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Bermuda's 2017 February History and Newspaper Reports

Events that made newspaper headlines in the second month of this calendar year

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

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See end of this file for all of our many History files

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

February 28. The ranks of the civil service have dropped by 12 per cent under the One Bermuda Alliance, compared with an increase of 20 per cent under the former administration, according to Premier Michael Dunkley. Speaking after Friday’s Budget, the Premier said the Government had cut jobs without resorting to layoffs or redundancies — and would continue to implement recommendations from the Sage Commission for “greater efficiencies and performance accountability”. Mr Dunkley said he was “particularly proud of our work to reform the payroll tax structure, because it will introduce fairness into a system that has been unfair to people who earn less”. The three-quarters of Bermudians who take home less than $137,143 per year will see an increase in pay under payroll tax reforms that Mr Dunkley said would provide “cash relief to the people who could use a break”, starting on April 1. Responding to remarks from economist Craig Simmons, who said the 2017-18 Budget failed to adequately address the island’s rising inequality, Mr Dunkley said he believed it “struck the right balance. We’re starting to get in a much better position, but we have to be careful. The economy that we are stimulating is still in a somewhat precarious position." Mr Dunkley cited initiatives such as increased funding for education and national security, but gave particular attention to tourism, saying that “even the most hardened and cynical critic could not deny signs of new life in Bermuda tourism. There are those who have a differing view regarding our economic strategy, but I believe it’s important to point out that everything we are doing to generate economic activity is being done to generate jobs and opportunity for Bermudians,” he said.

February 28. The Senate has approved new legislation to enhance the powers of the Registrar of Companies. The Registrar of Companies (Compliance Measures) Act 2017, tabled by Senator Jeff Baron, is intended to help the island maintain its OECD rating. Mr Baron said the legislation would give the Registrar of Companies the ability to launch proactive investigations on companies registered on the island. Progressive Labour Party Senator Kim Wilkerson said the Opposition was generally supportive of the legislation and that it was important for the island to continue its commitment to protect its international reputation through its OECD rating.

February 28. Bermuda could have a casino up and running in early 2018 if everything goes as planned, according to the Bermuda Casino Gaming Commission. Richard Schuetz, executive director at the commission, said a strategic plan on gaming was being developed, including training programmes to ensure Bermudians are ready for job opportunities. US-based human resource expert and consultant Ann Anderson visited the island last week to meet local stakeholders about establishing training initiatives. A press release from the Bermuda Hospitality Institute stated, according to Mr Schuetz: “Should everything go to plan, the island could have its first casino in the early part of 2018.” Explaining Ms Anderson’s involvement, Mr Schuetz said: “If you open up a casino in Vegas that’s one thing, you can put out an ad to get the word out, but one of the challenges in Bermuda is this is a market that has historically not had legal commercial gambling. I asked Ann to come on board because she has more than 20 years’ experience in the human resource sector. We started collaborating in 1991 and together opened seven casinos in a four-and-a-half-year period and Ann headed up those training efforts to get new staff ready and operating at the highest possible calibre. In every one of those markets, except one, it was what we call ‘virgin markets’ that had not had gambling before — including Tunica County, Mississippi, which is the poorest county in the poorest state on the map. The challenges for training there were numerous. We also introduced casinos to a few Native American reservations where there were high levels of unemployment. Their training went beyond just job skills into life skills as well.” Ms Anderson spoke to groups including the Bermuda College, the Bermuda Hospitality Institute, the Department of Workforce Development and the Department of Education about casino training. “One of the things residents of the island have commented on is that within the hospitality industry there seems to be a lot of dead ends,” Ms Anderson said. “You can get promoted once or twice but then you plateau because there aren’t as many career avenues. Gaming will introduce many different types of jobs that will have new types of career paths for young people or those interested in making a career transition.” She said that while initially experts might be brought in for some roles within the casino, the goal would be for such guest workers to “work themselves out of a job” within five to seven years. “When we go into jurisdictions new to gaming, especially considering it is a highly regulated industry for very valid reasons, you have to be concerned about issues like anti-money laundering, and so the training process is gradual, but there is a lot of room for upward mobility. There are a number of jobs and skills from traditional sectors that are transferable to gaming. For instance, if someone worked in the bank as a teller or as an analyst — those skills can be transferred to being an analyst or cashier in the casino environment. People with good computer networking and operations skills could easily pick up gaming device computer skills; and those who worked in retail or on the front desk of a hotel could easily transition into a Players Club representative or host.” Malika Cartwright, executive director at the Bermuda Hospitality Institute, said they were already looking into training options for Bermudians who are aiming to try their hand in the gaming industry. “We have the skills sets on island, but will need to utilise outside resources and expertise to actually see this through to fruition. Unlike other industries, we have never had a casino in Bermuda before so we need to look at how we can get the best quality training to residents to ensure this is a success. We need to make sure the foundation is strong from day one when the doors first open. We don’t want to be in a situation where we have to fix and Band-Aid situations.”

