this business would be wasteful. While one or two centres may ultimately benefit, businesses and households across the EU would bear the cost in terms of higher charges and poorer products.  There would be few other economic consequences for the EU. It would probably negotiate terms of trade with Britain the same as before an exit, since the British and continental economies are intertwined. The UK absorbs 16 per cent of the exports of goods from the EU’s 27 non-British members, and there’s an even livelier trade in services. Neither side will want to lose these economic advantages. The EU-27, however, will probably be more reluctant to negotiate trade deals with other important partners, such as the US. The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, which Barack Obama is promoting in Europe, has become dramatically less popular in Germany in the past two years, with a recent poll showing that only one in five people support it. Continental Europeans are generally less enthusiastic about free trade than Brits are, and a Brit-less EU will be a much tougher negotiating partner for the US, Japan and China. Britain’s “special relationship” with the US is an asset for the Americans: it helps them find inroads into the EU. Brexit would change things — there would be fewer counterweights to Germany, where public opinion is ambivalent about the US. Without Britain, Europe will move further away from US-inspired practices in matters such as privacy versus security or fighting the terrorist threat. Britain has shaped the bloc’s terrorism policy more than any other country and its expertise will be missed, but the other countries will eventually find their footing. That will be harder to do when it comes to defence. Britain is the biggest defence spender in the union, with 21 per cent of the bloc’s total military budget and one of very few Nato countries that fulfils their commitment to spend 2 per cent of their gross domestic product on military programmes. Without Britain, the EU will be far less protected, and its members would either have to raise spending dramatically or depend even more on the US than they do now. That would hand extra leverage to the US and mitigate the loss of the “special relationship” as an EU-oriented policy instrument. It would, however, also contribute to resentment between the US and continental Europe, which would be quite mutual. According to the Centre for European Reform: “Brexit would encourage those in America who dismiss Europe as a region of sclerotic economic growth with a dysfunctional political system and who argue for more US engagement with booming Asian economies compared with Europe.” All in all — unless one believes in the magical effect of Brexit on Eurosceptics’ electoral performance throughout Europe — the EU’s losses from Brexit would be easily manageable. It’s likely that the momentous event would bring the remaining EU members closer, ultimately contributing to the creation of a truly borderless market that, as a unit, would be more competitive with other global economic powers. The relationship with the US would probably balance itself after a while, and a solution would be found to the defence issue. There is, however, one problem that might prove harder to mitigate in the long run — that of Germany’s uncontested dominance. “Germany’s preponderance in the EU has grown in the past five years, because of the disengagement of Britain, the relative weakness of both France and the European Commission,” the Centre for European Reform report says. “This situation is not in Germany’s interests or those of the other member states.” Germany’s leadership is, to a degree, forced and reluctant. Without Britain’s spirited opposition, its role will be institutionalized. Even if the Union becomes closer as a result, there are likely to be more policy errors and more resentment against Germany as the driving force — an attitude that is already widespread in southern and eastern Europe. Sometimes a strong dissenting force can be beneficial to a group, and that’s probably the biggest reason why the EU should hope to avoid Brexit."

April 25. Bermuda’s cannabis policy is in urgent need of an overhaul, according to Stratton Hatfield, a leading member of the group charged with investigating the drug more than three years ago. Many of the sweeping changes proposed by the Cannabis Reform Collaborative remain on the shelf two years after they were presented to the Bermuda Government. Meanwhile, the latest school survey shows that more than half, or 54 per cent, of students in their last year of senior school have used marijuana at some point. Nearly a third (29 per cent) of S4 students reported that they used marijuana, with 10 per cent saying they had taken the drug in the past 30 days The average age at which schoolchildren first try the drug is 13.6 years, according to the 2015 survey, which covers both public and private schools. “It shows the need for more education and prevention, which was a big part of our report,” Mr Hatfield told The Royal Gazette. “Where are these young people getting cannabis from at such an age? From an uncontrolled and unregulated market. The younger you are, the bigger the impact it has on the development of the brain. I just wonder how we can lobby the Government to act on this.” Michael Dunkley appointed the CRC in December 2013, shortly after signaling in Parliament that the island needed to examine decriminalizing cannabis and exploring its medical use. Yesterday, the Premier pointed to legislation passed last year that allowed for the use of cannabis-based pharmaceuticals, which he said was considered “an important step in the Government’s phased approach towards reforming Bermuda’s cannabis laws”. Mr Dunkley added: “It should be noted that the legislation contains significant safeguards in the form of required consultation and ultimately advice from the chief medical officer before any other substances or products can be added to the list of compounds available for medical use by prescription. That said, to date I can confirm that approximately six applications for CBD-containing oils have been made and all have been approved for importation for purpose of personal medical use.” CBD, or cannabidiol, is one of the main components of cannabis. Mr Dunkley added: “As a final note, I have said previously, that where the potential for relief exists in the use of cannabis for medical purposes, the Government’s responsibility is to sensitively and prudently regulate that use in the best interests of healthcare generally and public safety in particular.” Mr Hatfield said that by speaking out, he was “just trying to apply pressure on the Government, and remind people that a report was commissioned and presented with valuable recommendations that have not been implemented”. Among its proposals, the report called for medical cannabis to be made immediately available, as well as decriminalizing possession of the drug for personal use, with a long-term plan for its eventual legalization. Asked which proposal he would most like to see acted upon, Mr Hatfield said: “Developing the policy of a caution for simple possession. It’s an important step towards what we recommended.” Since 2010, the Director of Public Prosecutions has had a caution policy in place for the possession of small quantities of the drug, and amendments approved last month permitted the DPP to issue new guidelines to police for the alternative to bringing people before the courts. Mr Hatfield said it would be “interesting to see what progress has been made”, citing the disproportionate impact of the existing policy on young black men. The island’s status quo on cannabis “has to change — we are missing an opportunity to lead on this global topic”, he added. The National School Survey, the fourth of its kind, polled middle and senior school students on alcohol, tobacco, drugs and health during October 2015: roughly 3,500 students across 25 public, private and home schools. Its findings on cannabis showed that of the students that used the drug, more than half reported doing so either at home or at a friend’s house. The vast majority of users (71 per cent) said they acquired cannabis from friends. Among other details, the survey found that:

April 25. Author Ian Fleming once said his fictional secret agent James Bond was “a highly romanticized version of the true spy. The real thing … is Sir William Stephenson,” the Canadian-born espionage chieftain who ran a major Second World War intelligence operation out of Bermuda and later retired to the island. On Friday, Canada’s Intrepid Society, formed to honour the memory of a man whose cloak-and-dagger exploits included helping to organise the United States’ wartime secret service, the Office of Strategic Services, forerunner to the Central Intelligence Agency, celebrated Sir William’s ties to the island at a Bermuda National Museum ceremony. The event culminated in the unveiling of a bronze bust of Sir William, whose wartime adventures were recounted in the best-selling biographies The Quiet Canadian and A Man Called Intrepid. “This gift is to honour the people of Bermuda and others here who worked with Sir William during the Second World War in the Imperial Censorship programme run out of the Princess Hotel in Hamilton that played an important role in the gathering of intelligence from the information flowing from the Americas to Europe via the postal service,” said Colonel Gary Solar, Intrepid Society president, at Friday’s unveiling. The bronze, created by Canadian artist Erin Senko, will be put on permanent display in a National Museum exhibit commemorating the 1940-45 local censorship operation, which is planned for the Dockyard facility’s pending Casemates Barracks extension. Colonel Solar was accompanied to Bermuda by a large group of Canadian and American members and supporters of the Intrepid Society. National Museum chairman James Hallett also paid tribute to the millionaire industrialist-turned-spymaster’s exploits and his long association with Bermuda, which began during the Second World War and was rekindled when he retired here in the 1960s with his Tennessee-born wife, Lady Mary Stephenson. When they first moved to Bermuda, the couple lived in an apartment at the Princess Hotel, site of Sir William’s wartime censorship operation, before later buying a home in Camden North, Devonshire. Soft-spoken and unassuming, Sir William died in Bermuda in 1989 at the age of 92 and is buried at St John’s Church, Pembroke. He was survived by his adopted Bermudian daughter, Elizabeth. “Sir William Stephenson was a remarkable man: born in Manitoba, he was an inventor, ace pilot in the First World War, prisoner of war and a hugely successful businessman in the interwar period who foresaw the growing threat of Nazi Germany in the 1930s,” Mr Hallett said. “To help fight that threat, he embarked on a second career as an intelligence operative, first in an unofficial capacity by providing confidential information acquired from his European industrial contacts to Winston Churchill about how Adolf Hitler’s regime was covertly building up Germany’s armed forces, and later as a high-ranking figure in Britain’s security apparatus. He went on to become the senior representative of British intelligence for the entire Western Hemisphere during the Second World War.” In May 1940, newly installed British Prime Minister Winston Churchill personally dispatched Sir William, by then a close confidante and one of his most reliable private sources of information on secret German rearmament programmes, to New York with the cover title of British passports control officer. Working out of offices in Rockefeller Centre, the original mandate of Sir William’s covert British Security Coordination organisation was to facilitate co-operation and the exchange of information between the various British intelligence agencies operating in the Western Hemisphere and authorities in the still-neutral United States. The role quickly expanded under the pressure of wartime conditions, with Sir William soon overseeing British efforts to blunt Nazi espionage, sabotage and propaganda activities in the United States during the early years of the conflict. One of his key weapons in this regard was the work of the Bermuda censorship station. During the Second World War (1939-45), Bermuda was a staging point for regular US-European flying boat services operated by Pan American World Airways and Britain’s Imperial Airways, with the bulk of transatlantic air mail passing through the island. “Bermuda proved a geographically convenient location for the scrutiny of mail exchanged between North America and Europe,” said former Bermuda resident Rupert Allason, a British espionage historian and one-time parliamentarian who writes under the pen name Nigel West. “All correspondence sent to or from Europe was examined by Imperial Censorship staff based at the Hamilton Princess Hotel, and suspect items were intercepted and photographed. This led to the identification of several important German spies and spy rings operating in North America.” Ultimately, some 1,500 British intelligence officers and code breakers descended on Bermuda to staff the Imperial Censorship station, many of them women — and jokingly dubbed “Censorettes” after the high-kicking Radio City Music Hall precision dancers, the Rockettes. Reminiscing about his wartime service, Sir William said that in addition to investigating enemy activities and mobilizing pro-British opinion in the US, he served as an unofficial liaison between Churchill and President Franklin D Roosevelt, supervised training of Americans for intelligence work, operated spy networks which uncovered Axis activities in South America and provided valuable information to Washington and London on the movements of pro-Nazi Vichy French operatives. While he liked to downplay his role as “80 per cent paperwork’’, he was knighted by the British in 1946. That same year, the US presented Sir William with the Medal for Merit, then America’s highest civilian decoration. The medal’s citation, signed by President Harry S. Truman, who succeeded Roosevelt in 1945, said Sir William “gave timely and invaluable aid to the American war effort’’. Former United Bermuda Party parliamentarian Tony Correia and retired chartered accountant Dick Butterfield, longtime Bermudian friends of Sir William, spoke fondly about his time in on the island at Friday’s event. Other intimates of the former spymaster in attendance included Canadian-born former Bermuda Attorney-General Saul Froomkin. Ian Fleming, wartime aide to Britain’s head of naval intelligence, Admiral John Henry Godfrey, was a sometime agent for Sir William, first meeting him in Washington DC in 1941 after flying through Bermuda to inspect the censorship operation. “High up on my list of heroes is one of the great secret agents of the last war,” Fleming said of the man who was to become a mentor and father figure to him. Describing the Canadian as “a man of super-qualities … and, by any standards, a hero,” Fleming went to say: “Sir William Stephenson — decorated with the Military Cross and Distinguished Flying Cross for his exploits as an aviator in World War One — became one of the great secret agents of the last war, and it would be a foolish person who would argue his credentials.” The James Bond author said that, unlike his fictional creation, “an efficient and not very attractive blunt instrument in the hands of government”, real intelligence operatives such as Sir William were men of flesh and blood who, despite seemingly endless reserves of patience and ingenuity, were pushed almost to the limits of human endurance by the demands of their wartime work. “Bill Stephenson worked himself almost to death during the war, carrying out undercover operations and often dangerous assignments,” Fleming said. “He was awarded the Presidential Medal for Merit, and he is the first non-American ever to receive this highest honour for a civilian. But it was surely [his] supreme reward that when Sir Winston Churchill recommended Bill Stephenson for a knighthood he should have minuted to King George VI, ‘This one is dear to my heart.’ It seems that other and far greater men than I also have their heroes.”

April 25. Butterfield Bank’s profit for the first three months of the year was $26.8 million, down $1.2 million year-on-year. However, the bank’s core earnings — which strips out one-off items — were $36 million, an improvement of $7 million compared with the same period in 2015. Releasing its earnings report, the bank announced an interim dividend of 1 cent per common share and a $20 per share quarterly dividend on preference shares, to be paid in June. The bank repurchased $300,000-worth of its shares during the quarter, and this appears set to continue with the board authorizing the buy-back of up to eight million common shares in its 2016 programme. The first quarter was described as a “strong financial performance” for the bank by Michael Collins, Butterfield’s chief executive officer. “We continue to generate steadily growing and predictable earnings through wealth management acquisitions, deposit growth in community banking, and cost reductions across the group,” he said, pointing to the bank’s focus on revenue growth and expense management. Mr Collins said the demand for loans remains subdued across major markets, although there has been an increase in the Caymans. The bank saw net interest income grow, partly as a result of higher revenue from its corporate loan portfolio, which came from higher rates and increased volume in Bermuda. Interest expenses decreased by $1.7 million, mostly due to lower rates on deposits in several jurisdictions. The bank also made a saving of $1.7 million in non-interest expenses, principally due to lower salary costs as it reduced its global workforce, on a full-time equivalency basis, by 26 to 1,114. There were workforce reductions in Britain and Guernsey. The bank incurred significant non-core expenses late last year due to the wind-down of the London bank and management restructuring. There were some additional charges associated with these projects during the first three months of this year. Looking ahead, Mr Collins said that in the absence of sustained loan growth, the bank will alternatively deploy capital in wealth management acquisitions and its investment portfolio. He added: “During the first quarter, we restructured our management team in an effort to improve decision making and communication across the bank. We will continue to rationalise our business model, focusing on expansion in key international financial centres where we have expertise and scale. We are in the process of winding down our sub-scale deposit taking and investment management business in the UK, a project which will be completed in the third quarter. At the same time, we are increasing our wealth management market share in Bermuda with the planned acquisition of HSBC’s Private Banking Trust and Investment Management businesses which is expected to close shortly. This wealth management acquisition will substantially increase Butterfield’s deposits, assets under administration, and assets under management.” Michael Schrum, chief financial officer said: “Overall, Butterfield’s balance sheet is stable and highly liquid. Paydowns within the consumer loan portfolio were largely offset by new sovereign and public-sector lending on the institutional side.” He said loan quality continued to improve, with non-performing loans, including those that are past due by 90 days or more, “broadly stable” during the quarter. Mr Schrum said the bank benefited from the US Federal Reserve increasing the benchmark dollar rate in December. That led to better returns on the bank’s investment portfolio and a beneficial impact on associated rate adjustments in its corporate lending portfolio. He added: “The realization of non-core expenses and provisions during the quarter — associated with the continued wind-down of our UK bank, costs related to the pending acquisition of HSBC’s wealth management businesses in Bermuda, and severance and retirement charges associated with the management restructuring project effected during the quarter — led to a reduction of net income by $1.2 million versus the first quarter of 2015.”

April 25. St George is to launch its first Marine Expo next month in a bid to boost visitor numbers to the Old Towne. The show will feature the latest in marine technology and also highlight the rich maritime history of the island. Ray Lambert, the economic development officer for the Bermuda Economic Development Agency in St George, said: “The objective of this event was to create activity to stimulate business for the town. “This works not just to stimulate the town, but highlights an industry which is key to our local economy.” The event, which is to become an annual fixture in the St George calendar, will be held on Sunday, May 1 at Ordnance Island and in King’s Square. And the Marine Expo coincides with the launch of this year’s series of Olde Towne Markets. “The markets will run on a monthly basis and there will be all kinds of vendors around the town — it should be a very festive day,” said Mr Lambert. It is hoped that attracting boating enthusiasts from across the island will boost the economy of St George, which has suffered in recent years. Among the attractions are stars of the America’s Cup, with the teams visiting the expo to sign autographs. “It’s an event we’ve been working on for quite some time and the concept is its celebrating all things marine,” said Mr Lambert. “It’s not just for the new boats, although we will have the dealers there. We will have some of the sports clubs, the Comet sail boats and the power boats will be there. The Seagull Association, which are Bermuda-made power boats, will have a display as well. Attractions will include boats from the Royal Bermuda Regiment’s boat troop, Marine and Ports and the Bermuda Institute for Ocean Sciences. There is a huge educational component — it’s as much educational as it will be fun and interesting.” Ordnance Island and King’s Square will be decked in flags and packed with tents, exhibits of boats, marine supplies, services sports and seminars. “It’s a natural fit and Ordnance Island is a beautiful location and it will be really cool to have that all dressed up and with boats,” said Mr Lambert. He added that the event will be used to promote the model of the Deliverance, built to take the crew of the Sea Venture, which was wrecked off St George’s in 1609 and led to the permanent settlement of Bermuda, on to Virginia. Mr Lambert explained that the Deliverance needs major restoration work and donations can be made on the day." The team from the St George’s Foundation will be dressed up in period costume. There is a very expensive restoration in process and a barrel for donations to help restore the ship replica will be available.” The America’s Cup Endeavour programme for young sailors will be giving young people a taste of sailing in St George’s Harbour under the guidance of experienced sailors. And tours using the WildCat power boat and other vessels will be on offer. The event’s main sponsor is energy firm Rubis, which is based in St George’s, with additional backing from, among others, HSBC, insurance firms BF&M and Freisenbruch Meyer, Bermuda International Shipping Ltd, Custom Acoustics and boat maintenance company Spar Yard. Mr Lambert said: “We really appreciate the support of our sponsors and are very encouraged by the interest thus far from the marine community. The marine industry is an important part of our local economy. Boating is the number one recreational activity in Bermuda and the expo will be a great opportunity to see what’s new in the industry.”

April 25. Falling house prices in Bermuda mean the threshold for properties which come under rent control is to be reduced. Homes with an annual rental value of $27,000 or less are regulated by the Rent Commission to give tenants in lower-value properties security of tenure and prevent landlords from increasing rent arbitrarily and unfairly. The threshold is to be lowered to $22,800, but the number of properties which come under the commission is not expected to change because thousands of homeowners had the value of their homes drop between the end of 2009 and July 2014. A Bermuda Government spokeswoman said the change was being made on the basis of information provided by the Department of Land Valuation from its 2015 draft valuation list. “The 2015 draft valuation list reflects the analysis of rental information returned to the Land Valuation Department,” she said. The draft list confirms the widely held opinion of many in the property sector, and in the community, that rental values, in general, in the open market have fallen between the valuation date of December 31, 2009, for the previous 2009 valuation list and July 1, 2014, which is the valuation date for the valuation units in the current 2015 draft valuation list. A tenancy of a premise is subject to rent control if the ARV is $27,000 or less, as determined by the 2009 land valuation list. This threshold placed 17,060 rental units under rent control. Now that the Department of Land Valuation has finalized the new valuation list, which takes effect [retroactively] from January 1, 2016, the new list has lowered ARVs, which will require an adjustment to rent control’s threshold. The effect of the new valuation list will place approximately 3,215 more residential properties under rent control if the current threshold of $27,000 is not adjusted ... The lowering of the threshold to $22,800 will keep the number of valuation units under rent control relatively unchanged [17,061].” The 2015 draft valuation list can be inspected at post offices, the Land Valuation Department and online at www.landvaluation.bm

April 25.  A meeting being held this week by the Bermuda Police Service and the Liquor Licensing Authority will include discussions about a national plan to streamline the process of holding large scale events on the island. The organisations are teaming up to host the public information session aimed at entrepreneurs and promoters looking to stage parties and events. The meeting will be held on Wednesday between 6pm and 8pm at the Dame Lois Browne Evans building in Hamilton. A police spokesman said: “In the lead up to the summer months and growing event periods like National Heroes Weekend and Cup Match, the BPS and LLA are encouraging promoters and entrepreneurs, to attend a meeting to discuss the island’s Liquor Licensing Laws, the plans and measures that the BPS and LLA will be looking for from event organisers, the national plans to streamline the process of holding a large scale event and to have a discussion on ways forward for the island from a legislative and organisational standpoint.” Anyone who would like to attend should confirm to Inspector Scott Devine of the Bermuda Police Service at sdevine@bps.bm or 247-1117.

April 25. Philip Correia got more than he bargained for after becoming the first Bermudian to medal in the final of the FEI World Jumping Challenge in Morocco yesterday. Making his first appearance at this event in more than a decade, the local rider finished second with 17-year-old Kilt Bessiere to claim silver after posting clear rounds on all four days of the competition. It was by far the biggest achievement of Correia’s career and far exceeded his expectations going into the event featuring some of the world’s elite. “It’s really hard to put into words [being the first Bermuda rider to medal at the event] but it feels quite nice,” Correia said. “To make it to the final was my first goal, and after making it to the final I knew that I stood a good chance of being in the top five, and obviously coming second is a plus. Most of the competitors that I was competing against are competing at much higher levels than this. They are all competing at Grand Prix level and so to actually ride among other riders that are generally doing a lot more on the horse scene, and do so well, was actually a very big thing for me. It was a good accomplishment and it’s nice to see my ability is at a good level. This country [Morocco] is really nice and has a lot of really challenging riders and race horses, and their facilities are out of this world.” The 31-year-old rider missed out on gold by a narrow margin in a final jump off with Marek Maitalo of Lebanon. “It was good to win the silver medal, but I wish I didn’t come second by a fifth of a second,” Correia said. “The guy who beat me was a really good rider, but I went down fighting for sure.” Correia, the former Bermuda Horse and Driving and Pony Club president, found himself at a disadvantage after drawing the older horse of the two for the final jump off with Maitalo. “We had to draw for horses and he got the favourite horse,” he said. “The horse I had was a good horse but he wasn’t the favourite. He was the oldest horse so I had to really think ahead of time and take that into consideration. As an older horse I had to conserve his energy so that he can perform his best, so I really didn’t get a lot of time to practise on him. I kind of sacrificed practice to keep the horse in good shape.” Meanwhile, rounding off the podium finishers was Yassine Bennani, of Morocco, who took the bronze medal. Presenting the awards was Ingmar De Vos, the FEI president. The 2016 FEI World Jumping Finals involved riders from some 20 countries. Participants represent the top two placing “Category A” riders from each of the different FEI Country Zones. The formula for the event consisted of the warm up competition as well as a first and second qualifying competition with the best 50 per cent of the field qualifying for the final.

April 25. Flora Duffy, the Bermuda triathlete, vaulted to the top of the World Triathlon Series rankings after recording her first podium finish of the year with a superb display in Cape Town yesterday. Duffy outsprinted Anne Haug, of Germany, over the final 200-metres to grab bronze finishing in 59min 59sec behind British pair Non Stanford, who won in 59:49, and Jodie Stimpson, who came home in 59:56. “I don’t know if it was brave, silly, stupid or what, but I came out of the swim with a bit of a gap and I thought, well it is only a 20K so let me see,” Duffy said. “There was 30 seconds [gap] at one point and then I got caught coming into transition. But I did have a little bit of time to soft pedal and catch my breath and mentally prepare myself for a tough 5K. I actually felt pretty good on the run, and I thought there was no way I was finishing fourth again! I have to get to third!” Finishing third took two-times Xterra world champion Duffy to the top of the World Triathlon Series rankings on 1951 points, with Stimpson second on 1879 and Helen Jenkins third on 1485. “Now this is cool. Proud to be leading the series! Will cherish it while it lasts. Thanks for a great day Cape Town!” Duffy tweeted afterwards. The Bermuda triathlete’s performance was greeted with praise on twitter with British Triathlon, the sport’s national governing body in the UK, acknowledging their “respect” for the performance and hailing her “gutsy run”. Duffy let her intentions be known early, first breaking from the pack with Carolina Routier, of Spain, during the 1500-metre swim before breaking away again to exit the water in a blistering 8min 55secs. Routier was unable to ride out with Duffy, who rode off solo and established almost a 30 second lead. The rest of the ride followed the same vein, with the chase pack not closing up any of the gap until the final two kilometers of the 40km bike. Duffy started the 10km run clinging to a six second lead, but was quickly reeled in by the British trio of Stimpson, Stanford and Vicky Holland along with Haug. Holland dropped off into fifth with Duffy holding fourth place going into the closing stages of the run. Stanford began to put the hammer down with Haug and Stimpson shadowing her every move, whilst Kirsten Kasper, of the United States, overtook Holland to move into fifth place. Stimpson then consolidated second place, with Haug fading. Stanford continued to stretch her lead all the way across the finish line while Stimpson held on for second, and Duffy passed Haug to earn her first trip to the podium after finishing fourth in the previous two rounds of the series in Abu Dhabi and Australia. It was Stanford’s first race of the WTS Series this year, and she expressed surprise at her victory. “I’m not in my ideal race shape so came here to see how I’d get on, so it’s great to take the win,” she said. “There’s more to come yet which is really exciting!” Despite the disappointment of missing out on a place in the British Olympic squad, Stimpson showed immense mental strength to finish second. “I want to thank my coaches for putting up with me the last couple of weeks, as I haven’t been the most pleasant person to be around,” she said. “But I will train hard and concentrate on this year’s series and try to finish as high up as I can.”

April 24. A boat that went missing last summer with two Florida teenagers aboard has been found off the coast of Bermuda. Fourteen-year-olds Perry Cohen and Austin Stephanos set sail last July 24 from the Jib Yacht Club and Marina in Tequesta, Palm Beach County. Their vessel was hit by a bout of severe weather. On Saturday, the US Coast Guard and Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission confirmed that the remains of Stephanos’s Seacraft boat had been found on March 18 by Norwegian supply ship Edda Fjord. After pulling the 19ft capsized vessel from the ocean via crane, crew members on the Edda Fjord found that it still contained several personal items belonging to the boys, including Stephanos’s iPhone, two tackle boxes and two fishing rods. The wreckage, which was discovered in the middle of a shipping lane about 100 miles off the Bermudian coast, was also identified via a marine supply store sticker and engine serial number. Mark Barney, petty officer for the Miami Coast Guard, told The Royal Gazette that the search for the missing teenagers remained suspended, and that more information would be needed for the case to be reopened. A spokesperson for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission said the boat, now in Norway, would be returned to the US on May 16. “The personal effects that were on board will be returned to the families of the victims, and subsequent information retrieval efforts from any of those items will be at their discretion,” the spokesperson added.  Blu Stephanos, the father of Austin Stephanos, confirmed in a statement that the boat in question belonged to his son. He also expressed his appreciation to Havard Melvaer, captain of the Edda Fjord, for his efforts in recovering the vessel and preserving its contents. Mr Stephanos added: “Captain Melvaer said that, since recovering the boat, his entire crew had thought a lot about the boys and said, ‘I think they will follow us in our hearts and minds for the rest of our lives’. “I can say without hesitation that our deep appreciation for the compassionate efforts of Captain Melvaer and the crew of the Edda Fjord will be something that remains in our hearts as well. At this point, our family is hoping and praying that Austin’s iPhone can be restored to working order, so that we can try to recover from it any precious memories that it might contain.” A duty officer from the Bermuda Maritime Operations Centre said that the BMOC was aware of the retrieval of the vessel last month, but had no involvement in the incident.

April 24. Electricity outages this morning were triggered by a fault in Belco’s power station that caused two engines to shut down, a spokeswoman said. The fault set off a load shed that affected customers from Prospect eastward, hitting 15 circuits. It took 20 minutes to get the load back online. As of 1.30pm, Belco crews were still at work on the National Stadium substation to restore power.

April 23. Crowds gathered in Union Square today to celebrate the Bermuda Industrial Union’s 70th anniversary. The block party, from 11am to 7pm, kept young visitors entertained with activities such as a tug-of-war and a balloon squashing competition, as well as fun castles. Michael Dunkley, the Premier, and acting Opposition leader David Burt both attended the party in Hamilton, where guests also received free hot dogs and cotton candy. Liz Paynter from Hamilton headed down to the event with her great-nephews. “They’re having a blast running up and down,” she said. Mr McNiel, a retiree who has been a BIU member for half a century, said that the event helped to show a lighter side of the union. “It can’t be all battles,” he said, while eating an ice cream. Colin Simmons, the BIU’s education officer and a member since 1965, said the day had been “tremendously successful”. “Today is for the community to come together,” he added. “The BIU always helps the community, not just with industrial relations, but with basic human needs that people have. The union is there to serve the people, and we do that daily.”

April 23. Bermuda is set to mark the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s death through a series of events tied to the legendary playwright. Shakespeare wrote numerous poems and dozens of classic plays, including The Tempest, which is said to have been inspired by William Strachey’s account of the wreck of the Sea Venture off Bermuda in 1609 and the subsequent conflict between Sir George Somers and Sir Thomas Gates. Written between 1610 and 1611, The Tempest tells the story of a shipwreck on a remote island and the conflict between the survivors, including King Alonso of Naples, and the sorcerer Prospero, who conjured the storm that sunk the ship. The play references Bermuda by name, mentioning “the still vex’d Bermoothes” in the first act. It is generally believed to be one of the last plays written by Shakespeare before his death. While the play did not receive much attention at the time of its premiere in 1611, it has subsequently become one of Shakespeare’s more popular works, inspiring operas, novels, poems and films, including the 1956 science fiction classic Forbidden Planet. In recognition of Shakespeare’s death in 1616, a host of events are scheduled to take place locally and internationally. Last night, the Ruth Seaton James Centre for the Performing Arts hosted the “Spring into the Arts Shakespeare Festival”, featuring entertainment and art by Bermuda’s schoolchildren. In June, the Bermuda Musical and Dramatic Society will bring to life one of Shakespeare’s best-known comedies, The Taming of the Shrew, as part of its Shakespeare in the Park series, which in past years included performances of Macbeth at Fort Hamilton and Much Ado About Nothing in Victoria Park. Emma Muggleton, the drama chairwoman at BMDS, said: “We wanted to do something that is lighter than the well-known tragedies and something that hasn’t been done in Bermuda in a while and The Taming of the Shrew seemed to be the natural choice. ” Performances are scheduled to take place between June 23 and July 2, and casting for the production is expected to take place in the second week of May. In October, the island’s high school students will again take to the stage as part of the annual Bermuda Shakespeare Schools Festival, with schools tackling a range of different shows by the playwright. Local restaurants are also getting in on the festivities. Tonight, The Tempest restaurant in St George’s is hosting a Shakespeare night, complete with a four-course, wine-pairing dinner highlighting the settings of Shakespeare’s plays and interactive performances by Haunted History. Meanwhile, the Hog Penny Pub is celebrating the playwright all month with its “Shakespeare’s Whole Hogge Special”. Those who wish to see a display of Shakespeare’s written works or rent copies of his plays or sonnets can do so at the Bermuda National Library, which also boasts an extensive collection of Shakespeare’s work adapted for film. It has also been announced that Bermuda’s connection to Shakespeare will be highlighted in Britain this weekend through the Complete Walk, an event being held in both Liverpool and London. In both locations, participants will enjoy a scenic, celebratory walk throughout the city interspersed with the chance to see 37 short films detailing Shakespeare’s works. One of the films, focusing on The Tempest and starring British actor Douglas Hodge, was filmed in Bermuda.

April 23. The Princess Royal Union Lodge has been declared a listed building, however, a wooden house in St David’s has been delisted. According to notices appearing in yesterday’s edition of The Royal Gazette, Hureka House on Lighthouse Lane will be removed from the list of historical and architecturally significant buildings. The building had been given a Grade 3 listing in August of 2002. The notice stated the decision was made by Michael Fahy, the Minister of Home Affairs, after public consultation and discussion with the Historic Buildings Advisory Committee. Speaking about the decision yesterday, Rick Spurling of the St David’s Historical Society said he believed the building was not in good condition and it was difficult to find those with the money and the inclination to protect such buildings. “Nothing lasts for ever and most importantly it is critical to preserve [usually at some extra cost] the most important historical sites. Most of the forts are in great need of care and preservation. That’s where money needs to go.” Mr Spurling said the Bermuda National Trust had done a remarkable job of preserving the island’s heritage, but there was always more work that needs to be done. “There is simply little money for historic preservation, but thanks to those hardworking dedicated souls of the Bermuda National Trust and a number of caring donors and smaller groups such as Carter House, we do have something to show for our heritage,” he said. Meanwhile the Princess Royal Union Lodge, better known as Samaritan’s Hall, will be given a Grade 3 listing, according to a separate notice. The Princess Royal Union Lodge was built by members of the Wilson, Dill and DeShields families. While the lodge was established in 1899, the building was not officially dedicated until 1924. Since then, it has served as a schoolroom for generations of students, a church meeting place, a youth club, a concert hall and a meeting place for members of the friendly society. The building was proposed for listing by Senator Fahy in March, with the listing decision made on April 15.

April 23. A support group for those affected by heart problems will cease operations after almost two decades. In a final gesture of goodwill, the Cardiac Resource Group donated more than $3,000 of its funds to the Bermuda Hospitals Charitable Trust, the Agape House hospice and the Bermuda Red Cross. “Unfortunately, our membership has been dwindling over the years due to death, our members’ declining health, caring for family and personal obligations,” Doris Bailey said on behalf of the group. “Reluctantly, the group decided to cease operations and donate the funds in our account to charity. We chose to donate to BHCT by buying a brick on the Legacy Walkway, while Agape House was selected because of the valuable services they provide to terminal patients.  Bermuda Red Cross was chosen because they are usually the first to respond to local and global tragedy. CRG feels that all three are very worthy charities,” she added. CRG started as a support group for those who had experienced heart problems, their families and their caregivers, as well as anyone interested in avoiding heart disease. It was a non-profit organisation, but not a registered charity. “We never did any public fundraising: the money in our account was donations from individual members when we had meetings,” Ms Bailey said. “When we decided to fold, the members wanted to share the funds instead of giving all to one charity. Based on the account balance we wanted to make a minimal donation of $1,000 which is why we chose three charities.” The group gave $1,051 to BCHT, and $1,054 each to Agape House Hospice and the Bermuda Red Cross. Ms Bailey added: “It is with a very heavy heart and deep regret that CRG will cease to exist, but we have vowed to be supportive of each other and stay in touch as much as we can.” For about 20 years, the CRG held a series of free and well-attended public health talks during Heart Month. “Our speakers gave freely of their time and knowledge without any expectations of compensation. We are eternally thankful for their participation and generosity,” Ms Bailey said. “As you can imagine, finding speakers and organising such an event is not an easy task.” She said Edward Schultz, the director of emergency services and hyperbaric medicine and the director of advanced cardiac life-support courses at King Edward VII Memorial Hospital, stood out in particular for his support. “He is an excellent speaker and always attracted a crowd. We will never be able to stop singing his praises,” she added. The group is also grateful to Jeff Richardson, Sharon Swann and Lena Ostroff, of KEMH, for their assistance during Heart Month. “We would also like to thank the general public and especially our members who supported us throughout the years,” Ms Bailey said. “Special thanks to Ken and Jackie Morris who were two of the original founding members.” The group also acknowledged professional speakers David Saul, Susan Adehmar, Simone Barton, Kyjuan Brown, Janet Burull, Myrian Dill, John Doherty, Henry Dowling, Hilary Evans, Mellonie Furbert, Leonard Gibbons, Debbie Jones, Karen Leseur, Carl Levick, Sara McKittrick, Anne Mello, Sam Mir, Susie Noel-Simmons, the late Devrae Noel-Simmons, Hannah Simpson, Jessica Wade and Wilbert Warner. Ms Bailey thanked Corrina Rego, Hubert Jones and Doreen Blee for their special support.

April 22. The majority of work to transform Morgan’s Point into the Ritz-Carlton Caroline Bay hotel resort will be done by Bermudians, construction chiefs have confirmed. David Tobasco, vice-president of construction for DCK Bermuda, said he had been greatly encouraged by the level of expertise on the island. “I’m confident there is enough ability on the island to do the majority of the work required for this project,” Mr Tobasco told a press conference yesterday. He joined Michael Fahy, the Minister for Home Affairs, Craig Christensen, president and chief executive of Morgan’s Point Ltd, and Charles Dunstan, president of the Construction Association of Bermuda, as forthcoming employment opportunities for Bermudians were outlined. Mr Tobasco told the media that 25 workers from Correia Construction and Smith Hauling and Excavation were on site at present, while a string of other Bermudian subcontractors had already been employed. “Soon you will see foundations raising up from the ground as infrastructure work begins in the next few months,” he added. Mr Dunstan also praised the developers for their “tenacity” in pursuing the project, saying: “The fact that the project will involve 200 to 300 jobs over the next two years is more impactful than many perhaps understand. Each job will not only support the employee but will go a long way to supporting 200 to 300 families which translates to food, schoolbooks, rents and transportation.” Mr Christensen maintained that the Caroline Bay Bermuda resort would continue to offer employment opportunities for Bermudians once it was completed. “It was important to us that we created a proper channel for those seeking employment during the construction stage of the project, so we initiated conversations with the Department of Workforce Development in collaboration with the Construction Association of Bermuda and our contractor DCK Bermuda, a world-renowned firm with a track record in successful development. We worked together to define a programme that ensures that Bermudians are provided with prospects for employment.” Mr Fahy said he continued to be increasingly impressed with the progress of the project. “I would like to commend Craig Christensen, Brian Duperreault and Nelson Hunt for their efforts in helping us to enhance Bermuda’s tourism product and assisting in the hosting of the America’s Cup next summer. I would also like to thank them and the Department of Workforce Development for all of their hard work in ensuring that Bermudians get a fair bite of the cherry, so to speak, when it comes to job opportunities on site.” The 35 branded condominium residences are expected to be completed within the final quarter of 2017. The marina, that will include 77 berths with capacity for an additional 21 mega-yachts, is scheduled to be finished by the end of 2016 or early 2017, while the five-star boutique 79-room Ritz-Carlton Reserve Hotel will be completed by final quarter 2018. Mr Fahy said: “There is certainly promise for gainful employment opportunities in the near future and I am delighted, as the minister responsible, to see such a proactive approach on behalf of the DWD in seeking local labour for these projects.”

April 22.  A new member of the Human Rights Commission has resigned from the group, the commission has announced. Franklin Fahnbulleh’s appointment as commissioner was made public at the start of the year, but was swiftly overshadowed by a ZBM report of felony charges in the United States dating back to November 2002. Mr Fahnbulleh, who is the spouse of a Bermudian, was formerly the dean of students at Howard College, Texas, where the allegations were first made. Calls by The Royal Gazette to the Howard County District Attorney’s office were unable to establish whether any charges against Mr Fahnbulleh remained on the books. The posting of Mr Fahnbulleh, a prominent advocate for the island’s deaf community, was carried out by an independent selection committee for the HRC. The charges against him were publicized by this newspaper in 2005, after the story was broken by the Midland Reporter Telegram newspaper. Yesterday, HRC chairwoman Tawana Tannock said that Mr Fahnbulleh’s resignation had been effective from April 15. “The Selection and Appointment Committee has convened and looks forward to announcing a new appointment in due course,” she added.

April 22. Deputy Premier Bob Richards has accused the Progressive Labour Party of “naked politics” in the row over the airport redevelopment project. Mr Richards was responding to allegations made by acting Opposition leader David Burt and shadow transport minister Lawrence Scott at the PLP’s town hall meeting in St George’s on Tuesday evening, which he dubbed “a pack of lies”. Among the claims made were that the Bermudian taxpayer would foot the airport’s $90 million electricity bill over 30 years, that the new facility would be smaller than the current one and that Canadian construction firm Aecon could sell the airport whenever it desired as part of its agreement with the Government. At a press conference yesterday, Mr Richards said: “The Bermudian public should not be deceived by innuendo, false allegations and political rhetoric.” He claimed that the proposed $250 million airport would function on electricity from the new solar plant known as “The Finger”, which would be built and financed privately, and that the airport’s current Belco bills were almost $60,000 per month less than PLP estimates. Mr Richards called Mr Scott’s suggestion that the new facility would have fewer gates “patently false”, and said that the Government had already stated that the airport’s concession contract cannot be sold without its explicit permission. Regarding the Government’s refusal to share details of the airport deal with the press or public, Mr Richards stood firm that the matter should remain private until it is signed and sealed. “While businesses are in negotiation for any kind of major contract, it is the general rule that the parties sign a non-disclosure agreement to keep things confidential until a [deal]has been signed,” he said. Mr Richards also claimed that the 33 pages of the present deal which have been shared with the public to date were more than sufficient. “There has been more disclosure on this deal, prior to the deal being signed, than any other agreement in the history of this country. Yet I’m still getting pressure from the press to keep releasing more things. We’re not hiding anything, we’re conducting this in the normal course of business. The Bermuda public should ask themselves what is the motivation behind this constant drumbeat of opposition to an infrastructure project that will replace a crumbling facility, create hundreds of badly needed jobs for Bermudians and not increase the public debt? The answer is naked politics. The Opposition is prepared to squander the opportunity for us to do what they couldn’t do. They are simply trying to deny the Government’s realisation of an accomplishment of this magnitude. This is further evidence that the Opposition continues to put party before country.” He also blamed the PLP for stoking bad feeling towards the airport deal. A Royal Gazette poll conducted last month revealed that 53 per cent of respondents wanted the Government to cease its dealings with the Canadian Commercial Corporation, with 37 per cent in favour of the partnership and 10 per cent unsure. When asked about widespread opposition to the redevelopment deal, Mr Richards replied: “No wonder people don’t want it, because they’re getting told a pack of lies. This project will replace a facility which, essentially, is a disgrace. We will persuade many of those [opposing the deal], once they gain an appreciation of the full facts in the face of a fusillade of misinformation. Once we get the information out there, people will support this.”

April 22. Members of the Public Accounts Committee are at loggerheads over whether chairman David Burt should have ordered a senior civil servant to provide them with the full agreement on the new airport. Correspondence obtained by The Royal Gazette reveals that shadow finance minister Mr Burt told PAC members about the summons issued to financial secretary Anthony Manders at a private meeting on April 7, prompting an e-mail from government backbencher Susan Jackson the next day in which she said she was offended and “taken aback” by his actions. Meanwhile, finance minister Bob Richards told this newspaper last night: “The committee looks like it’s becoming dysfunctional. [The chairman’s] political biases are clear. If you don’t have the committee’s approval, then it becomes partisan.” Ms Jackson sent her e-mail to Mr Burt on April 8 and copied it to all committee members. She wrote: “It offends me that members were not made aware of your intention to serve this subpoena. None of us had an opportunity to provide our thoughts or give our support or refusal to proceed.” Ms Jackson said she wanted to table a motion for the summons to be withdrawn at a brief in-camera meeting of the PAC before its next public meeting on April 14. She added: “This should come as no surprise. I was taken aback at yesterday’s meeting and remain resolute as a matter of principle.” Mr Burt replied that her proposed motion was “out of order”, stating he had power under the Parliament Act 1957 to issue a summons, and had kept Randy Horton, the Speaker of the House, abreast of his actions. “Parliamentary oversight is one of the cornerstones of a functioning parliament,” wrote Mr Burt. “As I explained in our meeting yesterday, there is a reason why a member of the Opposition chairs the Public Accounts Committee for issues just like this, where the majority of the committee representing the government would attempt to block transparency and oversight. I have handled this matter as discreetly as possible and I have practised restraint thus far. However, the seeming willingness of the OBA majority on the PAC in looking to attempt to block the PAC from exercising its oversight responsibilities is extremely troubling.” The Bermuda Government entered into a $250 million deal with the Canadian Commercial Corporation for a new airport terminal last August. Mr Richards put the agreement into the public domain earlier this year — but only 33 pages of it. The full contract is “200 and some pages”, according to testimony given to the PAC last year by accountant general Curtis Stovell, and includes nine schedules explaining how the deal will work. A transcript of a November 19 meeting of the PAC reveals that government whip Cole Simons proposed the committee endeavor to “secure a copy of the agreement that has been executed” and “get a copy of those agreements that have been signed to date”. Committee members agreed unanimously to the motion. Opposition member Wayne Furbert proposed Mr Manders be called before the committee and that motion too was agreed unanimously. On April 14, the planned meeting of the PAC was abandoned when none of the OBA members attended, so a quorum could not be reached. Mr Manders was there with a lawyer. Mr Richards said later at a press conference that the issue of Mr Burt’s summons being “not valid” played a part in why government members didn’t show up. He added last night that two government members had prior commitments at the Ag Show and there were other scheduling conflicts. He said PAC members were supposed to leave their party allegiances at the door of the bipartisan parliamentary committee and work together. “You can’t have a chairman issuing a summons,” said Mr Richards, himself a former PAC chairman. “The summons was specifically for the schedules. He did not get agreement from the committee on that.” Acting Opposition leader Mr Burt dismissed the claim that he had moved unilaterally, pointing to the transcript of the November 19 meeting. “For him to say that I acted alone in this case is a lie,” he said. “It was a decision made in a PAC meeting heard in a public sitting. He knows the PAC requested this.” Mr Simons told The Royal Gazette yesterday that his motion on November 19 was made before Mr Richards released 33 pages of the agreement — and he was now satisfied that the PAC had all the paperwork it needed to scrutinize the deal. “At that point, I didn’t know what the agreement consisted of and so we were talking in circles at that time. I got up and said ...‘we don’t know what we are talking about. It’s all speculation’. That came out before it was tabled in the House of Assembly. Mr Simons said he supported the finance minister’s refusal to let the PAC or the public see the schedules at this stage of “active negotiations”. The e-mail chain obtained by this newspaper reveals Mr Burt telling Ms Jackson that “numerous informal requests” for the schedules “were made and ignored”. The Royal Gazette had a freedom of information request for the schedules turned down by the Ministry of Finance. Mr Simons said: “I will do nothing to compromise the deal that is being worked on at this time. What [Mr Richards] has tabled in the 33 pages before the House of Assembly is enough for us to have a good idea.” He said when Mr Burt told the committee he had issued the summons, “we all didn’t believe him, because the committee didn’t know it had been issued”. He added: “He had issued it of his own volition. The chairman did it without the approval of the PAC and then what made matters worse was that he issued a second summons [on April 14] when there was no quorum.” The OBA MP cited section 37 of the standing orders of the House of Assembly, which he said prevented any powers of the committee being delegated to any one member, including the chairman. Mr Burt said last week that Mr Simons and Ms Jackson did not give advance notice that they would not attend the April 14 PAC meeting. Mr Simons said he sent a message on April 13 to the full committee, explaining that an unexpected and urgent professional commitment had come up, otherwise he “absolutely” would have attended. "The e-mail correspondence we obtained shows Ms Jackson responding to Mr Burt’s statement that he had the power to issue the summons under the Parliament Act. I understand what the legislation says and the chair’s power,” she wrote. “It remains the respectable course to inform members prior to carrying out such powers. As a team, we must do what we can to sustain and improve the credibility of the PAC. Again, this is a matter of principle. Politics aside, if you’d consulted your committee members we may have come up with a strategy that would have produced a more productive result.” Opposition MP Lovitta Foggo interjected at that point, replying: “When do we recognise that at least in PAC we are never suppose[d] to be partisan. In any case the chair does not need a consensus to operate. PAC has never tried to stop the chairman from exercising his duty in the past. You cannot override the chair by vote or otherwise. Perhaps the chair should consider running the meetings as former chairs have, then this entire line of conversation would not be taking place. The chair has exercised an option that he is entitled to do and that needed to be done. If civil servants and the executive don’t respect us as parliamentary officers it is incumbent upon us all to ensure that we are taken seriously and, if a summons is required to make people respond as they should, then so be it ... Let’s hope the FS and his Minister follow the law. We need to do our jobs.”

April 22. Bermuda Telephone Company will move its bill payment centre to a new, permanent location next month. The company closed the doors of its Victoria Street payment office on April 8, moving the operation to a temporary office in Church Street. However, the payment centre will eventually be located in the Hamilton Exchange building, which occupies the corner of Victoria Street and Cedar Avenue. Construction work is being carried out at the building. It is anticipated the new centre will open in the last week of May. Previously, BTC’s payment office was in the same building as the headquarters of Logic Communications. The two companies became telecommunications sector rivals following Digicel’s acquisition of BTC last year. Today, customers seeking to pay their BTC bill in person or to meet with a customer service assistant must go to the temporary office at 22 Church Street, located between the Logic store and Crow Lane Bakery. The payment centre is on the fourth floor, which has left some customers perplexed as it is reached by a series of staircases or via a small, four-person elevator. BTC, which has its corporate offices in the adjacent Washington House, Phase III complex, has apologized for any inconvenience caused by the move. Nigel Taylor, a marketing and communications officer with BTC, said its new payment centre at 46 Cedar Avenue, in the Hamilton Exchange building, will open in the last week of May. “A secondary entrance on Cedar Avenue will provide access for those with physical disabilities. This new location will be a bigger and better premises offering customers a comfortable and unique setting with a host of new features along with the same level of customer service,” he said. In the meantime, customers seeking to pay bills or meet with a customer service representative can use the temporary office on Church Street, which is open between 8.30am and 4.45pm, Monday to Friday. There is also an after-hours drop box for customers at the main gates of the Hamilton Exchange.

April 22. Aspen Insurance Holdings’ first-quarter profit fell by more than 10 per cent as catastrophe losses increased. The Bermuda-based insurer and reinsurer reported net income of $114.4 million, down from $128 million in the same period of 2015. Operating earnings were $1.29 per share, down 10 cents from 2015, and just shy of the consensus forecast of $1.32 per share of analysts tracked by Yahoo Finance. The company wrote more business in the first three months of the year, with gross premiums written rising 6.1 per cent to $957.7 million. “Aspen has started the year well, with solid first-quarter underwriting results from our insurance and reinsurance businesses contributing to an annualized operating return on equity of 11.2 per cent and 4.8 per cent growth in diluted book value per share,” Chris O’Kane, Aspen’s chief executive officer, said. “Our insurance teams are successfully executing our global products line strategy and delivered growth in targeted lines of business. At the same time, we continued to pull back from areas where we do not feel returns are adequate or are historically more volatile. Within Aspen Re, our teams had successful January and April renewals, again demonstrating our ability to maintain relevance with clients while navigating a challenging and changing market. We also welcomed our colleagues from AgriLogic. In addition, we continue to move closer to our clients, recently announcing the opening of our Dubai office to serve as our hub for the Middle East and Africa.” Aspen’s combined ratio — the proportion of premium dollars allocated to claims and expenses — of 91.6 per cent for the first quarter compared with 88.9 per cent for the first quarter of 2015. The company said pre-tax catastrophe losses, net of reinsurance recoveries, totaled $18.7 million during the January through March period, compared to $13.5 million in 2015. Most of these losses were caused by weather-related events in the US and an earthquake in Taiwan. Net favorable development on prior-year loss reserves of $21.6 million for the first quarter of 2016 compared with $27.5 million a year earlier. Investment income increased by 4.4 per cent to $49.5 million. The total return on Aspen’s aggregate investment portfolio was 2.08 per cent for the quarter.

April 22. Duane Aubrey, a popular chef known to friends and colleagues as Roddy, has died suddenly at the age of 61. Mr Aubrey’s passing over the weekend devastated colleagues at the tight-knit Spot restaurant, where he had worked since 2009 after a lengthy career in the United States. “He was kind-hearted — whatever you asked him to do, he would do it for you without ever complaining,” recalled his sister, Bev Morfitt. She said their mother, Grace Aubrey, remembered “Roddy” cooking from the age of 3 when he insisted on frying his own bacon for breakfast. “So mum tied an apron around his waist and put him in a chair next to the stove, and Roddy cooked his own bacon,” she said. Mr Aubrey, who “gravitated towards cooking”, got an early start at Clyde’s Café, a St George’s institution, before moving to Saginaw, Michigan, where he worked as a chef in two hotels and keenly took part in barbecue competitions around the state. “He won several first-place awards for his barbecues, and when he didn’t win, he took second place,” his sister said. “Twice a month, he cooked a pancake breakfast for seniors in the Michigan area.” Donna Mello, the office manager for the Spot, said Mr Aubrey’s death had shocked customers and fellow staff. She added: “Roddy had a great rapport with everybody. He was happy-go-lucky, always joking, always with a grin on his face. Everyone here is so saddened to lose him.” Thomas Powell, the owner of the restaurant, expressed shock at the news, calling Mr Aubrey “part of the team that keeps the Spot operating.” As well as sisters Shirley Johnston Tucker Sampson and Daurene Aubrey, Mr Aubrey leaves behind his brother Michael Aubrey, and a son, Duane Roderick Meeks, with his former wife Fayerene Meeks.

April 21. The Bermuda Government has rejected a freedom of information request for a raft of documents detailing how the new multimillion-dollar airport deal will work. And it has also refused to release a legal opinion on whether Bermuda needs the approval of the United Kingdom to proceed with the agreement. The Royal Gazette made two separate requests to the Ministry of Finance under the Public Access to Information Act and got two rejection letters. We appealed both decisions to financial secretary Anthony Manders, who in turn referred them to the island’s information commissioner Gitanjali Gutierrez. Ms Gutierrez’s office is considering whether the appeals meet the technical requirements under the Pati Act for independent reviews. Shadow finance minister David Burt said last night the Pati refusals were “not surprising because it seems they do not want the public — the people of Bermuda — to know what they have signed the people of Bermuda up for and that’s the scariest thing of all”. He added that “so many questions” still surrounded the “largest public procurement project in the history of this country. The circumstances around this should have everyone’s alarm bells going off. That’s why I continue to insist that we see some transparency on this.” Our first Pati request in January was for the nine schedules associated with the $250 million airport development agreement between the Bermuda Government and the Canadian Commercial Corporation. Mr Burt, chairman of the parliamentary Public Accounts Committee, attempted to obtain the same schedules last week, when he summoned Mr Manders to a meeting of the PAC to present copies of the airport development agreement. Mr Burt’s bid failed when the OBA members of the committee failed to show up so a quorum could not be reached. Finance minister Bob Richards later said the summons was invalid, adding: “The schedules include commercially sensitive information that we cannot release while we are still in negotiations with CCC and [main contractor] Aecon. Parts of the [agreement], which I signed last summer, bind us to keep such sensitive information confidential. This is for the benefit of all parties concerned. Releasing those schedules contrary to our agreement would jeopardize Bermuda’s reputation as a responsible and reliable business partner. Once the parties reach a final agreement, then all documents that relate to our agreement can, should and will be made public.” Mr Burt insisted further elements of the contracts could and should be released. The acting Opposition leader argued: “How could the terms and definitions be a secret? How can the schedule of fees that are going to be charged at the people at the airport be a secret? How can you say all these items that should fall under public oversight be secrets?” The issue is likely to be discussed again when the PAC meets next Wednesday. Mr Richards released part of the airport agreement online earlier this year, after telling MPs that the full document was “extraordinarily voluminous”. The agreement he shared was just 33 pages long and schedules A through to I, which are referred to extensively throughout the agreement, were missing. Former One Bermuda Alliance leader John Barritt criticised their absence in a column for this newspaper, writing: “These schedules are essential to understanding that to which the government has committed.” In its refusal to disclose under Pati, the Ministry’s information officer said the schedules were exempt under section 25 and 26 of the Act, because they contained commercial information and information received in confidence. This newspaper also asked for all correspondence between Mr Richards and CCC from the date the One Bermuda Alliance became government and August 24 last year, the day the airport agreement was signed. The Ministry refused that request too, saying all correspondence from December 18, 2012 to December 31, 2014 was already in the public domain and there was “no correspondence” between Mr Richards and CCC between January 1 and August 24, 2015. We requested an internal review of the decision by Mr Manders, the head of the authority. We were told Mr Manders was involved in the decision so the matter had to be referred to the information commissioner, as per section 44 of the Act. Our second Pati request in February was for the legal opinion obtained by the Bermuda Government from the international law firm Bennett Jones on whether the government needed a letter of entrustment from the UK to proceed with the airport redevelopment plan. Mr Richards has said publicly that permission from Britain is not needed for the airport deal. The Deputy Premier told the House of Assembly in November 2014 that the Ministry of Finance sought legal advice from Bennett Jones and was told the letter of entrustment was not required. Opposition members asked him if he was aware that Bennett Jones had represented CCC previously in respect to a review of an engineering firm and he said he did not know about it but it had “nothing to do with Bermuda”. The Pati request from this newspaper also asked for the government’s correspondence with Britain on the agreement with CCC, including the initial approach to the UK from Bermuda on the topic and its reply to the entrustment letter which was issued by the UK on July 17 last year. The Ministry refused to disclose the legal opinion on the grounds it was exempt under section 35 of the Act, which says a record can be withheld if it is “of such a nature that it would be exempt from production in legal proceedings on the ground of legal professional privilege”. Our request for the correspondence was partially denied because the records included information received in confidence, Cabinet documents and legal professional privilege. We again requested an internal review by Mr Manders and it was again referred to Ms Gutierrez on the basis that it involved a decision made by the financial secretary. All the exemptions cited by the Ministry of Finance under the Pati Act in response to both requests are subject to the caveat that “a record shall be disclosed if disclosure of it is in the public interest”, with the exception of Cabinet documents. Ms Gutierrez said today: “The public has an unqualified right to an independent review by the information commissioner. It is important that the public understands that this is a legal right, not something subject to my discretion. When the information commissioner’s office receives any application for a review, we check to make sure it meets the technical requirements under the Pati Act for the information commissioner to have the legal power to hear it. Once we know the technical requirements are met, the applicant is entitled to a review. I want to emphasise that once we have a valid application, no discretion is involved in deciding to hear it.” If Ms Gutierrez does launch reviews into the refusals, she will decide if the public interest outweighs the reasons given for withholding the records. Bermuda’s Pati Act came into effect on April 1 last year. Mr Richards had told Parliament the public would be able to request information about the airport deal under the new legislation.

April 21. A meeting of the Public Accounts Committee has been set back so members can attend the funeral of Clarence James. Dr James, a celebrated surgeon and former Deputy Premier, died last weekend. The meeting had been scheduled to take place this afternoon, but according to a statement from the Bermuda Government it has been postponed until next Wednesday. The committee had initially been scheduled to meet last Thursday, but the meeting was postponed after Government MPs failed to attend, leaving the committee without a quorum. Financial secretary Anthony Manders had been summoned by PAC chairman David Burt, the Shadow Minister of Finance, to present copies of the Airport Development Agreement at that meeting, and Mr Manders was further summoned to attend today’s meeting. However, a dispute has arisen about the validity of the summons. Finance minister Bob Richards claiming a summons requires the unanimous appeal of the committee, but Mr Burt has maintained the summons was properly issued and valid. Next week’s meeting will begin at 2.30pm in the Senate Chamber at the Cabinet Building, and members of the public are welcome to observe.

April 21. Bermudian-based Windward Management Ltd has entered into a “strategic alliance relationship” with one of the biggest private banks in the US. The aim is to introduce high net worth investors in Bermuda to the services offered by BNY Mellon Wealth Management, which is the corporate brand of The Bank of New York Mellon Corporation. “Windward’s experience and capabilities in the Bermuda market provides BNY Mellon Wealth Management with a strong partner to reach high-net-worth investors in Bermuda,” said Erich Smith, BNY Mellon’s executive director for international wealth management. The wealth management operation has more than $191 billion in total client assets, while BNY Mellon, the global investments company had, at the end of 2015, $28.9 trillion in assets under custody or administration, with $1.6 trillion under management. Terret West, Windward’s chief executive officer, said: “We expect that the diversified nature of BNY Mellon Wealth Management’s solutions along with its emphasis on bespoke wealth planning will be attractive to high-net-worth investors in Bermuda.” Mr West noted that Windward has been working with other businesses within BNY Mellon for four years. “In today’s turbulent financial world, BNY Mellon’s recognized security, infrastructure strength, exceptional capabilities and 200-plus years fiduciary philosophy fits well with Bermuda’s focus upon capital preservation and long term approach to capital treatment. We hope that our Bermudian friends will find these services attractive.” In a statement, Windward said the strategic relationship between the companies would enable it to introduce the Bermuda market to BNY Mellon’s suite of wealth management capabilities and strong institutional heritage.

April 21.  Net new issuance of insurance-linked securities totaled $2 billion in the first three months of this year — the most for any first quarter in history. The figures from the ILS market update from Willis Capital Markets & Advisory (WCMA), the investment banking arm of insurance broker and risk adviser Willis Towers Watson, suggests the ILS market is warming up again after a year of slower growth in 2015. Bermuda has become the leading global centre for ILS issuance, since the Bermuda Monetary Authority created a regulatory framework for special purpose insurers, used as vehicles for ILS, six years ago. According to Bermuda Monetary Authority data, ILS issued from Bermuda represented 69 per cent of the world’s $26.3 billion in total outstanding ILS capacity, as of the end of last year. WCMA said ILS issuance, through nine transactions and 13 tranches, was up 35 per cent on the first quarter of 2015. According to the report, all first-quarter issuances came from repeat sponsors. WCMA reported: “Other than the Japanese bonds Akibare Re and Aozora Re, the first quarter was dominated by US transactions offering healthy returns to investors. Merna Re 2016-1 was the only US transaction paying a coupon lower than 5 per cent.” The Merna catastrophe bond, sponsored by US insurer State Farm and listed on the Bermuda Stock Exchange, covers some types of US earthquake risk. Bill Dubinsky, head of ILS at WCMA, said: “The headline figure shows that a record level of nonlife ILS was placed during the first-quarter, highlighting the continued appetite for risk from investors and alternative reinsurance capital from ceding companies. Nonetheless, it is too early to say whether the strong first-quarter issuance will translate to a record-breaking year.” The report also highlights how ILS funds and ceding companies are providing more information on the catastrophe modelling used to price cat bonds in response to demands for greater transparency from the pension funds who invest in them.

April 21. The European Union has introduced new data protection laws that will have implications for many Bermuda companies that do business in the 28-country bloc. The new General Data Protection Regulation, which was approved by the European Parliament last week, is aimed at giving citizens more control over their personal data while forcing companies to take data protection more seriously. The law will take effect in the summer and organisations will have two years from then to comply. Fines for breaking the rules will be potentially huge — up to four per cent of a company’s global revenue per infraction. It will apply to any company that handles EU citizens’ data, wherever in the world it is based, potentially creating a new challenge for some Bermudian international businesses. One Bermudian technology company, which has been preparing for this change for the past three years, is now well placed to benefit from it. Trunomi, led by founder and chief executive officer Stuart Lacey, specializes in solutions for creating, sharing and monetising data and for solving data privacy issues. Mr Lacey said "Trunomi’s Right Management over Data Sharing plus TruCert was built to solve the issues for organisations created by GDPR. The arrival of the new regulation was huge for the company. This puts the technology platform of our Bermudian-based company squarely in the centre of a seismic shift — profoundly mandating the move to give citizens back control of their personal data, enforcing that companies comply with data portability and the right to be forgotten, as well as simplifying and harmonizing the regulatory environment. The GDPR is a modernization of data protection laws drawn up in 1995. Since then the collection and utilization of personal data by corporate giants has become more widespread. As referenced in my TEDx talk held in Bermuda in late 2015, individuals have long been unaware of the scope of collection and abuse of their personal data. But a new paradigm is emerging, powered by technology companies like Trunomi, where choice, transparency and control of one’s own data is now possible and where you, as the data owner, can treat it as your asset and then start to monetise it directly. This is a big deal for Bermuda, and awareness must be high if companies here are to figure it out and comply in time.” Data analytics are playing an ever-growing role in many industries, not least insurance. The new rules require organisations to be more transparent with their use of data and are designed to give individuals more say over how their data is used, including giving people the right to have some types of data deleted. It also makes it mandatory for large companies to employ a data protection officer and for data breaches to be reported within 72 hours. "Businesses will need to have their solutions in place for the compliance deadline," said Darren Wray, CEO of Fifth Step an IT consultancy firm that counts several Bermuda companies among its clients. “GDPR is going to require some considerable changes in the organisations that are processing personal data of those residing in the EU to ensure their systems and procedures are able to cope with the rights that the GDPR demands. The go-live date is in 2018, but firms should start to look at the impacts of this earlier rather than later so that they understand the impact that these changes will have, and so that they can plan accordingly. The kinds of organisations that will need to make changes are banks, insurance companies, law firms, accountants whose clients include those residing in the EU.” Ruth Boardman, a partner with UK law firm Bird and Bird, told the BBC: “A regulator could knock on the door and companies will have to have the mechanics in place and show the systems that they have to achieve compliance.” EC commissioners Frans Timmermans and Vera Jourová said after lawmakers voted to approve the GDPR: “The new rules will ensure that the fundamental right to personal data protection is guaranteed for all. The GDPR will help stimulate the Digital Single Market in the EU by fostering trust in online services by consumers and legal certainty for businesses based on clear and uniform rules.”

April 21. The principal at Francis Patton Primary School has warned against ranking schools based on the Cambridge Primary Checkpoint exam results. Garita Coddington, whose school was rated “OK” with an average of just over 2.6 out of 6 between 2012 and 2015, stressed assessments by the local education ministry must be taken into consideration when judging school performance. The Checkpoint results, for students in the final year of primary school, aim to give an international benchmark of student performance and identify specific learning needs in core subjects English, maths and science. A score of 3 is grade level; Francis Patton’s 2.6 was the lowest average of Bermuda’s 18 public primary schools, with Elliot, Victor Scott, West End, Prospect and East End also scoring below 3. But Ms Coddington pointed to localized tests that are being carried out by the Ministry of Education. “Cambridge is a test where you don’t categorize schools — it is to support what needs to be done as students prepare for senior school. It is a growth model,” she told The Royal Gazette. “The conversation needs to change because we will have what happens in the US — teachers teaching to the test and not having students who have conceptual understandings moving on to middle schools. I don’t support ranking schools based on a P6 or M3 Checkpoint test. Our own Ministry is doing its assessments at the P4, P5 level and those are about what is expected from the national maths and national literary strategies. If we want to have a conversation we can’t just have it about schools with Checkpoint — we should also be having a conversation about the local standardized assessment results.” On release of the results last week, acting education commissioner Freddie Evans stressed that the Checkpoint exams were designed to be “purely diagnostic. The results are not appropriate to use in silo as a ranking tool for assessing school success or school achievement,” Dr Evans said. “In this regard, all primary public schools should be looked at in their entirety by taking other associated factors into consideration as many P6 classes vary in both size and composition as it relates to student complexities at the different primary schools.” Ms Coddington said efforts were being made at Francis Patton to improve local and global assessments. We have a new team in place and we have some strong teachers who have a keen interest in delivering curriculum at a high standard. The team focuses on the academic growth of every child in our building, putting the necessary interventions in place, attending more professional development courses and equipping our parents with the necessary tools to support their child or children at home. Our focus is a growth model: to grow the whole child as a learner. The students are on board with knowing that we are going to dig deep to grow academically. The team is dedicated. The team understands the work that needs to be done in all areas and our job is to meet weekly to talk about instruction and how we are showing growth every six to eight weeks with our students. This week we are having assessments and then we have instruction. We have assessment conversations next week and we talk about what we are going to do for the next six weeks to move children forward. It is my strong belief that once we have teachers delivering rigorous instruction to support the curriculum then you will see growth in students.”

April 21. Implementing roadside sobriety testing and restoring the Junior Road Safety Council are priorities for the new Road Safety Council, according to Erica Rance Mill, its new chairwoman. “Already this year we have tragically lost four lives,” Ms Rance Mill noted, adding: “Any life lost is one too many.” The group will do “everything we can” to ensure that roadside testing becomes a reality this year, she said. The junior council is now being put together, with local school tasked with nominating members. Rather than have a road safety week for 2016, the council will focus on the busy holiday periods in which roads are in heavy use: May 24, the National Heroes weekend, Cup Match and the Christmas holidays. Meanwhile, Ms Rance Mill said the group would find “creative” avenues for getting its message to the community on a reduced budget. “While it is a daunting task, I firmly believe we can do our part to continue to promote road safety.” Her full statement follows: "Good day, members of the press, thank you for coming today. I sit before you as the recently appointed chairman of the BRSC. These are the individuals who are dedicated to promoting, implementing and recommending strategies that will make our roads safer. The members that serve on the council ex officio represent the key departments/stakeholders within the government sector, and bring to the table knowledge and experience in all areas pertaining to road use. The appointed members also have a broad area of expertise that blend well together. The energy of this group is very refreshing. The mandate of our Council is to promote road safety, make recommendations to the Minister for legislative changes, and to decrease morbidity on the roads. Our vision for 2016 is to create a road safety movement by implementing cross generational strategies. We will work in partnership with organisations like CADA and the Bermuda Police Service and we will support the efforts of the BPS Road Safety Strategy. One of our goals is to focus more effort on reaching the youth. They are the riders and drivers of tomorrow, and it is never too early to get them thinking about Road Safety. We are in the process of setting up our Junior Road Safety Council so that we can receive feedback directly from the youth. The members of the Jr Bermuda Road Safety Council will act as mentors to their peers and younger students. It is important that the youth feel a part of solutions. Our Road Safety Officer will also continue his visits and discussions in the schools, ensuring that safe road use remains in the forefront of their minds. For those older members of the community who may already be on the road we will continue to send messages reminding them of good driving/riding habits. Our slogan Think Choose Live reminds us that road safety is everyone’s responsibility. We must ALL think about our driving habits and make the best choices so that our lives are not permanently impacted as a result of poor choices. Our messages will not only be directed to riders and drivers, but also to walkers, runners, and cyclists. For 2016 we will not have a Road Safety Week, but instead we will focus our efforts around the high traffic calendar dates of 24th of May, Heroes Weekend, Cup Match and Christmas. As our budget has been reduced we have implemented a marketing subcommittee who will be tasked with gaining financial sponsorship from our community partners, and creating our campaigns in a creative way to ensure maximum impact with minimal cost. Drink driving seems to be socially acceptable in Bermuda. We will be working with organisations like CADA to throw our support behind all Drink Driving Awareness campaigns. There is no question that driving while impaired is one of the biggest contributors to collisions on our roads. We will be actively involved in doing our part to see road side sobriety testing become a reality in 2016. Finally we will be looking at frequent collision locations to identify measures that can assist with reducing the frequency of collisions where possible. Already this year we have tragically lost 4 lives as a result of road traffic collisions, and we have seen the results of many more serious road traffic collisions in the media. Any life lost is one too many, and our thoughts are with those whose lives have been affected. In closing I would ask that each one of us become more responsible road users. Consciously consider road safety each time we put on our running shoes, hop on our cycles, or place a key in an ignition. Speak with our loved ones as often as possible about it. Accidents and collisions are almost always preventable."

April 21. Premier Michael Dunkley has congratulated the Queen on her 90th birthday, on behalf of Bermuda. According to a press release from the Bermuda Government, the Premier wrote: “Bermuda joins with the rest of the world in wishing you the happiest of birthdays. The occasion of your 90th birthday is rightly cause for celebration and reflection on how your whole life has been dedicated to service. The dignity and grace with which you continue to provide leadership to the United Kingdom, Commonwealth and Realms serves as an example to the world. On behalf of Bermuda and her people, I have the honour to extend to you all good wishes for the happiest of birthdays and continued good health.”

April 21. Her Majesty the Queen's actual 90th birthday. She is Britain's, Bermuda's and the rest of the British Commonwealth of Nations' longest-ever living sovereign. See the BBC coverage at http://www.bbc.co.uk/news.

April 20.  RG Editorial by Tim Hodgson." At the outset of his political career he posed, and then proceeded to answer to his own satisfaction, what remains among the most vexing questions in Bermudian public life. In his “Am I Being Used?” speech delivered to a City Hall audience during the run-up to the 1968 General Election, the first held under the two-party Westminster system in Bermuda, Clarence James outlined a coherent and compelling vision for the island’s future. His address was a clarion call for social and economic justice, for full racial integration and black participation in all aspects of Bermudian national life. The continuance of segregation — either socio-politically sanctioned or of the self-imposed variety — was unthinkable to him. Black separatism, he believed, would be as detrimental to the island’s future welfare as the existing institutionalized white racism he was committed to dismantling. Bringing about a peaceful, prosperous and inclusive Bermuda, he argued, would require us to work together towards common goals with a shared set of values, principles and practices. The speech, co-authored with his professional and political colleague and close friend John Stubbs, was, in part, a generational call to arms — an appeal to all young Bermudians, black and white, to make progress together and leave behind a blighted, racially divided past. It was also a wake-up call to whites, an effort to galvanize them into action. Far more harmful to Bermuda’s long-term well-being than the unreconstructed racism of a privileged few, Dr James believed, was wider spread white indifference to the everyday struggles of Bermudian blacks. Empathy and sympathy had to be translated into a practical plan of attack against the remaining barriers of segregation. If redress to legitimate grievances was not found through political and institutional channels, he warned, it would be sought on the street. “I, like many other Bermudians, am prepared to devote my life in serving the people of Bermuda because I love Bermuda, it is my home,” said Dr James. “I feel compelled to portray a frank, undistorted picture of race relations as I see them. By doing so, I sincerely hope that I can assist in saving Bermuda from self-destruction due to racial strife. I have no other motivation.” In other words, no, he was not being used as a black frontman to help perpetuate a discredited racist status quo as some political adversaries had suggested. And, no, he would never put himself in a position where he could be used for such purposes. The speech was a defining moment in a period jammed with dramatic events as Bermuda lurched towards a non-racial democracy. Dr James identified and explained the central pivot around which the life of this community still revolves as well as anyone ever had up until that point. And he also left in no doubt his own strong sense of dedication to both Bermuda and the precepts of reform, reconciliation and renewal. With a scientific cast of mind and a rigorously methodical approach to problem-solving, both in the operating theatre and the theatre of politics, he proposed a pragmatic way forward for Bermuda. Elected to the House of Assembly in a landslide later in 1968, he spent the next 21 years in Parliament coaxing, encouraging and sometimes cajoling the island to fulfil its promise to all of its people. Dr James was not led into politics so much by inclination as by duty and a sense of obligation. Like many of the pre-eminent public figures of his day, he was guided by principle and conscience. He was tireless in working to create the more just and equitable society he envisioned Bermuda could become, uncompromising in defending his convictions. He had an intimate understanding of the lives and aspirations of working Bermudians, the pressures they operated under, the injustices and inequalities which rankled them, and the incentives to which they would best respond. Raised in the deeply divided and highly conservative Bermuda of the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s, for him, as a young black man born without fortune or favour, to make headway against the professional and political obstacles of his day had required every intellectual weapon at his disposal and all that learning, dignity, courtesy, integrity and resolve could bestow. And what headway Clarence James made. He became the first black Bermudian to qualify as a specialized surgeon, returning to practise at King Edward VII Memorial Hospital in 1963 after completing his education at Canada’s McGill University and training at Montreal General and affiliated hospitals. He would go on to become chief of staff of the Bermuda Hospitals Board and president of the Bermuda Medical Society. And in the political realm he held many of the major Cabinet portfolios at one time or another, serving as Bermuda’s finance, health and transport minister as well as Deputy Premier under Sir John Swan from 1983 to 1989. Clarence James was never unequal to the prodigious scale or rapid pace of events which shaped Bermuda between the 1960s and the 1980s. For more than two decades, both in Parliament and in the wider Bermuda community, he stood in the front rank of his times. He applied the ethical credo of medical practitioners — “First, do no harm” — to his political activities, consistently demonstrating wisdom, prudence, patience, compassion, courage and endurance, no matter how trying or challenging the circumstances. When he died at the weekend at the age of 84, the entire island joined his wife Shirley and children Joanna and Peter in mourning a man who cared, and dared, more for Bermuda and its people than most of our political figures — a man who never was, and never could be, used."

April 20. Acting opposition leader David Burt has accused the Government of secrecy and dishonesty regarding the proposed airport redevelopment project. Mr Burt spoke to a capacity crowd of more than 100 people at a Progressive Labour Party town hall meeting in St George’s Cricket Club. During his speech, the shadow finance minister accused his One Bermuda Alliance counterpart Bob Richards of withholding 200 pages of the proposed contract between the Government and Aecon, its chosen construction firm for the $249 million project. Mr Burt said: “We’ve been told that this deal is not privatization, and we’ve been told that the contract is still under negotiation, so the details cannot be revealed. This contract was signed in August 2015. If you sign a contract, you are no longer negotiating that contract. Show the people of the country what (you) have signed.” Mr Burt also claimed that the taxpayer would foot Canadian firm Aecon’s electricity bill throughout the contract’s 30-year agreement. “That bill is $250,000 a month,” he said as the audience gasped. “That’s $90 million over 30 years, and that’s without inflation. Your tax dollars are paying a Canadian company, who are going to take over our airport, for their power. That’s what we know.” Mr Burt also stated that, under the current deal, Aecon would be exempt from payroll tax, customs duties and work permit fees. “We’ve been told that the new terminal will not cost the taxpayer anything, that it’s going to be free.  We’ve already spent millions of dollars. This year, inside of the budget session, a line item was inserted for $13 million for airport redevelopment. Maybe (the Government) were fuzzing up the facts. Maybe they were fuzzing up the numbers. I have a simple question. Do the rules apply to the OBA?” Shadow transport minister Lawrence Scott called the topic at hand “a passion of mine. We believe that the airport should not be privatized, and we believe that the profits generated by the new airport should belong to the people of Bermuda and not a Canadian company,” he said. Mr Scott also claimed that new airport would be smaller than L.F. Wade in its current form. “Right now we have eight gates, the new airport will have six,” he said. “So whoever is planning on building this airport is not planning on our tourism numbers increasing. This is not Field of Dreams. If you build it, they will not come.” Mr Scott implored the Government to consider the consequences of its actions. “We must focus on increasing air arrivals by developing our tourism product before committing limited revenue to a new airport.  I believe that the revenue that we are giving away to an entity in another country could be better spent on our educational infrastructure. We cannot afford a $250 million airport at this time - at any time.”

April 20. PLP backbencher Walton Brown has filed a legal action against Craig Cannonier and several civil servants after he was identified as submitting a Pati request. According to a writ dated April 11, Mr Brown has launched an action against the Minister for Public Works, the permanent secretary for the Ministry of Public Works, the Cabinet Service Executive and the Cabinet Secretary. The action is linked to an incident in the House of Assembly on May 15 last year. Responding to parliamentary questions by Mr Brown about stone taken from Blackwatch Pass, Mr Cannonier gave a reply which indicated he knew that Mr Brown had submitted a Pati request on the subject. According to Section 12(4) of the Public Access to Information Act: “The identity of a requester shall be kept confidential and, except with the consent of the requester, may not be disclosed to any person other than a person who is required to deal with the request under this Act.” In a subsequent statement the Progressive Labour Party said the incident was disconcerting, noting that ministers are not involved in the Pati process, so Mr Cannonier would have had to been informed of the identity of the requester by someone else in the ministry. Mr Cannonier later apologized, saying the incident was an honest mistake. Information commissioner Gitanjali Gutierrez conducted an inquiry into the incident, finding that civil servants were handing Pati requests without official written protocols about how to do so. She labeled the incident involving Mr Cannonier as the culmination of a “perfect storm” of events, adding: “The same lack of written procedures and inconsistent practice may be found across public authorities during the transitional years [of the Pati Act].” Mrs Gutierrez also stressed the importance of confidentiality as those making Pati requests cannot do so anonymously. “Once a requester’s identity is revealed, the extent of the harm to both the individual requester’s life and the public’s perception of the security of their right to confidentiality is difficult to anticipate, as the events related to this investigation have shown,” she wrote in a report. "We currently do not have a mechanism that allows a requester to ask for records anonymously. Thus, maintaining a requester’s confidentiality protects them from retaliation and other negative consequences when they file Pati requests in certain circumstances.”

April 20. A former acting director of telecommunications has lost a claim that the Ministry of Finance is unlawfully withholding more than $150,000 from him. Hiram Edwards was hired as an assistant telecommunications inspector on a temporary basis in 1997 after retiring from the Bermuda Police Service. In a previous hearing, the Court of Appeal heard that he had been informed the position was part-time — despite involving a 35-hour work week — and he would be entitled to receive his full pension during his period of employment. He received his full pension until May 2000, when the Accountant General determined that he had been classified as a part-time employee in error and began to make a series of deductions to recover what it considered overpayments. Mr Edwards took the issue and others to the courts, arguing that the withdrawals had not been lawful. In March 2014, the Court of Appeal found that the deductions from his pension were unlawful because Mr Edwards was not given an opportunity to make representations as to whether the deduction should be made and, if so, at what rate. The matter was sent back to the Supreme Court to assess the amount payable, and in August of 2014 it was determined that a total of $114,192.17, plus 33 days interest at a daily rate of $21.90, were owed to the plaintiff for the unlawfully deducted payments. However, that same year the Accountant General wrote to Mr Edwards stating that he was considering making a fresh decision to withhold the amount of the overpayment, which he estimated at $154,525.37, inviting Mr Edwards to make representations. Through counsel, Mr Edwards argued in an August 2014 hearing that the decision was unlawful, citing the findings of the Court of Appeal. The court made no ruling on the matter at that time, but invited the Accountant General to give Mr Edwards another 14 days to make representations. Mr Edwards made no representations, based on his view that the Accountant General’s actions were unlawful, and in September 2014 the Accountant General wrote to him to state that he was using his discretion to withhold the $154,525.37. The decision sparked a new legal action by Mr Edwards, who argued that the withholding of the funds was an abuse of process. In a judgment issued last Friday, Puisne Judge Stephen Hellman found that the Court of Appeal judgment did not expressly or by implication find that the Accountant General was prohibited from making a fresh decision after giving the plaintiff an opportunity to make representations. “In the circumstances, and contrary to the plaintiff submissions, the Accountant General’s second decision to recover the amount of pension overpaid to the plaintiff did not offend against the principle of res judicata and was not an abuse of process,” Mr Justice Hellman wrote. “The plaintiff has now had ample opportunity to make representations as to why the Accountant General should not have exercised his discretion to withhold the amount of the overpayment. He could have argued, had the facts so permitted, that as a result of the payment he had altered his position to his detriment, such that it would be unfair to recover the monies. Or he could have argued that at this remove in time he was not in a position to make the representations which he would or might have made had the Accountant General sought them when first considering whether to exercise his discretion. But the plaintiff did not do so. He has shown no good reason why he should be permitted to keep a windfall at the expense of the public purse. The obvious inference is that there is none.”

April 20. Royal Bermuda Regiment soldiers in Jamaica got the shock of their lives after bumping in to superstar runner Usain Bolt at their hotel. And the record-breaking athlete stopped to talk and have pictures taken with the advance party, which is preparing for the arrival of the main body of troops this weekend. Sergeant Major Rupert Lambert said the RBR group spotted Mr Bolt, dubbed “Lightning Bolt” after his stunning string of Olympic and World Championship victories, on a photo shoot at the Strawberry Hill Hotel — and later bumped into him at their own hotel. Sergeant Major Lambert said in a statement: “He was doing his thing at Strawberry Hill, so we didn’t want to interrupt that, but we saw him later at the hotel. I saw him in the hallway, smiled at him and stopped and asked if I could get a picture. It was unbelievable — I told him I had seen him run at the Carifta Games in Bermuda years ago. He was really approachable and very friendly. He stopped and posed for the picture. You get a lot of good experiences in the Regiment — but meeting the fastest man on earth is something else.” The main body of troops leave on Sunday for two weeks’ intensive training in Jamaica, working with the Jamaican Defence Force. For more information about the Regiment, call 238-1045 or visit bermudaregiment.bm. 