February 28. One of Bermuda’s four Uighurs is desperately pleading with British authorities to let his five-year-old son receive specialist medical treatment overseas. Abdullah Abdulqadir, who along with his son, Muhammad, remains stranded and stateless in Bermuda, is seeking citizenship from the UK Home Office so they can travel off the island. Representing Mr Abdulqadir, Bermuda lawyer Richard Horseman, of Wakefield Quin, wrote to the UK Home Office on February 6 requesting a status update on passport applications for the pair as a matter of emergency. The son is suffering from pains in his groin which multiple doctors in Bermuda have been unable to diagnose. Describing the situation as “a major concern”, Mr Horseman wrote: “Without travel documents, in the event of a medical emergency, it will be difficult if not impossible, for them to obtain overseas specialist treatment. There are many medical procedures that require persons to be transported out of Bermuda.” Mr Abdulqadir, Khalil Mamut, Ablikim Turahun and Salahidin Abdulahad, who are originally from Chinese Turkestan, were secretly brought to Bermuda from Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, in 2009. They were initially suspected of being enemy combatants by China, but were released without charge after the US accepted they were not terrorists. They could not return to China due to fears of repression, but the US refused to settle them inside its borders. Former Premier Ewart Brown and former National Security Minister David Burch struck the deal with the US, without Britain’s knowledge or consent. According to Mr Horseman, China is not going to issue the boy a passport. Mr Horseman, who represents all four Uighurs and their stateless children, indicated in 2013 that they could apply for naturalization as British overseas territory citizens on the five-year anniversary of their arrival using provisions in the British Nationality Act 1981. That application was made but progress was not made. In June 2014, a Bermuda Ministry of Home Affairs spokeswoman said: “We remain committed to finding a solution to the immigration issues facing the men and their families.” However, contacted by this newspaper yesterday, a department spokeswoman said that this was a matter for the UK Government and that it would not issue a comment. The same response came from Bermuda’s Deputy Governor Ginny Ferson, while a spokesman for the UK Home Office told this newspaper: “We do not routinely comment on individual cases.” Mr Horseman told The Royal Gazette: “Abdullah, like any father, wants to try to get his kid better and wants to go away to see a specialist but in the absence of any travel documents he is stuck here.” The lawyer said in case of a medical emergency, none of the Uighurs or their stateless children would be able to airlifted overseas. “It is going to present some real problems,” he added. He continued: “The question will be how they will be able to get off the island because no one is going to want them — the US Congress has passed a law where they can’t land in the States so we are left with Britain or Canada. There is no provision for Bermuda to grant them anything.” Mr Horseman said it would have to come from the UK, and since the Uighurs have been here for more than five years there is provision under British law to grant British Overseas Territory citizenship. “That is the only real pathway to citizenship that we have found,” he added. The UK Home Office has indicated to Mr Horseman that it is processing the application. Approached in 2014 about the situation, Dr Brown said: “I don’t know why the UK Government has not fixed this situation.” Mr Horseman said there could be a difference in the way the applications for the children are viewed in comparison with those of their fathers. “There is a history to how the men were brought here and that doesn’t sit well with the British government,” he said. Asked who would be liable in the worst case scenario — if the child became gravely ill or died due to lack of access to treatment — Mr Horseman said: “That is a good question: whether, because of a delay of processing, the UK Government owed these children a duty of care to process these passports in a timely manner. We can certainly foresee some risk of harm so it is certainly a possibility.”