April 20. Bermuda’s decision to sign up to a country-by-country reporting agreement for multinational companies could be used to target shell companies using the island for tax avoidance. Bradley Kading, president and executive director of the Association of Bermuda Insurers and Reinsurers, said: “The main impact of the country by country reporting will likely be to call attention to shell companies formed by non-Bermuda multinationals in which little on the ground economic activity takes place in Bermuda. “The documentation and reporting will likely lead to more and more non-Bermudian multinational companies deciding either to close a Bermuda shell company or add economic substance to that company in order to meet expectations of economic activity tied to the company.” But Mr Kading pointed out that Abir estimates that Bermuda is host to only 2 per cent of the companies incorporated in leading British territories. He said: “Bermuda has never been the shell company domicile of choice for obvious reasons. Bermuda has collected beneficial ownership information for 70 years, has never been a bank secrecy jurisdiction and has actively exchanged tax information with all the G20 nations and all our leading trading partners. Bermuda regularly shares information with tax, regulatory and law enforcement authorities. This is not a place you go to hide money from a tax collector.” And he added that Abir “fully support” the decision to adopt the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development reporting standards. Mr Kading said: “Abir members are mostly Bermuda multinationals with their ultimate holding companies and important legal entities here.” He was speaking after Bob Richards, the Minister of Finance, said Bermuda had fallen in line with the OECD reporting regime. The move means companies with international operations will have to file detailed country-by-country reports by the end of next year. The country-by-country reporting scheme follows Bermuda’s decision two years ago to adopt the OECD’s automatic tax information exchange regime, the common reporting standard. Mr Richards said: “We were one of the first jurisdictions in the world to sign up to the common reporting standard in 2014 as an early adopter of CRS and so I am proud Bermuda is again setting an example in adopting the country-by-country reporting regime without hesitation. Our government is committed to upholding international best practice in tax transparency.” The country-by-country declaration will force multinational firms with headquarters in Bermuda to file financial information on a country basis. The start date is in line with the UK, France and other countries. Mr Richards said: “It’s going to affect all companies, whether they have a physical presence here or not. Those companies will have to report country by country. For the companies Mr Kading represents, the big reinsurance companies, they have very large physical footprints here, they pay taxes and fill in forms. Most of them are global and they do file taxes in a lot of different places. “It will be something entirely new for holding companies and that’s the context in which Mr Kading was speaking. The ones without a physical presence or virtually no physical presence, it will be a departure for them. The whole idea of country-by-country reporting is for nobody to be able to hide and let me say the holding companies we have in Bermuda, they don’t hide now. If a competent authority in, say, France want to know what activity is going on with a Bermudian-based company, there’s a protocol for them to find that information by way of the tax information exchange agreement we have.” Mr Kading added: “Bermuda can describe itself as a jurisdiction that facilitates pass-through taxation of income to the beneficial owners in the jurisdictions that will ultimately claim tax income under their laws. Its commitment is to be at the forefront of transparency and co-operation in helping other jurisdictions claim revenue they believe their multinational taxpayers are obligated to pay Bermuda is legally bound to help other nations collect taxes which they think are due to them.”

April 20. Profits at insurance and reinsurance firm Allied World dropped by more than $50 million for the first quarter. Allied World had a net income of $74.1 million for the first three months this year, down from $124.4 million in the same quarter the previous year. The drop was offset by a 19.5 per cent increase in investment income over the same period, up to $53.3 million from the $44.6 million recorded for the first quarter of 2015. Allied World president and CEO Scott Carmilani said: “We’re pleased at the positive contribution from our investment portfolio and solid underwriting results this quarter. Although market conditions remain challenging, we continue to find attractive opportunities while maintaining our strong focus on risk selection and capital management.” The earnings for the first quarter in 2016 is equivalent to 81 cents per share, compared to the $1.27 per share for the same period the year before. The firm, which is headquartered in Switzerland but has substantial operations in Bermuda, recorded gross premiums of $863.5 million, down 1.9 per cent on the $880.6 million recorded in the same quarter last year. The firm’s report said: “This was driven by a decline in the reinsurance segment, partially offset by growth in the global markets insurance segment. North American insurance was essentially flat. The global markets insurance segment grew by 94.7 per cent on a constant dollar basis and 90.96 per cent per cent on an as reported basis, driven by the inclusion of the acquired Asian operations.” Allied World’s reinsurance segment dropped 16 per cent, which the company attributed to a reduction in property catastrophe risk and the non-renewal of other property and casualty treaties. Total shareholder equity at the end of the first quarter totaled $3.53 billion, in line with the end of the first quarter in 2015.

April 20. Low oil prices had an impact on retail sales at gas stations in February, with the sector seeing a 10.5 per cent increase in revenue, year-on-year. This jump has been attributed to an 11.4 per cent increase in the volume of fuel sold. Overall, retail sales totaled $84.9 million, a rise of 7.2 per cent compared with the same period in 2015. After being adjusted for inflation, the volume of sales was up 5.8 per cent. In all seven retail stores sectors, as defined in the Retail Sales Index, sales were up by value and volume. The figures were released by the Department of Statistics. The largest gain was registered by motor vehicle retailers, with sales receipts up 23.2 per cent, while the smallest rise was among apparel stores, which saw sales increase 1.6 per cent. Residents declared overseas purchases valued at $3.2 million, which was 6.7 per cent higher than February 2015. The total combined local and overseas spending was $88.1 million. There were 25 shopping days in February, one more than the year before. Food sales were up 5.7 per cent in terms of value, and 2.8 per cent in terms of volume. In the “all other stores” category, sales revenue were up 4.7 per cent. “Gross receipts for marine and boat suppliers increased 9.3 per cent. Furniture, appliances and electronics sales rose 6.7 per cent due to increased sales of high-end items and large appliances,” stated the RSI commentary. At the start of this year the Retail Sales Index figures’ base year was switched from 2006 to 2015. The RSI release, which includes data going back to February 2015, shows retail sales have increased in terms of value and volume for 13 consecutive months. The annual retail sales rate of inflation for February was 1.3 per cent.

April 20. Two primary schools in the East End have recorded the island’s best average grades throughout the past four years, according to results from the Cambridge International Examinations. St George’s Preparatory was the only school to average in the “very good” category from 2012 to 2015, with an overall score of 4.3 out of 6, while St David’s Primary School — one of the schools facing potential closure as part of the Bermuda Government’s School Reorganization (Score) Plan — ranked at the top of the “good” category with just over 3.9. Principal at St George’s, Mary Lodge, said the fundamental reason for her school’s success is an emphasis on reading while she also noted the benefits, as an assisted school, of having the power to hire teaching staff independently. However, Ms Lodge warned that the Cambridge Primary Checkpoint results in English, maths and science only revealed part of the picture, stressing that the standardized system does not take into consideration socio-economic factors that can affect performance. PTA president at St David’s, Patrice Minors, said she was happy with the results but believed that school results should have complemented the Score report to “help parents make an informed decision” over which schools should be considered for closure. The checkpoint results are designed for students in the final year of primary school education. They are designed to give schools an international benchmark of student performance identifying specific learning needs in the core subjects. A score of 3 is held to be grade level. Twelve out of the 18 primary schools had averages higher than 3 throughout the four years. Schools whose average results were considered “OK”, scoring between 2 and 3, were Francis Patton, Elliot, Victor Scott, West End, Prospect and East End. However, Ms Lodge said even getting close to an average of 3 could be considered satisfactory, explaining: “Bermuda is the only country or school district where everybody sits the checkpoint exam. The reason this is important is that the other schools that are sitting this exam are international schools, chartered schools, schools of diplomats’ children — therefore all standardized tests show a bias towards socio-economic standards. All of us deserve to be told that if we got even close to 3 for your school median score when you are competing against children who have advantages [that it’s] ‘job well done’. Whenever you are doing a standardized test there is always a factor where culture bias and other things come into play. In Bermuda, you are not looking at all of the people who do Cambridge — you are looking at the whole island of Bermuda in a public education system. Everybody’s child, whether they have autism, dyslexia, behavior disorders, come into our doors and they sit that exam. If we are competing with how our schools line up with a chartered school, for example, it is not a fair comparison.” Reflecting on St George’s success in the Cambridge system, Ms Lodge said: “Reading is core to everything that they do. In order to make the children successful they have to be able to read to at least, and hopefully above, grade level. You might be able to add, subtract and multiply but if you don’t understand what you are being asked to do then you can’t answer the question. With regards to mathematics we attribute a lot of our success to the maths programme [Everyday Math] we use and the amount of time we spend on it. We teach maths for an hour-and-a half every day from P1 to P6. With the science we have learnt the children have to do a lot of practical hands-on science but they also have to have the vocabulary language otherwise under Cambridge you will not get the marks.” Ms Lodge added that as principal of an assisted school she is able to hire the right staff required for the school as a whole. “It is not just about the skill set teachers bring — it is also about wanting a balance in your staffing. If you have enough flexibility to know your own building, you know what your building needs in order to round out the team. Being able to directly control that always puts you in a better position. We also have the longest lunch break in the system — 25 minutes for recess and an hour for lunch.” Regarding St David’s, Mrs Minors pointed to teacher passion, not least, she said, the P6 teacher. Saying the Cambridge results should have complemented the Score report, she added: “It is our hope for the St David’s community and the parents of students at the school that the decision made by the ministry will be one to continue to allow St David’s Primary to operate as it is. “I would hope that that decision is based, not just on the recently released Cambridge results, but also the various submissions that have been made by various members of the community. I am hopeful that the ministry will apply rational thinking to their ultimate decision — not just for the benefit of St David’s Primary but all the schools that are being targeted as possibly ones to be closed.”

April 20. Hundreds have gathered in King’s Square this morning to watch the 200th Peppercorn Ceremony. The event — an annual tradition in St George’s — is based around Freemasons paying their symbolic rent for the Old State House. Numerous civic leaders, including the Mayor of Lyme Regis, the southern English town twinned with Bermuda, were present to watch the treasurer for the Freemasons officially pay the peppercorn rent which is unchanged in two centuries. Festivities have included a parade by the Royal Bermuda Regiment, with those in attendance including more than 100 Freemasons representing lodges from several countries, Michael Dunkley, the Premier, MPs from both sides of the House of Assembly, and the Mayor of St George’s, Quinell Francis, who arrived in a horse-drawn carriage. Governor George Fergusson and Mrs Fergusson, who arrived escorted by police, are celebrating the final Peppercorn Ceremony of their time in Bermuda. In a speech to the crowd, Mrs Francis said that the Corporations of St George’s and Hamilton have been working together on improving governance through legislation, thanking Michael Fahy, Minister of Home Affairs, for amendments to the Municipality Act to allow them to again collect wharfage. Mr Fergusson highlighted the rich history of the island, but added that Bermuda remains a leader in the modern world. After his speech, the Governor’s council left to conduct its annual meeting in the Old State House.

April 19. Public Works minister Craig Cannonier has refuted suggestions that the “brown water” in Prospect and Cedar Park homes constitutes a “recurring health hazard”. Progressive Labour Party MPs Dennis Lister and Diallo Rabain had accused the Government of being “deaf” to the concerns of residents, with about 70 homes still receiving discolored water years after the problem began. They said in a statement on Sunday: “We are calling on the One Bermuda Alliance to address the serious issues with the ongoing brown water. This is by no means the first time that this problem has become an issue for the residents. Government is aware of the problem, but just being aware is not good enough. What is needed is action not silence.” Mr Cannonier attributed the issue to cast iron piping which was installed in the 1970s and is now deteriorating, and said that the Ministry was trying to fix the problem as a matter of high priority. “Obviously the residents would like to see this happen as quickly as possible, so this is a matter of urgency for us. We have all men on deck dealing with it,” he told The Royal Gazette. However, he denied that the iron which is falling from the pipes and turning the water brown is also rendering it unsafe to consume. “The health department has been testing the water on a regular basis and it is good, clean and healthy to drink,” he said. Responding to PLP calls for a swift, permanent solution to the problem, Mr Cannonier said that trenching had already begun to fit new pipes in the area. He added that difficulties had arisen in isolating the most eroded sections of piping, due to limited historical records. Mr Cannonier insisted that the ultimate solution would involve a total replacement of the cast iron piping, adding that the Ministry is working on a long-term, 20-year infrastructure plan for water for Bermuda. Meanwhile, the Ministry of Public Works has sent out a letter to affected residents, explaining the reasons behind the discoloration and outlining its intended solutions, including the installation of a new pumping system. The letter states: “It appears that the most efficient way to remedy the level of discoloration is to feed the affected area by a different transmission main. This work will likely be completed by April 31, and will have a higher likelihood of remedying the discoloration. The Ministry sympathizes with your frustrations and appreciates your patience while we continue to work on resolving the issue.” For further details, e-mail water@gov.bm or call 278-0570.

April 19. Plans have been dusted off for a new block of luxury condominiums in Hamilton, seven years after the original project was stopped in its tracks due to a combination of an overheated property market and the economic downturn. Developer Gilbert Lopes has reactivated the Seven Park project to gauge the level of interest in the proposed 52-unit condominium, which would be built on Park Road and neighbor one of his earlier developments, Ten, on Dundonald Street. Featuring a selection of one- and two-bedroom apartments, prices will start at $485,000, which is $90,000 less than the advertised cost in 2009. Advances in construction materials have allowed for a drop in construction costs, said Mr Gilbert, who explained the project was granted planning approval in the late 2000s. “I’m advertising to see if there is a market. I would need to take 20 or 25 deposits to go ahead,” he said. Mr Lopes is waiting to see who potential purchasers might be, although he admits he already had interest from parents looking to buy an apartment for their children to rent. Last year’s Bermuda Immigration and Protection Amendment Act 2015 also broadened the range of properties that Permanent Resident’s Certificate holders can now own. The proposed apartment complex would feature a rooftop fitness room, pool and terrace, a ground floor lounge and underground parking. There would be space for four commercial office or retail condos. The building and finish specifications for apartments are the same as those planned in 2009. Referring to the decision not to go ahead with the project at that time, Mr Lopes said Bermuda had reached a point of “overbuild” that had exhausted the market for new properties. He feels things are different now. “There’s a bit of optimism out there. We have had some interest and people asking if we are going to build this. It feels like the right time,” he said. A full-page advertisement for the proposed development appeared in yesterday’s Royal Gazette. It referred to the apartments as “affordable urban living”. The Seven Park complex would be built on a vacant lot on Park Road, previously the location of Jack ‘n’ Jill’s toy store, a dive shop and the Thistle Gallery in the H. Davidson & Co building, which all closed and were demolished in the late 2000s. Mr Lopes, who runs GL Construction, has built a number of apartment complexes in the past, including the aforementioned Ten, Six, which is on the corner of Dundonald Street and Cedar Avenue, Loughlands in Paget and the Grand Atlantic development in Warwick. Further details about the proposed apartments can be found at se7enpark.com. 

April 19. International goodwill group Up with People introduced themselves to Bermuda yesterday, as they prepare for a fortnight of volunteering and performing on the island. The troupe comprises 100 “cast members” aged 17 to 29 from across the globe, who will be staying with host families while performing a total of 2,000 hours of community service. They will also be putting on three two-hour music and dance shows from April 28 to 30 at CedarBridge Academy, plus a free promotional performance this Friday from 5pm at City Hall. After dividing into groups to teach a dance class at Sandys Community Centre, as well as conducting clean-ups at Kaleidoscope Arts Foundation and Sherwin Nature Reserve, UWP enjoyed an official welcome at CedarBridge Academy yesterday afternoon. “We’ve been counting the days until your arrival and finally you are here,” principal Kalmar Richards told the assembled group, who arrived on Thursday. “We have great expectations for you as you serve, entertain and educate the community.” Kayla Hollis, an alumna of both CedarBridge Academy and UWP, spoke of her unforgettable time travelling the world with the group. "You may have hard times, but they will make you who you are in the future. I’m so glad you guys are here.” Patricia Gordon-Pamplin, the Minister of Community, Culture and Sports who is serving as a host, said: “I hope you remember Bermuda very fondly. You are certainly all welcome, and from what I have seen you are all very special.” UWP celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2015. The current cast, which consists of 20 nationalities, began in January in Colorado, USA and will finish in Brussels, Belgium on June 8 — with stays in Mexico, Bermuda, Sweden and Denmark in between. Dutch national Raymond Mulangu, 20, serves as the troupe’s dance captain. “We knew Bermuda would be beautiful, but the most surprising thing is that the people have been so chilled and so welcoming,” he said. Seattle native Chelsea Henak, 19, added: “It’s amazing how everyone says hello to each other here. I’ve always seen that there’s a little darkness in the world, but some groups of people show a certain light. I’ve always wanted to be a part of something like that.” Up with People will perform medleys from the 1960s to the 2000s, as well as original tunes, during their shows at CedarBridge Academy’s Ruth Seaton James Centre for the Performing Arts. Shows take place at 7pm on April 28 and 29, and 2pm and 7pm on April 30. Tickets, which begin at $15, are available at upwithpeople.org/bermuda

April 19. The Irish Linen Shop’s Jane Pocock has died. Ms Pocock, who was 94, founded the Front Street fixture with her late husband Jim, with their son Jeremy also involved in the business. She died last Friday. A statement on the shop’s Facebook page said: “Jane Pocock, a woman of style and exacting, impeccable taste died peacefully in her sleep on the morning of April 15. Elegant and sophisticated, Jane and her late husband Jim with son Jeremy, brought the world of fine living to Bermuda and created one of Bermuda’s most iconic retail businesses in Hamilton. Before there was talk of global economies, internet shopping and disposable, quick-fix lifestyles there was Jane Pocock with her discerning eye for enduring style and her personal philosophy that even in small things, there is always an opportunity for refinement. It was the life she led and it was a well-lived life.” Ms Pocock is survived by three children, Armine, Richard and Jeremy, seven grandchildren and eighteen great-grandchildren. Greg Hartley, who runs helmet-diving company Hartley’s Undersea Adventures, a nephew of Ms Pocock, said: “She was pretty much an institution when it came to fine linens. It’s a credit to Bermuda that it wasn’t just knick-knacks, it was fine Irish and English linens you couldn’t get in the United States.” The Irish Linen Shop was founded in the 1940s in Somerset Village. But, as the tourism market expanded and changed, the family company decided to open a shop in Hamilton. And it was Ms Pocock who found the site at on the corner of Front Street and Queen Street, where the firm has done business for more than 50 years. A notice in yesterday’s edition of The Royal Gazette said that, in line with Ms Pocock’s wishes, the funeral will be private.

April 19. The cashiers’ offices of the Department of Social Insurance are closed today following complaints about air quality. The Department said the move had been made “out of an abundance of caution” and advised the rest of the office will remain open with limited staffing while the issues are resolved. People can call 294-9242 with any enquiries, and payments can be made online using the bill pay function of Butterfield or HSBC internet banking.

April 19. Appleby Fiduciary Business is to change its name to Estera following a management buyout. The new name for the company, which separated from its parent law firm last December, was inspired by a staff competition. Rory Gorman, group managing director of Estera, said: “For nearly 60 years, we have provided corporate administration and private client services to successful companies and individuals around the world. “Our rebrand presents a significant opportunity to build on the reputation we have established through our breadth of knowledge and deep experience in the industries in which our clients operate.” The global corporate, trust, funds and accounting services company, which employs around 350 staff across ten jurisdictions, is led by chief executive officer Farah Ballands. Ms Ballands said: “We’re delighted and proud to launch Estera and have the opportunity to build on the strong heritage and culture we have developed. Our new brand and independence provides a solid platform for growth, including strategic investment to align our systems and procedures to deliver a consistently quality service to our clients.”

April 18. Major building projects in the US would boost the economy and demand for insurance and reinsurance. Kevin Kelley, the chief executive officer of Bermuda-based Ironshore, said poorer-than-expected economic performance in key regions had led to a weakening of demand for insurance. Speaking to AM Best TV, Mr Kelley said: “What we see on a global basis is just lack of demand and an overabundance of supply because of quantitative easing, particularly in Europe and in the United States.” He added that Europe had turned in weaker gross domestic product growth than had been expected six to nine months ago. Mr Kelley said: “China is probably closer to where maybe people thought six to nine months ago, but there are a lot of questions around their GDP growth. In the US, it’s struggling to approach two-and-a-half to three, so What we see on a global basis is just lack of demand and an overabundance of supply because of quantitative easing, particularly in Europe and in the United States. What we need are programmes that really do create demand and that will create demand for our services as well.” Mr Kelley was speaking at the close of last week’s Risk and Insurance Management Society conference in San Diego, California. He said: “We are in very, very dire need of infrastructure building in the United States to improve productivity and that would create an awful lot of insurance opportunity. Major shifts — including changes at the top of companies in the industry and mergers and acquisitions — had a major impact. I think that 2016 is shaping up very, very differently than any of us would have thought six to nine months ago. Nobody would have foreseen, I think, the changes in the CEO suite of a few of our competitors, mergers and some of the issues and challenges faced by some of our other competitors. Clearly, we see the potential for distraction in the business and therefore it’s very, very important for firms like ours to be very focused in this kind of environment and to make sure we don’t get distracted and continue to build our business. The US presidential race, with Hillary Clinton ahead in the fight for the Democratic nomination and controversial businessman Donald Trump leading the Republican pack, had created uncertainty in the business world. When you take a look at both the leading candidates from both the Democratic and Republican parties, having unfavourability of 54 for the Democrat and 63 for the Republican, there is a lot of angst surrounding whether either leading candidate can lead. What I think we do need, not just here in the United States, but across the West is stronger leadership and the ability to really get the people to work together because we have so many challenges that will require people putting their heads together and making sure we can be up for the challenges.”

April 18.  The European Commission and the World Bank have signed a $15.8 million agreement to fund a Caribbean catastrophe insurance fund. The two organisations said the agreement will help Central American countries and the Dominican Republic gain access to catastrophe risk insurance. The CCRIF SPC, formerly the Caribbean Catastrophe Risk Insurance Facility, is a multi-country programme with 17 members, including Bermuda. The coverage includes hurricanes, earthquakes and excess rainfall and the new agreement will be run by the Multi-Donor Trust Fund. Neven Mimica, the EU Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development, said: “The European Union’s contribution to this multi-donor trust fund for Central American countries and the Dominican Republic is a reflection of our shared concern for the need to support partner countries towards building resilience to disasters and climate change, a concern that has led to an increase in funding for climate change in the EU’s development priorities. The urgency of the situation calls for action now, which is why we are particularly pleased to be able to make this announcement.” Jorge Familiar, World Bank vice-president, added: “For small economies, tackling climate change and disaster risks effectively requires efforts at the regional level since effective solutions call for risk pooling. This is critical for Caribbean and Central American countries that are increasingly vulnerable to the effects of climate change. The facility is a good example of a regional public good where member countries will be able to benefit from insurance coverage at a more affordable rate.”

April 18. A celebrated 1953 open-air Bermuda production of William Shakespeare’s tragedy Macbeth staged at Fort St Catherine was full of sound and fury — and, at one point, real fires which raced across the battlements of the East End bastion. Future Academy Award winner Charlton Heston played the title role in the epic Bermuda staging of Macbeth. A talented amateur painter, the actor immortalized the fiery closing scene of the local production in a vivid canvas recently acquired by the Masterworks Museum of Bermuda Art and now hanging at its Botanical Gardens gallery. “April 23 marks the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s death in 1616,” said Masterworks curator Elise Outerbridge. “We had been approached by one of our directors, Conchita Ming, to see if we were interested in participating in a worldwide host of activities commemorating the event.” A playwright, poet and actor, widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world’s pre-eminent dramatist, Shakespeare was born in the English town of Stratford-upon-Avon in 1564. Known works, including collaborations, consist of some 38 plays, 154 sonnets, two long narrative poems and assorted verses. His plays have been translated into every major language and are now performed and read more often and in more countries than ever before. The prediction of his great contemporary, English poet and dramatist Ben Jonson, that Shakespeare “was not of an age, but for all time” has long-since been fulfilled. “Obviously there’s a strong Bermuda connection to the Bard given his fantastical 1611 romance The Tempest was inspired, in part, by the 1609 wreck of the Sea Venture on the Island,” said Mrs Outerbridge. “And so we hung a series of etchings at the museum by Bermudian artist Betsy Mulderig illustrating scenes from that play. But then by sheer coincidence, or perhaps because of a touch of the predestination which informs the plot of Macbeth, Masterworks founder and creative director Tom Butterfield was going through a catalogue of an upcoming sale by auctioneers Bonham’s. And he came across Charlton Heston’s painting of the famous Bermuda Macbeth production being offered for sale.” The Masterworks curator said the timing of the March auction could not have been more fortuitous: “We decided the painting would make a perfect addition to our collection — as well as the perfect Bermuda salute to William Shakespeare as the world celebrates his legacy and continuing relevance. So Masterworks successfully bid on it.” The 11½in by 15½in oil painting, signed “C. Heston”, depicts the fiery climax of the Bermuda production. A note Mr Heston attached to the back of the painting explains how the play was staged on the battlements of the centuries-old seaside fort, with wind fanning actual flames behind sword-wielding combatants as Scottish warlord Macbeth is toppled from the throne he has usurped by an army of opponents in the final scene. Mr Heston’s note concludes, “It was arguably the most effective Macbeth combat ever staged.” On the cusp of international stardom when he worked in Bermuda in the early 1950s, Illinois-born Mr Heston (1923-2008) soon went on to establish himself as one of Hollywood’s most popular and enduring leading men. He specialized in larger-than-life characters and starred in such blockbusters as Ben Hur, for which he won his Academy Award, The Ten Commandments, El Cid, 55 Days At Peking, The Agony and the Ecstasy, Khartoum, Planet of The Apes and The Three Musketeers. A classically trained actor, Mr Heston once said “the great roles are always Shakespearean” and he made his Broadway debut in the playwright’s Antony and Cleopatra. In addition to his stage performance as Marc Antony in 1947, Mr Heston portrayed the Roman politician again in film adaptations of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar in 1950 and 1970 and again, in different form, in a movie version of Antony and Cleopatra in 1972 which he also directed. He also took the part of the Player King in Kenneth Branagh’s 1996 film version of Hamlet. But Macbeth was a favourite role for Mr Heston. Mr Heston played the part numerous times on stage both before and after his Bermuda appearance, including a well-received 1975 California production in which he appeared alongside Vanessa Redgrave. The March 22 Los Angeles auction of items from his estate included, aside from the Bermuda Macbeth painting, a valuable collection of early published editions of Shakespeare’s plays and other rare Shakespearean items. The Bermuda production of Macbeth was staged under what Mr Heston called “the highly imaginative direction” of Burgess Meredith. An accomplished and versatile stage and Hollywood stalwart probably best remembered today for his Oscar-nominated turn playing boxing trainer Mickey Goldmill in actor-writer Sylvester Stallone’s 1976 Rocky and its first two sequels, Mr Meredith selected Fort St Catherine as the appropriately ominous and haunting setting for the play. Believed to have been written between 1599 and 1606, Macbeth tells the supernaturally-tinged tale of an ambitious Scottish nobleman who seizes the throne with the aid of his scheming wife and a trio of witches. “The place was packed,” recalled former Bermuda Cultural Affairs officer Ruth Thomas, who attended the 1953 performance as a young woman. “They had chairs near the beach. It was magical, because they had the fort lit. To see the witches coming out of who knows where was fabulous. Macbeth stood at the top of the fort. It was powerful.” However, the internationally acclaimed local production also added to Macbeth’s longstanding reputation as an unlucky play for actors. According to theatrical superstition, Macbeth is said to be cursed and actors avoid saying its name when in the theatre — the euphemism “The Scottish Play” is used instead. The “Scottish Curse” — blamed for various injuries and mishaps which have occurred during productions of the play for almost 400 years — even struck down Mr Heston. At one point during the play’s run he had to rush offstage with burns to his groin area and change costumes between scenes. Someone had laundered his tights with kerosene and this apparently interacted with the hot sweat of a horse he rode across the battlements of Fort St Catherine during one scene, causing him intense pain. And in his diaries Mr Heston also recalled being “run over by a motorcycle” on the opening day of the Bermuda production. To make matters worse, when a wooden facade was set on fire for the play’s climactic battle scene, the wind shifted blowing smoke and flames towards the audience. Fortunately, no one was injured. These accidents notwithstanding, Mr Heston happily returned to Bermuda in 1954 to appear in a local production of the comedy Born Yesterday alongside its original Broadway stars, Jan Sterling and Paul Douglas. He said that the worst thing to happen to him on his return visit was getting sunburned on a South Shore beach when he was posing for publicity photographs with his co-stars. Mr Heston also maintained a once-removed link with the island for many years through his close friendship with Bermudian actress, Diana Douglas, and her second husband, American producer and writer William Darrid, who he had once shared an apartment with in New York when they were both embarking on theatrical careers. Ms Douglas, the one-time wife of granite-jawed Hollywood icon Kirk Douglas and mother of two-time Oscar winner and sometime Bermuda resident Michael Douglas, died last year at the age of 92. Mr Heston said of the Bermudian actress’ best-selling 1999 memoir In The Wings: “Diana Douglas Darrid has had a rich, full life as actress, wife and mother of Hollywood superstars, which she’s recorded with wit and wry insight into the intimacies and challenges of show business. She’s an excellent writer.” And he read Robert Frost’s poem Stopping by Wood on a Snowy Evening at the memorial service for Mr Darrid held at the Writers Guild Theatre in Beverly Hills following that part-time Bermuda resident’s death in 1992. Following the service he fondly reminisced with Bermudian family members and friends in attendance about his visits to the island.

April 18. Laws concerning the financial abuse of seniors must be overhauled, leading advocates have claimed. Age Concern executive director Claudette Fleming said an “Office of the Public Guardian” — an idea being explored by the One Bermuda Alliance — is desperately needed as Bermuda’s existing legal framework fails to protect the elderly and vulnerable, or adequately punish those who prey upon them for financial gain. Ms Fleming claimed that financial abuse is one of the more prevalent problems she deals with regarding seniors on the island — such as when someone in a position of trust gains access to a senior’s bank account, or attempts to alter their will for personal benefit. “If you don’t have the mental capacity, you are a target to be taken advantage of,” she said. The protection of seniors, children and the sick were all prominent features of November’s Throne Speech in which the OBA pledged to look into establishing an Office of the Public Guardian role. This would see the Bermuda Government assume legal responsibility to represent those without mental capacity or family representatives on matters including their finances. Earlier this month, barrister John Barritt revealed a committee of the Bermuda Bar has been formed to work towards creating “somewhere for seniors to go or powers for people to investigate”; recommendations from the Seniors Law Reform Committee have now been made to the Government. Ms Fleming called the proposed initiative “groundbreaking. An Office of the Public Guardian is exactly what’s needed.  she said. You need to strengthen the laws that punish abusers, and you need a way to keep people who have power of attorney honest, so that they’re working in the best interests of the senior across all areas.” She said that criminals thrive upon the difficulty and complexity in diagnosing dementia. This can lead to neglect if the sufferer is left to their own devices for too long, or conversely mistrust if they are prematurely declared mentally unfit to care for themselves. Progressive Labour Party MP Derrick Burgess, a former shadow minister for seniors, said that loose ends and loopholes in current laws also allowed criminals to thrive. “The legislation in place never seems to really address seniors’ issues without them jumping through hoops to get some resolution,” he told The Royal Gazette. “I would introduce a law in which matters cease after there’s a complaint to allow for an investigation, such as putting a stop to payments. At present, they do the investigation first, which can take weeks, and the (poor) treatment continues.” Mr Burgess acknowledged that the problem was further clouded by some seniors’ reluctance to report misdeeds against them, due to fear of the consequences. He also suggested that the Government should introduce a free service to help seniors draw up and amend their wills, thereby helping ensure that they are protected. And he agreed with Ms Fleming that the law should clamp down on those who try to take advantage of others’ frailties. “Whenever you abuse or take advantage of seniors or children, the punishment should be severe,” Mr Burgess said. “It has to be if you’re taking care of the vulnerable.” A spokeswoman for the Ministry of Health, Seniors and Environment said: “The Ministry is committed to addressing the known concerns regarding vulnerable populations. For this reason, the 2015 Throne Speech included initiatives to take steps to strengthen protection for seniors and persons with disabilities. This will include financial abuse. In addition, the Ministry is exploring establishing a statutory role akin to an Office of the Public Guardian, which would provide added protection for the most vulnerable. A Seniors Law Reform Committee has completed a review focused on improving the protection of seniors from financial abuse, with recommendations on amendments to legislation to ensure greater financial and personal protection of seniors.”

April 18. An extreme athlete planning to “run” from Florida to Bermuda in a bubble is considering his options after being given an ultimatum by the US Coast Guard. Using a home-made “hydro pod”, 44-year-old Reza Baluchi had announced plans to run to Bermuda before turning towards the Caribbean as part of an epic journey to promote world peace and raise funds for Plant-Unity, a charity that supports educational opportunities for children. He unsuccessfully attempted the feat in 2014, but he has reportedly been told that he must come up with a self-rescue plan before setting off or the Coast Guard would end the effort. In a statement, Petty Officer Eric Woodall said: “If Mr Baluchi intends to attempt another hydro-pod adventure on the high seas he will need to provide his plan for vessel escort and self-rescue before departing. The Coast Guard has a proud history of providing life-saving service to mariners in distress. However, we will not unnecessarily risk the lives of our Coast Guard men and women. As part of our dedicated service to this nation, we are obligated to ensure taxpayer money and resources are used efficiently and appropriately.” Mr Baluchi’s previous effort, which ended around 70 miles off the coast of St Augustine, Florida, led to a rescue effort which cost more than $140,000. While it had been reported that Mr Baluchi was considering beginning his trek today, he told the Sun Sentinel newspaper he was considering his options in the wake of the Coast Guard statement. “I don’t know what to do. I don’t want to fight with the Coast Guard. I want peace. I’m a lover, not a fighter,” he told the Florida newspaper. “I want to find a lawyer to help me. I don’t want a boat to follow me. I know it’s dangerous inside the ocean, I don’t want to risk other people. It’s my choice, my life.” 

April 17. Tributes have been paid to the “trailblazing” former Deputy Premier and retired general surgeon Clarence James, who has died aged 84. Dr James represented Pembroke West Central for 21 years, during which time he held several ministerial roles for the United Bermuda Party. As well as becoming Minister of Transport, introducing motorcycle helmet laws to the island in 1976, he was Bermuda’s first ever black Minister of Finance and also served as Minister of Health. Born in August 1931, Dr James went on to marry wife Shirley and have three children: Joanne, Robert and Charles. He served as Deputy Premier under Sir John Swan from 1983 to 1989, at the end of which he was appointed a CBE (Commander of the British Empire) by Queen Elizabeth II. A keen musician and capable businessman, he died at midday on Saturday at Agape House after being unwell for several months. Dr James’s daughter Joanne Thain said that her father had “gone home to be with the Lord. He was a wonderful and loving father, and a life guide who always encouraged us to be the best we could be. Despite my father’s busy political and medical careers, he always made time for his family. I have fond memories of taking long Sunday drives and coming to town and sharing time with him. We would often go off to ride around the bay or water ski in our little family boat. Those were the best of times. He will be missed by all of our family, but he will always be a brilliant and guiding light to all of us. He was truly loved and we will cherish his memories for ever.” Former Premier Sir John Swan last night described Dr James as a long-time friend who had made an immeasurable impact on Bermuda. “He always meant more to me than a politician or a surgeon,” he said. “He may have left us, but he left Bermuda a better place as a result of being here. We have lost a friend.” Sir John said that Dr James was always dedicated to using his skills to change the island for the better. “When he came home from school, his interest was not just to do surgery but to make Bermuda a better place,” he said. “He involved himself in the political process while at the same time working on his surgery, dedicated to both. Even outside of surgery he was responsible for saving many lives. He was very much responsible for the helmet laws that were put in place, and that not only saved many lives but prevented a lot of people that could have been badly injured. He was always someone you could call on to help figure things out.” A Progressive Labour Party spokesman extended condolences to Dr James’s family. He added: “We commend him for his life of service and his trailblazing role as Bermuda’s first black Finance Minister.” Michael Dunkley, the Premier, also offered his sympathies - calling Dr James “one of the builders of modern Bermuda”. He added: “Dr James was one of the most successful Bermudians of his generation, earning distinction as a surgeon at the Montreal General Hospital before returning home in the early 1960s to practise and later assume responsibilities at King Edward VII Memorial Hospital.” Mr Dunkley said that Dr James was a “deeply patriotic man”, whose love for Bermuda drew him to public life. He added: “His politics was driven by principles of equality and fairness, and the goal of racial harmony. He rejected the politics of hate and division, and worked to build partnership and shared prosperity between the races. Dr James was a proud, pragmatic man, intellectual, compassionate and friendly, whose voice of reason and moral leadership across decades helped guide and progress Bermudian life. In the final analysis, his life was defined by service to others. He was a great Bermudian. May he rest in peace.” 

April 17. Do you know someone in Bermuda whose courage, selflessness and hard work have changed Bermuda for the better? If so, you can submit them for consideration in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List — with honoree activities including voluntary work, arts, health, sport, education, science, business and politics. The Queen’s Certificate and Badge of Honour is awarded to individuals who have made outstanding contributions to public life or served the community over a sustained period. Where possible, nominees should be still active in their chosen area, newly retired or have had a recent significant achievement. Governor George Fergusson called the honours “a good way to say thank you”, adding: “There are many unsung heroes in Bermuda who quietly contribute in all kinds of important ways to improve the lives of Bermudians.” Michael Dunkley, the Premier, added, “This is an opportunity to pay homage to those who work tirelessly for and on behalf of others, and a chance to say thank you for years of hard work and dedication.” Nomination forms can be downloaded from www.gov.bm/governor-bermuda, and applicants is advised not to discuss the matter with their chosen nominees. Completed forms must be received by the Cabinet Office no later than 5pm on Friday April 29, and applicants will also be considered for the 2017 Queen’s New Year’s Honours List.

April 17. Thousands descended on the Botanical Gardens once more on Saturday, as the 2016 Bermuda Agriculture Exhibition celebrated its third and final day. After missing out last year, when the Government cancelled the annual Bermudian fair for financial reasons, the island showed its ardent support for the event. This year’s “Ag Show” mixed traditional and modern-day elements — featuring everything from farmyard animals and children’s art exhibits to hip-hop performances and Bollywood dancing. And, of course, the crowds watched on as highly trained horses and dogs were put through their paces in the Exhibition Ring. With barely a drop of rain all day, Saturday’s weather proved perfect for families to wander around — with excited youngsters experiencing the thrill of both meeting new animals and eating copious amounts of candy. And the event’s volunteer staff had nothing but positive things to say about their experience at this year’s fete, which launched on Thursday morning. “Not having the Ag Show last year was a great miss,” said Leo Simmons, president of the Bermuda Poultry Fancier Society. “The interest is here, you can tell by the diversity of people coming along. It’s one of the biggest community events on the calendar, and it’s like the start of the summer season.” Mr Simmons added that young visitors to the Jack King Building had greatly enjoyed learning about poultry during their time at the show. “The children have loved it and they’ve been very inquisitive,” he said. “They think we’ve painted some eggs on display blue, but they’re actually from Ameraucana chickens, which lay blue eggs.” Lucia Peniston, treasurer of the society, added: “We’ve had a lot of enquiries from people wanting to know where they can get some of these birds. It’s good to see people having that interest.” Steven Antonition, president of the Bermuda Orchid Society, commended event organizer the AG Show Ltd charity, which has assumed sole responsibility for the community fair after last year’s blip. “It has been run really well this year, I haven’t seen any hiccups at all,” he said. “It’s been busier than I’ve seen in the past as well.” BOS member Walter Carlington added: “We have orchids from around the world on show. I’ve enjoyed the partying, the plants and the learning experience.”

April 16. A gala dinner held to mark the 1916 Irish uprising against British rule and the death of thousands of Irish soldiers at the Battle of the Somme has raised around $8,000 for charity. Now the cash raised from the gala black tie event will be donated to the Eliza DoLittle organisation, which organizes food deliveries to those in need. Bermuda Irish Association president Brian Quinn said: “It went fantastically well, everyone loved it.” About 250 people attended the event, held at the Hamilton Princess last Saturday. The guest speaker George Hook, a broadcaster and journalist from Ireland, covered the history of Ireland from the 1916 uprising in Dublin, the partition of the country in 1922 into Saorstat Eireann — the Irish Free State — and Northern Ireland, which remains part of the UK, up to Ireland’s modern status as a republic. Mr Hook said that Ireland had moved from a conservative, largely Catholic society to a modern democracy, as witnessed by the country’s overwhelming backing for the legalization of gay marriage last year. And Governor George Fergusson, who played a key role in the Good Friday agreement signed between the Irish and British governments in 1998, which ended decades of conflict between Republican and Loyalist groups in Northern Ireland, discussed his bird’s eye view of the talks. The Good Friday agreement implemented power-sharing between the two sides in Northern Ireland and led to the decommissioning of weapons used by the opposing sides. Mr Fergusson, who won a standing ovation, said that, only a few years ago, a UK Governor of an Overseas Territory would not have been at an event to commemorate the 1916 Rising, which saw Republican troops battling British soldiers on the streets of Dublin. But he said it was a tribute to the advances in Irish-British relations since 1998 that he had been so warmly welcomed. The dinner also marked the start of the Battle of the Somme a few months after the Easter Rising, which claimed the lives of 3,500 Irish soldiers, many of them from the 36th Ulster Division serving with the British Army. Mr Fergusson said that the Republic of Ireland, which traditionally had not commemorated the First World War, now did, while British Armistice Day events now gave pride of place to the Irish Ambassador to the UK, who lays a wreath at the Cenotaph in London immediately after Britain’s own representatives and ahead of other ambassadors. Mr Quinn, who runs Granite Management in Hamilton, said: “It was a great tone set by George Hook and the Governor on the two countries coming together and the two communities coming together, despite their differences. It was very important to have the Governor there. A few years ago, the Governor would not have been at the event, nor would he have been invited. In the last 20 years, between the Queen’s visit to Ireland and the president of Ireland visiting Britain, it’s a huge reconciliation between two divided countries.” The event was sponsored by telecoms firm Digicel, Irish drinks companies Guinness and Jameson’s and Bermuda’s Docksiders bar and restaurant.

April 15. The referendum on marriage equality could take place in less than ten weeks but all is so far quiet on the campaign front. The two-question ballot — which will ask whether voters are in favour of same-sex marriage and whether they are in favour of same-sex civil unions — is likely to take place on Thursday, June 23, The Royal Gazette understands, though nothing has been set in stone. The date happens to coincide with the United Kingdom’s referendum on the European Union and the official referendum period there begins today, meaning the lead campaigners must follow strict rules on spending. In Bermuda, no official campaigns have been launched, though some in support of marriage equality have begun releasing material on social media suggesting they’ll urge voters to answer “yes” to both questions. Same-sex marriage opponents Preserve Marriage, meanwhile, told this newspaper yesterday that members would meet next week to discuss their campaign, which will likely encourage voters to say “no” to both. The government announced in February it would hold a referendum on the issue this summer and tabled an amendment to the Matrimonial Causes Act in Parliament, which would allow discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation in relation to weddings. It also released draft legislation for same-sex civil unions for consultation only. Preserve Marriage had pushed for a referendum and two MPs — the One Bermuda Alliance’s Sylvan Richards and the Progressive Labour Party’s Michael Weeks — pledged to table private member’s bills to ensure such a ballot took place. But the decision was criticised by the Human Rights Commission, which said it rejected the “notion that the opinion of the majority should impinge on the right of equal treatment for minorities.” Asked to confirm the date of the referendum, Acting Premier Patricia Gordon-Pamplin said the public would be “formally advised” when it was set. She noted the Premier had 90 days from March 28 — the day the Referendum (Same Sex Relationships) Act was enacted — to publish a referendum notice and the ballot had then to be held no sooner than 30 days and no later than 60 days after the notice was published. “The government certainly appreciates that the matter of same-sex relationships is a highly sensitive issue,” said Ms Gordon-Pamplin. “The public will recall that government committed to hearing all sides of the issue related to same-sex marriage and civil unions. To that end, extensive research has been undertaken to fully understand how other jurisdictions have addressed same-sex relationships and the findings have been shared with the general public. The government will put two questions on the ballot paper to allow for a full and broad appreciation as to whether same-sex marriage is supported by the community. It also allows government to have an appreciation as to whether civil union is supported by the community. So essentially, it’s government’s view that to have asked one question and not the other would not have allowed for a broader evaluation of the appreciation of the populace for either of the issues.” Lawyer Adrian Hartnett-Beasley, who got married to his partner Shane last year in New York, said having two questions could confuse voters but he would encourage his family, friends, colleagues and fellow churchgoers, to answer yes to both. Mr Hartnett-Beasley is involved in a new LGBTQ charity, OUTBermuda, but was speaking in a personal capacity. “The government has publicly stated that they have a legal obligation to provide some recognition for same-sex unions in Bermuda,” he said. “For the security and safety and legal protection of my family, I would vote in favour of civil unions, even though I’m in favour of full marriage equality because, quite frankly, something is better than nothing.” Preserve Marriage chairman Melvyn Bassett said it was “likely” his charity would opt for a “no no” campaign. “Our research clearly indicates that in the 20 countries that have embraced civil unions, within six to eight years . . . in every case it has led to same-sex marriage.” Dr Bassett agreed the government would have to take action to recognise same-sex unions because of what Ms Gordon-Pamplin has termed “significant” court rulings, here and overseas. “I think they will have to, based on human rights,” he said, adding that didn’t mean civil unions were inevitable. “I think government thinks there are other ways to address the issues raised by the LGBT community. It doesn’t have to be civil unions. It doesn’t have to be same-sex marriage.” Activist Tony Brannon posted an image on Facebook this week showing a rainbow across a Bermuda seascape, with the words “Follow the road to marriage equality” and “Yes Yes Love Must Win.”

April 15. National Football League stars enjoyed a fun evening at the “ultimate mini-golf destination in the world” yesterday. The players, who are on the island for the Bermuda Golf Classic, put their skills to the test at Bermuda Fun Golf in Dockyard. “I think it’s great – we get a chance to really meet everyone, hang out and not take the game too seriously,” NFL Hall of Famer Jerry Rice told The Royal Gazette. The former wide receiver is visiting Bermuda for the first time and described it as an “amazing” experience, despite having a little trouble adjusting to driving on the left side of the road. “That freaked me out a bit but otherwise everything is fantastic. It’s my first time in Bermuda and I’m looking forward to being back.” NFL Hall of Famer Chris Doleman was also visiting the island for the first time. “Bermuda is awesome. I’m loving it. We really enjoy the people – they’ve been absolutely wonderful – and the amenities are amazing.” He also enjoyed getting to spend some time with his fellow sportsmen and their other halves. “I think it’s fun to get out and socialize and have fun,” the former defensive end player said. For Max Starks and his wife, who are both avid mini-golfers, the evening provided a great opportunity to play one of their favourite courses. He said he and his wife have played many courses in the US, but “none compare to the difficulty and beauty of Fun Golf in Bermuda. This is the ultimate mini -golf destination in the world. I love Bermuda – the hospitality that Bermudians show us and the beauty of this entire country is amazing. We plan on coming back here as long as they’ll have us.” Billy Joe Tolliver, a 12-year NFL veteran, was so impressed by his first visit that he too has kept coming back. “I’d never been to Bermuda before last April – since that last trip here, I’ve been here five times. Everywhere you go, people are so friendly – you feel like you’re at home.” And quarterback Ryan Lindley added: “It’s very refreshing – it’s a great getaway. Everyone is very kind and sincere and there’s a real genuine attitude. Every moment is a good time.” Devon Wylie, who plays as a wide receiver, was “absolutely” looking forward to coming back after also visiting the island for the first time last year. “It’s very different but very fun – it’s not your stereotypical tropical island. It’s got a different feel than like the Bahamas; it’s got a unique and special feel. The people are really what bring you back.” He said he loved the event at Fun Golf, which “almost takes the aspect of golfing and meeting people and takes the tension out of it”. Brady Whittingham, one of the main organizers of the Bermuda Golf Classic, said the evening gave everyone a chance to get together and have fun with an activity that even Jerry Rice, the greatest wide receiver to ever play the game, would enjoy. The activity was actually one of the highlight of the entire week with the guys last year,” he said. Hakan Leuhusen Lindgren, the owner of Fun Golf, also thoroughly enjoyed the evening. He said he supported the event even if it meant closing to the public for an evening “because getting people like this in the long run is going to help Bermuda tourism.”

April 15. A covered outdoor bar area and new roof for the concession building are among the planned upgrades for Horseshoe Bay Beach. The Department of Parks has released a statement outlining plans for the popular tourist spot, which Chops Ltd has promised will be turned into a “classic, vibrant, laid-back Bermuda beach experience." They include:

The public can inspect and make comment on the proposals at the main office of the Department of Parks. All comments must be in writing and hand delivered to the Department of Parks, 169 South Road Paget, by no later than 5pm on Friday, April 22. 

April 15, A former chairman and past trustees of the Bermuda Hospitals Charitable Trust will be honored at a special presentation on Monday. According to the BHCT, Phil Butterfield and trustees Gil Tucker and Wilbert Warner were instrumental in helping move the island’s healthcare forward. “Mr Butterfield helped spearhead one of the biggest capital campaigns in Bermuda’s healthcare history and its benefits have been and will continue to be far reaching,” a spokeswoman said. “The new Acute Care wing is a testament to the hard work and dedication of all those who became involved in the revitalization of KEMH and the Why It Matters Campaign. She added that he led the BHCT through the years of coming together as a community to help raise the funds needed to provide the best possible care for all who need it. “Mr Butterfield along with his BHCT board of Trustees helped move the island’s healthcare forward and have left a legacy for all.” In his commemorative message, the Premier, who will be attending the reception at Bacardi International, said: “The Acute Care Wing would not exist today, if it were not for the hard work and dedication by a few individuals. So I must extend a very special thanks to those of you involved in the fundraising drive, particularly Mr Philip Butterfield ... who has led this cause for over 10 years.” Executive members of Bermuda’s business world, the Bermuda Hospitals Board and the BHCT board of trustees will join in honoring the hard work and dedication of Mr Butterfield, Mr Tucker and Dr Warner with a special presentation at the cocktail reception, which starts at 6pm.

April 15. Day two of the 2016 Agricultural Exhibition is under way at the Botanical Gardens, with hundreds of children enjoying a break from school to mix with the animals, plants and crafts. The Royal Gazette will bring you all the highlights throughout the day on our Facebook page: www.facebook.com/royalgazette.bm.

April 15. A policy restricting cruise visitors solely to one-day bus passes out of Dockyard has been poorly received, according to industry sources who describe the new scheme as unworkable. With the cruise ship season now under way, large numbers of tourists have left the Visitor Information Centre “frustrated” at being denied options. Wednesday proved trying for staff at the centre, and the return of the Norwegian Breakaway on April 27, coinciding with the Summit the next day, stands to bring 6,500 guests to the West End. However, staff at the official centre are said to be under orders from the transport ministry only to sell $19 day passes to visitors, even though regular $4.50 tokens are sold nearby at the Bermuda Craft Market. Sources contacted this newspaper after The Royal Gazette yesterday reported the new policy, which a ministry spokesman said was aimed at “levelling the playing field” for minibus and taxi drivers, as well as reducing pressure on public transportation. One ascribed the move to “an inability to manage the transport system. At this point we are just a few days into the cruise ship season, and already hundreds of people have left the Visitor Information Centre frustrated.” Visitors can pay $5 cash to board buses and ferries, or $7 per person for a one-way minibus ticket to Horseshoe Bay Beach, but are denied two- and three-day passes. Meanwhile, the ferry service from Dockyard to St George’s is not yet in service. Sources close to the industry who spoke with this newspaper said the restrictive policy had also angered the Bermuda Tourism Authority, which was taking flak. The news came as the BTA yesterday announced that cruise ships could bring up to 20,000 people to the island between April 11 and April 18. The Breakaway is not the only giant soon to call on Bermuda: the Anthem of the Seas, which also has a top passenger capacity of 4,300, is set to arrive in Dockyard on May 2. “People in Dockyard are saying it’s not going over very well,” said Rick Olson, who operates a concession at Horseshoe Beach — a major stop-off for West End visitors. “I’m very concerned about it. We go through the same thing every year. If we have thousands of people coming into Dockyard, we can’t move them all with minibuses; it’s just not going to work. We haven’t even got busy yet, but when the season does pick up it will be a real challenge.” Buses from Dockyard are limited, according to the ministry, with a spokesman saying they were “only departing at half-hour intervals.” But the rationale of using the policy to steer visitors towards the private sector was branded “discriminatory” by visitors commenting online on yesterday’s article. Criticism has spread to social media sites used by tourists, readers said. “This strategy will not work,” wrote one. “It will only anger the cruise ship tourists like myself. When I visit for my overnight cruise stay in May I will buy two one-day passes, use the public transportation (ferries and buses), be slightly irritated about the few dollars extra I had to spend, refuse to spend my money on a taxi or tour, and be very angry that I am being discriminated against because I am a cruise tourist. It will cloud my impression of your country and may negatively influence any return trip I may take and how I spend my money.” 

April 15. Deputy Premier Bob Richards said a summons issued by Public Accounts Committee chairman David Burt to bring the financial secretary before the committee was not legally valid. Mr Burt, however, insisted that the summons was valid and Mr Richard’s claim was “idiotic”, questioning why government is attempting to keep details of the airport contracts secret. At a press conference yesterday, Mr Richards, the Minister of Finance, said that a summons could only be issued on the agreement of the committee rather than by the chairman. “During my tenure we inaugurated public meetings and issued summonses — including one to a sitting minister,” he said. “But they were issued with the consensus of the bipartisan committee — not by the chairman alone. As the most recent summonses were written and delivered by the chairman without prior committee approval, they are not valid.” Mr Richards also said the development agreements of the airport project should not be released publicly yet as negotiations are still under way. “The schedules include commercially sensitive information that we cannot release while we are still in negotiations with CCC and Aecon. Parts of the ADA, which I signed last summer, bind us to keep such sensitive information confidential. This is for the benefit of all parties concerned. Releasing these schedules contrary to our agreement would jeopardize Bermuda’s reputation as a responsible and reliable business partner. Once the parties reach a final agreement, then all documents that relate to our agreement can, should and will be made public.” His statement came a day after four One Bermuda Alliance MPs failed to attend a scheduled meeting of the bipartisan committee, forcing its postponement. Financial secretary Anthony Manders had been summoned by Mr Burt, the Shadow Minister of Finance, to present copies of the Airport Development Agreement at that meeting. Mr Manders was in attendance for the meeting with a lawyer. When the committee did not reach a quorum, a fresh summons was handed to him by Mr Burt. While OBA MP Cole Simons said the non-appearance was due to scheduling conflicts, when questioned yesterday Mr Richards said the issue of the summons also played a part. “Mr Manders had been summoned and we didn’t think the summons was valid,” he said. “Some members had business elsewhere. There was no point in having that meeting and they had other things they had to do. It was a combination of factors, but certainly the fact that the summons was not valid was one reason.” Asked by The Royal Gazette why the OBA did not raise the issues at the PAC meeting yesterday and instead held a press conference today, he referenced the fact that he had returned from the RIMS conference in San Diego only yesterday. “I got back yesterday,” he said. “I wasn’t going to send my financial secretary into a meeting where he would be grilled on something that was not valid. If the summons isn’t valid, then he shouldn’t be there. He is a senior government official, and he should not respond to summons that are not valid.” Responding to the comments last night Mr Burt maintained that the summons was valid, saying that the position was supported by legislation and by the Speaker of the House Randy Horton. Mr Burt also dismissed the suggestion that he had moved unilaterally, stating that the PAC voted unanimously to request the Airport Development Agreement from the financial secretary last November. “For him to say that I acted alone in this case is a lie,” he said. “It was a decision made in a PAC meeting heard in a public sitting. He knows the PAC requested this.” He also said further elements of the contracts can and should be released, saying that money is already being spent on the airport project. Mr Burt asked: “If this contract is still under negotiation, how is it that work is happening at the airport? How is it we are appropriating and spending money then? How could the terms and definitions be a secret? How can the schedule of fees that are going to be charged to the people at the airport be a secret? How can you say all these items that should fall under public oversight be secrets?”

April 15. A meeting of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) yesterday was called off after all four One Bermuda Alliance members failed to attend, leaving the committee without a quorum. Financial secretary Anthony Manders, who had been summoned to attend the meeting to present copies of the Airport Development Agreement, was present in the Senate Chamber with a lawyer. Chairman David Burt, the Shadow Minister of Finance, said Jeff Sousa and Glen Smith had given advance notice that they would not be able to attend, but no such warning was given by either Cole Simons or Susan Jackson. In addition to Mr Burt, PLP committee members Wayne Furbert and Lovitta Foggo were present, but the Standing Orders require a quorum of at least four members for a meeting to take place. Addressing the media and members of the public, Mr Burt said that the OBA had requested a private meeting of the PAC in which they could discuss rescinding the summons for Mr Manders. “Of course, that is not something that is in order,” Mr Burt said. “Once something has been issued you cannot then go back on it. It’s outside the rules of the House and it’s outside standing orders. So that is not something that is going to be entertained. For whatever reason, the members that had indicated they were going to be here are not present at this time.” A statement by Mr Simons yesterday afternoon said that the OBA members were all unable to attend due to other professional commitments. “Unfortunately, none of the Government members of the PAC were able to attend today’s meeting because of prior commitments already in place when the meeting was scheduled and because of unexpected professional commitments,” he said. “Apologies have been sent to the chairman and we look forward to resuming the committee’s important work next week.” A fresh summons was served on Mr Manders, warning him to attend the next scheduled PAC meeting with a copy of the contracts for the airport project. Speaking after the postponement, Mr Burt said he was disappointed by the non-attendance, but that the committee would continue to press on to ensure that Bermuda gets the best value for money with the airport redevelopment deal. “Regardless of how we feel towards the airport, where some people may be in support of it and some people may be in opposition to it, the biggest challenge we all have is the PAC is here to exercise oversight. That is our job, that is our responsibility, and we are supposed to do it in a non-partisan fashion. We do not have a place to put an opinion as to whether we believe the airport is a good project or not. That is the responsibility of the elected government. Our responsibility, as the PAC, is to ensure that the rules are being followed and to ensure that value for money comes from the project. What we know from the airport development agreement thus far is that money is being spent, the contract was signed way back in August; we understand that things are proceeding, consultants have been hired and the taxpayers are increasingly on the hook. What we do not know is to what extent the taxpayers are on the hook, to what extent are the commitments the government signed in August, and that is what we have to know as the only oversight committee in Parliament.” A PLP spokesman said last night the government appeared to be attempting to avoid revealing details of the airport plan. “The airport contract was signed on August 24 of last year and the PAC requested the airport contract in November,” the spokesman said. “Five months later, the people’s representatives are no closer to understanding what the OBA has committed taxpayers to over the next 30 years. The OBA is clearly trying to avoid revealing the details. If they were not, the PAC chairman wouldn’t have had to issue a summons to force the government’s hand. The promised transparency of this un-tendered project is non-existent, meanwhile Aecon continues to move ahead with the project. One must assume that given the five months the OBA has taken to reveal the details of the contract that they are trying to buy time. The PLP will not allow the OBA to break the rules and the law regarding the airport redevelopment, and our members will continue to use every avenue to ensure that Bermuda gets the best deal for our limited tax dollars.”

April 15. Acclaimed Broadway and film actress Anne Jackson, who spent six weeks in Bermuda in 1976 working alongside husband Eli Wallach, Jaqueline Bisset and Robert Shaw on the treasure hunting thriller The Deep, died this week at the age of 90. Ms Jackson, who collaborated extensively with her husband of 66 years, making them among the best-known acting couples in American theatre, died on Tuesday at her home in Manhattan. According to The New York Times, Ms Jackson and Mr Wallach “appeared together 13 times on Broadway, seven times off Broadway, and occasionally in movies and on television, where they did most of their work, both together and apart, in the later years of their careers.” In 1976 Mr Wallach, perhaps best known for his roles in such movies as The Magnificent Seven and The Good, The Bad & The Ugly, was cast as Bermudian sea-dog Adam Coffin in a big-budget adaptation of Peter Benchley’s best-selling novel The Deep. Coffin was the treacherous sidekick to Mr Shaw’s treasure-hunting St David’s Islander Romer Treece, a character modeled on Bermudian diving legend Teddy Tucker, a longtime friend and mentor to author Mr Benchley. The Deep told the story of a vacationing couple played by Ms Bisset and Nick Nolte who stumble upon two sunken treasures on Bermuda’s reefs — one 17th-century Spanish gold, the other a fortune in morphine aboard the wreck of a Second World War cargo ship. The follow-up to Mr Benchley’s first maritime sensation Jaws, made into a blockbuster 1975 film by director Steven Spielberg starring Mr Shaw, Roy Scheider and Richard Dreyfuss, The Deep immediately rose to the top of worldwide best-seller lists when it was published in 1976. The subsequent film adaptation directed by Peter Yates, shot largely on location in Bermuda, was a box-office smash when it was released in 1977. “The library scene in which Gail (Ms Bisset) and David (Mr Nolte) are directed towards Romer Treece was a simple interior scene we were due to shoot at the Maritime Museum [now the National Museum of Bermuda],” recalled The Deep producer Peter Guber. “Except for one slight problem: just days before the filming was scheduled, we didn’t have the librarian cast. At least this gap turned out to be a blessing in disguise when Anne Jackson, an actress of formidable skill and reputation, graciously agreed to do the role for us — partly because Eli had ended up in a cameo in her own last film and, as she cheerfully put it, she owed him one. Anne, a small, pleasant-looking woman with a powerful presence, could hardly have set out to look less remarkable than she had to appear in The Deep, decked out in a grey wig, cashmere sweater and too-sturdy shoes. Yet somehow, in that get-up, with fewer than ten lines to speak, she played the part to cool perfection and absolutely stole the scene.” While Ms Jackson’s small role ended up being cut from the original theatrical version of The Deep, it was restored for subsequent TV airings and home-video releases of the film. The Deep ended up becoming something of a family affair for Ms Jackson and Mr Wallach with son Peter, who accompanied his parents to Bermuda, being cast as a younger version of his father’s Adam Coffin character in a brief flashback sequence. A Tony Award-nominee for her role in writer Paddy Chayefsky’s 1956 Broadway drama Middle of the Night, Ms Jackson’s professional collaboration with Mr Wallach, who died in 2014, spanned almost half a century. From the early 1950s to 2000 they appeared together in classics by George Bernard Shaw, Tennessee Williams and Eugène Ionesco as well as offbeat comedies by Murray Schisgal. Pennsylvania-born Ms Jackson also had memorable roles in such movies as Dirty Dingus Magee and director Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining and appeared in TV shows including The Untouchables, Marcus Welby, MD and Law & Order. “A lot of people are saying, ‘Sorry for your loss,’” said Peter Wallach this week. “Actually, the part I don’t accept is the loss part because it was a gift. My parents gave this tremendous gift, which they gave to the world and they gave to their children.” Aside from her son, Ms Jackson is survived by two daughters, Roberta Wallach and Katherine Wallach, three grandchildren and one great-grandchild.

April 15. A plan to erect a Bailey bridge over the St George’s swing bridge has been abandoned in favour of strengthening the bridge from below. A spokeswoman for the Ministry of Public Works said work on a full-scale remediation for the bridge had already begun. “We will be concentrating initially on the swing span which is presently the limiting section of the bridge,” the spokeswoman said. “Solutions have been reviewed and the ministry has prepared a recommendation for cabinet which will be reviewed in due course.” The bridge — which links St George’s to St David’s — was reduced to a single lane of traffic in December after an engineering survey found the bridge was seriously structurally compromised. Craig Cannonier, the Minister of Public Works, announced shortly after that a Bailey bridge would be erected over the structure while work was carried out. However, he said that some concerns were raised about how it would affect traffic in and out of St George’s. “This would have required periodic closures of the bridge and, consequently, some level of service disruption to commuters wishing to traverse the bridge,” the spokeswoman said. “This was understandably of some concern to local St George’s residents, especially with regards to access to emergency services. However, following a detailed inspection and assessment of the bridge, it was determined that it may be possible to strengthen the bridge from underneath without having to close the bridge to traffic. Accordingly, this solution was determined to be the preferable option.” While a public meeting was told there was a limit of two months to have a Bailey bridge in place, the spokesman said there are no safety concerns with the bridge with the weight restrictions imposed. “The strengthening works will enable us to remove the weight limit and will keep the bridge safe in the medium term while a long-term solution is developed. Had the Bailey bridge approach been appropriate, then we believe that the two-month period would have been reasonable, however we believe that this is a more measured and correct response to the situation.” A request for proposal was put out in The Royal Gazette this week, and the ministry expect responses by April 22 and a contract soon after. “The weight restriction will be lifted once the works are complete but the single-lane traffic will remain,” she said. “The start and completion dates for the works will be determined from the bidders’ responses.”

April 15. A deal that will see Atlantic Tele-Networks, the American telecommunications company, take a controlling interest in KeyTech has passed one of its last hurdles, with the Regulatory Authority of Bermuda granting approval. That decision now goes to Grant Gibbons, the economic development minister, for final approval. Reacting to the news that the deal has moved a step nearer to completion, Lloyd Fray, KeyTech’s chief executive officer, said: “We are delighted to have received approval from the Regulatory Authority. Other governmental and regulatory consents are still pending, and we look forward to closing the transaction promptly after their receipt.” The deal, which was backed by KeyTech shareholders in October, gives ATN a 51 per cent interest in KeyTech in exchange for its shares in CellOne plus approximately $42 million in cash. The result would leave KeyTech as the sole owner of CellOne, while ATN would have a controlling interest in KeyTech. KeyTech’s subsidiaries include Cable Co and Logic (which includes the merged Bermuda CableVision). When the deal is complete ATN and Digicel will dominate the island’s telecommunications market. Digicel took over Bermuda Telephone Company last year. At its April 7 board meeting, the Regulatory Authority approved the proposed consolidation of ATN and KeyTech, and said the decision would be sent to the minister for approval. Atlantic Tele-Networks is a trading company that invests in the communications and renewable-energy industries. It is based in Massachusetts and has a connection with Bermuda that stretches back to 1998 when it was the primary investor in CellOne, which merged with KeyTech as an affiliate in 2011. ATN is listed on the Nasdaq stock exchange and has a market capitalization of $1.2 billion. Among ATN’s subsidiaries is Commnet, which provides telecommunications to much of the central and western US states. ATN also has telecoms subsidiaries in the US Virgin Islands, Aruba, and Guyana.

April 14. Thousands of cruise ship passengers and crew have been invading the island this week with more due to arrive over the next few days. In the space of a week — from April 11 to April 18 — some 20,000 visitors will provide a much-needed boost to the local economy. According to the Bermuda Tourism Authority (BTA), nine ships were scheduled to arrive, carrying 12,981 passengers and 7,734 crew. All three ports — Dockyard, Hamilton and St George’s — will be occupied. “We have been working on increased activity this year for stakeholders in Hamilton and St George’s and now it’s happening,” said Pat Phillip-Fairn, the BTA’s chief product and experiences development officer. "Since 2014, we have been strategically targeting the premium cruise ship brands to come to Bermuda because they often have smaller ships that are able to fit into our smaller ports. We’re seeing the fruits of that labour now. And perhaps more importantly, these cruise lines often carry passengers willing to spend more when they visit a destination.” This week, Hamilton has or will see three calls. Two ships will be in St George’s and four in Dockyard. For the year, Hamilton cruise calls are expected to go up from 15 to 18 and St George’s cruise calls will go up from two to four. Mrs Phillip-Fairn added: “The percentage increases of calls for Hamilton and St George’s are up sharply and these calls are precious because there is a limited number of small ships in this part of the world. That’s why we encourage our stakeholders to stay keenly aware of when these ships arrive. We want to make sure they don’t miss these opportunities to welcome cruise visitors and win their business. That could mean opening early and staying open late if that’s what it takes. We’re happy they have the opportunity to decide how best to take advantage of these increased calls.” According to the BTA “the latest projections for 2016 forecast a percentage increase in economic impact from cruise passenger and crew expenditure as a result of a greater number of cruise calls and a greater number of visitors with higher spending capacity. In 2015, there was an estimated economic impact of $71 million from cruise tourism, a combination of government taxes, cruise passenger expenditure and crew member expenditure.” The full 2016 cruise ship schedule is available online via the Government’s Department of Marine & Ports website.

April 14. A new transport policy for Dockyard, aimed at leveling the playing field for the private sector, will shortly be put to the test with the arrival of the Norwegian Breakaway. The policy limits public transportation passes for sale at the Visitor Information Centre to one-day passes, thus promoting taxis and minibuses as the better service for cruise ship visitors. According to a spokesman for the Ministry of Tourism Development and Transport, the new protocol “would allow more taxis and minibus operators to take advantage of demand for daily transportation to Horseshoe Bay Beach and nearby attractions, and reduce the demand for the bus service. Whenever changes are introduced there is always some level of apprehension. However, we feel the new policy is in the best interest of promoting the use of private sector transportation. Passengers buying two- and three-day public passes could easily end up delayed by the limited number of buses running from Dockyard at half-hour intervals. They may also then have to wait long periods for a bus, and then negotiate on foot the steep hill to and from Horseshoe Bay Beach. Taxis and minibuses deliver right down to the beach.” The new measures will ensure that residents find space on the buses from the West End during cruise ship season, the spokesman added. The season has strained Dockyard transportation in years gone by, and faces its first challenge with the April 27 arrival of the Breakaway, which has a top capacity of nearly 4,400 passengers and a crew of more than 1,500. The ministry is monitoring the new arrangement to adjust it if necessary, the spokesman said. “It is also worth mentioning that the ministry is currently reviewing and considering the implementation of an electronic fare system that will address some of the anomalies we are currently challenged with as a result of using multi-day passes, tickets, tokens and cash as approved fare media.”

April 14. A self-confessed drug addict who was caught red-handed with more than $200,000 of cocaine and heroin as well as $10,000 in cash has been jailed. Dwayne Gilbert was detained after officers spotted him sat in a car outside a supermarket counting out the money. He later claimed during trial that he had found the stash of money and drugs buried on the Railway Trail and planned on using the drugs for his own personal use. Yesterday in Supreme Court, Gilbert, who has several previous convictions for possessing drugs, was jailed for six years. He had previously been found guilty of possessing cocaine, crack cocaine, and heroin. But jurors cleared him of the more serious charge of intending to supply the drugs to other people. The 53-year-old was also convicted of possessing a set of scales for use in the preparation of drugs and possessing the proceeds of criminal conduct. Puisne Judge Carlisle Greaves branded the case “an unusual one” remarking: “It is the first case or the only case in which such a large quantity of drugs were found in possession of a defendant together with such a large quantity of cash, that yet resulted in a guilty verdict to simple possession instead of possession with intent to supply.” Gilbert was arrested on August 12, 2014, after officers spotted him counting out large quantities of cash as he sat in a car in the Arnold’s car park in Pembroke. They also recovered drugs in his pocket and in a ruck sack that also contained $11,928 in cash. Detectives from the drugs unit then descended on his Southampton home and discovered over 500g of cocaine packaged in ziplock bags in his bedroom. Gilbert stood trial in February and admitted he was a drug addict. However, he maintained he had dug up the stash of money and drugs after seeing suspicious lights on the Railway Trail. He maintained that he had no intention of passing the drugs on to anyone else. During yesterday’s sentencing hearing Gilbert apologized for his actions. “I want to apologize to the courts and society for my actions, and also my family,” he said. Judge Greaves imposed sentences of three years and six months on the two charges relating to the drugs found on Gilbert and in his car when he was arrested. He sentenced him to six years imprisonment for the drugs found at his Southampton home and he imposed sentences of 12 months each for possessing drugs equipment and the proceeds of crime. He ordered that all the five sentences should run concurrently.

April 14. A new restaurant specializing in fries with a twist is set to open tomorrow. FryDays is the brainchild of store owner Mstira Weeks, chef Janelle Williams and a silent investor. The new food outlet is located in the former East Meets West restaurant in the Bermudiana Arcade, on Queen Street. Ms Weeks is the owner of Mystique’s boutique, also located in the arcade. “We’re just trying to offer something different to Bermuda. The silent investor approached me and we went from there,” said Ms Weeks. “It’s gourmet fries and fries from around the world. Bermudians like something different. When people try it, I hope they come back.” Ms Weeks said she was sure the market could support a new idea in hospitality. “Food is something people will always buy and if they like it, they will come back.” Ms Weeks said Ms Williams, who has a decade of experience in the culinary arts, also planned to offer a catering side, with two menus, one based on the restaurant’s offerings and one offering different kinds of food. “We will definitely be doing breakfast waffles. We have a little bit of seating, but it will be mostly takeaway,” she said. Ms Williams returned to Bermuda from a short stint at the upmarket Piping Rock Country Club, in New York, where she worked with celebrity chef Blake Verity, who starred in the TV show Iron Chef America. She said: “This was an opportunity available before I left to go to New York, but I was already in transition to go there.” And she promised: “There is no place like FryDays. It’s unique. This is a beginning.” The new restaurant will offer a variety of fries and waffles, with a range of special toppings, as well as cakes and healthy eating options. Fish sandwiches, using waffles as a base, and burgers will also be on offer. The firm has recruited Dante Durham, a Lance Corporal in the Royal Bermuda Regiment, as a trainee chef. Ms Williams said: “In the catering side of the business we’re offering two menus that will be released when we open. There will be a FryDays menu, which will piggyback off the restaurant menu, and the second menu will be a creative menu with Italian, pretty much anything the customer is looking for.”

April 14. Opinion. Noah Feldman, a Bloomberg View columnist, is a professor of constitutional and international law at Harvard University and the author of six books, most recently Cool War: The Future of Global Competition. "After the Supreme Court’s landmark gay marriage decision, can a constitutional right to plural marriage be far behind? It seemed that way in 2013, when a federal district court in Utah followed the Supreme Court ruling by striking down part of the state’s bigamy law in a case involving the family featured in the television show Sister Wives. But on Monday a federal appeals court reversed the decision. It said that the case was moot because Utah prosecutors had shelved prosecution of the Sister Wives family and announced a new policy to prosecute polygamists only if they were also suspected of fraud or abuse. The decision is a sign that the federal courts would like polygamy prosecutions to go away on their own without having to declare a fundamental constitutional right to marry more than one person. The plaintiffs in the original case are Kody Brown; his legal wife, Meri Brown; and their three “sister wives”, Janelle Brown, Christine Brown and Robyn Sullivan. All belong to the Apostolic United Brethren Church, a group that accepts the Book of Mormon and Joseph Smith’s prophecy, including his encouragement of plural marriage. Among Mormon fundamentalist groups, the AUB is relatively moderate. Its members interact with their neighbors and do not typically live in communes dominated by a single charismatic leader. The church considers the mainstream Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to be fulfilling a divine mission to spread Mormonism, unlike some Mormon fundamentalist groups that oppose it. The day after the Sister Wives premiere aired in 2010, the police department of Lehi, Utah, announced in response to pressure that it was investigating the Browns for violating the state’s anti-bigamy law. Utah County Attorney Jeffrey Buhman subsequently announced he was considering a prosecution — a position he stuck to even after the Browns moved to Nevada. The Browns, represented by Jonathan Turley, of George Washington University School of Law, went to federal court seeking a declaration that the bigamy law was unconstitutional. Before the court could rule, Buhman announced in a sworn court affidavit that he had adopted a new, formal policy regarding prosecution under the statute. Under the policy, his office would prosecute bigamy only if the victim was “induced to marry through their partner’s fraud, misrepresentation or omission”, or if the person charged was “also engaged in some type of abuse, violence or fraud”. The Browns were not suspected of fraud or abuse, so, Buhman said, he did not intend to prosecute them. Nevertheless, the district court ruled on the Browns’ claim, holding that the Utah bigamy law violated the constitutional guarantees of free exercise of religion and due process. In its opinion, reversing that ruling this week, a panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit declared that the Browns’ case was moot before the district court decided it, because the announced policy did not cover the Browns and the prosecutor had said he wouldn’t charge them. The opinion was written by Judge Scott Matheson Jr, a member of Utah’s political-legal aristocracy. Matheson’s father was governor of the state and his brother is a congressman. Matheson, a Rhodes scholar, Yale Law School graduate and former US Attorney, was a Democratic candidate for governor in 2004 and was appointed to the bench by president Barack Obama in 2009. Matheson’s fascinating background matters because he combines impeccable, liberal legal credentials with deep connections to Utah’s mostly Mormon political elite. Matheson’s reasoning was simple but not completely convincing. The constitutional idea behind the doctrine of “mootness” is that, under Article III Section 2 of the Constitution, the judicial power extends only to “cases” or “controversies”. According to the traditional, judicial interpretation of the clause, a case or controversy exists only if there is a live case between two adversarial parties. You can’t challenge the constitutionality of a law unless you have a stake in it. And you can’t ordinarily challenge a criminal law unless you’ve been charged with a crime, or are engaged in conduct that makes it probable that you will be charged. But, of course, the Browns could still be charged under the county policy if Buhman or another prosecutor came to think that they were engaged in fraud or abuse. Given that an investigation had originally been announced, it’s reasonable to think that the danger of prosecution lingered, which would surely be enough to make the case live. The court could certainly have gone the other way. A logical conclusion is that Matheson and the other judges wanted to avoid declaring a fundamental right to plural marriage. Not only would such a decision be controversial nationally, it would also be controversial in Utah, where the mainstream Mormon Church has spent a century disentangling itself from the legacy of polygamy. The court’s goal is surely for polygamy prosecutions to disappear on their own, without judicial intervention. That’s a nice aspiration. But it is unlikely to happen so long as prosecutors want to keep the statute handy for prosecuting polygamists perceived as abusive or fraudulent. Some day, the courts are going to decide whether there is a fundamental right to marry as many people as you like."

April 14. Her great-uncle was a fighter pilot in the Second World War — but Abigail Brewer will be able to enjoy soaring through the air without any fear of violence. Abigail, 13, is one of three Bermuda High School students who will be treated to a private flight over the island, after her tribute to her ancestor John Brewer won over the judges in an aviation-themed writing contest. Along with Alexandra Quinn-Sierra and Olivia Taylor, she will take to the skies in a plane piloted by Heather Nicholds, a manager at St George’s-based aerial tour company Blue Sky Flights. John Brewer died in September 1939 after crashing in German enemy territory while fighting for Britain. In her essay about him, Year 9 student Abigail wrote: “We can finally enjoy the excitement of soaring through the air without having to worry about violence or death. “When the sky is crystal clear and fish under the water are visible, I can think about how fortunate I am to have ancestors and friends who sacrificed their lives to ensure that their families can grow up living a pleasant and safe life.” Year 9 student Alexandra, 13, submitted a creative writing piece imagining what Bermuda must look like from above. She wrote: “The sparkling turquoise sea stretches for miles and miles, the shadows from coral reefs pattern the sea and some palm trees sway gently in the wind. Rows and rows of candy-colored houses cover the hills and people look up, smile and wave as you pass by. You smile and wave back, even though you know they cannot see you.” Year 10 student Olivia, 14, spent a week creating a poster showcasing her artistic abilities and detailing her enjoyment of “out of the box things”. She also included a quotation from American aviation pioneer Amelia Earhart: “Adventure is worthwhile in itself.” Olivia told The Royal Gazette that she was inspired by the pilot’s self-determination. “I’ve always looked up to Amelia. She didn’t listen to anyone, she just went ahead and did things,” she said. Ms Nicholds said that the competition had proven an “inspiring” way to connect with students, adding that the winning youngsters would be “blown away” seeing Bermuda’s beauty from the plane’s perspective. Also on the judging panel with Ms Nicholds were secondary English teachers Louise Neame, Lorraine Silvia and Martin McGovern, as well as head of school Linda Parker.

April 14. RG Editorial. "At last, it’s under way. The work of the Commission of Inquiry into the Auditor-General’s scathing reports on the Bermuda Government’s finances between 2010 and 2012 has started. Expectations from the public will be high — and rightly so. The slipshod management of public money during those years was both disgraceful and deeply damaging. Taxpayers deserve to know how and why it happened, who allowed it and whether funds were misappropriated. All residents continue to pay the price for the profligacy of that period, a time when the debt juggernaut charged into top gear and started careering downhill. It has taken a few years of relative austerity just to apply the brakes, but we are still at least a couple of years and several more tax increases away from the day when the Minister of Finance can project a balanced budget for the year ahead. The $2.3 billion national debt is a burden we must all shoulder. Servicing the debt costs more than every ministry bar one and this limits the Government’s ability to pay for health, education and transport services, for badly needed infrastructure upgrades and to employ the next generation of civil servants. It also necessitates tax increases that reduce every individual’s spending power and dissuade businesses from hiring. Its effects are broad and deep, and will last for many years to come. If the careless management of public money evident in Heather Jacobs Matthews’s reports was not the only reason why the debt became unsustainably large, it was certainly a significant contributor. Her predecessor in the Auditor-General’s office, Larry Dennis, also found evidence that financial instructions were being ignored on a worryingly routine basis. Their findings point to a cultural problem within Government that may go back many years. It would appear that the lines dividing the responsibilities of politicians and civil servants became blurred. It is the politician’s job to make policy and the civil servant’s job to enact that policy within the rules. It is downright wrong for senior civil servants to follow the orders of a micromanaging minister when doing so means breaching the rules. The financial instructions that civil servants sign up to are there to protect taxpayers and to limit opportunities for corruption — and no minister’s demands should override them. In practice it takes backbone for a permanent secretary to refuse a minister’s orders, particularly when there are fears of jeopardizing a career and the benefits that come with it. However, in principle, government employees at all levels answer to the public before any politician. That is why they are known as civil servants. While Mrs Jacobs Matthews has already established that rules were frequently ignored, it is to be hoped the commission’s efforts will give us some insight into why this happened. It is difficult to believe that such widespread breaches were all down to ignorance, although that is no defence in itself. So the motivations of individuals in repeatedly throwing the rule book out of the window will be key to discovering the core reasons behind the mass abandonment of controls. Light will be cast on the relationship between politicians and civil servants, and this will help to determine whether any corruption took place. The commissioners have a weighty responsibility to work quickly, dig deep and provide the public with clarity over what happened to their money. It is not surprising that suspicions linger around the events of the period in question, given that rules were broken in the awarding of contracts and jaw-dropping cost overruns became the norm. The commissioners’ work will go some way towards allaying or confirming such suspicions. If their findings warrant it, disciplinary measures, even criminal investigations and attempts to salvage misappropriated funds, could follow. The public hearing on June 27 will have an element of theatre about it, but the grilling of the people who allowed such lax control over the public purse will have a serious purpose. The process will emphasise that those in public office or those entrusted as guardians of public money are truly accountable for their actions. It seems an obvious point to make, but given the conspicuous lack of consequences so far for those involved in the shambles described by Mrs Jacobs Matthews, one could be forgiven for thinking otherwise. The put-upon taxpayers being asked to dig ever deeper into their pockets to deal with the fiscal consequences will be naturally hungry for justice and full disclosure over the events of 2010 to 2012. Just as important is that the inquiry leads to an end to cavalier attitudes to public-sector financial controls, a clarification of the roles and responsibilities of politicians and civil servants, and a realization that the people of Bermuda will not tolerate corruption. The key point is that this inquiry is as much about the future as it is about the past."

April 13. Bermuda has been highlighted in the row over tax avoidance in the UK. News websites have reported that national broadcaster, the BBC, had nearly $120 million from its pension invested by Bermuda-based investment managers Nephila Capital, according to its own financial statements for 2013. The spotlight was turned on offshore jurisdictions after the Panama Papers leak of 11.5 pages of documents from law firm Mossack Fonseca. Prime Minister David Cameron came under fire after the Panama Papers revealed that his late father Ian had set up Bahamas-based Blairmore Holdings through Mossack Fonseca. The Prime Minister said he and his wife, Samantha, had owned shares in Blairmore, a dollar-denominated global equity investment fund, which they sold in 2010. Mr Cameron said he had made around $48,000 from the sale of the shares. The prime minister defended his father, calling accusations of tax evasion “hurtful and profoundly untrue”. And he added that he personally had sold his shares in his father’s company in 2010, before he became Prime Minister. The website Guido Fawkes said: “Cameron’s taxes and the Panama Papers have led the BBC news bulletins for the past week, yet licence fee payers remain unenlightened about Auntie’s own offshore financial arrangements.” The site said nearly $120 million of the BBC’s $12.8 billion employee benefits scheme had been invested by Nephila. It added: “As the BBC lines up pundits to jump on the outrage bus about Dave’s £30,000 in a Panamanian unit trust, they stashed £84 million with investors based in Bermuda.” A BBC spokesman said: “All pension funds manage a range of investments to diversify the risk in their portfolios. The BBC pension scheme’s investments abroad don’t give us any tax advantage as pension-scheme investments aren’t typically taxable.”

April 13. A group representing Bermuda’s largest insurers is firmly in favour of the island striving to meet new “country-by-country” income reporting standards aimed at forcing multinational companies to pay taxes where profits are generated. The initiative is part of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development’s Base Erosion and Profit Shifting action plan, which aims to curb the use of elaborate corporate structures to funnel profits from where they are earned to low-tax jurisdictions. Yesterday, European Union tax officials put forward their own proposals to clamp down on tax avoidance in line with the OECD initiatives. Jonathan Hill, the EU tax commissioner said he wanted “to make sure that taxes are paid where profits are generated”. The proposals would force companies that generate more than 750 million euros ($850 million) in global revenues and do business in the EU to publish how much income tax they pay in each member state and how much they pay on outside-EU business. Many of Bermuda’s largest commercial reinsurers would meet those criteria. Mr Hill added the rules would specifically target companies that do business in nations or territories that disregard good governance standards on taxation. “So if large multinationals active in Europe are paying tax somewhere like Panama, to take one example, they would need to make that public,” Hill said, taking a swipe at the Central American nation at the heart of the latest tax avoidance scandal. Bradley Kading, president of the Association of Bermuda insurers and Reinsurers, said it was important for Bermuda to ensure it met the tax transparency standards being demanded by the international community. “The new EU anti-tax avoidance directive will lead to creation of a non-co-operative jurisdiction list. Key factors in evaluating and selecting those countries will be adoption of key OECD provisions on tax law co-operation, enforcement and transparency. Bermuda needs to continue to address its standing on those matters with the correct EU officials. One matter pending in front of the Ministry of Finance is adoption of the OECD country-by-country tax and income reporting standards for Bermuda multinationals. Abir strongly supports Bermuda’s adoption of that standard for the current calendar year.” Mr Kading added that the Bermuda Government had worked well in Brussels to explain “Bermuda’s leading commitments to tax transparency, co-operation and disclosure. Bermuda needs to be at the forefront of adoption of OECD standards and the Bermuda Monetary Authority needs to continue its excellent track record of meeting international regulatory standards." This year is key for the island in meeting those international standards, as scrutiny on offshore financial centres continues to ramp up in the wake of the Panama Papers which revealed widespread tax avoidance by the wealthy. Just last month came the confirmation of Solvency II equivalence, the recognition that the island’s insurance regulatory standards matched those of the EU. On Monday, Michael Dunkley, the Premier, announced that Bermuda would expedite access to its register of beneficial ownership for the UK’s National Crime Agency, a development described by Mr Kading as “good news”. Mr Kading added: “Bermuda’s compliance with the OECD tax standards, a reputation for co-operation with other governments, the compliance with anti-money laundering requirements and the meeting of international regulatory standards by the BMA will all be part of Bermuda’s case in demonstrating it is a co-operative jurisdiction in which the EU can have confidence. We hope all stakeholders in Bermuda understand the importance of these actions and value the leadership of the government in meeting them.”

April 13. Cyber security and cyber risk are hot topics at the Risk and Insurance Management Society conference and exhibition, being held this week in San Diego, California. And Bermuda has put itself in a prime position to attract new business, whether it is associated with cyber risk or more traditional insurance risks, by taking a high-powered delegation to the event. The conference comes hot on the heels of Bermuda securing coveted Solvency II equivalence with the European Union recognizing that the island’s insurance regulation is at the same level as the new and enhanced EU insurance rules. Being able to blow that particular trumpet at Rims, which attracts 10,000 industry delegates, was one way of creating an impression. And it did. Michael Dunkley, the Premier, who is part of the Bermuda team at the conference, said the reaction to the Solvency II news had been “very positive. We have worked hard to meet that standard and we’re delighted that we did. Many people have expressed delight at the accomplishment." The island has also found itself well placed to differentiate itself from other offshore jurisdictions through its respected and robust regulations. A point somewhat borne out by the lack of reference to Bermuda in the so-called Panama Papers. The timing of the conference so close to the Solvency II news and the tax avoidance controversy stirred by the Panama leaks has been fortuitous from Bermuda’s perspective, according to Ross Webber, chief executive officer of the Bermuda Business Development Agency. “It’s an excellent opportunity for us to put forward a united and compelling message about Bermuda,” he explained, praising the collaborative approach of Government, Bermudian-based companies, and agencies. While Mr Dunkley said: “We’ve spent a lot of time talking to the press. We wanted to show that Bermuda works well together, and we are a very sound and safe jurisdiction.” The Premier said that was evident with the decision by XL Group last month to redomicile from Ireland to Bermuda. This point was shared by Grant Gibbons, economic development minister, who said people in the industry had taken note of XL’s decision. Also representing the Government at Rims was Bob Richards, the finance minister, who said many media outlets had tended to stereotype offshore financial centres as being one and the same in the wake of the Panama Papers. However, he said it had allowed Bermuda to differentiate itself from other jurisdictions. “That’s important. It allows us to tell the Bermuda story. Over here people know Bermuda. We are well-known and respected here.” Mr Richards said topics of discussion at Rims had included market innovations, including ILS. He added: “From what I’ve heard it has all been very positive.” The Bermuda delegation have given interviews to media outlets including Business Insurance and Reactions magazines, Insurance Insider, RIMS TV and AM Best TV. Mr Dunkley met Julie Pemberton, the Rims president and Mary Roth, the Rims chief executive officer, and toured the industry booths at the exhibition hall. The Bermuda booth was handing out “sunny yellow and silver” Bermuda bags to attendees. Jeremy Cox, chief executive of the Bermuda Monetary Authority, is another member of the Bermuda team at Rims. He said: “The people who come to the booth have been asking how we have been able to process new applications. It is great to get good feedback on incorporations.” While there had been no specific questions on company formations, Mr Cox said he found it encouraging that there had been delegates making their way to the kiosk to say they had successfully formed a company in Bermuda. Bermuda has a sizeable contingent of more than 200 at the conference, representing government, regulators, business leaders and others. Mr Cox said: “It’s a good group of senior people. When you have that collection of talent here it says a lot about Bermuda. “No one with a query about Bermuda has come to the kiosk and not had their questions answered.” He said Rims was “an opportunity to show that Bermuda has been doing all the right things”. Mr Cox added that the island has shown itself to be an active participant and leader in the arena of international regulations, and in establishing mutual recognition with major global organisations, as demonstrated by securing Solvency II equivalency and a memorandum of understanding with the US National Association of Insurance Commissioners. For Bermuda it hasn’t all been about business at Rims. Dr Gibbons, in his capacity as acting tourism minister, helped representatives of the Bermuda Tourism Authority to promote the island as a destination for visitors. “Business and hospitality go hand in hand,” he said, explaining that delegates had been told about the new hotel projects in St George’s and at Morgan’s Point. Yesterday evening the BDA was hosting its invitation-only networking reception for key industry representatives and other executives. Representatives from numerous Bermudian-based companies are attending Rims, including: Aon, Appleby, Arch Insurance Group, Artex, Arthur J Gallagher, Aspen Insurance, Axis Insurance, Beecher Carlson, Bermuda Commercial Bank, Butterfield Bank, Canopius Underwriting Bermuda, Chubb, Clarien Bank, Conyers, Endurance, EY, HSBC, JLT, KPMG, Markel Bermuda, Marsh Inc, PwC, R & Q Quest Management Services, Willis Towers Watson, XL Catlin, and Zurich. The conference, which started on Sunday, ends today.

April 13. Opposition politician Wayne Furbert helped to set up a company in Bermuda with the law firm at the centre of the Panama Papers leak while he was in Cabinet. Mr Furbert was financial controller and a director of Mossfon Corporate Services (Bermuda) Limited — which was initially part-owned by Mossack Fonseca – for more than a decade. He was involved with the company from its incorporation in 1995 until it was dissolved in 2006, according to records obtained from the Registrar of Companies. There is no suggestion that the Hamilton West MP was helping to facilitate any illegal transactions, nor that there was anything unusual or untoward about the activities of the locally registered company. Mossack Fonseca is a Panamanian law firm, described by international media as the world’s fourth biggest provider of offshore services, employing 600 staff in 42 countries. The massive leak of 11.5 million documents by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists from the law firm’s database earlier this month has shone a light on the financial affairs of world leaders and other public figures but Bermuda has not featured prominently so far. Mr Furbert told The Royal Gazette last night that he "never put any funds into Mossfon Bermuda and it never made any money. Any time they [Mossack Fonseca] wanted to send business to Bermuda, it was through that company,” he said. “If someone wanted to set up a company in Bermuda, then Mossfon Bermuda was the vehicle that they set it up through. It was peanuts. The fees [for setting up companies] were so low. It was just small work.” Mr Furbert, an accountant, said the company offered corporate secretarial services to Mossack Fonseca clients here who wanted to set up offshore companies and trusts. Customers here may have wanted, for example, to set up a company or a trust in another jurisdiction to hold US securities and, in doing so, they could legitimately avoid paying certain taxes in the United States. Mr Furbert said: “People set up trusts all the time. It was a very small organisation that didn’t make very much money at all. They called it Mossack Fonseca Bermuda because it was a brand name.” The backbencher said the driving force behind the company was a British trust lawyer called Robert Miller, who worked at Richards, Francis & Francis law firm. When he left the island, according to Mr Furbert, the business dwindled to almost nothing. The records held in the archives of the Registrar of Companies show that Mossfon Corporate Services (Bermuda) was incorporated in July 1995 by Mr Furbert, Mr Miller and lawyers Arnold Francis and Edward Bailey. The memorandum of association lists the company as having 12,000 shares valued at $1 each. Mr Furbert held 600 — or 5 per cent — of the shares. The largest shareholder was a company called Ardon Management Services Limited — a subsidiary of Richards, Francis & Francis law firm — with 7,800 shares (65 per cent). Mr Bailey and the late Mr Francis, from Richards, Francis & Francis, signed the memorandum, along with Mr Furbert. Mr Miller was named as a separate shareholder with 1,800 — 15 per cent — of the shares. Mossfon Holdings held the final 15 per cent. The company gave its address as the Arango Orillac Building, East 54th Street, Panama City, Republic of Panama. In 1995, the registered office of Mossfon Corporate Services was given as the Cedarpark Centre on Cedar Avenue, where Richards, Francis & Francis was also based. In March 1996, Mr Francis and Mr Miller filed an annual return of shareholdings, which stated that the 12,000 shares in Mossfon Corporate Services (Bermuda) were now held entirely by Bermudians. Over the years, the address of the registered office changed. In 1998, it moved to Parliament Street, under the auspices of the Cedar Trust Company, another subsidiary of Richards, Francis & Francis. The Cedar Trust Company and the name Robert Miller have previously cropped up in a separate cache of leaked documents published by the ICIJ: the Offshore Leaks database in 2013. Those leaks named Robert Miller as an officer of Cedar Trust and linked him with a number of offshore entities. There was no suggestion that Mr Miller broke the law or acted improperly. In 2003, the annual return of shareholdings stated that Mossfon Corporate Services (Bermuda) was 85 per cent Bermudian-owned, with the directors being 66 per cent Bermudian. Mr Furbert and another director, whose name was not printed, signed the form. Mr Furbert’s home address in Hamilton Parish was given as the registered office. The last annual return of shareholders was filed by Mr Furbert on July 15, 2005, when he was again named as a director. The company was dissolved by the Registrar on August 18 the following year, on the basis that it was no longer operating. Ardon Management Services had been dissolved in 2004. Mr Furbert, who was community and cultural affairs minister for the United Bermuda Party when he helped set up Mossfon Bermuda, said he went to Panama to visit the offices of Mossack Fonseca during the late 1990s to see how its operation worked. But he said though there were high hopes for Mossfon Bermuda, it didn’t pan out into a profitable business. He continued filing paperwork with the Registrar of Companies even when the firm was no longer operating on the basis that he might revive it. “But it didn’t work out so I just let it die,” he said. Mr Furbert was in Cabinet until 1998, became UBP leader in 2006 and resigned in 2007, before quitting the party in 2008. He was an independent MP before joining the Progressive Labour Party in 2010. He has voluntarily declared his financial interests since 2008 in the register for parliamentarians held at the House of Assembly. The register was introduced in 1998 but sat dormant for years. Mr Furbert said there were no hidden owners of Mossfon Bermuda and the names listed on the publicly available papers at the Registrar of Companies were the beneficial owners. Mr Bailey told this newspaper that though his signature was on the incorporation document he didn’t remember Mossfon Bermuda, as he was head of litigation at Richards, Francis & Francis, and not involved in trust law. “If I can’t remember it, it certainly didn’t have any great significance,” he said. “My function with Richards, Francis & Francis was really with the litigation. My signature being on there was probably more by accident than by design.”

April 13. The Information Commissioner’s Office, where members of the public can examine the Public Access to Information (Pati) Act as well as finding out how to file a Pati request, is extending its hours of operation on Wednesdays. Information Commissioner Gitanjali Gutierrez explained that the office would be open until 7.00pm in order to “accommodate members of the public who may not be able to reach the office during regular business hours.” Usual business hours on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday (from 9.00am to 5.00pm) will remain the same, and on Fridays, it will be open from 9.00am to 4.30pm. “Our staff have discussed how to best accommodate individuals whose work schedules or location make it difficult to come into Hamilton, access the resources in our office on a drop-in basis, and then return to their commitments during a break in their day,” stated Ms Gutierrez. “We have agreed to extend our hours on Wednesday evenings so people can come in from the East or West End after work, and so people also do not have to use their lunch break to visit our office unless they want to. They may come to find out how and where to file a Pati request, want to learn more generally about the Public Access to Information (Pati) Act, or want to make arrangements for our staff to present an educational programme to their group.” The office has a collection of all of the Information Statements published by public authorities. These statements describe the records the public authorities hold and the contact information for submitting a Pati request to various authorities. Staff are also available to explain how the Pati request process works, how to ask the Information Commissioner for an independent review, and what the exemptions (legitimate reasons a public authority can refuse access) in the Pati Act mean. The office is located on Parliament Street, near the former Police Station.

April 13. Rubis Energy Bermuda is buying Bermuda Gas in a $17.7 million deal. Almost a year after Bermuda Gas exited its retail appliances business, the company is set to change hands. There will be no job losses. Rubis is the island’s leading importer of propane gas. It approached Ascendant Group, the parent company of Bermuda Gas, and expressed an interest in buying its propane distribution and commercial service business. The companies have since entered into a binding agreement, whereby Bermuda Gas and Utility Company will be sold to Rubis in a deal estimated at about $17.7 million. Ascendant Group, which is also the parent company of Belco, had not been looking to sell Bermuda Gas, but decided to do so after an “attractive valuation” of the company by Rubis. Bermuda Gas achieved an operating profit of $656,000 in the first six months of 2015, according to an earnings report. That figure excluded the impact of restructuring charges and related expenses from the closure of its retail appliance and service business lines last June. The closure of those elements of the business resulted in a one-off restructuring charge of $1.4 million to Bermuda Gas. Acquiring Bermuda Gas is viewed as a compelling business move by Rubis, which owns a number of gas stations on the island, together with petroleum and chemical storage facilities. “The Bermuda Gas acquisition represents a strategic expansion of Rubis’s existing LPG business in Bermuda,” said Graham Redford, managing director. “Rubis is currently the Island’s leading importer of LPG and the integration of the supply and distribution chains will allow us to expand infrastructure capabilities to better serve our customers.” Mr Redford said all 18 employees of Bermuda Gas will remain with the company, and all existing supply agreements and equipment warranties will be honored. He added: “One of the key advantages of this acquisition to our staff and customers, is being able to combine the knowledge and expertise of Rubis’s global LPG operations with a company that understands the complexities of the local business environment and is 100 per cent staffed by Bermudians.” Rubis Energy Bermuda is part of the Rubis group, a French-based international company involved in the storage distribution and sale of petroleum, LPG, chemical products and fertilisers. It has a market capitalization of $3 billion. Commenting on the deal, Walter Higgins, Ascendant Group chief executive officer, said: “While Ascendant was not actively seeking to exit the propane distribution business, the sale of Bermuda Gas to a well-respected, experienced local company at an attractive valuation provides an opportunity for the company to reserve capital for anticipated new energy infrastructure investment and other corporate needs.” The company said that as Bermuda Gas transitions to Rubis the business will remain at its location on Serpentine Road.

April 12. Membership has been announced for a ten-person team looking into amendments to the Pathways to Status Bill, with insurance CEO William Madeiros appointed chairman. Hailed last night in a government statement as representing a good cross section of the community, it includes One Bermuda Alliance backbencher Mark Pettingill and Progressive Labour Party MP Walton Brown. Other members are Belinda Wright, Warren Jones, Dennis Fagundo, Crystal Caesar, Rick Woolridge, Lynne Winfield and Malika Musson. The pathways initiative for long-term residents to apply for permanent residency and Bermudian status was dogged by controversy shortly after it was announced on February 5. Parliamentary debate of the Bill was called off on March 15 amid five days of protests demanding bipartisan and collaborative reform of the island’s immigration laws. Calling on that occasion for the development of a working group, Michael Dunkley said that the proposed permanent residency for residents of 15 years had proven its most contentious element, and imposed a three-month delay. The Premier added that there had been a consensus on other issues; such as status for children born on Bermuda and cases of mixed-status families. The working group would also examine labour regulations and their impact on Bermudian workers, Mr Dunkley said. Opposition calls for bipartisan reform date back to the early days of the One Bermuda Alliance administration, particularly with the January 2013 decision to drop term limits. In March 2015, a bill brought to the Senate to stimulate property sales to non-Bermudians brought protesters into the Cabinet building, with Mr Brown telling this newspaper that immigration was “immersed in 50 years of race and nationality — the only way to break this is with a consensus”. Last night’s statement commended “the collaborative approach that has been undertaken over the past few weeks, with the end result being a working group that represents a good cross section of the community. “The working group will begin its work and will announce shortly their terms of reference which will form their approach as to how the consultative process will work. This should include the collection of public submissions, consultation with the wider public and stakeholder groups, among other things to ensure a balanced approach to arriving at sound policy recommendations. The public will be kept informed of the recommendations as part of the ongoing communications process.”

April 12. Cash-strapped citizens have withdrawn more than $17 million from their workplace pensions since the rules on accessing retirement savings were relaxed. Hundreds of people have tapped into their pension pots to pay for rent, school fees, mortgages and medical bills, according to figures shared with The Royal Gazette by the Ministry of Finance. A total of $13.9 million has been paid out under a 2010 amendment to the law regarding occupational pensions. The change in the law had prompted 1,789 applications for withdrawals by the end of last year, 1,488 of which were approved. The legislation only allows money to be paid out for certain types of hardship and, of the successful applications, 662 were for rent arrears, 481 were for educational fees, 226 were for mortgage arrears and 119 were for medical bills. A further $3.3 million has gone to public servants under changes which came into force in 2012. There have been 253 successful applications to tap into that pot, with 126 for education, 70 for rent arrears, 50 for mortgage arrears and seven for medical bills. The amount withdrawn from the occupational pension pot represents 0.4 per cent of the estimated $3.2 billion of assets held. The figure taken from the government plan amounts to about 0.5 per cent of the $575.7 million fund, according to the last available valuation from March 2015. Finance minister Bob Richards told this newspaper he didn’t believe the withdrawals had done “significant damage to the pension fund pool”, a view echoed by economics lecturer Craig Simmons, who said they represented a very small amount of the total assets. Mr Richards said the One Bermuda Alliance raised “one or two red flags” when former premier and finance minister Paula Cox relaxed the rules on pension withdrawals during the recession but “went along with it”. He said the number of applications showed “there was a need” but he added: “I suspect that the withdrawals may be leveling off.” The deputy premier added that government would monitor the situation but had no plans to repeal the amendment, even as Bermuda’s economy improves. “At the end of the day, this money belongs to the pensioners, to the people,” he said. “The whole idea is so that people will have money when they need it. Our job really is to get the economy strong enough so that people don’t feel they have to do that.” Mr Simmons noted that the amount withdrawn from workplace pensions was less than half a per cent. “Relatively speaking, I don’t think it’s a significant amount given the severity of the recession. “I think most people would say that what we have been through is a once-in-a-lifetime phenomenon and that if people had the ability to dip into a pension pot that would have been a smart decision. It’s unlikely to happen again. The ability to withdraw from retirement funds should continue and applications should be successful if the circumstances warrant it. It’s a savings pot for individuals. Savings are there for rainy days. No one is taking the money out for a vacation.” Economist Robert Stewart said younger people taking money from their retirement savings could end up being a problem for society in the future, when those individuals reach pensionable age without the finances to fund their final years. "The island has a growing elderly population, with a higher number of those aged 65 and over than ever before. A great number of those people have inadequate funds so they are either living on charity from their children or charity from charities or, alternatively, getting money from the government’s social welfare programmes. Insufficient pension pots could place a burden on the rest of the population, as those in need seek financial aid. As an example, consider the likelihood of increased health insurance premiums, caused by elderly patients using hospital services without the means to pay, having their debts written off and the hospital increasing its fees to cover the costs. Younger people making hardship withdrawals from their workplace pensions would ultimately lose out the most, due to the nature of compound interest, ie the way investment returns themselves generate future gains. If somebody takes money out in their 20s or 30s they are doing something extremely foolish.. The money you put in accumulates over the years. If you have an eight per cent return [on your pension], the money doubles in nine years and quadruples in 20. You are doing yourself, big time, out of money, depending on your age. But the relaxed rules on withdrawals should remain in place. My own view, which is a bit 19th century, is let people make their own decisions and if they make bad decisions, at the end of the day, they have to pay the costs. But it’s better to educate people.” Mr Stewart noted that the public servants’ pension pot — the public service superannuation fund — was already vastly underfunded, according to actuarial studies. All employers in Bermuda must provide occupational pension plans for their Bermudian staff, under legislation which came into force in 2000.

April 12. The Commission of Inquiry will host its first public hearing on June 27, scrutinizing the previous government’s use of taxpayer funds. Members have reportedly completed a week of preparatory meetings, during which they established a timetable leading up to the hearing. The commission, established by Michael Dunkley, the Premier, has been tasked with investigating the findings of former Auditor-General Heather Jacobs Matthews’s report on the Consolidated Fund for the Financial Years 2010, 2011 and 2012. The report noted $78.8 million worth of contracts in 2010 and 2011 which were not put out to tender, including $18.1 million in the now-defunct Department of Tourism. The report also found $5 million in spending without contracts or agreements and $14 million in spending which did not receive the required cabinet approval. The commission is chaired by international jurist and former Bermuda Court of Appeal judge Sir Anthony Evans, with lawyer and former MP John Barritt, businesswoman Fiona Luck and businessman Kumi Bradshaw serving as members. Sir Anthony said that commission members had identified a number of key dates that will guide their process. “The commission intends to commence hearing evidence at a public hearing in Hamilton on June 27. Our intention is to conduct a thorough and detailed examination into matters referred to in section three of the Auditor-General’s report or relevant to them. It is important to note that our investigation may result in members considering matters that relate to events occurring before or after the specific dates in section three of the Auditor-General’s report. We will notify those who will be requested or required to give evidence at the hearing on or before May 5. In addition, any person who would like to give oral or written evidence related to matters listed in section three is asked to notify the commission as soon as possible and, if possible, no later than May 20. This notification may be made in writing, addressed to me as chairman, or by telephone or e-mail. All of these communications will be treated in confidence.” As part of the commission’s mandate, it will investigate any transactions in which contracts were not tendered, contracts were awarded without cabinet approval when it was required, payments made without contracts and any cases where there was an irregularity in the tendering, award or payment process. Specific projects expected to come under scrutiny include renovations at the Ministry of Finance and Department of Human Resources, the central laboratory building project, IT deficiencies, payments to consultants and cases involving duplicate payments or overpayments. In each case, they are tasked with identifying how breaches arose, the adequacy of the safeguards in place, make recommendations, refer evidence of criminal activity to the police or the Director of Public Prosecutions and look at ways to secure recompense. Sir Anthony said that commission members were fully committed to conducting their deliberations in a fair, objective and independent manner, stating: “We are acutely aware of the importance of our inquiry and the many economic and social challenges Bermuda continues to face. “Under any circumstances, fairness, objectivity and independence would be critical components of our deliberations. The current environment only serves to heighten the need for vigilance in this regard. We want the process to be clear and, in that regard, we will issue regular updates. We also intend to launch a simple website later this month with the information that should help keep the public abreast of our progress.”

April 12. Government has put out a request for proposal for repairs needed at the St George’s Swing Bridge. In a notice appearing on page 26 of yesterday’s edition of The Royal Gazette, the Department of Works and Engineering has called on tenders for “installation of interim repair measures” at the bridge. The Swing Bridge — which links St David’s to St George’s — has been closed for two years, allowing motorists access but forcing larger ships to take alternate routes. Last December traffic was reduced to a single lane and had a weight limit put in place after an engineering survey was carried out. Craig Cannonier, the Minister of Public Works, said the bridge had become “seriously structurally compromised”. A new swing bridge for the site could cost between $10 and $15 million, according to some estimates. The Government notice states: “The project involves the procurement and fabrication of structural steel elements and their installation to the underside of the Swing Bridge Deck in St George’s.” Full details and tender documents are available at the Ministry’s office in the Government Post Office Building on Church Street, with competed tenders due by April 22.

April 12. Workers at new airport support services firm CI² are locked in a dispute over severance pay with former operator BAS-Serco. Now the Labour Department has stepped in to mediate the dispute, which started after BAS-Serco lost the contract. And Bermuda Public Services Union president Jason Hayward warned that Government may end up having to foot the bill for redundancy payments. Mr Hayward said: “The BPSU considers the company’s actions to be unlawful. The terminations were by reasons of redundancy as defined in section 30 of the Employment Act 2000. BAS-Serco informed the employees that they will not be paid severance allowance upon termination and have not done so to date, despite the members having the right to severance pay under the section 23 and 30 of the Employment Act 2000. In addition, the company has also failed to supply the employees with certificates of termination which would state the reason for termination. The BPSU has also been informed that this conflict has arisen because the Bermuda Government may ultimately be responsible for the redundancy pay of the employees based on wording which is contained in the previous air, maintenance and operations service contract between BAS-Serco and the Bermuda Government. And in an effort by BAS-Serco to secure current contractual arrangements they are placing the Government’s interest and their own over the company’s former long-serving employees.” BAS Group of Companies CEO Ian Cook could not be contacted last night. The dispute affects around 25 former BAS-Serco staff, with non-unionized employees understood to have sought legal advice on their position. Attempts to contact BAS-Serco yesterday were unsuccessful. It was announced last October the CI² was to take over from BAS-Serco, which has provided support operations at the airport for 20 years, from the start of this month. The Atlanta, Georgia, based firm, which already provides similar services in Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands, pledged to retain all 40 staff at present employed by BAS-Serco. BAS-Serco provided air traffic control, ground electronics and the Bermuda Weather Service. CI² also supplies air traffic control and weather observation to a total of 20 aircraft control towers in the US. When the contract was announced, CI² founder and president Andrella Kenner said that a “dedicated professional workforce was already in place in Bermuda. The company feels that professionals who have dedicated their careers as air traffic controllers, meteorologists, weather forecasters, ground electronic maintenance providers and airport maintenance service providers play an essential role in the airports past as well as its future.” BAS Group, originally involved in the aircraft servicing business, has expanded to a group of ten companies. It now provides services like facilities management to Hamilton office blocks like the Argus Building, the Bermuda Monetary Authority, Corner House and HSBC.

April 12. Bermuda’s public primary schools fell below international averages in the results of the most recent Cambridge Primary Checkpoint results. The figures, which date back to May of 2015, show Bermuda lagging behind in English, math and science compared to other schools with the Cambridge curriculum. Bermudian schools scored an average of 3.3 out of 6 for both English and science, along with 2.4 in mathematics. Cambridge averages for the respective subjects were 3.7, 4.2 and 3.8 Scores between 2 and 3 are deemed “OK”, while scores between 3 and 4 are classified as “good”. The scores mark a year-on-year decrease in all three subjects, however the international average Cambridge score fell slightly this year in both English and science. Results for 18 individual primary schools were placed on the Ministry’s website yesterday. Just one school — St David’s Primary — managed to exceed the international Cambridge averages in all three subjects. While the school topped the others listed in both English and science, Dalton E Tucker claimed the highest score for mathematics. On the other side of the spectrum Victor Scott Primary scored the lowest in both science and math, while West End Primary received the lowest scores in English. Math scores were the most problematic, with a third of the listed schools scoring below 2 out of 6 in the subject — performance labeled as “poor”. A statement from the Department of Education said: “The Cambridge Primary Checkpoint results are diagnostic in that they give schools an international benchmark of student performance which identifies specific learning needs in the core subjects.” The Cambridge Primary Checkpoint results are designed for education systems to use in the final year of primary school education. Freddie Evans, the acting commissioner of education, said the checkpoint results were shared with primary school leaders to help facilitate discussions and evaluate performance. “Students and their parents receive a comprehensive feedback form per subject on how well students performed individually and in comparison to the rest of their class peers, and all students in the system at the primary school level,” Dr Evans said. "It is important to understand that the results of Cambridge Primary Checkpoint tests are purely diagnostic in nature and not appropriate to use in silo as a ranking tool for assessing school success or school achievement. In this regard, all primary public schools should be looked at in their entirety by taking other associated factors into consideration as many P6 classes vary in both size and composition as it relates to student complexities at the different primary schools.” He added that the results were intended to help highlight areas of success and where improvements need to be made so that schools can review their strategies for the next class of students. “Checkpoint is an innovative diagnostic test used as a valuable tool by schools as it provides feedback on student’s strengths and weaknesses in key subject areas,” he said. “More importantly, parents have a transferable academic record of their child’s progress as they transition through the system from primary to senior school level.” Checkpoints do not include passes or fails. Instead, each subject is assigned a score range of zero to six and the higher the score, the greater the level of readiness as the student transitions to the senior level to sit their IGCSE exam.

April 12. A team of acrobatic students will provide an energy boost to this year’s Agriculture Show when they take to the main stage later this week. The youth jumpers from the Bermuda Heart Foundation’s Jump 2B Fit programme range in age from 7 to 18 and come from both public and private middle and primary schools. The team will be performing on Friday and Saturday at 2.15pm on the main entertainment stage in the Botanical Gardens. They will be performing a combination of single rope skills, double dutch skills, and gymnastics tumbling whilst in the ropes. The team train in the sport of jump rope, and have performed all over the island. They have also traveled internationally to represent the island in competition at the World Jump Rope and Pan American competitions.

April 11. Bermuda is to share its register of ownership of companies with the UK’s National Crime Agency. Michael Dunkley, the Premier, said Bermuda already shares information on beneficial ownership with Britain’s tax authorities within 24 hours of a request — but had agreed to extend access. Mr Dunkley said the move reflected “Bermuda’s long-held commitment to deterring money-laundering and financial crime from our shores”. He added: “The NCA has always had access to Bermuda’s central register via its longstanding criminal co-operation arrangement, but this involved certain time-consuming procedures. The new agreement notes that the NCA can now directly approach the Bermuda central register authorities, who maintain the register on behalf of the Minister of Finance, and includes expressed reference to our leading status as the only British Overseas Territory to have a continually updated central register already in place.” The move follows a request earlier this month from the NCA for faster access to ownership information in the wake of the release of the massive leak of millions of pages of law firm documents contained in the Panama Papers. Bob Richards, the finance minister, said then that British police officers were frustrated by delays which could stretch to months in getting information. He added that the NCA wanted urgent requests to be met within an hour. UK Prime Minister David Cameron said yesterday that most UK Overseas Territories, including the Cayman Islands and the British Virgin Islands, would now share information on company ownership there with the British authorities to cut down on possibilities for tax avoidance. He added: “For the first time UK police and law enforcement will be able to see exactly who really owns and controls every company incorporated in these territories — Bermuda, Isle of Man, Jersey, the lot.” But Mr Cameron said he does not believe most UK MPs should be forced to make their returns public. He explained: “We should think carefully before abandoning completely all taxpayer confidentiality in this house as some have suggested. I think there is a strong case for the prime minister and the leader of the opposition, and for the chancellor and shadow chancellor, because they are people who are or who wish to be responsible for the nation’s finances.” Mr Richards has pointed out several times in international forums that Bermuda — unlike other offshore jurisdictions — had held a register of beneficial ownership for about 70 years. And he added that the register, although not public, was open to overseas authorities investigating allegations of crime or tax evasion.

April 11. Bermuda will use a major US conference to continue to differentiate the island from other offshore jurisdictions in the wake of the “Panama Papers” controversy that focused global attention on international financial centres. Ross Webber, chairman of the Bermuda Business Development Agency, said the annual Risk and Insurance Management Society conference, which started yesterday in San Diego, was an ideal opportunity to differentiate Bermuda from places like Panama and the British Virgin Islands. “We are putting forward a clear and consistent message about Bermuda’s value to the global economies,” he said. “We’re highlighting the contribution of our insurance and reinsurance industry, in particular to powerhouse nations — including those that sometimes, unfortunately, find it all too convenient to blame us for what are essentially onshore tax policy issues. Rims presents a timely opportunity to counter such misinformation and clarify Bermuda’s worth to the world.” Around 200 representatives of Bermuda’s insurance and reinsurance industry and professional services sector will be joined at the conference by Government leaders, including Michael Dunkley, the Premier, Bob Richards, the finance minister, and Grant Gibbons, economic development minister. Mr Dunkley said: “Rims is always an important highlight for Bermuda. Once again, Team Bermuda is well represented with key individuals from the Bermuda Government and the private sector. This year, we are continuing to focus on strengthening our existing relationships and building new ones.” Mr Dunkley added that Bermuda’s success in getting European Union equivalence under its Solvency II regulations, which allows the island to compete on a level playing field with EU-based companies, would also be highlighted. “We are using the Rims opportunity to reinforce Bermuda’s leading reputation of being the largest captive domicile with a sophisticated business environment and well-regulated framework. Certainly, part of our story will be our recent Solvency II achievement, as well as the fact business confidence in Bermuda continues to grow. So we are definitely looking forward to the Rims event and telling the Bermuda story of success.” The Bermuda Monetary Authority, the island’s financial regulators, will also be out in force at the conference, with CEO Jeremy Cox, Shelby Weldon, the director of licensing and authorizations, chairman Gerald Simons, managing director Craig Swan and Melissa Morton, the assistant director of authorizations in attendance. Mr Weldon said: “A hot topic at Rims is likely to be the recent news that Bermuda’s enhanced commercial reinsurance and insurance regime has be confirmed as fully equivalent with the European Union’s Solvency II directive. In fact, we have already had companies interested in meeting with us as they consider their options in various jurisdictions. It’s an exciting time for Bermuda and as always, the authority is delighted to be part of the annual Bermuda delegation to the conference.”

April 11. Hundreds gathered on Front Street last night to enjoy the finale of the City Food Festival. Spectators listened to music and enjoyed tastes from more than a dozen local restaurants, ranging from Jamaican Grill to Port O’ Call. While the event was initially scheduled to take place on Saturday, weather concerns led organizers to delay the event until last night. In the final round of the festivals chef competition, Richard “Dick” Reno narrowly beat Royal Bermuda Yacht Club chef Daamian Simmons to take the top prize. Both chefs were given 30 minutes to create plates featuring shrimp, bacon, potatoes, bell peppers and red onion, working in front of a crowd of cheering supporters at the number five car park. Judges praised both chefs for their flavors and their use of ingredients, but Mr Reno came out ahead by three points. Mr Reno, of The Smokin’ Barrel, said he was excited to win the competition with his plate, saying: “I just tried to keep things as simple as possible and really highlight the selected ingredients.” For his efforts, he was presented a cheque for $500, while Mr Simmons took home a $350 cheque. He was far from the only winner of the day however, with cooks both professional and amateur showing off their takes on Bermudian classics like rum swizzle, fishcakes and fish chowder. Visitor Aaron Scott, from Delaware, said he enjoyed having the opportunity to try several island favorites in the festive atmosphere. “Everything smells great and tastes just as good,” he said. “I was warned the swizzle has a bit of a kick, and I have not been disappointed.”

April 11. The Bermuda Government is being urged to prioritize tackling an “unsavoury trend” of robberies which has seen nine small businesses targeted in the past 15 weeks. Six of the nine incidents since Boxing Day last year saw staff threatened with either a knife or a firearm, and four have taken place in Pembroke. All but one of the incidents saw the suspect escape with cash from the earmarked store, restaurant or gas station. The exception, in which a robber was chased out of Empire Grocery store in Devonshire on January 12, is also the only incident to date in which a conviction has been secured. Fifty-year-old Bernett Colin Simmons received three years in prison after pleading guilty to the crime. Walter Roban, Shadow Minister of Home Affairs, reiterated his desire to introduce broader CCTV coverage to the island — urging the Government to treat this as a “high priority” issue. He told The Royal Gazette: “Economic exasperation brings about desperation, and unfortunately people are going after small businesses, which don’t have the same level of security and are therefore seen as easier prey.” Mr Roban also spoke of his concern as to the human cost of the robberies. He said: “Property can be replaced and repaired, but it’s difficult to repair the emotional trauma that the victims of these crimes go through.” Paula Clarke, who represents the retail division of the Bermuda Chamber of Commerce, said that BCC members had discussed how to tighten security procedures following the spate of robberies. She also welcomed the input of the Bermuda Police Service, and encouraged officers and store owners to maintain close contact to ensure a free flow of information. “This unsavory trend has not gone unnoticed by the retail sector,” Ms Clarke said. “Retailers are proactive in this field and will continue to look for new ways to protect their employees and property.” Commissioner of Police Michael DeSilva said that an arrest had been made in one of the eight other cases, and that all remaining robberies were still under investigation. He added: “Store owners are encouraged to consider measures that make their business premises safer and reduce the chance of being targeted.” Regarding the island’s CCTV network, he said that it was used “on a daily basis” and had proven helpful to numerous lines of enquiry. “Additionally, Government has provided funding in the 2016/17 budget to expand the network to include the Dockyard area and the town of St George’s,” Mr DeSilva added. Stores requiring crime prevention and safety advice can contact BPS Community Action Teams in Hamilton (tel: 247-1727), Southside (tel: 717-1709) and Somerset (tel: 717-1735). Anyone with information on any crime can call police on 295-0011 or the confidential Crime Stoppers number on 800-8477.

TIMELINE

April 10. The LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer) advocacy group The Rainbow Alliance of Bermuda (RAB) has called for an immediate reversal of the decision of the Registrar General and Charity Commissioners to grant status to anti-same-sex union group Preserve Marriage saying they may have acted “unlawfully with this hasty decision”. RAB condemned the decision saying, “this action follows other failings of the Government to act with the benefit of all Bermudians in mind, including their tabling of the Matrimonial Causes Act Amendment 2016 and the calling of a referendum on a Human Rights issue”. Preserve Marriage was granted charity status last week having passed “the public benefit test”. Section 3(b) of the Charities Act 2014 requires that a charitable purpose must be for the public benefit. The commissioners have published guidance under section 13 of the Act. A spokeswoman from the alliance told The Royal Gazette: “This public benefit test must consider any actual benefits for society arising from the charity (eg: educating people about the benefits of marriage). The guidance indicates that ‘any detriment or harm which is caused by a charity’s purposes’ should be considered (eg: denying people access to the institution of marriage, advocating against the human rights of others, and the stigmatization of an entire group that arises when they are singled out). “The Charities Commission must determine whether the harm outweighs the benefit. If it does, then the public benefit test must fail. Based on Preserve Marriage’s public activity thus far, there is no long-term public benefit from their campaigning, which is also political in nature. “The guidance also describes ‘forbidden purposes’ as those which, ‘explicitly provide for some detriment or harm; are unlawful or contrary to public policy; or are of such a serious nature as to negate the benefit provided, cannot be beneficial, and consequently, are never charitable’. Preserve Marriage defines its campaigning by its opposition to the rights of a protected group under the Human Rights Act 1981. The Rainbow Alliance of Bermuda asks the Charities Commissioners how they could, in good conscience, decide that this was for the public’s benefit? The guidance also discusses that an organisation cannot be a charity if it has a political purpose, including: ‘securing or opposing any change in the law, whether in Bermuda or overseas; and securing or opposing a change in the policy or decisions of central government or local authorities or other public bodies, whether in Bermuda or overseas’. Preserve Marriage have operated a political campaign over the past several months through demonstrations, advertising, petitions about law-changes, and bringing in overseas speakers. In Preserve Marriage’s promotional materials, their intended purpose includes: ‘To inform the public about the truth of civil unions; to ensure legislation related to marriage in Bermuda is fortified; and to ensure that a few do not decide for the many. Each of these objectives are clearly political in nature and have been campaigned for over the past few months specifically to oppose the Government’s consideration of same-sex marriage and/or civil unions. The Rainbow Alliance of Bermuda asks the Charities Commissioners how they could, in good conscience, decide that their purpose was not primarily political?” RAB acknowledged that Preserve Marriage notes on its website that those of all sexualities should be respected but went on to say: “Their activities and objectives do not foster respect for the LGBTQ or a spirit of inclusivity within the broader Bermudian community. The Rainbow Alliance of Bermuda would again like to recognise the significant importance of the rights of LGBTQ Bermudians and residents to be respected and protected under the Human Rights Act. At best, Preserve Marriage’s advocacy has promoted hurtful heterosexist and transphobic rhetoric that has created significant mental and emotional anguish for the LGBTQ people of Bermuda. The Rainbow Alliance of Bermuda believes that Preserve Marriage would fail both the public benefit and the political purposes test. Their purposes are detrimental and outweigh any possible benefit. Further, their past statements and activities show an explicit desire to change our marriage legislation and to undermine Government’s own efforts to bring in civil union legislation. We urge the Registrar General and Minister Fahy to reverse the granting of Preserve Marriage’s charitable status.” Meanwhile, the Human Rights Commission would not comment on the granting of charitable status, saying: “In essence, Preserve Marriage’s application for charitable status according to the requirements laid out in the Charities Act, falls under the remit of the Charities Commission and they should be contacted for any specific queries about the PM application and granting of Charitable Status under the Act.” The Royal Gazette contacted the Registrar General, the Charities Commission and Home Affairs Minister Michael Fahy for comment and are awaiting a response.

April 9. Veteran golf professional Alex Madeiros has urged the island to treat the closure of Riddell’s Bay Golf and Country Club as a wake-up call. Mr Madeiros, director of golf at Port Royal, suggested that Bermuda had “sat on its laurels” and called for a creative approach to reinvigorate interest in the game, which has long formed a key plank of the island’s tourism product. He said that Port Royal had received a “refreshingly high” level of interest since March 31, when Riddell’s Bay revealed it was ceasing operations. However, he conceded that the boost to business — with between 25 and 30 new memberships to date — came at a cost. “It was a sad day for golf in Bermuda when Riddell’s Bay closed, especially since it had such an iconic history,” said Mr Madeiros, a former head golf professional at the Warwick course. “We knew things were going on, but you never expect a complete closure. It was a shock.” Mr Madeiros said that the island’s reduced population was among the problems facing Bermuda’s golfing industry. I think lessons can be learnt for everybody. Bermuda has sat on its laurels for too long, especially in the golf product. There were so many people on the island in the past, but now we have a very diminished population, so clubs like Riddell’s Bay would certainly feel the pinch on that. In some respects, I think that golf needs to reintroduce itself. We need to be creative in how we present ourselves and engage people to come and play golf.” Globally, Mr Madeiros said that another golfer in the Tiger Woods mould would help to reinvigorate waning interest in the sport. “Everybody wanted to play golf in the days of Tiger Woods. We saw a boom from all cross-sections of the community. That’s what we need — another Tiger Woods to come on the scene and get that excitement going.” With Port Royal set to host the Bermuda Golf Classic next week, featuring 30-plus National Football League stars, Mr Madeiros acknowledged that the event would help to offset doubts about the island’s continuing status as a premier golf destination. He added: “The courses that are still here keep our product at a very high standard, and we have to maintain that standard at the highest level we possibly can. There’s a lot of work to be done, but I think our golf courses are firing on all cylinders. I’m very optimistic that we’re going to have a good year.”

April 9. The group advocating against same-sex unions, Preserve Marriage Bermuda, has been granted charitable status by the Registrar General having passed “the public benefit test”. The confirmation letter from the Ministry of Home Affairs, seen by this newspaper, approves the registration of charity No 983 for the period of one year only. Objections were made about the group’s application this week, including one from a hair salon director who said the group’s message was “a departure from equality and growth and a complete violation of human rights”. According to the Registrar General’s website, a charity “must provide an actual ‘benefit’ to the public they serve, which is identifiable and is capable of being proved by evidence, if necessary, and is not based on personal views.” The Charities Act 2014 sets out a definition for “charitable purposes” which includes the “advancement of human rights or the promotion of equality and diversity” as well as the advancement of religion, education, citizenship and community development. It says other purposes can be deemed charitable if they fall within the spirit of those listed in the Act. The correspondence from the Registrar General included an “aide-memoire”, a copy of the relevant section of the Act and a copy of the regulations. The letter read: “Please read these carefully as they will assist your executive committee in fulfilling some of its most important obligations. It should also be noted that whenever there are changes in the names of the officers, the Registrar General should be informed within thirty days of such changes. Members of the organization's executive should familiarize themselves with the requirements of the Charities Act, 2014. We remind you that charitable organisations must have purposes which are for the public benefit, determined by the ‘public benefit test’. Detailed guidance as to the operation of the public benefit test can be found on the Registry General’s website. Additionally, a charity’s activities must be pursued solely in furtherance of those purposes.” Preserve Marriage was founded by Melvyn Bassett, the former executive director of the now defunct sports facility Sandys 360, and was registered as a limited liability company in December. The other directors are Gary Simons from Cornerstone Bible Fellowship, and Mark Hall from Word of Life Fellowship. Lawyer Kyle Masters is the secretary.

April 9. British parliamentarians have come under further fire over offshore assets after a Tory party official admitted having assets in Bermuda. In an article published online yesterday, the UK left wing newspaper  reported that 12 senior Tory officials had put their assets in offshore blind trusts to avoid “clashes with their jobs”, including Robert Halfon, the Tory party deputy leader. Mr Halfon admitted holding shares in Jardine Matheson, a firm based in Bermuda with headquarters in Hong Kong. The article explains that blind trusts are used to prevent ministers from using their positions from influencing their own investments, but also keeps their financial affairs private. It quotes Johnathan Isaby, chief executive of the Taxpayers Alliance, as saying: “Taxpayers deserve full and proper transparency so that they can make their own minds up on whether their politicians are acting in the nation’s interest rather than their own.” The statement comes in the wake of a public furore over the Panama Papers — a leak of 11.5 million business documents which allegedly reveal tax avoidance and evasion by many international figures. Labour MP Wes Streeting has called on ministers to “come clean” in the wake of the leak, stating that Prime Minister David Cameron’s “shifty” response to questions about his own tax arrangements have left the public unsure if politicians are willing to seriously tackle the issue of tax havens.

April 9. Erma Butterfield was a brilliant dancer and an icon of Bermuda in her heyday. The mother of two, who was described as “a ray of sunshine”, has died at the age of 87. “From what I can gather, dancing was her life,” her daughter, Renee Lawrence, said. “They said she was a brilliant dancer — that she had great poise.” Ms Lawrence said she and her husband, Bryan Butterfield, danced in both Bermuda and Jamaica during the Fifties and early Sixties. They would make the most of the tourist season on the island and work in Jamaica during Bermuda’s off-season, she added. “My mom was also one of the first majorette leaders,” Ms Lawrence said. Erma Butterfield was Mr Butterfield’s first wife. He later married Sandy Butterfield, who described Erma Butterfield as a “beautiful woman and a talented dancer. There are several newspaper articles and photos of them strutting down Front Street in the Easter Lily Parade in the Fifties with the North Village Majorettes and backed by the North Village Band. The cheers from the crowds certainly let you know that this majorette group was the community favorite. Erma and Bryan Butterfield were certainly icons ‘back in the day’,” she said, adding that when they first started dancing they were known by the stage names Markette and Lucinda. “As we listen to entertainers talking about the ‘good old days’, we hear that Erma performed at the Colonial Opera House and gave an exhibition on majorette drills and dance steps. “Erma, along with Bryan, Kenny Bean and King Trott performed every winter in Montego Bay, Jamaica in all the major hotels,” she added. Ms Butterfield’s first dance partner was Vince Godfrey, with whom she danced at the St George Hotel. She also had a lead role in the Boat In the Bottle show that was produced by Gregory Gordon and performed at the Castle Harbour Hotel. “It was her passion to train young persons to dance and two of her protégées were Barbara and June who were known as the ‘Mambo Tots’ and performed in our major hotels nightly.” According to Sandy Butterfield, Erma Butterfield received the Founders Award and Lifetime Achievement awards from the Bermuda Arts Council for her contribution to the arts and to tourism. She also modeled for the Department of Tourism in the Fifties and was honored in May 24 parades. Ms Butterfield was born in Bermuda to Arthur and Gunda Washington and had two daughters, Ms Lawrence and Yvette Butterfield. Ms Lawrence said her mother worked as a physical education teacher before she decided to pursue her dreams of becoming a dancer. When she stopped dancing, she worked as a telephone operator for Cable and Wireless. In 1976, Ms Butterfield had multiple sclerosis diagnosed and was forced to retire. But Ms Lawrence said she always remained upbeat and grateful for life despite the dilapidating disease. “She was always upbeat and happy even though she had this disease,” she said. “This was a woman who was athletic and a brilliant dancer, who couldn’t walk.” Ms Lawrence said her mother, who lived at Summerhaven before moving to Lefroy House, would always say that she was “very well, thank you”. Rosheena Masters, the administrator at Lefroy House in Sandys, described Ms Butterfield as a ray of sunshine who weathered her illness with grace. “I would describe her as a very graceful individual,” she said. “She was very helpful, upbeat, just a ray of sunshine with a great sense of humor.” Ms Masters added that Ms Butterfield got on well with other staff and made friends at Lefroy House, where she lived for 26 years after arriving in 1989. “We were her family for 26 years, along with her biological family, of course. She is going to be a really great miss to Lefroy House.” Ms Masters added: “When she came here she was mobile, independent. She lived her life the way she wanted to.” But as her illness progressed, the staff tried to accommodate her as best they could, even inviting the majorettes to perform for her. “She was adventurous, spontaneous and fun. When she couldn’t do the things she used to, we tried to remember them for her. Through this whole process, I never heard her complain,” Ms Masters added. “She will be missed by all the staff and elders.” 

April 8. Businesses representing nearly half the market capitalization on Hong Kong’s stock exchange are incorporated in either Bermuda or the Cayman Islands. And experts said that the island’s legal system and regulatory regime were the keys to businesses opting to register their companies in Bermuda. A Bloomberg News story yesterday drew attention to Hong Kong’s “Bermuda bent” as international focus on offshore domiciles continued in the wake of the Panama Papers revelations. Greg Wojciechowski, chief executive officer of the Bermuda Stock Exchange, said: “Bermuda has a global reputation as being a well-regulated jurisdiction. The rule of law and its international regulatory reputation are major factors.” And he explained that Bermuda offers easy access to reservoirs of capital in both the United States and the European Union. Mr Wojciechowski added that the BSX was one of the few offshore jurisdictions to achieve membership of the World Federation of Exchanges. And he said: “The BSX listing regulations will not permit the listing on the Exchange of shell companies or fixed-income products whose interests are represented by bearer instruments. “I think that could be useful in further support of the integrity of Bermuda’s commercial platform and how our designed for purpose laws and regulations protect the country, market and its users and are predicated on accepted international standards of transparency and disclosure.” Philip Barnes, president of Jardine Matheson International Holdings, founded in China, but based in Bermuda since 1984 ahead of the 1997 return of the territory to China, said access to the English legal system was a big factor in the decision to relocate. Mr Barnes added: “That was a very large part of it — the English law system is very important.” And he said that the island’s tax system had not played a major part in the 184-year old company’s decision to move its legal home to Bermuda. A Bloomberg report said that a legal base in Bermuda for Hong Kong companies did not mean they could hide the identity of the owners — especially as companies are listed on the public markets. And firms listed on the Hang Seng do not avoid taxes on earnings. Offshore companies listed on the Hong Kong exchange pay an 18.2 per cent average tax rate, while companies domiciled in mainland China pay 22.9 per cent. Companies registered in Hong Kong and London paid an average of 16.7 per cent over the last five years. But there are advantages to an offshore domicile for Hong Kong companies — they do not pay stamp duty on share sales made prior to listing or at the initial public offering. Bloomberg added that stock splits and taking companies private are easier with a legal home offshore. In addition, Hong Kong was guaranteed status as a special administrative region of still-Communist China under the terms of the handover agreement between Britain and China, but it will revert fully to China in 2047. Companies that have relocated have said “political stability” was a driver towards offshore registration.

April 8. British Overseas Territories citizens could have a legal case for Bermudian status, even though the Government has backed down on its “Pathways to Status” initiative. Immigration lawyer Peter Sanderson made the observation in the wake of recent cases entailing “belongers”, or persons deemed as belonging in Bermuda under the island’s constitution. Mr Sanderson spoke to The Royal Gazette after a “landmark” Court of Appeal ruling upheld the right of Melvern Williams, a BOT citizen born in Jamaica, to work in Bermuda. He called the Williams case significant for “a hidden group of ‘rights-less’ citizens” to secure the same treatment as Bermudians. While he could not put a figure on how many people could qualify for their day in court, Mr Sanderson said complaints based on Bermuda’s international obligations could even be taken before a United Nations tribunal. See http://www.un.org/en/sections/what-we-do/protect-human-rights/index.html). “My impression is that everybody has focused on Bermudian status for so long that other types of belongers have been completely overlooked,” he said. “However, these recent cases are emphasizing the importance of BOT citizenship in Bermuda’s unique constitutional framework.” As well as the Williams case, local courts dealt on March 4 with the case of Michael Barbosa, a BOT citizen who argued successfully that Bermuda’s immigration laws were discriminatory. “Barbosa is being appealed by the Government, but remains the law unless and until it is overturned by a higher court,” Mr Sanderson said. “Parents whose children were born or brought up in Bermuda may wish to take advice on whether their children are eligible for BOT citizenship.” Mr Williams, born in Jamaica but naturalized in December 2014, lost his job three months later because he did not have a work permit. In that case, Mr Sanderson argued before Chief Justice Ian Kawaley that the Department of Immigration’s requirements had been discriminatory. The Court of Appeal agreed with the ruling by Dr Justice Kawaley, which found that the Bermuda Constitution clashed with the 1956 Immigration Act. Earlier this month, appeal judges found that the work permit requirement for a belonger not possessing Bermudian status “has a disproportionately prejudicial effect on belongers whose place of origin is not Bermuda. “This requirement is indirectly discriminatory, and there is no reason why belongers should be treated differently based upon the distinction as to whether their place of origin is Bermuda or a place other than Bermuda.” Mr Sanderson said the Williams case could open the door for other challenges by naturalized BOT citizens, such as cases against the island’s 60-40 rule for company ownership. Possessing belonger status “does not come with voting rights, nor does it bring any entitlement to Bermudian status”, he noted. However, it had been argued in the Barbosa case that Bermuda’s immigration law unfairly prevented the respondent from seeking status based on his place of origin. Puisne Judge Stephen Hellman also ruled in that case that Mr Barbosa could bring his case back to court if the pathways to status amendments were not enacted. Those amendments were dropped by the Government later in March, in the face of widespread protests. “There have not yet been any cases on the lack of a pathway to status for naturalized BOT citizens as opposed to born BOT citizens,” Mr Sanderson said, adding: “It could be argued that would be discriminatory to deny a pathway to naturalized BOT citizens.” Further, in a 2014 ruling that allowed certain permanent residents the right to obtain Bermudian status, the Chief Justice noted that depriving BOT citizens of voting rights went against the Island’s obligations under treaties such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. “Citizens are supposed to be able to participate in a democracy,” Mr Sanderson said. “So, even if a case were unsuccessful in Bermuda’s courts, a complaint could be made to a United Nations human rights tribunal.” 

April 8. Opinion. By Peter Sanderson. "The Court of Appeal has recently confirmed in the case of the Minister of Home Affairs v Williams that people who belong to Bermuda under the Constitution cannot be treated differently to Bermudians in terms of work-permit restrictions. Belongers include not just Bermudians, but also naturalized British Overseas Territories citizens, the wives of Bermudians and BOT citizens, and the children under the age of 18 of all of the mentioned classes. The Supreme Court has also held recently in Barbosa v Attorney-General that born BOT citizens can also be counted as Belongers, which is significant for some children who have been born or brought up in Bermuda. For decades, Bermuda has had a hidden group of “rights-less” citizens, who were born here and who are entitled to Bermuda passports, but, until the Barbosa case, had no recognized rights to live or work here. A child will be a BOT citizen at birth if born in Bermuda before January 1, 1983 or, after that date, if one of the parents is permanently settled in Bermuda at the time of birth. A person can be registered as a BOT citizen before the age of 18 if their parent becomes a BOT citizen or permanently settled in Bermuda during their childhood. This will typically assist the children of permanent resident’s certificate holders — and, obviously, Bermudians — but there may be other people who would be counted as settled. Further, a person can be registered as a BOT citizen at any time in their life if they were born in Bermuda and lived the first ten years of their life here. The adopted child of a BOT citizen automatically becomes a BOT citizen. Children who do not fall into one of the earlier categories can still apply to be registered as a BOT citizen before the age of 18 in the discretion of the Governor. Normally it will be required that at least one parent is already a BOT citizen, although this may be waived for a teenager who has spent most of their life here. In this discretionary category, each case may turn on its own facts. Barbosa is being appealed by the Government, but remains the law unless and until it is overturned by a higher court. Parents whose children were born or brought up in Bermuda may wish to take advice on whether their children are eligible for BOT citizenship. In contrast to obtaining BOT citizenship by birth or childhood connections, naturalization is for people who have lived here as adults. To naturalize, there cannot be any restrictions on the period for which you are allowed to remain in Bermuda. Typically, this means that Bermudians, spouses of Bermudians, PRC or residential certificate holders and their spouses can naturalize. However, in exceptional or compassionate circumstances, a person can apply for indefinite leave to reside in Bermuda, which would make them eligible for naturalization. The 1968 Constitution is a product of its time and only protects wives of Belongers — not husbands. Whatever the reason for this, it means that wives are treated as Belongers even if they split from their husband, up until the time that they enter into a legal deed of separation — ie, a financial support arrangement — or a divorce decree from the court. Children of Belongers are treated as Belongers until the age of 18. This is a clear incentive for parents to naturalize, so that their children can access the same work-experience opportunities as children with Bermudian status until the age of 18. It is also a logical extension that Belongers should not be discriminated against, compared with Bermudians, in various other areas of life. Having Belonger status does not come with voting rights, nor does it bring any entitlement to Bermudian status. However, the Supreme Court held in Barbosa that the lack of a pathway to status for born BOT citizens is unconstitutional. There have not yet been any cases on the lack of a pathway to status for naturalized BOT citizens as opposed to born BOT citizens. It could be argued that would be discriminatory to deny a pathway to naturalized BOT citizens. Further, as the Chief Justice noted in the Carne & Correia case, the section 20B case from 2014, depriving BOT citizens of the right to vote is clearly inconsistent with Bermuda’s obligations under international treaties — citizens are supposed to be able to participate in a democracy. So, even if a case were unsuccessful in Bermuda’s courts, a complaint could be made to a United Nations human rights tribunal. My impression is that everybody has focused on Bermudian status for so long that other types of Belongers have been completely overlooked. However, these recent cases are emphasizing the importance of British Overseas Territories citizenship in Bermuda’s unique constitutional framework."

April 8. Offshore financial centres with ties to Britain are “among the hardest places in the world to evade taxes or launder money”, claims a group representing legal and accountancy firms. The IFC Forum, which represents firms operating in several offshore jurisdictions including Bermuda, argues that while the Panama Papers revelations have highlighted that some jurisdictions “have fallen markedly behind in the global efforts to combat money laundering and tax evasion”, British territories are not among them. “By contrast, the Overseas Territories and the Crown Dependencies, being British international financial centres, are rated as having among the highest regulatory standards in the world by all international assessments, including by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development and Financial Action Task Force,” the statement reads. The IFC Forum adds that British IFCs automatically exchange tax information with the UK and US governments and are among the first adopters of the OECD’s Common Reporting Standard (CRS), which will extend information exchange to most other countries. They were also early signatories to the OECD’s Convention on Mutual Administrative Assistance in Tax Matters, a multilateral agreement providing for tax co-operation between its participants. “British IFCs are consequently among the hardest places in the world to evade taxes or launder money,” the IFC Forum argues. “These financial centres have laws and courts based on those of the UK and many lawyers and professionals educated, trained and qualified in the UK. The financial regulators in the British IFCs are also recognized members of the International Organisation of Securities Commissions, the global standard setter for the securities sector. The key appeal of the British IFCs is the trust placed in them by institutional investors, and so high regulatory standards are of paramount importance to them.” Richard Hay, counsel to the IFC Forum, said: “It is wrong to bracket all small financial centres together as so-called secrecy jurisdictions. “British IFC regulatory standards, including on tracking of beneficial ownership, are judged in peer reviews and authoritative academic studies to be among the best in the world. British IFC information exchange standards are also at the leading edge of global standards. The IFC Forum calls on all financial centres — large and small — to adopt the information collection and exchange protocols endorsed by the international community and which are commonplace in the British IFCs.” The IFC Forum is a multi-jurisdictional, private-sector organization with international law and accounting member firms operating across a number of British Crown Dependencies, Overseas Territories and other IFCs, including Bermuda, the British Virgin Islands, the Cayman Islands, Guernsey, Gibraltar, Jersey and the Isle of Man.

April 8. A fresh chapter has begun for the Human Rights Commission in its new headquarters at Milner Place, Hamilton, where the latest set of commissioners held its first meeting. Tawana Tannock, the HRC chairwoman, praised the work of the selection committee in bringing together commissioners from a broad variety of backgrounds. “I’m very pleased that we have this diverse body of 12 to help move the commission into a new era of greater independence,” Ms Tannock said, referring to the HRC’s official move out from the auspices of the Ministry of Community, Culture and Sports. Continuing member Jens Juul, a certified insurance arbitrator, has served on several local boards as well as operating Scandinavian Re, while new member Dany Pen, the education and communications officer for the Bermuda National Gallery, holds a special interest in women’s rights, gender equality and education. New member Jonathan Young said he took inspiration from the service of his mother, Kim Young, as a commissioner; he comes from an insurance background, as well as teaching at the Bermuda College, where he was a shop steward. Carla George, a new commissioner coming from a legal background, has also served on a variety of boards, including CedarBridge Academy, the Bermuda Hospitals Board and the Board of Education, and gave education as one of her main interests. Returning commissioner Kim Simmons, a corporate attorney, expressed a broad interest in human rights, particularly in how the topic was perceived by young people. Ms Simmons said she looked forward to continuing her advocacy for persons with mental disabilities. Donna Daniels, a former teacher and principal of Dellwood Middle School, is also executive director of the Adult Education School. Ms Daniels gave education as her “passion”, along with the protection of the vulnerable, the links between unemployment and poverty, and issues concerning mental health. New member Ben Adamson, a lawyer with 15 years’ experience, has served as a human rights mediator for the past six years, while Quinton Butterfield, also new, works in the Bermuda Government’s information technology office. Mr Butterfield said he looked forward to seeing the island “move forward on marriage equality, gender equality and gender identity”, and gave another interest as education and advocacy on the topic of human rights. Absent from the gathering were members Carolyn Thomas Ray, Franklin Fahnbulleh, and deputy chairman John Hindes.

April 8. The whole of Riddell’s Bay golf club is up for sale, the provisional liquidators said yesterday. And they confirmed that the near century-old Riddell’s Bay Golf and Country Club Ltd holds all the assets of the club, including the course. The club announced its closure last week. Another company, Riddell’s Bay Golf Club Ltd exists, but does not own the property. PwC’s Alison Tomb, the joint provisional liquidator, said interested parties are being sought for the company or all or part of the assets of the company. Ms Tomb said: “The joint provisional liquidators have been made aware that there is another company named Riddell’s Bay Golf Club Limited. “They have been advised by the board that this company never operated and is dormant with no assets other than share capital.” Interested parties are encouraged to contact the provisional liquidators directly at PwC.

April 8. Guided museum tours, fishing charters and tips on foraging and cooking local produce are all on the schedule for this coming tourism season in the Old Town. Business owners and others responsible for delivering St George’s tourism product met last night at the World Heritage Centre to discuss what old and new experiences will be on offer. Another meeting is planned for next week to focus on a plan to get the information out and a guide to the season will eventually be produced. Hub One cultural tourism manager Kristin White told The Royal Gazette: “There will be a presentation of everything I have collected from different people. It gives us the opportunity to make sure we all know what is happening. Tonight we will show them when everything is open and hopefully by the weekend I can take the presentation and turn it into a bit of a guide for people who work on the front line in St George’s. We are trying to get everyone singing from the same hymn sheet. We all know what experiences are available and we can all share information. There are a couple of new experiences including a foraging and cooking experience in the Mitchell House kitchen and one of the fishing charters will be doing a half-day fishing and a half-day of cooking up at Griffins. The majority of the museums will also be offering at least one tour each week instead of it being a self-guided experience. There are a lot of cool things coming up, these are just a few.”

April 8. Bermuda should be more aware of the effects of depression and how it can be recognized and addressed following a one-month campaign. Organized by the Bermuda Mental Health Foundation, the “Message In A Bottle Campaign” aimed to improve depression awareness and suicide prevention on the island. After the campaign ended this week, Foundation spokeswoman Jodi Lewis said: “We hope that through this initiative, people will be more educated on depression and suicide, the myths that surround them and the resources available for those in need. If we acknowledge the problem and talk about it, people will hopefully feel more comfortable trying to find help.” The destigmatising initiative, also known as MIABC, was funded via a $5,000 donation from the Weekenders Running Club, after two of its members lost siblings to suicide. Two hundred glass bottles were distributed around the island with USB sticks containing advice, information and a video account of depression featuring former Royal Gazette reporter and acting editor Jeremy Deacon. Residents were challenged to locate a bottle, view its content and sign that they had seen it via a special link. An 8-by-12-foot canvas was also displayed in the Washington Mall, the Bermuda High School for Girls, the King Edward VII Memorial Hospital and the Mid-Atlantic Wellness Institute. It urged people to “Leave a message for those who are suffering from depression in silence, or who may be considering suicide as an option”. For the final two days of the campaign, the canvas was placed on the City Hall front lawn for the public to view. The numerous messages written on it included: “Someone out there loves you”, “Don’t be too hard on yourself”, “Ask for help”, “There is a place in this world for you” and “Keep hope alive”. A change.org petition also allowed people to share their messages of hope online, while the Bermuda High School made an awareness video to view at the BMHF Facebook page.

• For more information, visit bmhf.bm or call 400-5634. If you or a loved one suffers from depression or is considering suicide, call the Mid-Atlantic Wellness Institute’s crisis hotline on 236-3770.

April 7. The construction of a luxury five-star hotel resort at Morgan’s Point will provide job opportunities and career paths for Bermudians, according to developers. The message from Craig Christensen, the president and chief executive officer of Morgan’s Point Ltd, came as the firm unveiled that the new resort would be called Caroline Bay, Bermuda. The project, which will include a branded hotel, luxury residences and a mega-yacht marina, is expected to open in 2018. Construction work has already begun and several local subcontractors, including Building Blocks Construction, have been hired to complete the preliminary land preparation work. “With the funding in place and a five-star global hotel brand secured, the Morgan’s Point development is poised to bring a myriad of opportunities for our fellow Bermudians” Mr Christensen said. “We are so pleased that our project is providing many employment opportunities. Bermudians have been through a long and painful recession, and we are confident that this project will be a catalyst in pulling us out of these depths. In addition to an abundance of construction work, the hotel will open in late 2018 creating career paths for Bermudians aspiring to be a part of this unique luxury offering in Bermuda.” David Durham, owner of Building Blocks Construction, said the development had already provided employment opportunities to Bermudians. “Building Blocks Construction has been provided some great opportunities to work on the Morgan’s Point development.  First, through the remediation cleanup of the facility though the Bermuda Government and further with Morgan’s Point Ltd where we have been fortunate enough to have worked on the site preparation as well as with the building of the Artemis Racing Base. Working with Morgan’s Point Ltd we have been able to pass on opportunities by employing Bermudians directly and hiring a number of subcontractors and various vendors. This has been a very positive experience for us and I am confident that I will not be the only company to benefit from this large development.” Morgan’s Point Ltd obtained the land in 2008 as part of a land-swap agreement under the condition that the Bermuda Government remediate the site to residential standards. Phase one of the two-phase project will include the 79-room luxury hotel, 173 branded residences; restaurants; a spa; high-end retail, and a mega-yacht marina providing slips for 77 boats and 21 superyachts “After years of planning, it’s gratifying to announce this milestone project,” Mr Christensen said. “Our intention is to recapture for modern travelers the storied, relaxed glamour of Bermuda during the 1950s and 1960s in ways that feel new, inspiring and are available nowhere else on earth. At the same time, we will celebrate our love of the sea and sailing — both with the upcoming America’s Cup race next year and the future mega-yacht marina for residents and transient sailors alike. Perhaps most important, as a native Bermudian, is that we will share unique insights into our distinctive culture, its art, music and food, while also making a difference in the lives of people who are and will be our future employees.”

April 7. The president of Bermuda Bar Association said yesterday that ensuring clients complied with tax obligations in their home countries was “probably not a matter” for the island’s corporate lawyers. In the wake of the massive Panama Papers data leak, Richard Horseman told The Royal Gazette that Bermuda had strict “know-your-customer” and due diligence regulations to avoid shell companies being set up here or money being illegally funneled through the island. Pointing out that he was a litigation lawyer and no expert on corporate law, he said that though corporate lawyers here would certainly be involved in setting up trusts for clients, including some in other countries, it did not mean they were aiding tax evasion. “Legally, you can avoid tax,” he said. “It is whether you are evading or avoiding that’s the question. Bermuda is probably not a great jurisdiction to set up and move that kind of money.” The leak of 11.5 million files from Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca has prompted debate around the world about how the rich and famous hide their money and the ethics of moving it to offshore jurisdictions. The documents show how the law firm set up some 200,000 offshore companies, with more than half registered in the British Virgin Islands and another 3,200 in British Anguilla. Bermuda has not featured in the leak but overseas media reports have depicted it as a tax haven, a notion strongly rejected on Tuesday by finance minister Bob Richards and the Bermuda Business Development Agency. Companies have used Bermuda to avoid paying taxes elsewhere including, famously, Google, which has been criticised for profiting hugely from the practice. Mr Horseman said there was no doubt trusts had been set up here for estate protection but insisted the island was “really ahead of a lot of other jurisdictions” in terms of financial transparency, citing its tax treaties with scores of other countries and its compliance with international standards. He said: “The lawyers in Bermuda will practise Bermuda law. They’ll have to make sure everything complies with the local laws. Whether that offends overseas laws is probably not a matter for local lawyers. In fact, it’s unlawful for Bermuda lawyers to advise on outside jurisdictional laws.” Asked if the Bar Association should be involved in regulating corporate lawyers in relation to the setting up of trusts and tax-avoidance practices, he said: “We would only regulate professional conduct if there were complaints of misconduct. We are not in the business of regulating what business lawyers enter into ... but obviously they are supposed to comply with the law.”

April 7. The “glaring” lack of female voices in last month’s immigration protest talks exemplified Bermuda’s gender inequality problem, a charity head has claimed. “We saw no women present in the lead roles for either side in the negotiations,” said Carol-Ann Simmons, the new executive director of the Women’s Resource Centre. “The key players in Government were all male, and the key players on the side of the unions were all male. While we are seeing some change, such as the increase of women in Senate, we are far from where we should be.” Although many women participated in five days of demonstrations against the proposed Pathways to Status Bill, the showdown meetings between Government and protest movement leaders were predominantly male. Central figures included Michael Dunkley, the Premier, Minister of Home Affairs Michael Fahy, Bermuda Industrial Union president Chris Furbert, the Reverend Nicholas Tweed of the People’s Campaign and former Premier Sir John Swan. Ms Simmons told The Royal Gazette that the WRC aims to “upset the status quo” after repositioning its focus to gender equality and female empowerment. The Paget-based charity transferred its services for victims of sexual assault and domestic violence to the Centre Against Abuse last year, in order to prevent unnecessary overlap in the third sector. Ms Simmons added: “Stepping up the conversation and making meaningful progress on gender equality and the well-being and advancement of women is important to the success of every community. If you look at businesses around town, you’ll see a woman here and there on corporate boards and senior leadership teams, but you don’t see a well-balanced representation. It isn’t about going against men. We seek to work in partnership with men. Everything works better when everyone works together, because you have different perspectives, different opinions and more informed decision-making.” While she expressed excitement about the WRC’s new remit, Ms Simmons acknowledged that the centre needed to address the shortfall after the Government cut its annual funding from $75,000 to nothing. She said: “We understand the need to cut, and charities must do more to generate revenue themselves, but it is incredibly disappointing. We’ll power ahead and look at other funding streams, but I do worry for the third sector in general.” Ms Simmons also warned against the development of a “dependency culture”, as the Government increases its Financial Assistance budget. "Cutting the funding of charities, which play a vital role in addressing escalating social issues, only serves to add to the distress among the most vulnerable in the community, as some charities will not be able to continue with much-needed services. We must consider that sometimes people on Financial Assistance are also still in need of support from the very charities that are no longer being supported."

April 7. More than 200 years ago, two Royal Navy lieutenants traveled to Bermuda to embark on a ground-breaking project to map the island’s landscape, seabed and perilous reefs. The culmination of eight years’ meticulous work by Thomas Hurd and Andrew Evans was arguably the most important survey ever conducted in Bermuda. This evening, descendants of the two surveyors from Australia, Canada and Bermuda will gather at the National Gallery for the launch of a new book that tells the untold story behind one of the island’s most significant pieces of maritime heritage. The book’s author, Adrian Webb, has spent the past 17 years researching Hurd and Evans’s epic mission to chart and measure the island’s reefs and seabeds; measurements that to this day remain the foundation of modern sea charts of Bermuda. Dr Webb, who heads up the UK’s Hydrographic Office in Somerset, trawled through thousands of communications and records in both Bermuda and the National Archives in London to produce Thomas Hurd & His Hydrographic Survey of Bermuda, 1789-97. “I first saw the map in its original form at work 17 years ago when I was following up a research query,” Dr Webb said. “I was immediately impressed by its incredible detail but also its size. It covered two pieces of 6ft square paper.” It had a wow factor that made me want to find out more about the story and the people behind the survey.” The original Hurd survey had been kept in the Hydrographic Office archives for more than 200 years before it was moved to the National Archives in London last year. Dr Webb’s research revealed that both Lieutenant Hurd and Lieutenant Evans traveled to Bermuda in 1789, during the American War of Independence, to survey the island and see if it was a suitable venue for a naval port. The pair, led by Lieutenant Hurd, measured the sea depths at thousands of locations using a plumb line to map the seabed. They also meticulously recorded the position of the edges of the reefs. During the project Lieutenant Hurd lived in the Stiles building off St George’s Town Square with his wife. The couple’s son, Samuel Proudfoot Hurd, was born in Bermuda and served at the Battle of Waterloo. “This survey was a labour of love for Hurd,” Dr Webb said. “He also discovered during this process that the longitude that St George’s had previously been measured on was wrong. Hurd was the first person to establish the correct position of Bermuda with great accuracy using the stars and the planets and worked with pilots Jemmy Darrell and Jacob Pitcarn to complete the survey. Hurd and Evans also identified the site of a naval facility at Grassy Bay. This, it can be argued, changed the future of Bermuda for ever, as it resulted in the militarisation of the island.” After leaving Bermuda in 1797, Lieutenant Hurd, who had already been promoted to commander, was made hydrographer for the Admiral Board and served in this top role until he died in England in 1823. Dr Webb, 48, added: “There was an awful lot of correspondence in the archives from Hurd as well as log books, reports and newspaper cuttings to go through, although his personal journal from Bermuda has never come to light. “It took a long time to get everything together; it has been an amazingly rewarding journey. I hope people in Bermuda find the book interesting. This survey is a really important piece of the island’s maritime history and it is still very relevant to this day. Lots of people have helped me along the way, but the National Museum and Edward Harris have really been at the front of bringing this project to fruition.” Dr Harris told The Royal Gazette that Hurd’s “magnum opus” of the lands and reefs of Bermuda was “without parallel in our history. While historians and many other locals have known that Hurd made the survey it seems that no one from the island ever saw the original and thus its significance was overlooked. Aside from the depiction of the reefs, which is staggering in its detail considering the difficulty of surveying objects under the water from a boat, the information that has been recorded on the land is a feast for historical interpretation about the nature of Bermuda towards the end of its second century of settlement.” Dr Harris also thanked the new book’s sponsors, Jennifer Darrell, Toni Moutray and Deborah Darrell Mackenzie. The three sisters are the children of the late Bert and Joan Darrell.

April 7. Completion of a new road in Dockyard will give better access to Morseby Plain, an area where preparations for next year’s America’s Cup are continuing. Cup teams will eventually be able to use part of the field for long-term storage. Ireland Island Sports Club currently use the Plain for games and the 300-yard long road will also offer safer access to a facility which will be used long after the America’s Cup finishes. The work was carried out by Dynamic Excavating and Landscaping and Horsefield Landscaping, both local contractors. Andrew Dias, General Manager, Wedco, said: “The America’s Cup has served as the motivation to complete this project now. The new road will remove many of the limitations that have prevented the field from being used for large events in the past. We are thrilled to have completed this project, as it will benefit both the America’s Cup and Dockyard.” Work on the site for the America’s Cup Event Village continues in the South Basin with sheet piles presently being installed to create the outer wall of the infill which will created approximately 9 acres of new land.

April 6. Finance minister Bob Richards insisted yesterday that Britain could not “unilaterally tear up Bermuda’s constitution” and impose direct rule on the island to make it obey UK tax law. He told The Royal Gazette and also stated it on the British Broadcasting  Corporation's Newsnight TV program that a suggestion from British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn for the British Government to consider intervening in the running of its overseas territories in the wake of the leaked Panama Papers “sounds like a lot of rhetoric that’s meant to impress a certain audience in the UK”. Mr Richards also claimed Bermuda had robust regulations regarding financial transparency which were, in many cases, better than Britain’s. In particular, he cited the decades-old registry of beneficial company ownership held by the Bermuda Monetary Authority but rejected the idea it should be public so that “every Tom, Dick and Harry” has access to “private information.” The Panama Papers are a massive data leak — said to be the biggest in history — of 11.5 million files from the database of the offshore law firm Mossack Fonseca. The documents show how the law firm set up some 200,000 offshore companies to benefit the rich, with 12 national leaders among 143 politicians, their families and close associates from around the world now known to have used tax havens. More than half of the offshore companies were registered in the British Virgin Islands, with another 3,200 in British Anguilla. Mr Richards revealed that the BMA was checking to see if any of those named in the Panama Papers had a connection to Bermuda but none had been found so far. “It’s early days,” he said. “Nobody and no system is perfect and our mousetrap isn’t perfect. But I can tell you one thing: it’s a heck of a lot better than any other system I have seen.” British Labour Opposition leader Mr Corbyn told the BBC in an interview yesterday that the British Government should consider imposing “direct rule” on British overseas territories and dependencies if they do not comply with UK tax law, adding that it could be done “almost immediately”. But Mr Richards said: “The UK can’t unilaterally tear up Bermuda’s constitution and they also can’t unilaterally tear up conventions that have been in place that are parallel to our constitution for many years. You just can’t tear these things up legally. I don’t believe that it’s a real threat to Bermuda. The mistake that many UK politicians make — and quite frankly in Bermuda it has been made as well — is to assume that all of the overseas territories have the same constitution. They do not. Bermuda’s constitution is quite different to that of Turks and Caicos, BVI and Cayman.” The minister said a case in point was when the UK was unable to extend its Order in Council on the abolition of the death penalty for murder to Bermuda, because of the island’s autonomy, though territories in the Caribbean were compelled to comply. “The constitution does not allow them to do that,” said Mr Richards. “The notion that just because you can do something for other overseas territories, it applies to Bermuda, it’s just not on. Our constitution is much more advanced.” Mr Corbyn claimed the territories, including the Cayman Islands and BVI, were encouraging tax avoidance on “an industrial scale” to the detriment of public services in the UK. Asked if direct rule was the solution, he said: “If the local government is simply going to condone this level of ... tax avoidance and tax evasion of money that has been made in Britain ... then that’s something that has to be considered. “They’re not independent territories. They are self-governing, yes, but they’re British Crown dependent territories. Therefore surely there has to be an observance of UK tax law in those places. If they’ve become a place for systemic evasion and short-changing of the public in this country, then something has to be done about it. Either those governments comply or a next step has to be taken.” The BBC quoted 10 Downing Street as saying that Bermuda, along with Gibraltar and Jersey, had complied with three requests from the UK on financial transparency: the automatic exchange of tax information with other countries, a common reporting standard for multinational companies, and central ownership registries. But Mr Richards bristled at the idea that those things were “forced on us, particularly by the UK”, saying they were implemented for the protection of the island and for Bermudians. “We have had this register in Bermuda for over 70 years,” said the minister. “We have to give our forbears credit. They figured this out in 1947.” He said the UK had only recently begun creating its own register and it would show company owners with shares of more than 25 per cent, whereas Bermuda’s register was well-established and listed anyone with more than a ten per cent share. “Even when the UK eventually amasses their register, it won’t be as accurate as ours,” said Mr Richards. “It’s very interesting that someone who doesn’t have a register is trying to pressure folks to have one.” He said the Bermuda Government had no plans to make its register public and the BMA would continue to share information with overseas authorities “under controlled circumstances”. “What we are not likely to do and we are not in favour of is people trawling through this information for personal purposes. There is such a thing as privacy. This information is shared to protect the international community against tax evasion, money laundering and that kind of thing. What we are not here to do is share people’s private information with every Tom, Dick and Harry.” Mr Richards described Bermuda as “streets ahead” of other places on financial transparency, having tax-sharing relationships with more than 90 countries. He said multinational companies in Bermuda, like elsewhere, would soon have to comply with new “country-by-country reporting” requirements on financial transactions from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. The Minister said he was “displeased” that Bermuda’s name was getting thrown into the mix by commentators on the Panama Papers, despite it not being mentioned in the leaked documents. “That is, quite frankly, wrong and annoying.” The Bermuda Business Development Agency said in a statement: “Some of the recent reporting on the ‘Panama Papers’ perpetuates the myth that all offshore financial centres are the same. The fact is: Bermuda is different. While there may be businesses, service providers and lax regulatory environments around the world that enable illegal tax evasion, Bermuda is not one of them.” Mr Richards was interviewed by BBC Newsnight’s Kirsty Wark last night. He told her: “We would screen [companies], approve them and discard the ones that didn’t meet our standards and that is the reason you don’t see Bermuda mentioned in those Panama papers. I have to remind you that the UK was mentioned in those Panama papers but not Bermuda.”

April 6. Two Bermudians are in custody in Britain after kidnapping allegations said to involve a third person from the island. Nottingham shire police said that a 20-year-old man sustained minor injuries during the incident, which occurred on March 30 in the town of Bulwell. The Nottingham Post reported that 22-year-old Alshauntia Robinson and Tafari Smith, aged 26, appeared in Magistrates’ Court on Monday, along with Denell Baker, 23. According to sources in Nottingham, which is home to a Bermudian expatriate community, Ms Robinson and Mr Smith are both originally from Bermuda, while Mr Baker is said to be British. All three are residents of Leicester. Earlier the Post reported that police had been called to a disturbance in the market town of Bulwell, north of the Nottingham city centre. Witnesses described two men taking another man from a residence, forcing him into a vehicle and driving away. The victim was found at about 1am the next day, walking in Leicester, and was treated in hospital. The three accused were charged with an indictable offence, and have been remanded pending a May 3 appearance at Nottingham Crown Court. According to the Post, Ms Robinson may qualify for bail in a week’s time if she is able to obtain a £10,000 surety, and surrenders her passport to police.

April 6. The Bermuda Broadcasting Company’s 7pm local newscast was back on TV screens last night after a lightning strike damaged vital equipment. Critical components in the TV Master Control Room were knocked out by the storm, and since then staff at the Fort Hill station have been making repairs. Chief operating officer Patrick Singleton, who spearheaded efforts to restore local television news, said: “We are glad to be able to get the news back on the air so soon. Thanks to a lot of hard work and resourcefulness, the television signal has been restored.” Further repairs will continue for the next few weeks.

April 6. Watching a movie on your smartphone while you’re out and about in Hamilton could soon be an option. The island’s main mobile phone service providers are gearing up to roll out 4G LTE networks that will give customers a much-enhanced, faster data service on their smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices. Customers can expect speedier web browsing, app use, e-mail and video downloading, together with a corresponding increase in upload speeds. CellOne expects to be the first to unveil a 4G LTE network and anticipates it could be only weeks away. The company said the advanced network will initially be limited to Hamilton, although it will eventually become islandwide. Meanwhile, Digicel Bermuda confirmed it is preparing a 4G LTE network that will be accessible “to all customers rather than a few in select areas.” CellOne is in the final testing phase of its upgraded service. It is five years since the company launched its original fourth generation mobile service. However, the arrival of a 4G LTE network is a big additional step. Around the world there are different types of 4G network but LTE, which stands for Long-Term Evolution, is regarded by many people as being the only “true” 4G service. In the US, 4G LTE has increasingly become the standard network choice for major carriers such as Verizon and Sprint. It is also used in much of the rest of the world. Brian Lonergan, CellOne’s marketing director, said bringing in the advanced technology entailed a huge investment, but it was an inevitable step for the island. “You can’t be the carrier that does not have it. And when one carrier goes first everyone else will follow. We wanted to be first with LTE, to be the innovator,” he said. Until equipment upgrades and spectrum wavelength is secured to roll-out the service to other parts of the island, CellOne’s LTE offering will be confined to Hamilton. We know a huge percentage of Bermudians come to town to eat out or at the weekends, so just about everyone will get to try it.” When customers move out of range of the 4G LTE network they will drop back onto the company’s regular network service. Mr Lonergan said the data speeds would be significantly faster than those available at present and would be better able to meet the demands of users seeking to watch videos, or download online movies. “There will be a difference when downloading a movie, people will notice,” he said. Until the service is up and running the exact speeds that will be achieved are hard to predict. In theory, according to Mr Lonergan, they could go up to 75 megabits a second, however, the average would be lower and depend on factors such as how many users were on the network and how close a customer was to a cell tower. For many years Digicel has been providing a 4G service using a technology called HSPA+, which is faster than 3G. In a statement yesterday Digicel said it was “committed to continuing to provide the best network in Bermuda for data speeds and that includes an island wide roll-out of 4G LTE. Digicel customers today benefit from our enhanced 4G network providing 99.9 per cent coverage, average download speeds of 3.65Mbps and upload speeds of 0.7Mbps. Those speeds were verified 24 per cent and 52 per cent faster respectively than the alternative provider by the independent speed test conducted by Yupana in December.” Digicel will make a full LTE statement when it is able to “provide details of access for all customers rather than a few in select areas”. Meanwhile, CellOne has tagged mobile phones on its website that are 4G LTE capable for easier identification by customers. The company is also encouraging customers to check that they have an LTE capable device, and that their device has an LTE sim card installed. Instructions on how to make these checks can be found on the company’s website.

April 6. Retail sales went up 4.4 per cent in January compared to the previous year. Total spending, including $4.4 million in overseas purchases, totaled $89.4 million for the month. Four out of the seven sectors saw increases in revenue, with motor vehicles leading the pack with a jump of more than 26 per cent. After adjustment for inflation, measured at 2 per cent in January, the volume of retail sales increased by 2.3 per cent. Sales receipts at service stations rose by 6.2 per cent, attributed to an 11.2 per cent increase in the cost of fuel, although the volume of fuel sold dropped by 4.5 per cent. In the food and liquor sector, receipts from food sales rose by 3.4 per cent, while liquor sales dropped 1.3 per cent year over year. The sales volume of food stores went up by 0.6 per cent and the sales volume for liquor stores was down 2.9 per cent. The biggest loser of the month was building supplies stores, which saw a 10.9 fall in receipts compared to January 2015. Adjusted for inflation, the sales volume dropped 13 per cent. The decline was linked to fewer purchases related to residential construction projects. Sales revenue for clothing stores also fell, down by 3.1 per cent, with sales volume falling by 3.3 per cent, partly due to lower demand. Sales receipts for the all other stores category rose 3.7 per cent compared to January last year. Gross receipts for marine and boat suppliers went up 79.7 per cent as a result of a jump in sales of boats and boat accessories. Sales of furniture, appliances and electronics also went up, by 9.5 per cent. But gross receipts from pharmacies fell by 3.2 per cent, while receipts for tourist related stores dropped by 16.4 per cent. Total sales volume in the category went up 3.9 per cent after adjustment for inflation.

April 6. Smokers have to dig deeper into their pockets after the cost of brand-name cigarettes went up this week. Responding to the price increase, some members of the public speaking to The Royal Gazette said it may act as a deterrent — but others insisted it would not make people change their minds about lighting up. It comes after finance minister Bob Richards announced in the Budget that “currently imposed excises will be increased to begin the process of increasing the revenue yield from indirect taxes” this year and in 2017. “These increases in specific excise duties on alcohol, tobacco, and petrol will increase revenue by approximately $14.7 million.” Principal customs officer Richard Amos confirmed yesterday that the import duty rate for cigarettes containing tobacco went up by five cents to 27 cents per cigarette on April 1. A pack of brand-name cigarettes, including Marlboro, Camel, Benson & Hedges and Winston, from the Esso City Tigermarket has increased from $11.15 to $12.50. And the Phoenix Stores Ltd has increased the price of a pack by $1.55 to $12.50 and cartons now cost $99.95 instead of $83.95. The Arnold’s group of supermarkets is charging $2 more for a pack, now priced at $12, at its stores and $11 at Arnold’s Discount Warehouse, whereas cartons cost $105 and $99.95 respectively. Chatham House on Front Street has increased its prices by $1.05 to $11, with cartons selling for $99.95, which is an $8.95 increase. And The Matchbox in Washington Mall has also upped its prices to $11 per pack, which is also a $1.05 increase, and $99.95 for a carton instead of $86.95.

April 6. Lawyer Kiernan Bell is the new chairman of the Bermuda Business Development Agency. Ms Bell, who leads the Bermuda dispute resolution team at legal firm Appleby, replaces Caroline Foulger, a former partner at professional services firm PwC, who had led the BDA since it was founded in 2013. “For my part, I am looking forward to continuing to work with my fellow board members, the BDA team and stakeholders — all of whom are collaborating towards a common goal,” said Ms Bell, who has been on the BDA board for three years. Bermuda is a pre-eminent offshore jurisdiction with an unparalleled platform to offer innovative solutions to the global marketplace during an era that poses both great challenges and opportunities. I look forward to doing my part to ensure that the jurisdiction maintains and enhances its reputation for being innovative, well-regulated and relevant, while focusing on services and sectors which create job opportunities for Bermudians.” Ms Foulger will remain on the board for another term as chairwoman of its finance and audit committee. She said: “It has been a pleasure and privilege to serve as the first chair of BDA. The agency was formed to bring together international business development activities in Bermuda — which had formerly been carried out by several different groups — and to sustain and create on-island jobs. Three years on, we are seeing the success of that strategy.” Ms Foulger said the BDA had brought together the international business sector to act as a unified advocate for the island. “We have received strong support from the current government, the former government and the private sector in our activities. Amid merger activity in the insurance sector, fierce competition from other jurisdictions and regular global assaults on offshore financial centres, BDA has contributed to the formation of new companies, improved branding of the island and helped promote industry growth that has led to the creation of new jobs. There remains much to do, however, I am more than confident that Kiernan Bell as our new chair is the right leader to take BDA forward with the support of CEO Ross Webber and the whole BDA team. I look forward to my final year on the board and to supporting Kiernan in her role.” Grant Gibbons, Economic Development Minister, thanked Ms Foulger for her work at the BDA. “Kiernan is an excellent appointment who, like Caroline, brings a wealth of knowledge and market experience to the role of BDA chair. I look forward to working with her as she continues the good work to help grow Bermuda’s gross domestic product and create a positive environment for job creation in our jurisdiction.”

April 5. Bermuda should not be lumped in with offshore centres that encourage tax-dodging, the Bermuda Business Development Agency said today. The BDA hit out after a massive leak of documents from a Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca, which have sparked probes around the world. But a spokeswoman for the BDA said: “Some of the recent reporting on the Panama papers perpetuates the myth that all offshore financial centres are the same. “The fact is Bermuda is different. While there may be businesses, service providers and lax regulatory environments around the world that enable illegal tax evasion — Bermuda is not one of them. Bermuda has an extremely positive global reputation built on transparency, compliance and co-operation — these attributes have been differentiating hallmarks of the jurisdiction for decades.” And she pointed out that Bermuda’s tax regime had won seals of approval from the EU with its award of Solvency II equivalence, one of only two non-EU countries to gain the distinction, while the US National Association of Insurance Commissioners had made the island a “qualified” jurisdiction. The BDA statement added: “Bermuda understands and embraces the worldwide movement towards greater financial transparency and regulatory co-operation. Bermuda does not have laws that promote and protect banking secrecy. Bermuda complies with global anti-money-laundering directives and antiterrorist financing standards. And Bermuda has had a beneficial ownership register in place for 60 years. Bermuda’s 90-plus tax-transparency treaties with countries around the globe underscore Bermuda’s commitment to co-operation and compliance. Bermuda’s track record shows that when asked to assist international authorities, Bermuda has cooperated.  Homogenizing ‘offshore’ and dumping all international financial centres into one bucket synonymous with immoral, illegal and nefarious activity is inaccurate and ill-informed. Bermuda is different.” According to the Panama leaks website, the top three most-mentioned countries are the British Virgin Islands, a UK Overseas Territory, Panama and the Bahamas. They are followed in the top ten by the Seychelles, Niue, Samoa, the UK Overseas Territory of Anguilla, the US state of Nevada, Hong Kong and Britain. Jonathan Dunlop, chairman of the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners, added that Bermuda’s list of tax treaties, the common reporting standard and central registry for company ownership left Bermuda “in a strong position. And, given we are not part of the Panama leak network, I think that further evidences the jurisdiction’s commitment to compliant business. I believe that this should continue to place us well with the international tax advisers who recommend jurisdictions for their international clients to safely centralize family wealth.” The BDA said that Bermudian-based companies had forked out $35 billion over 12 years to cover US catastrophe losses and paid 9 per cent of the claims resulting from the 9/11 terror attacks in 2001. In addition, the UK got 20 per cent of last winter’s flood losses from the Bermuda insurance industry and the country also provides more than a quarter of the capacity for the Lloyd’s of London insurance market. And Bermuda paid 62 per cent of the claims resulting from Britain’s biggest peacetime fire and explosion — the 2005 Buncefield oil terminal fire. The BDA spokeswoman said: “Thanks to Bermuda, cities, coastlines, homes and businesses are rebuilt after major disasters. Bermuda’s positive contribution should not be underestimated or overlooked. Overall, Bermuda’s economic model supports close to a half-a-million jobs globally through trade and investment, including some 350,000 jobs in the US and more than 100,000 in the UK.” The files show how Mossack Fonseca clients were able to launder money, dodge sanctions and avoid tax.

April 5. The widow of assassinated Bermuda Governor Sir Richard Sharples has been named in a leak of confidential bank documents. The details of Baroness Pamela Sharples’s business dealings were among the “Panama Papers” — 11 million documents leaked from the secretive Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca which have sparked international investigations. While some have alleged the documents show how Mossack Fonseca has helped clients launder money, dodge sanctions and avoid taxes, the company itself has defended its reputation, stating that it has never been charged with any criminal wrongdoing. According to the leaked documents, Lady Sharples became the sole shareholder of Nunswell Investments Limited, a company based in the Bahamas that she used to make investments, in 1995. She did not deal with Mossack Fronseca directly but instead managed her company through an employee of a British law firm and an accountant from another firm. The documents show that in 2013 they discussed if she should defer a distribution from her account to postpone paying taxes on it, however they do not show if she did so. According to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, the law firm handling Lady Sharples’s affairs said that she became a director of Nunswell in 2000 and that the company was registered in Britain in the same year and now pays taxes to the British government. The group wrote: “The law firm wrote that the House of Lords has been notified of Lady Sharples’s oversight in registering her interest as a director of Nunswell Investments Limited” and that she receives “no remuneration ... nor any income or capital from that company”. “Her son is a director and is a shareholder of the company on behalf of a trust, ‘not on a personal basis’.” The group also noted there are legitimate uses for offshore companies, foundations and trusts, and that they did not intend to suggest or imply that laws were broken or that those listed acted improperly. Baroness Sharples was given a life peerage in the House of Lords in 1973 after Sir Richard was fatally shot walking through the grounds of Government House. She is one of several British politicians who have been linked to Mossack Fonseca, with Michael Ashcroft and Michael Mates also named in documents. Other figures named in the leaks include Argentinian president Mauricio Macri, Icelandic prime minister Sigmundur Gunnlaugsson, Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko and the King of Saudi Arabia.

April 5. Oil Insurance Ltd will pay out a dividend totaling $200 million to its shareholders this year. The Bermudian-based mutual insurer, which insures the oil giants who own it, made net income of $30.9 million in 2015 and underwriting income of $56.7 million. Roberto Benzan, who was elected chairman at the company’s annual general meeting at the Fairmont Southampton last Thursday, said: “The $200 million dividend demonstrates the board’s commitment to return value to Oil’s shareholders when it is prudent to do so. “Oil focuses on the unique needs of our shareholders while maintaining a strong and robust platform from which to deliver our product and services. That platform is as strong as it has ever been in the company’s 44-year history.” The dividend will be paid to all shareholders on record as of January 1, 2016 payable on June 16 “in recognition of Oil’s continued financial success and solid financial condition”. George Hutchings, senior vice-president and chief operating officer, said: “This year marks the completion of a transformation, started in 2006, of the mutual to overhaul the workings of Oil. The journey began with the restructuring of Oil’s windstorm coverage and encompassed changes to virtually every aspect of its operations including the shareholder agreement, rating and premium plan, Oil’s capital management framework, the policy and the fundamental way Oil markets itself to the brokerage community and the energy industry. Commencing in 2016, Oil’s board of directors and management will complete a strategic planning cycle that will focus on how best to improve the company’s overall value proposition over the next five years.” Oil insures close to $3 trillion of global assets for its more than 50 members who are engaged in energy operations. 

April 5. A closed St George’s restaurant is to be reborn with a new name. The Tavern by the Sea, which closed last Thursday, is to reopen with new management and a new name — The Wharf. The building, at Somers Wharf off Water Street, is owned by Meyer Properties, which will team up with Milos Damjanovic, who ran the restaurant for nearly a decade. A spokeswoman for the firm said the 10 to 12 staff affected by the closure could find jobs at the new-look restaurant. She added: “Everybody has the opportunity to apply and hopefully we would look to take on as many as possible.” The spokeswoman said: “Along with its ongoing investment in St George’s, the Meyer Group will be injecting funds into the Somers Wharf restaurant to provide a full renovation. “In conjunction with restaurateur Milos Damjanovic, the popular eatery will reopen as The Wharf in mid-May.” Mr Damjanovic ran the Tavern by the Sea in its heyday between 2003 and 2011 and will return as manager and partner with Meyer in the new venture. He left the restaurant in 2011 to take over as general manager at the Wyndham-Reef resort in Grand Cayman, a 160-room hotel with two restaurants, bars, a lounge, conference rooms and a staff of 150. But Mr Damjanovic said: “Bermuda, and more specifically St George’s, has always felt like home. I have great friends here and loved the restaurant. When I had the opportunity to invest and return as part owner/operator, the choice was easy. I am confident The Wharf will be a great success. There is a lot of negativity from some corners about Bermuda, but I am very bullish on the island and the future successes to come. From where I sit, things look positive in St George’s — when The Wharf opens, I encourage everyone to come by and judge for themselves.” Herman Basden, 74, who has owned Tavern by the Sea for the last 15 years, said the ending of the lease, his own age and the recession had all played a part in his decision to shut up shop. Mr Basden, the former director of the Public Transportation Board, added: “There’s been quite a recession in St George’s and I’m now in my mid-70s and it’s a bit much for me at nights. The lease has expired and, putting it all together, it seems to be rational. Now, more than ever, I wish I was a younger man, but I don’t have any mixed feelings. I think, in my particular case, the time had come. I have met many wonderful people from the cruise ships and overseas and that’s what I will miss. We don’t have another hotel, we don’t have enough cruise ships — after a while, working on the margins so long, you say ‘OK’. I made it a priority to help the staff find new jobs. All of them are trying to find another job and I’m hanging with them as much as I can and in the very near future I’ll know how many are successful. That’s going to be an ongoing thing.” Mr Basden, who retired from the PTB in 2000, in 2002 took over a deep-in-debt business that was facing eviction after one of the partners abandoned it. But within three years, he had pulled it back from the brink, paid off the bulk of the debt, improved the premises and boosted business.

April 5. Construction company chief Zane DeSilva could be set to tee off a bid for the now-closed Riddell’s Bay Golf and Country Club, The Royal Gazette can reveal. Mr DeSilva, head of Island Construction, said he had designs on the course, Bermuda’s oldest, and a plan to bring it back to profitable operation. He added: “I had some conversations with them late last year and early this year, but nothing was formalized. It’s interesting times.” Mr DeSilva, a member at the club for more than 20 years and also a PLP MP, was speaking only days after the club’s management announced the closure of the near 100-year-old course. Mr DeSilva, who has been off the island, said: “I would expect me and my team would take a good look at it in the next few days. I think the club was tired and it didn’t have the energy and enthusiasm that a club needs in order to be successful. I was looking at totally revamping the club itself, which is old and tired — maybe demolition and rebuilding a new clubhouse in a new area and generating new membership. The club lost an opportunity with the whole crash ... the management didn’t take on that. You can survive, but you have to be hands-on. The truth with Riddell’s Bay was that they didn’t have enough people that were hands-on with the club. It became a dying club, therefore it died.” It was announced last Thursday that the Warwick club would close and that professional services firm PwC had been appointed as liquidators. PwC said that club had “limited and insufficient cash” to meet its operational costs and that “there is no prospect of the necessary funding becoming available in the immediate future”. Mr DeSilva said: “Obviously, they have some financial issues that need to be dealt with, but the course is one that has a lot of deep history in Bermuda. I certainly believe if we lose Riddell’s as a golf course, it’s a great loss to Bermuda. With the closure of St George’s golf club a couple of years back, if we lose Riddell’s it’ll be a shame for Bermuda. It would be another opportunity lost for tourists to participate in when they come here. The golf world would seem to be on a little bit of an uptick and with the world economy having a recovery, golf looks good in my eyes.” The grim news was broken to staff at the club, said by a member to number around 30, at a meeting last Thursday. Members were told to clear out their lockers, while pre-booked parties and events at the club were cancelled. PwC said that it would be speaking to employees, creditors and club members. And the firm added that, in a petition to the Supreme Court, the club’s board had said that they had been struggling financially for some years and that “their efforts to seek a buyer or investor had not been successful”.

April 5. The devastated father of a young woman who died at the weekend has spoken of the family’s heartbreak at the loss of a “beautiful young lady”. Chris Gibbons said the sudden and unexpected death of his 25-year-old daughter, Jessica, had left her family in complete shock. Ms Gibbons, a popular and well-known member of staff at Red Steakhouse, was found in an unresponsive state in her Devonshire home on Sunday afternoon and later certified dead. “Our family is in complete shock at our dear Jessica’s sudden and unexpected passing. Even at the age of 25, losing a child is one of the hardest burdens for any parent to bear. We are all heartbroken and struggling to come to terms at the loss of someone with so much to live for and who was loved by so many people. The last time we saw her was on Thursday. She had just returned from a trip to Texas to see family members and was in a very happy, positive frame of mind. All we can do is grieve for, and be comforted by the many memories we have of a beautiful young lady who brought so much light into all our lives and will be so sorely missed.” Ms Gibbons was born in Bermuda in 1990 to Mr Gibbons and Susan Wakefield Gibbons. She attended Mount St Agnes Academy before travelling abroad to study at the Bishop Strachan School in Toronto. Between 2008 and 2009, she studied fine art at the Ontario College of Art and Design in Toronto. She went on to pursue a career in the hospitality industry on the island working at the Bermuda Bistro at the Beach for three years before joining Red Steakhouse when the new restaurant was established. During her three years at Red Steakhouse, Ms Gibbons worked her way up the ladder and attained the position of assistant restaurant manager. On Saturday, she joined the rest of the staff for an after-work drink at the end of her shift. Andrew Trott, general manager of Red Steakhouse, told The Royal Gazette that staff had been left devastated to hear of Ms Gibbons’s death. “She was just a wonderful girl,” he said. “She was smart and always had a smile on her face. The customers loved her and the staff loved her, too. She had a great sense of humor and a beautiful laugh. Jess took great pride in her job and had used her artistic ability to help us design all the menus. Everyone is completely devastated by what has happened. They have come together as a team and as a family, but they cannot believe she will not be coming to work again.” Yesterday, police confirmed that an investigation into Ms Gibbons’s death was under way. “We would like to extend our sincere condolences to the family and friends of the deceased,” the spokesman said. “The investigating officers are interested in speaking with anyone who may have seen or spoken to Jessica on Saturday night or early Sunday morning. They should contact Detective Sergeant Small of the Criminal Investigation Department on the main police line 295 0011.”

April 4. By Jon Craig, Chief Political Correspondent | Sky News. The hidden wealth of some of the world's most prominent leaders, politicians and celebrities - including three former Tory MPs and six peers - has been revealed in a massive leak. Millions of documents leaked to a number of media organisations across Europe apparently show the ways the rich and famous can exploit secretive offshore tax regimes. It is reported that journalists from more than 80 countries have been reviewing 11.5 million files leaked from the database of Mossack Fonseca, the world's fourth biggest offshore law firm. Among the revelations is a network of secret deals and loans worth £2bn which apparently leads to Russian President Vladimir Putin. According to The Guardian, one of the media organisations receiving the leaked documents - the so-called 'Panama Papers' - reveal six members of the House of Lords, three former Conservative MPs and dozens of donors to UK political parties have had offshore assets; a key member of FIFA's powerful ethics committee, which is supposed to be spearheading reform at world football's scandal-hit governing body, acted as a lawyer for individuals and companies recently charged with bribery and corruption;  twelve national leaders are among 143 politicians, their families and close associates from around the world known to have been using offshore tax havens; among national leaders with offshore wealth are Nawaz Sharif, Pakistan's prime minister; Ayad Allawi, ex-interim prime minister and former vice-president of Iraq; Petro Poroshenko, president of Ukraine; Alaa Mubarak, son of Egypt's former president; and the prime minister of Iceland, Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson; the families of at least eight current and former members of China's supreme ruling body, the politburo, have been found to have hidden wealth offshore. The families of at least eight current and former members of China's supreme ruling body, the politburo, have been found to have hidden wealth offshore. Twenty-three individuals who have had sanctions imposed on them for supporting the regimes in North Korea, Zimbabwe, Russia, Iran and Syria have been clients of Panama-based Mossack Fonseca. Their companies were harbored by the Seychelles, the British Virgin Islands, Panama and other jurisdictions including Bermuda. One leaked memo from a partner of Mossack Fonseca said: "Ninety-five per cent of our work coincidentally consists in selling vehicles to avoid taxes." The company has denied any wrongdoing. It says it has acted beyond reproach for 40 years and that it has had robust due diligence procedures. The document leak comes from the records of the firm, which was founded in 1977. The information is near live, with the most recent records dating from December 2015. Around 370 reporters from 100 media organisations have spent a year analyzing and verifying the documents. Prime Minister David Cameron of the UK has promised to "sweep away" tax secrecy - but his political opponents claim little has been done. He is planning a summit of world leaders next month, which will focus on the conduct of tax havens. The Prime Minister set out his line in 2011 when he said: "We need to shine a spotlight on who owns what and where the money is really flowing." Oxfam's head of UK policy, Richard Pyle, said: "This leak highlights the key role that UK-linked tax havens like the British Virgin Islands play in allowing a privileged elite to dodge paying their fair share of tax. People in the world's poorest countries pay the highest price for the billions of lost tax money when their governments are unable to fund life-saving healthcare such as midwives and vaccinations for children. The UK is in a unique position to help clean up the murky world of tax havens - starting by ensuring that the real beneficiaries of shell companies registered in the UK's Crown dependencies and overseas territories, such as the British Virgin Islands, are revealed ahead of May's Anti-Corruption Summit in London." Campaign group Global Witness said: "This investigation shows how secretly-owned companies, many of them based in the UK's tax havens, can act as getaway cars for terrorists, dictators, money launderers and tax evaders all over the world. The time has clearly come to take away the keys, by requiring the collection and publication of information on who really owns and controls these companies. This would make it much harder to launder dirty money and leave the rest of us safer as a result."

April 4. NEW YORK (Bloomberg) — Alan Schnitzer, the new chief executive officer of insurer Travelers Cos, called on US lawmakers to reduce corporate taxes or risk harming business in the country. “We continue to see the US corporate income tax rate — the highest of any industrialized nation — as encouraging insurers to shift capital offshore, ultimately harming the US economy,” Schnitzer said on Friday in his first annual letter as CEO of the New York-based insurer. “Ensuring that US companies remain competitive should be a priority for Congress.” The remarks build on the case by his predecessor Jay Fishman, who led Travelers since the late 1990s and stepped down in December because of his health. Fishman lamented in September that Bermuda has become the favored destinations for insurance startups over the past 15 years. The acquisition this year of Warren, New Jersey-based Chubb Corp by Switzerland’s Ace Ltd marked another shift in the US industry. Money managers including Goldman Sachs Group Inc and BlackRock have helped support insurance start-ups offshore in recent years. Ace, which took the name Chubb Ltd after its transaction, started in Bermuda during the 1980s and now has a market value of more than $55 billion. XL Group Plc also began with operations on the island, and the insurer is now based in Ireland and worth more than $10 billion. It has announced plans to move its corporate base to Bermuda this year. Schnitzer said the US remains an ideal market in which to sell insurance, given economic instability in other parts of the world. The company has made deals in recent years to expand in Brazil and Canada, and the new CEO said Travelers will proceed “thoughtfully and deliberately” in pursuing transactions. Rival American International Group is retreating in some non-US markets including Honduras and Guatemala. Fishman is the insurer’s executive chairman and stepped down as CEO after being diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS. He led Travelers when it was still a part of Citigroup Inc, departed in 2001 to oversee St Paul Cos, then engineered a more than $17 billion merger with Travelers, which had been spun off from the bank. Schnitzer joined Travelers in 2007 as chief legal officer and was later named to oversee international operations and business insurance. He became CEO in December. “Jay’s legacy is far more than a decade of success in the books,” Schnitzer said in the letter to shareholders. “It’s also a culture that will enable us to achieve the next decade of success.”

April 4. Oil Casualty Insurance Ltd (Ocil) is diversifying beyond its traditional energy industry market. Ocil, a mutual insurer and reinsurer that is owned by the energy giants whose risks it covers, has been operating from Bermuda for 30 years. But only over the past six months has it started to underwrite non-energy business as it aims to strengthen through broadening its risk exposures. Jerry Rivers, Ocil’s chief operating officer, said the Bermuda market had given Ocil “a warm welcome” in the areas in which it had branched out. On Friday, Ocil reported net income of $4.7 million for its financial year ended November 30, 2015, an increase of $1.1 million over the previous year. Net premiums were $111.4 million, down from $113.9 million a year earlier. Shareholders’ equity reached a record level of $537.5 million as of November 30, 2015. Mr Rivers said a year ago Ocil had earned the approval to diversify from its shareholders, which include Exxon Mobil, Chevron, ConocoPhillips and Total. Amendments had to be made to the covenants in the indentures that govern the terms of its debt, and this process was completed in September last year. In October the company began writing non-energy lines. Ocil has been writing management liability insurance, chalking up three directors’ and officers’ accounts, Mr Rivers said. And its property insurance division, which started out dealing with energy and mining-sector risks in 2012 and which is now diversifying into non-energy risks, is also making headway. “It’s good for Bermuda because property on a direct basis had largely disappeared,” Mr Rivers said. “We are excited about being a new property market in Bermuda. Hamilton Group also has a property division and Bermuda is back on the map as a property insurance market for large international customers.” He added that Ocil was taking “a methodical approach” to building out its business and that the recruitment last month of Natasha Pethick from Axis Specialty in Bermuda as a property underwriter would strengthen expertise in non-energy areas. Not being a publicly traded company gave Ocil the ability to grow its new business lines steadily, Mr Rivers added, in the absence of the quarterly pressure that listed entities face to deliver ever-better earnings and revenue. “We can be patient,” he said. “For example, the average limits on what we write in the property division are about $11 million to $12 million, but we have the ability to go up to $50 million.” Continuing expansion was likely to lead to the hiring of an underwriting assistant, he added. Some of Ocil’s member companies have seen their fortunes fade dramatically over the past year, as oil and natural gas prices have plummeted on global markets. But Mr Rivers said Ocil’s business had not suffered similarly. “Our portfolio is well diversified among upstream, midstream and downstream energy companies,” he said. “While the exploration and production companies have been hardest hit by low oil prices, other sides of the sector, such as refineries and utilities, have benefited. Also because we are a mutual, there is a great sense of loyalty and support among our customers. So overall, the low prices in the energy market have had a muted effect on our organisation.” After the company’s annual general meeting at the Fairmont Southampton last Wednesday, the Ocil board of directors appointed Andre Levey, group insurance manager of Santos Ltd, as chairman. Fabrizio Mastrantonio, senior vice-president, insurance activities management, of Eni SpA was appointed deputy chairman. Bertil Olsson, Ocil’s chief executive officer, said in the company’s earnings release: “These results are evidence of the execution of the company’s strategic plan which is built on expansion and diversification, a strategy designed to ensure Ocil’s long-term viability and capital adequacy, while maintaining focus on our core constituency within the energy industry.”

April 4. Workers downed tools at Rosewood Tucker’s Point  Hotel resort over concerns about working conditions yesterday. Management responded by acknowledging issues exist in a maintenance building, and insisting repair work had already been commissioned. According to one employee, staff complained about rusted ceiling beams and mould in the resort’s mechanical department. Another employee told The Royal Gazette: “I saw some workers outside the maintenance shed — they did a sit in for while until about noon. They went back to work but they have finished for the day now. The building is old and they have had issues with the building. It is embarrassing for the management, especially as they are trying to sell the hotel.” A spokeswoman for the hotel said that its management team met with employees at noon, after which all staff returned to work. "We are aware of the issues at the maintenance building known as The Stables, and indeed a review of required works had already been commissioned and contractors contacted to complete the work. The safety and security of our employees is always our utmost priority. We are working diligently with the staff to have this issue resolved and begin repair work as soon as possible.”

April 4. Bermuda’s court system is to celebrate 400 years of service with a schedule of activities starting in the summer. The public is asked to give a helping hand by providing photographs and other records of the courts and those who have worked in them throughout the years. Chief Justice Ian Kawaley said: “As we plan events to recognise and celebrate the 400th anniversary of Bermuda’s first court sitting, which was on June 15, 1616, we are asking Bermudians to look through their old pictures and records and bring in any that highlight and celebrate those who have contributed to the court system over the years. During the summer, we will be unveiling a travelling exhibition and want to highlight former members of the Judiciary. We welcome pictures of former judges, clerks and documents people may have and not been able to share publicly before now. While we may not use everything, we will honour as many people as possible. There are exciting activities planned for later this year. My colleagues and I look forward to engaging with Bermuda’s residents as we highlight the achievements of Bermuda’s court system, arguably the oldest continuous common law legal system outside of the British Isles. We will share the schedule of events closer to the start of the celebrations.” Photos and documents should be taken to the Department of Communication and Information on the ground floor of Global House, 43 Church Street. Scanned copies of originals will also be accepted. E-mails can be sent to vbtucker@gov.bm. Activities are planned from June through to the end of the year.

April 4. The Bermuda Cancer and Health Centre has signed an agreement with a Boston-based counterpart to improve its radiotherapy services. The deal will see the Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women’s Cancer Center provide input into the development of the BCHC’s on-island radiotherapy treatment facility and its corresponding programme. The agreement will also see clinical oncologist Dr Chris Fosker working at both facilities. A BCHC spokeswoman said: “This collaboration will bring together the local cancer care experience in Bermuda and the expertise of one of the world’s leading cancer centres to tailor the radiation programme to best suit the needs of Bermudian patients. “This will enable them to receive the highest standard of radiotherapy here on the island.” For more information, see the website cancer.bm. 

April 4. Hamilton Parish won two titles in the annual Kappa Classic which concluded yesterday at the National Sports Centre, taking the under-10 and under-12 boys titles. Parish beat North Village Reds 1-0 in the under-10 final yesterday, after advancing to the final with a 4-1 win over Dandy Town. North Village beat BAA Greens 2-0 in the other semi-final. Parish claimed a second title when they took the under-12 title after beating Valencia Black 3-1 on penalties in the final as goalkeeper Teh-kel Raynor scored the deciding penalty. The teams tied at 2-2 to force the final into kicks from the penalty spot. Earlier, Parish beat North Village 4-1 while Valencia edged BAA Greens 1-0 in the other semi-final. BAA Greens claimed the under-8 division after a 2-1 victory over Dandy Town Browns. The Greens beat the BAA Knights 1-0 in the semi-final while Town edged Somerset Reds 1-0 in the other semi-final. Somerset Reds made amends, taking the under-14 title after a 1-0 win over Town in yesterday’s final. Town reached the final with a 1-0 win over Parish in the semi-final while Somerset stopped PHC Blacks 2-1. Valencia Black and Dandy Stars claimed the two girls titles yesterday, Valencia taking the under-13s with a 2-0 win over Bermuda High School in the final. The win earned them revenge after losing to BHS 2-1 in pool play on Saturday. Dandy Stars were unstoppable in the under-16 final, beating Valencia Gold 3-0 in the final. Stars won both their pool matches, beating BHS 4-0 and Valencia 1-0. Valencia beat BHS 1-0 and then beat them again 2-0 in the playoff to reach the final. More than 1,000 young boys and girls under the age of 16 took part in the three-day tournament, the biggest youth football tournament in Bermuda. It is organized by the Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity Inc Bermuda Alumni Chapter.

April 4. An online debate has called into question whether Bermuda’s churches should retain their tax-exempt status. The debate sparked up last week when 134 of the island’s churches and rectories paying zero land tax, as recorded on the Land Valuation and Tax website, were listed in a posting on the Bermuda Government’s Facebook page. When contacted by this newspaper, the One Bermuda Alliance said it had not considered imposing a land tax on churches. The land tax on non-exempt properties in Bermuda ranges from $3,600 per year to $576,000 per year according to the Land Valuation Department and the island has one of the highest numbers of churches per capita in the world. Churches, while not officially regulated, gain their exempt status because of the social role they are charged with. As well as land tax exemption, churches are also subject to class C payroll tax payments of 6 per cent — the second lowest of five payroll tax brackets. Churches do pay Foreign Currency Purchase Tax along with other government fees and taxes while financial donations made to the church are tax deductible. Some of those posting on the OBA’s page suggested that churches, as well as abandoned properties not paying land tax, should be subject to a temporary tax while the government climbs its way out of debt, expected to hit $2.44 billion by March 31, 2017. Another suggested it would be unfair to tax all churches as there is a charitable element to what many of them do, yet said they should be held to the same reporting standards as charities in order to be able to solicit donations and be eligible for tax-free status. A Ministry of Finance spokesman said: “The Government appreciates all of the excellent community work that our churches do and consider that they pay their fair share of taxes. What is being suggested by online commentary has not been a consideration of the Government.” Jonathan Portes, principal research fellow at the National Institute of Economic and Social Research and one of three who sat on the 2015 Fiscal Responsibility Panel, said its report had noted that Bermuda’s land tax system could be “rationalised” without specifically referring to churches. The report, which included debt reduction in its remit, said: “[Taxes on land and property] could be increased in the short term, while considering longer-term reforms to improve equity and efficiency.” Mr Portes, who was chief economist at the UK’s Cabinet Office where he advised Number 10 Downing Street on economic and financial issues, told The Royal Gazette: “We noted that the land tax system is complex in Bermuda and, in an ideal world, it could be rationalized but we decided, given the other things that were on the government’s agenda, and given that the government does not have a huge number of civil servants to work on tax issues, that it wasn’t a top priority.” He did say that the issue could be revisited in future reports. Brian Duppereault, chairman of the Spending and Government Expenses Committee, said that finding revenue was not in the Sage Report’s remit, only finding efficiencies in current spending. The Salvation Army’s Bermuda divisional commander Major Frank Pittman warned that small, well-meaning churches could be crippled if faced with additional charges. The Salvation Army, a church with a charitable arm that saw its government funding slashed by $50,000 in the last budget, is entirely funded by what it raises in Bermuda with no funds being transferred from the parent charity’s resources in Canada. “We are 100 per cent funded from a small population base,” Major Pittman said. “Not only are we providing a church but we are providing social programmes and it would challenge us more than we already are. We have a lot of property but it is social and church property such as Harbour Light and the thrift store. The church is a foundation of the community and we have to protect it and keep it as a solid foundation for our island. If the church falls it is a risky situation because of the moral and spiritual influence that the church gives to the community. Without that we could be impacted seriously.” Asked whether he thought any churches in Bermuda had the financial capacity to afford such taxation, Major Pittman added: “It would be hard to determine which churches to charge and which not to — it would be a hard line to draw.” Former senator and pastor of Vernon Temple AME in Southampton Leonard Santucci is of the view that “if it’s not broken, don’t fix it. Historically, you will find that this has been the case going back thousands of years into biblical times. They are earning the tax breaks based on the services they provide for the greater good of the community from worship and prayer to divergent forms of counseling. We go into prisons, we have a partnership with Heron Bay School and we have a partnership with Southampton Rangers Sports Club.” Unlike charities, churches without a charitable arm are not required to report their financial information. Rev Santucci conceded that with no regulation in place it is difficult to prove to the public that all of Bermuda’s churches do their bit to earn their tax break yet questioned whether the wider public has a right to know. “I am not opposed to financials being published. Most mainline denominations have annual meetings where they make known their statistical reports. If someone has a concern we could probably raise that with the government with reference to making certain things known and available. To a certain extent, certain information is made available to members of a club or organization. If you are not a member there is a legitimate question as to whether or not you are entitled to know. I believe everybody should be answerable to somebody — I am answerable to my congregation, to my presiding elders, I am answerable to my bishop but most importantly I am answerable to my God and my conscience.” Economic commentator Larry Burchall said he was not opposed to churches having to file their financial records but did not see introducing taxes as an option. “In the US this is a multi, multibillion dollar industry, taxing them is a viable thing to do. That facet doesn’t exist here. The Church of England here is a large property owner with what we call the Glebe Lands in Pembroke that were vested in the church. Others such as the Seventh-day Adventist churches have been built with Adventist money. I think they should remain tax free as long as it appears, or seems on the surface, that they are doing God’s work. You could lob them in with charities and require them to provide accounts.” If a church owns additional properties beyond the house of worship and the residence of the pastor, then they must pay tax on the additional properties — the exemption does not cover any apartments from which they derive rent. Diane Elliott, director of the Land Valuation Department, said that, more and more, the department finds itself turning down applications for tax-exemption on the residences as much of the church’s work can now be done from an office within the church. “Every year or other year, a church puts a pastor in a house and asks for an exemption as a parsonage,” she said. “We ask if there is a church office from which that minister can perform his duties. Most churches these days do, in the past they didn’t. If he isn’t performing duties from his house then no, the house is non-exempt. Most times we do not grant the application because they don’t meet the test. Some of these historic parsonages might need to be revisited.”

April 4. Gift store Otto Wurz is to close after 60 years in the same family. Owner Anthea Edwards, who took over the store from her mother Ivy Spurling in the 1960s, said she would shut up shop at the end of June. Ms Edwards, 72, whose sons Christopher and John also work in the business, said: “I’m going to retire and my son, who has always worked with me, is moving to America. “I have another son who does the engraving and he will probably continue to do that, but he is busy with other things and doesn’t want to take over the business.” Ms Edwards added that the recession had also played a part in her decision to call it a day. She said: “Quite frankly, business is not that good.” Ms Edwards mother bought the business in 1955, which had been established by German watch and clock seller Otto Wurz in 1928 on Bermudiana Road. The firm moved to its current location on the corner of Front Street and Par-la-Ville Road in the early 1960s, when Ms Edwards joined the firm. Ms Edwards said: “It’s been a long go — it’s time for me to do something different.” She admitted she would miss the store and business life. Ms Edwards said: “I certainly will. It’s been a part of my life for almost all of my life. I have shed many tears over it and I’ve had many doubts — but I think I’m going in the right direction.” The firm sells a wide range of gift items, including jewellery, glassware and pewterware, as well as clothes, greeting cards and traditional toys.

April 4. Bermuda CableVision temporarily lost several channels due to an “unknown source” outside of their control, according to a spokeswoman. In response to complaints this week about the disappearance of several channels, the spokeswoman said service resumed on Saturday. CableVision customers also lost access to Bermuda Broadcasting Company channels, which were knocked off the air on Tuesday morning as a result of stormy weather. However, the company has said that internet service through Logic has been unaffected by the issues, with the spokeswoman saying: “Logic doesn’t have any internet issues.”

April 4. Paula Wight thought gig rowing looked so easy on Facebook. Then she tried it. The first time the 52-year-old went out with the Bermuda Pilot Gig Club she became hopelessly muddled. “The coach was saying to push with my hands and feet, while leaning back and keeping my oar in the right place,” she said. “I thought, ‘I can’t do all these things at the same time!’” It took five rowing trips before she got it. Everyone was so supportive,” she said. “Because gig boat rowing is so new to Bermuda everyone was starting out.” She’s now preparing for the World Pilot Gig Championships. She and 30 club members will head to the Isles of Scilly for the competition in May. Jill Parlee said everyone was a little disbelieving when coach Steve Lock suggested they compete. “He has been talking about the world championships from the beginning,” the 30-year-old said. “We’ll be Bermuda’s first team to go and it will be exciting. Most of the people competing will be from Britain. We will be one of four international teams taking part.” There are two female crews and one male crew representing Bermuda at the annual event. They practise daily, at 8am and 6.30pm, out of East End Mini Yacht Club. Membership is $100; people can do three test rows before deciding whether to join. Shervon De Leon, 37, said it’s been a challenge getting men involved. “I’ve been working to get the number of men up since I joined last June,” he said. “It’s a matter of commitment as men are so busy.” Ms Parlee fell in love with gig rowing the first time she tried it last summer. “It gets you outdoors on the water,” she said. “And it’s great exercise.” Their hope is to train in rougher waters in the days to come. The championships are held in open ocean, not in protected harbors. “That is the most fun,” said Ms Parlee. “It can be challenging because your oar has to find water. That’s hard sometimes when you are up on one side because of the chop but then it comes and you are low to the water. The choppier the better as it makes it challenging.” She admitted that some rowers did get seasick on particularly rough outings. Club member Susannah Cole finds rowing very calming. “There are no electronics or other distractions. To row well you have to get into a rhythm. As soon as I was finished my first row, I knew that was exactly the break that my mind and body needed to feel good.” Cynthia Millett said there were other challenges to the sport besides the rowing. “You don’t just get in the boat and row away. It has to be dressed up when you start, and dressed down when you finish. To dress it up you have to put in the seats, stretchers, ropes and steering mechanism. Then you have to put in the pins for the oars. Then it has to be moved from where it sits into the water.” On one occasion, everyone was in the gig before they realized something was wrong. “There was seven of us and no one could figure out that the oars were missing,” Ms Wight laughed. “We’d left them in the shed. Luckily, we hadn’t left the dock. We had to get out again, unlock the shed and get the oars.” Pilot gig rowing stems from the days when crews would row out to an incoming ship to guide it to shore. The first crew that reached the ship, got the job. This was common in Bermuda until the 1930s when government started paying a branch pilot to do the job. Ms Millett’s great uncle, Jed Lambe, was a pilot before the days of boat engines. “It is nice to be carrying that on,” she said. Club organizer Mr Lawrence Bird said one of their biggest challenges was fundraising, first to buy the gigs and then to get the team to Britain. As part of that, the group is hosting a wine tasting at Discovery Wines from 5.30pm to 7.30pm on Friday. For more information visit the website bermudapilotgigclub.com. 

April 3. Food lovers were treated to a delightful array of desserts at the opening event of the City Food Festival yesterday. Those undeterred by the weather enjoyed a park atmosphere in the foyer of City Hall while sampling creations by the MEF Group, which was catering the event, The Pastry Girl, Bermuda Cupcake Company, Confections and Sweet Saak Bakery. “This is the first time we’ve done Just Desserts,” Vicki Abraham, the communications and rentals coordinator at the City of Hamilton, said, adding that the event was the start of the weeklong City Food Festival. We thought we’d kick off the event with a decadent flavour,” she said. According to Ms Abraham, the silver-service style of serving the petit fours or tapas-style desserts was designed to make people feel spoilt and thoroughly looked after. Ms Abraham added that she was delighted to see people making an effort to attend despite the torrential rain, which led to the event moving from its original location in Queen Elizabeth Park to City Hall. “It was designed to be held in a park so this is not optimum. We’ve brought the park inside. We were really pleased with the number of people interested. It sold out. It’s an indicator of what’s to come. We’re looking forward to having a full house at each event.” Those in attendance were welcomed by town crier Ed Christopher and treated to live entertainment, including a rendition of Etta James’s At Last by singer Olivia Hamilton. Ms Abraham added that the idea behind the weeklong food festival was to bring people into the City, especially on the weekends, while experiencing something new and fresh. As part of the City Food Festival, a chef competition will be held today and Wednesday, a wine tasting and food pairing on Thursday and the Bacardi Bartender competition will take place on Friday. Bermuda’s Street Food Festival will be held on Saturday. While some of the events require a ticket, the food walk in Chancery Lane tomorrow is free. Ms Abraham said people will be able to sample tapas-style food from Ruby Murrys, Pearl, Common Ground Café and Bistro J.

April 3. The first event of the City Food Festival will be held in the City Hall foyer at 3pm. A spokeswoman said the move from the park is the result of the stormy weather forecast for today. “We look forward to hosting a full house at this first event. For those interested in other City Food Festival events and the City food passport to all events during the week, tickets are limited but still available. 

April 2. The loss of the Riddell’s Bay Golf and Country Club has dealt an “understandable” blow to confidence, Bermuda Tourism Authority spokesman Glenn Jones said last night. Saying he would miss golfing and entertaining guests at the 94-year-old club in Warwick, Mr Jones nevertheless contended that the island remained strong as a golf destination. “My thoughts are with the fine people who worked at the course as they deal with this sudden closure,” he added. The club’s liquidation was announced on Thursday, ending several years of financial hardship at Riddell’s Bay and prompting Opposition criticism of the Authority’s performance. The club’s loss “further diminishes our tourist and local golf product”, according to Jamahl Simmons, the Shadow Minister of Tourism. However, Mr Jones maintained that despite this week’s bad news, trends we see in golf tourism are positive. "Even with this unfortunate development, Bermuda has plenty of high-quality golf product and can compete with any destination in the region for golf visitors. Marketing drives for events such as the Grey Goose World Par 3, Gosling’s Invitational and Goodwill tournaments had stimulated growth. Mr Jones pointed to growth in the annual Women & Golf, as well as the second Bermuda Golf Classic coming later this month, and said college golfers were “increasingly” using the island for practice during spring break. The international management firm Troon Golf works successfully with Port Royal and Ocean View, Mr Jones said. “Even professional tournaments like the Nike Golf PGA Team Championship of Canada has moved to Bermuda in the past year, and we have high confidence it will return in 2016.” Meanwhile, Mr Simmons urged the Bermuda Government to help Riddell’s Bay staff to get new jobs, adding that visitors with bookings at the club would need to be informed swiftly and given alternate arrangements. He called for the Department of Workforce Development to reach out to Bermudian workers immediately. "The closure of the island’s oldest golf club — described on the official Bermuda tourism web site as “the elder statesman of Bermuda country clubs” — stood as “yet another example of a longstanding Bermudian institution falling victim to our economic climate. Tourism policy under the One Bermuda Alliance had yielded a 49-year low in tourism air arrivals. The Progressive Labour Party would demand greater accountability” from the BTA, which was launched in December 2013 — billed as an independent and apolitical entity when it replaced the old Department of Tourism." Charging the OBA administration with a failure to deliver, Mr Simmons said the PLP would expand the budget for tourism marketing to a competitive level, and “prioritise tourism investment to grow the industry and to in turn create jobs for Bermudians.”

April 2. Rolfe Commissiong has accused the One Bermuda Alliance of “borrowing liberally” from a motion he tabled in the proposals to demonstrators last week without acknowledging the source. In discussions with demonstrators, Michael Dunkley, the Premier, offered to “address a living wage and training requirements for Bermudians”. Meanwhile, in February, Mr Commissiong put forward a motion that called on the House to form a joint select committee to “examine the efficacy of establishing a livable wage for Bermuda”. The Progressive Labour Party backbencher said: “The fact that my motion also called on us to look at the impact over the last couple of decades of low-cost, foreign sourced labour on the Bermuda workforce and economy was also important, and they borrowed liberally from that, as well in their overall suite of proposals.” While he said he was pleased to see the Government moving in this direction, he added: “At least give some attribution. Ethically, it was their responsibility to acknowledge that and it would have helped with the bipartisan buy-in. Everyone in Bermuda knows the former UBP and now the OBA is not a party philosophically or ideologically in favour historically of putting things like a living wage in place in Bermuda. The business sector has been a large part of their support base, and they would be anathema to that sort of idea. I just hope that this new-found interest in the issue is maintained in a few weeks when I move the motion to establish a joint select committee to examine the efficacy of putting in place a living and/or livable wage for Bermuda.”

April 2. A local businessman has described the move to solar energy as a “double-edged sword.” General manager Andrew Mackay, of Gorham’s True Value Home Centre, which is in the process of completing its final instalment of photovoltaic solar energy, said: “Your initial investment is going to be high, but at the same time you want to do something that’s good for the environment. “You’ve got your moral obligation and your financial obligation. You’ve got to weigh both of them.” Mr Mackay’s comments come after a Government report, investigating the potential of bringing liquefied natural gas to Bermuda as an alternative to diesel, was tabled last month. Grant Gibbons, Minister of Economic Development, said that LNG would be more cost effective and produce less harmful emissions. But he noted concerns had been raised about the manner in which it is extracted, and that it would act as a disincentive to adopting renewable energy due to its lower cost. The report found the deployment of LNG in Bermuda was feasible if the pricing differences between natural gas and oil were sufficiently disparate and that LNG was available on the island. Solar energy advocates have long extolled the virtues of its generous payback. However, Mr Mackay added that with a “considerable drop in oil prices, the payback had changed. Where before you could see a return on your investment in five years, it may take a little longer, seven or eight. From a financial standpoint, I would say that if the government came on board with making it a viable option for people, I think it would be great.” According to Mr Mackay, the company has always aimed for greener solutions, having installed its first solar panels in 2011. And he said they were “ecstatic” with the results of the new system. “We haven’t got the main system online yet because we’re the first company to go this large and again the infrastructure is not in place for it. We’re like the test pilot. Nobody on the island has a system this big — even close to it. Alternative financing solutions could also work, but marketing also needed to improve. If we can find a solution where the banks, Belco and the solar distributor could come up with an agreement and a package they could offer the people, I think it would do wonders for the island — absolute wonders. There are stacks of methods to do it. It’s all about getting the right players in the same room and coming up with a solution. Once finished, Gorham’s would need about 20 per cent of its power from Belco because it would still need battery backups. We’re excited about it and hopefully people will get on board. "

April 2. Multicultural performance group Up with People (UWP) is set to return to Bermuda this month as part of their latest tour. In addition to performing at CedarBridge Academy on April 28 and 29, group members will be volunteering their time to assist community projects and help charities such as Keep Bermuda Beautiful.. Up with People has been touring for 50 years, bringing an international cast of young people on five-month world tours during which they stay with locals, work with non-profits and perform. Other stops on the tour include the United States, Mexico, Sweden, Denmark and Belgium. A number of Bermudians have been featured in the cast over the years, including Zach Lathan, Sara Schroter-Ross and Sloane Wilson. Another Bermudian, Johnae Tucker, is set to join the touring cast this summer. UWP executive producer Eric Lentz said that the mission of the group was as important in 2016 as it was in 1965, saying: “The show will feature historical highlights from throughout Up with People’s existence, including pop medleys from the last five decades, and a medley of iconic UWP international dances. Original UWP songs will introduce timeless themes, and include messages of hope, movement, peace and an overriding sense of motivation to go out and make a positive change in the world.”

April 1. The Bermuda Tourism Authority has disclosed $13 million in external contracts under public access to information legislation. The deals include $3.6 million on sales, marketing and advertising and $589,000 on public relations, as well as $3.5 million in rent here and abroad. One of the largest contracts is for $2 million to be paid to the America’s Cup Event Authority, which is holding its international yachting races on the island next year. Sponsorship payments amount to $1.3 million, while the contract for the quango’s website for a year is more than $900,000. The list of contracts was published in yesterday’s edition of The Royal Gazette, in compliance with section 6 of the Public Access to Information Act, which requires public authorities to regularly publish details of every contract worth $50,000 or more. The largest single contract is for $2.4 million on rent for the BTA’s Third Avenue office in New York. The six-year contract, which runs between 2013 and 2019, is with Royal Realty Corporation. A six-year contract for rent for the authority’s office on Church Street in Bermuda, with Washington Properties, is worth $1.1 million. The BTA’s marketing and advertising deals are with four contractors:

• MMGY Global, which has offices in the United States and Spain, for $2 million for a 25-month-contract

• British-based Global Travel Marketing for $488,720 for a two-year contract

• American-based Expedia Media Solutions for $300,000 for a ten-month contract

• AB Golf Consulting for $192,000 for a 19-month golf sales and marketing consulting contract.

The BTA also has an 18-month contract with American-based Turner PR for public relations worth $589,000.

Sponsorship deals amount to $1.3 million and comprise $406,334 to the Bermuda Sloop Foundation for the Spirit of Bermuda; $185,000 to the Bonnier Corporation for fishing events; $160,000 to the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club for the Argo Gold Cup; $160,000 to Bermuda National Athletics Association for the Marathon Weekend; $150,000 to the RBYC for Newport to Bermuda sailing; $100,000 for the World Rugby Classic; $60,000 to the RBYC for Antigua to Bermuda sailing; and $50,000 each to BHW Ltd for the Bermuda Heroes Weekend and the Bermuda Underwater Exploration Institute for the America’s Cup Exhibit. Other contracts listed include $234,000 to the Associated Luxury Hotels International for three-year membership of its global alliance and a $302,000 grant to the Bermuda Hospitality Institute. The BTA was given a $1 million increase in its budget from the Bermuda Government this year, receiving $22.7 million for the fiscal year 2016-17. It said yesterday that as its fiscal year runs from January 1, only three-quarters of that grant — or $750,000 — would affect its budget. The Tourism Authority Fee, which is paid directly to the BTA by the island’s hotels, was to double to 5 per cent but the authority said it had now been set at 4.5 per cent. The increase will come into effect on May 1 and will only affect bookings made after that date. Overall, the BTA said its budget would increase by $2.48 million to $27.8 million. Glenn Jones, the director of public and stakeholder relations, said the increase was about half what finance minister Bob Richards projected in the annual Budget. He added: “Rest assured, no matter the size of the BTA budget, or the headwinds we face, our goal every day is to stimulate growth and help our tourism economy reach the levels of greatness we all know it has the potential to achieve.” The authority’s annual report, released in August, showed that chief executive officer Bill Hanbury took in a salary of between $225,000 and $295,000 last year with a “performance incentive payout” of between $31,000 and $88,000. Salaries for directors ranged from $130,000 to $150,000 for Bermuda-based staff and $115,000 to $130,000 for out-of-island employees. Bonuses in that department ranged from $14,000 to $16,000.

April 1. The island’s recent political upheaval has become the subject of an April Fool’s spoof featured in an international sailing publication under the headline ‘Perfect storm strikes Bermuda’. Meanwhile, a second spoof appeared on the same site under the headline ‘America’s Cup to bring untreated sewage to Great Sound” in order to match the sailing conditions of the Olympic Games. The first article, which appears on Sailingscuttlebutts.com, speaks of Premier Michael Dunkley declaring a “state of emergency” and “an island-wide curfew” being imposed as a result of “widespread rioting and looting throughout the country”. Sailingscuttlebutts.com, which has extensively featured Bermuda’s successful America’s Cup bid, continues: “Riots erupted yesterday outside Session House, along Front Street, and at groceries in all parishes leaving produce shelves bare while labour unions and government remain at an impasse on immigration and labour policies.” Further compounding the island’s troubles, the article goes on to claim, was “Cyclone Alex” which had caused “an Arctic front sweeping down from Canada” before hitting Bermuda. “The British government have taken an unprecedented measure and have arranged for the drop shipment of emergency food and medical provisions,” it said. The article is accompanied by a photograph, apparently taken from Bernews.com, of a man holding up a sign saying “people should not fear the government, government should fear the people”. Contacted by this newspaper for comment, editor of the site Craig Leweck said he could not reveal the origin of the article but went on to say: “With the America’s Cup comes a bright spotlight that can find uncomfortable details.” Just minutes after the first article appeared, a second article claimed that “with a generous grant from Larry Ellison, work will begin immediately on rerouting the untreated sewage outfall pipes from the City of Hamilton and the King Edward VII Memorial Hospital from their current location off Grape Bay Beach on the South Shore, redirecting them northwest through Paget Marsh to Salt Kettle Bay on the eastern edge of the Great Sound.” It continued that “between 500,000 and 1,000,000 gallons of raw sewage to the sailing areas to guarantee the America’s Cup matches will be sailed in the same conditions deemed suitable for the Olympic Games.” The only indication that the articles are a joke, besides their content, is a small tag at the bottom saying “April Fools.”

April 1. The Constituency Boundaries Commission wants feedback from the public, with an open forum to be held on the night of April 11. Submissions can also be sent by e-mail to pro@gov.bm, from today until April 11. The commission’s public meeting will be held at the Berkeley Institute’s auditorium, from 6pm to 8pm. Formed in October, the commission is tasked with setting the layout of the island’s 36 political districts. Details are available at the website www.elections.gov.bm.

April 1. Cash-strapped Riddell’s Bay Golf and Country Club is to close after nearly a century, it was revealed yesterday. Professional services firm PwC, who have been appointed as liquidators, said the club had “limited and insufficient cash” to meet operational costs and “that there is no prospect of the necessary funding becoming available in the immediate future”. A spokeswoman for PwC said: “In these circumstances, they regretfully have reached the view that there is no alternative but to immediately cease operations of Riddell’s Bay Golf and Country Club for the foreseeable future.” It is understood the staff at the Warwick club — said by a member to number about 30 — were told the grim news at a meeting yesterday. Members were told to clear out their lockers yesterday, while pre-booked parties and events at the clubhouse have been cancelled. Locks have been changed and a sign put up saying that the course was now closed. PwC added that they would be speaking to employees, creditors and club members. Memberships, due to expire at the end of this month, will not be renewed. Annette Beveridge, the financial controller at the club, did not return calls from The Royal Gazette yesterday. PwC’s Alison Tomb and Simon Conway were appointed to liquidate the club after the board of directors lodged a petition with the Bermuda Supreme Court. The PwC spokeswoman said: “In their petition, the board indicated that the company had been struggling financially for some years and that their efforts to seek a buyer or investor had not been successful. Furthermore, given the company’s operating losses and its inability to meet its debts as they fell due, the board considered that they had no alternative but to seek the appointment of provisional liquidators. Over the next few weeks, the provisional liquidators will assess the situation and the most appropriate strategy to generate value to enable the company’s creditors to be paid.” One longstanding member at the club, which had been in operation since 1922, said: “It’s like a lot of golf courses — they’re suffering and it’s just a question of cash flow from operations. The balance sheet is all right because they have valuable property there.” The source added that members “won’t be delighted” at the closure. But he said: “Hopefully it’s not a permanent thing and someone will see the value of the club and open it again.” The club is the second course on the island to close in recent times. St George’s golf course was shut by its board of trustees in July 2008 after it was projected to lose more than $600,000 for the year ending March 2009. It briefly reopened as a public golf course in 2011 before being allowed to fall into disuse again.

April 1. NEW YORK (Bloomberg) — Assured Guaranty Ltd is seeking financial information from Puerto Rico, and is looking to Washington for help. The Bermudian-based bond insurer, which guarantees repayment on about $3.8 billion of commonwealth securities, sent a letter on Wednesday addressed to Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP, which is representing Puerto Rico in its attempt to restructure $70 billion of debt, detailing multiple requests for information. The letter signed by Bruce Stern, Assured’s executive officer, was also sent to US Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew, House Speaker Paul Ryan and other federal lawmakers working on legislation to address the island’s fiscal crisis. Assured says that it has failed to receive complete financial information that it is entitled to as insurer of commonwealth securities after repeated appeals during the last 18 months, beginning with a request for Puerto Rico Highways & Transportation Authority maintenance agreements in September 2014. Assured is also seeking current balances for accounts that repay Highways debt and Puerto Rico Convention Centre District Authority bonds after the two agencies began using reserve funds to make their January 1 debt-service payments. Assured needs the data to plan for possible draws on its insurance policies, Stern wrote in the letter. “The financial situation of the commonwealth and its public agencies remains opaque,” Stern said. “In the absence of a legitimate reason for this opacity, Assured is left to speculate what ulterior purpose the continued refusal to provide basic and readily-available financial information serves.” Barbara Morgan, a spokeswoman at SKDKnickerbocker in New York, which represents Puerto Rico’s Government Development Bank, didn’t have an immediate comment. Betsy Nazario, a spokeswoman at the GDB in San Juan, and Shannon Lynch, a spokeswoman at Cleary Gottlieb, didn’t immediately return phone calls and e-mails. Stern sent the letter as the House Natural Resources Committee plans to introduce on April 11 its bill that would establish a federal oversight board to manage any Puerto Rico debt restructuring and weigh in on annual budgets. The goal is to end the commonwealth’s practice of borrowing to fill budget deficits. US territories, including Puerto Rico, don’t have access to municipal bankruptcy. Governor Alejandro Garcia Padilla in June said the island was unable to repay its obligations on time and in full. Two agencies have missed bond payments since then and the government has redirected revenue from the Highways and Convention Centre authorities to instead pay general-obligation bonds, which have the highest priority under its constitution. Creditors, including mutual funds, bond-insurance companies, and hedge funds are working together on a unified counterproposal that would reduce Puerto Rico’s debt after island officials last week offered their latest debt-restructuring plan to the different parties. Puerto Rico has said it wants to reach an agreement with its creditors, an assertion that Stern questions. The responses of Cleary Gottlieb, Puerto Rico and the island agencies, “suggests the commonwealth and its public corporations are not serious about working towards a meaningful consensual restructuring”, Stern wrote. Assured guaranteed about $3.8 billion of Puerto Rico securities, as of December 31, as measured by gross par outstanding, according to financial documents on the company’s website.

April 1. A new law to create a public register of directors comes into force today. Government amended company law to create the register to stay in line with US Financial Action Task Force rules. The new law means every company registered in Bermuda has to file a list of its directors with the Registrar of Companies and notify any changes within 30 days. While the amendment to the Companies Act 1981 takes effect today, firms have until the end of the year to comply. The Registrar of Companies is working on a new electronic platform so directorships can be logged online. Information on directors must include name, and address for individuals and the name and registered office in the case of companies. The Registrar of Companies will maintain the register, which will be available for public inspection, subject to any conditions the Registrar might impose and a fee. Offshore law firm Appleby yesterday sent out a reminder of the change in the regulations. Managing partner Timothy Faries said that the information was already publicly available, but not at a single site. And he added it was unlikely to deter people from holding multiple directorships. Mr Faries said: “Having it with the Registrar makes it slightly easier for the public but it has no impact on people being able to serve on numerous boards.”

April 1. Government employees who did not go to work during the protests against Pathways to Status will not be paid, according to a Cabinet Office spokeswoman. Asked if civil servants who stayed away during the demonstrations would be paid, the spokeswoman said: “It should be clarified that the Bermuda Government has a no work/no pay policy and, as it relates to the recent demonstrations, this policy was applied. Managers within the public service have been advised that normal rules for vacation should apply and vacation must be requested and approved in advance. Any public officer who reported for work and worked will be paid. It is understood that some public officers reported to work sites but chose not to work. In those cases managers were reminded to follow the disciplinary procedure, such that any person reporting to work but refusing to work should be directed to work. If they failed to follow the direction from a manager, then the manager was to follow normal progressive disciplinary procedures.” Buses, ferries and trash collection all ground to a halt on March 11 following a call for a withdrawal of labour by the People’s Campaign in protest of the Pathways to Status immigration legislation. Demonstrations resumed on March 14 with hundreds of demonstrators surrounding the Sessions House, blocking access to the building to prevent the tabled bill from being debated. The withdrawal of labour continued until the afternoon of March 17, when the Government agreed to take the controversial legislation off the table in favour and instead adopt a staggered approach to the issue. The Government also agreed that the Labour Advisory Council would concurrently delve into issues including amendments to work permit policies to address a living wage and training requirements for Bermudians, cracking down on business tactics that undermine Bermudian labour and working with the international business sector to provide summer job opportunities for Bermudians.

April 1. As of today, the Departments of Conservation Services and Environmental Protection will be merged together to form the Department of Environment and Natural Resources. A spokeswoman for the Ministry of Health, Seniors and Environment said that the decision was taken following a comprehensive management services review in late 2015. She added: “For the past 13 years, the management of Bermuda’s natural environment has principally been shared between the two departments. The merger will create a more cohesive and coordinated approach to the management of Bermuda’s environment and use of its natural resources, under the guidance of a single director.” The new department will be responsible for all matters related to animal and plant management, pollution control, marine resources, agriculture support services, conservation of Bermuda’s most sensitive habitats, protected species recovery and administration of the Bermuda Aquarium Museum and Zoo. For more information, contact the department headquarters in the Botanical Gardens at 236-4201.

April 1. Change comes to us all: after a seven-year struggle to stay at $1, The Royal Gazette will cost our readers $1.50 to purchase over the counter, starting today. The move, among several in store as the island’s daily continues to evolve, reflects the changing nature of today’s news as much as it does global trends in costs. The paper remains cheaper than a cup of coffee, and it still costs less than a dollar to get it delivered at home. But our price hike is an unavoidable outcome of increased prices for materials and operations, as explained by the company’s chief executive, Jonathan Howes. “We held off increasing the price for years, as Bermuda was in a recession,” Mr Howes said. “Unfortunately, as our costs both local and foreign continued to rise during those years, we have now had to increase the price of the paper. As we increase the price, we have reached out to Age Concern to offer the seniors in our community a special price to subscribe to the paper. Additionally, we have kept the regular subscriber price below $1 for our home delivery and home delivery subscribers also get unlimited access to our digital products and archives.” No company likes to charge extra for its product, he said, conceding that the cost could have gone up incrementally each year to keep up with the increasing outlay for printing. “Hindsight is 20/20, and we need to recover the cost of printing the paper from our retail pricing. Globally, the newspaper industry has been under siege from digital advertising. Many newspapers around the world have closed, as they failed to monetise content in the digital age.” The Royal Gazette will begin to phase in a porous paywall for our website over the coming months, he said. “Digital and print subscribers will continue to have unlimited access to all our content, while registered users, who are not paying subscribers, will have limited access to premium content.” The Royal Gazette is also excited to officially announce the launch of its tablet and phone apps. The apps are available in five platforms — iPad tablet, iPhone, Android tablet, Android phone and Android Kindle. “These products have been available for download on to IOS and Android devices for the past nine months,” Mr Howes said. “As we increase the price of the paper, these products will be accessible only to subscribers.” By global standards, particularly in light of the island’s comparatively high prices, our newsstand price remains modest. Consider the United States, where the newsstand price for The New York Times went up by 50 cents in 2012, to $2.50. The Washington Post will put you back $2 for a weekday edition, while The Boston Globe costs $1.50 at stands within its home city, or $2 farther afield. Meanwhile, in Britain, The Times sells for £1.20 — the equivalent of $1.73. The Daily Telegraph is £1.40 and The Guardian goes for £1.80. The UK’s newest paper, The New Day, bucks the trend at 50 pence. Vivian Sailsman, the circulation manager for The Royal Gazette, noted that readers at present can get the newspaper at home to the tune of 98 cents a day: still cheaper than the newsstand price of yesterday. Informed last month, some distributors were less than happy to hear of the increase, he said. “But others understand,” Mr Sailsman added. “It’s been a while since there was an increase and they are not surprised.” The Royal Gazette has gone through nearly countless iterations since its founding in 1828. Mr Sailsman pointed out that the paper last raised its cover price, by 25 cents, on December 1, 2008. Dexter Smith, the Editor, said: “We appreciate that this may come as a shock to some customers, especially when we have yet fully to emerge from economic recession, but our belief is that The Royal Gazette has been of significantly greater value than $1 for some time. The challenge for us going forward is to continue to justify the new price while striving to provide an enriching reading and informational experience worthy of the island’s pre-eminent news source. With the launch of the tablet and phone apps, we are well placed to do that.”

April 1. Residential property owners have been advised to recheck their land tax rates, after a retroactive adjustment in the House of Assembly. The Office of the Tax Commissioner announced that existing due dates are no longer valid, following the decision on March 21 to alter the rates effective January 1 to June 30. A spokesman said that people who have already paid their land tax for this period will receive a credit adjustment in their next demand notice for July 1 to December 31. No refunds for overpayments will be processed. Those who have not yet paid their land tax bill can either wait for a revised demand notice, and settle the amount due by June 30, call the numbers listed below or visit www.gov.bm/types-taxes-bermuda. The spokesman added: “If you are the owner or deemed owner of a property and have not received a demand notice, please contact the Office of the Tax Commissioner promptly, so that your contact information can be verified.” For more information, call 298-6351, 297-7743 or 294-5827, or e-mail taxenquiry@gov.bm.

April 1. All options are on the table for the future use of Cross Island once the America’s Cup is over, according to Wedco. Andrew Dias, the general manager at Wedco, told attendees at a public meeting intended to garner feedback, that the intent was for the any new use to be long-term, and to be financially viable. “All options are on the table, but it must be financially viable and it must fit in with the overall Wedco plan for Royal Naval Dockyard,” said Mr Dias. “This is ground level day one and we have no predetermined usage at this point.” The original plan for the Cross Island property, which will house the America’s Cup Event Village, included a marine college, the relocation of Marine and Ports, the relocation of West End Yachts Ltd and a yacht marina, once the 2017 event is complete. However, those plans must be reconsidered due to the decision to overturn the approved use. Wedco subsequently established a subcommittee to look at other options for the site and launched a public consultation process to gain public feedback. Mr Dias said Wedco was investing $39m into the reclamation project, but that any use will require additional cost and will have to generate considerable revenue to service debt on the creation of the nine acres of new land. He added: “It will be an ongoing process to get to a point where we have some definite ideas to review and we will assess them. We will then go back to the public and say ‘this is where we are headed’ before proceeding with the planning process.” Further public meetings will be take place in Hamilton and Sandys, and interested persons can contact the subcommittee tackling the issue at marketing@wedco.bm to provide suggestions or request additional information.

April 1. Organizers of the Argo Group Gold Cup remain “optimistic” that the regatta will be held this year. The annual sailing spectacle has remained in limbo since the introduction of the one-design M32 catamaran at all World Match Racing Tour events this year. Despite ongoing talks between Gold Cup organizers and Tour officials that have dragged on for months it has yet to be determined whether the Gold Cup will toe the line and swap the International One Design sloop for the M32 and retain its Tour status, or sever ties and stick with the IOD which have featured in the regatta since the late 1950s. “We’re hopeful the Gold Cup will carry on, but under what format is a bit undecided,” Peter Shrubb, the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club rear commodore, said. “But we are optimistic the event will continue. It’s been going on for 25 years and were hoping it will go on for another few years.” It was announced after Swedish company Aston Harald AB acquired the ISAF-sanctioned World Match Racing Tour last July that all events on this year’s Tour would be contested in the one-design M32 high-performance catamaran. “There’s too many things up in the air at the moment with the World Match Racing Tour, so there haven’t been any decisions made as to whether the yacht club can actually move forward with a decision on whether holding the Gold Cup this year in the same format as last. We can easily have a Gold Cup but just not really sure what format it will be in; whether it’s going to be under the World Match Racing Tour in the M32, whether it’s going to be on the Tour in IODs, whether it’s going to be an event in IODs not on the Tour, we just don’t know what we are going to do at the moment. The owner [Hakan Svensson] of the Tour is coming to Bermuda in April and we’re hoping that Mark Watson [the Argo Group president and chief executive officer] will be here at the same time to be able to get all the stakeholders together and thrash it out.” The King Edward VII Gold Cup is the oldest match racing trophy in the world for competition involving one-design yachts. Adam Minoprio, the helmsman of 35th America’s Cup challenger Groupama Team France, won last year’s Gold Cup.

April 1. Law firm Conyers Dill & Pearman has appointed Sophia Greaves, Niel Jones and Scott Pearman as directors in the Bermuda office. “Sophia, Niel and Scott are tremendous assets to our Bermuda practice”, said Narinder Hargun, director and co-chairman of the firm. “They are respected leaders both locally and globally. We congratulate them on their appointments.” Ms Greaves previously worked in the London and Hong Kong offices of Barlow Lyde & Gilbert, and before starting at Conyers in 2010 she was a trainee at the firm. Her corporate practice has particular emphasis on securitisations, mergers and acquisitions, banking and finance and corporate re/insurance transactions. Sophia advises public companies, re/insurers and leading financial institutions. In addition, she has been appointed a Justice of the Peace. Mr Jones qualified as a barrister in 2005, having trained with the firm. He has a broad corporate practice, advising on banking and finance, capital markets, aviation and M&A matters. Niel works with financial institutions, multinational corporations and private-equity groups on cross-border and multi-jurisdictional transactions including financing, restructurings, public offerings and M&A. Mr Pearman joined Conyers in 2012 from Ely Place Chambers in London, where he was a barrister for 13 years specializing in commercial litigation. Scott provides advocacy and advice on civil and commercial law, he focuses on dispute resolution relating to business and commerce, employment and discrimination, chancery and trust, re/insurance, arbitration, and the law relating to media and information. Scott is also a Centre for Effective Dispute Resolution-accredited mediator, he has mediated in the UK and other international markets. Conyers also announced that it has appointed three lawyers in its British Virgin Islands and Hong Kong offices. 

April 1. Parents were urged to make a difference in underage drinking yesterday as Alcohol Awareness Month launched on the island. Anthony Santucci, the executive director of the Council on Alcohol and Drug Abuse, described the April initiative as a “call to action”. “This is a time to increase public awareness and understanding, reduce stigma and encourage communities to focus on alcoholism and alcohol-related issues,” he said. This year’s event is being held under the theme “Talk Early, Talk Often”, and Michael Dunkley reminded parents of their responsibilities in steering their children along the right path. “Alcohol use and abuse remains one of the greatest challenges facing Bermuda’s young people,” the Premier said, pointing out its link to problematic behaviors such as violence, road fatalities, unsafe sex and educational failure. Let’s be very clear: parents are the most important role models in their children’s lives and we urge them to set a positive example and get involved,” Mr Dunkley added. “Know their friends, know where they are going and what they are doing. Create clear and consistent expectations, and enforce them. Discuss the consequences and show that you care enormously about your children and the choices they make.” Shadow health minister Michael Weeks said alcohol should be made less available to young people, after the 2015 National Schools Survey showed that 18.2 per cent of middle- and high-school students had admitted to drinking. “The younger the person is when they start consuming alcohol, the greater the potential to become addicted to alcohol or drugs later in life,” he said. “Consistent and sustained parental attitudes can influence a child’s decision about whether or not to use alcohol and/or drugs.” Nandi Outerbridge, the Junior Minister of Community, Culture and Sport, read the proclamation for Alcohol Awareness Month, revealing Cada’s lobbying plans to help to improve Bermuda’s relationship with alcohol. Prospective initiatives include sobriety checkpoints, mandatory alcohol testing for all collisions which cause injury, the establishment of an Alcohol Bureau of Control and the introduction of “social hosting” legislation, which would impose lawful liability on those serving alcohol to minors, plus adults who are already intoxicated. However, Mr Santucci told The Royal Gazette that there were no discussions at present to raise the island’s legal drinking age of 18.

April 1. The PLP has called for more CCTV coverage after a spate of small business robberies. The latest was last week when two men raided the T & L Budget Warehouse on St Johns Road and escaped on a motorbike with an undisclosed amount of cash. “Unfortunately, this was just one in a series of robberies that have been inflicted on small businesses over the past year,” said Shadow Minister for Home Affairs Walter Roban. “It is a disturbing trend in crime that must be stopped. We support the business community working with law enforcement to combat this trend and continue to believe the following steps can assist with this effort to enhance safety and security. Immediate steps must be made to further widen CCTV coverage to higher traffic retail business areas inside and outside the City of Hamilton. This is a high priority and the OBA must prioritize the expansion of the CCTV system by ensuring that funds are made available to enhance security. These incidents have been mostly inflicted on small businesses and the Bermuda Police Service should provide the opportunity for special consultation for these businesses on effective security measures. Assisting with training staff to spot security concerns which may provide the circumstances which may lead to a robbery. The Community Action teams can also act as an ongoing liaison for neighborhood businesses with an open line of communication when needed. The Chamber of Commerce and other business groups should also take steps to organise Internal Security Subcommittees to assess, if any, the security needs of their members and also provide advice to non-member businesses.” Mr Roban said the PLP believed it was important for the business community to work with the police and all the strategic partners in the security industry to generate possible solutions. “Preventive and proactive steps in response to this rise in criminal activity around business is the best way to ensure safety of property, staff and consumer confidence is preserved,” he added. We stand with the owner and staff of the businesses as they make every effort to return to normalcy. The community must support the Bermuda Police Service and other agencies to combat all crime and encourage anyone who has information on this incident to assist them with enquiries."

April 1. A cancer patient who was prevented from travelling for treatment due to a bureaucratic error could have better recourse going to Britain instead, according to a veterans’ advocate. As reported yesterday in The Royal Gazette, Cherrie Woods was mistakenly arrested in February as she tried to board a flight to the United States so she could have radiation therapy at the Lahey Clinic. Because she had been charged in Magistrates’ Court with a cannabis offence, Ms Woods, who has stage 2 cervical cancer, was required to obtain special permission to travel, in accordance with strict US drug laws — although she has not been convicted of an offence. That waiver was revoked after she was detained over an arrest warrant that the courts had issued last year, when she failed to attend a hearing because she was undergoing chemotherapy. Last month, the court conceded that her warrant should have been discharged after Ms Woods later made good on her court appearance. She and her fiancé, who rely on financial assistance, have been unable to get compensation, and face restarting the painstaking process of applications and referrals for her treatment to continue. However, Carol Everson, a welfare case worker with the Bermuda Legion, suggested one possible alternative: travelling to Britain to get the same treatment under the National Health Service. “A lot of people don’t seem to realize they can be accepted in the UK, where every facility at the NHS should be available to her as a Bermudian,” Ms Everson said. “She should have no trouble travelling there. They will need a referral from their doctor in Bermuda, and a doctor who is willing to accept her in the UK.” Financial assistance might cover the cost of air fare, Ms Everson added, which would be substantially greater for a trip to Britain — but the cost of treatment should be lower as a private patient under the NHS. Added Ms Everson: “There should be other hospitals in Massachusetts that could do it for less, but it seems that Bermudian doctors want to refer people to the Lahey Clinic.” Out of work and with little money in the bank, Ms Woods had been accepted by the Lady Cubitt Compassionate Association charity, which would have covered the cost of her Lahey procedure. Veronica Harvey, executive director of the LCCA, told The Royal Gazette that patients often preferred the US because of the short journey. “In cases when people cannot travel to the US, we have found facilities in the UK. We are happy to assist with medical costs, but air travel and other costs in the UK might be higher.” In the meantime, Ms Woods said she had spent yesterday with a hospital social worker who was “going to try and get my appointment at the Lahey rescheduled. I am still concerned about the waiver, which I will need before they can do all that. You can’t talk to anybody directly about that. You have to do it all online.”

April 1. Cullen Jones is on a mission to change the perception that black people cannot become world-class swimmers. As a two-times Olympic gold medal-winner in the 4x100 metres freestyle relay, Jones’s achievements in the sport have already gone some way to dispelling that misconception. It is a stereotype that still exists, however, with the United States athlete hoping his exploits in the pool can inspire the next generation of black swimmers to follow the trail he has blazed. “I find myself very humbled when I hear children say, ‘I look up to you’, or hear people from other countries say, ‘I want to come and train with you’,” said Jones, the first African-American swimmer to have a world record as part of the 4x100 free relay team at Beijing 2008. It’s a blessing, it’s very humbling, and I don’t take it for granted. I love that people see me as a role model and I think the biggest thing for me is the decisions I make — I’m quite strict with myself. This is not something I sought after, I just wanted to win and I kind of fell into all of this. It’s safe to say I didn’t start doing this for fame or glory, or anything like that. I just loved swimming and wanted to beat the guy next to me.” Jones, who spent the past nine days in Bermuda training at the Aquatics Centre with his SwimMAC Carolina team-mates, has more reason than most to consider swimming a life skill every child should learn. He almost drowned at a theme park in Pennsylvania at the age of five, with his mother taking him to swimming lessons shortly after the incident. It seemed only fitting that soon after winning his first Olympic gold, Jones was approached about becoming a spokesperson for the “Make a Splash” initiative — a foundation launched by USA Swimming to highlight the importance of learning to swim, especially aimed at ethnic minorities. In the US, the commonly held belief is that swimming is an elitist or white sport. Jones is doing his bit to change that both inside and outside of the pool. “When it comes to African-Americans there’s still a stigma that black people don’t swim,” said Jones, who attended the North Carolina State University. “That’s something I’ve been working on with the ‘Make a Splash’ initiative and trying to get kids to be safer around the water. We started in 2009 right after my first gold medal and we’ve reached more than 3½ million kids. I’m trying to do my part and spread awareness and I think the biggest problem is exposure. Here in Bermuda you’re surrounded by water so it’s a no-brainer for the kids. They’re already exposed to water whereas in the US that’s not the case. We’re trying to change that perception for black families and black kids and show that swimming is a life skill. You learn to walk, you learn to eat and you learn to swim.” Jones, who hails from the Bronx, hopes to go one better than the silver he won in the 50 free at London 2012 — where he also repeated gold in the 4x100 free relay — at this summer’s Olympics in Rio. After a disappointing performance at last summer’s Pan Am Games in Toronto, where he finished fifth in the 50 free final in 22.23sec, Jones feels he is back on course for another successful Olympics. “I’ve had some ups and downs over the last year and a half and didn’t swim the way I wanted at the Pan Ams,” said Jones, a SwimMAC Carolina team-mate of Bermuda’s two-times Olympian Roy-Allan Burch. “But right now I feel awesome, I’m lifting more weights than I’ve ever done and swimming faster in training. I know Florent Manaudou [of France] has been very dominant and Nathan Adrian [of the US], who is a very good friend of mine, has been very consistent. These are very fast guys and I’ve been watching on tape some of things that I do wrong and some of the things that they do great.” At 32, Jones is aware that Rio could be his final Olympics, although he has refused to rule out making a bid to reach Tokyo 2020. “I feel in the US we’re still forging what the age medium is when people step away from the sport,” Jones added. “In the 50 free I’ve seen Gary Hall Jr go until he was about 36 and Jason Lezal do the same. If I still feel that fire in me to do that and David Marsh [the director of coaching of SwimMAC Carolina] is willing to coach me, I may still be doing it.” During their training stint on the island, Jones and his SwimMAC Carolina team-mates were put through their paces by members of Oracle Team USA and had the opportunity to experience the thrill of racing in their AC45 foiling catamaran. “It was such a cool experience,” Jones said. “Training with other top athletes is always fun. They pushed me in a different way and I’d never done the workout they did on sand and running in the ocean. We also got to ride on the boat which was pretty wicked, travelling at 40 knots.” Making waves is nothing new for Jones, who appears to be in the fast lane to making a splash of his own at this summer’s Rio Olympics.

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