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February 28. “The Pink House”, a little piece of Bermuda that has stood for 300 years in the city of Charleston, South Carolina, is up for sale. The historic building at 17 Chalmers Street is the second oldest masonry building in the United States, according to Dan Mengedoht, who represents buyers for the property. “It’s in the oldest part of the city, known as the French Quarter, on a very old street that’s one of the last cobblestone streets left in Charleston,” Mr Mengedoht said of the bright pink residence, listed for $899,000. “It has the original roof, which is beautiful old Spanish tile, half the charm of the building.” Charleston’s links with Bermuda go back far: settlers from Bermuda established it, and local stone made its way there as ship’s ballast. The Pink House is believed to have been built between 1694 and 1712. The three-floor building was a tavern in the middle of the eighteenth century, rumored to include a brothel on the top floor, and later converted into a home with an art gallery. Bermuda stone made its way to Charleston via the salt trade in the Turks and Caicos Islands, and the city’s other structures built from locally quarried limestone include a seawall. It has also gone into the pathways and the foundations of historic buildings in the city — which has a street called Bermuda Stone Road.

February 28. Frontline Ltd this morning reported fourth-quarter profit of $18.3 million, beating analysts’ estimates. However, Robert Hvide Macleod, the Hamilton-based oil tanker operator’s chief executive officer, predicted pressure on the rates at which the company can charter its tankers as newly built vessels come online in the industry. The company declared a dividend of 15 cents per share and shares rose 4 per cent to $7 in morning trading on the New York Stock Exchange. Frontline’s net income totaled 12 cents per share. Earnings, adjusted for non-recurring costs, came to 22 cents per share. The average estimate of three analysts surveyed by Zacks Investment Research was for earnings of 8 cents per share. The shipping company posted revenue of $178.3 million in the period. For the year, the company reported profit of $117 million, or 75 cents per share. Revenue was reported as $592.7 million. “The improvement in crude tanker rates in the fourth quarter was attributable to seasonality as we approached winter in the Northern Hemisphere as well as a strong increase in Opec volumes ahead of the implementation of production cuts,” Mr Macleod said in Frontline’s earnings statement. “We remain of the opinion that 2017 will see pressure on freight rates as further new buildings are delivered.” Frontline proposed a merger last month with fellow Bermudian tanker operator DHT Holdings, but the stock-for-stock transaction was rejected by the DHT board. In December last year, Frontline raised $100 million through a share offering.

February 28. Enstar Group Ltd has reported consolidated net earnings of $264.8 million, or $13.62 per fully diluted share, for 2016. That was up on the $220.3 million, or $11.35 per fully diluted share, for 2015. Bermuda-based Enstar is a multifaceted insurance group with a core focus on acquiring and managing insurance and reinsurance companies in run-off. Enstar’s shareholders’ equity at the end of 2016 amounted to $2.8 billion, or $143.68 per fully diluted share, which was up from $2.5 billion, or $129.65 per share, the previous year. Its Atrium segment recorded net earnings of $6.4 million for the year, down from $16.5 million in 2015, while StarStone’s net earning rose from $13.6 million to $25.2 million. Enstar launched KaylaRe Ltd, a Bermuda-based Class 4 reinsurer, in December.

February 28. Losses from Hurricane Matthew and the Kaikoura earthquake in New Zealand were mostly responsible for a $71 million dip in fourth-quarter profits for Endurance Specialty Holdings. The company reported net income of $20.1 million, or 30 cents per diluted common share, for the quarter, which compared to $91.4 million, and $1.36 per share, during the same period in 2015. However, for the full year, Endurance reported net income of $333.2 million, or $4.93 per share, compared to $311.3 million, or $5.73 per share in 2015. Catastrophe losses for the quarter were $59.6 million, while the combined ratio jumped to 93.7 per cent from 76.2 per cent during the same period in 2015. For the full year, the Bermudian-based insurer and reinsurer saw gross premiums increase 26.5 per cent to $4.2 billion. Its net investment income was $176.6 million, a rise of $62.8 million. The combined ratio for 2016 was 88.1 per cent, up from 82.9 per cent the previous year. Endurance’s book value per diluted share at the end of 2016 was $68.66, up 4.9 per cent for the year.

February 28. Maiden Holdings Ltd made a net loss of $74.7 million in the fourth quarter of last year as the company had to bolster reserves for its commercial auto line of business. The Bermuda-based reinsurer said the $120.4 million charge included a provision for adverse development realized during the quarter, as well as “a more conservative view of the ultimate exposures on commercial auto liability through the portfolio”. Maiden, which has offices on Front Street, had announced the charge last week. The net operating loss of $69.7 million, or 81 cents per share, bettered the 98 cents per share loss consensus forecast of analysts tracked by Yahoo Finance. The combined ratio — reflecting the proportion of premium dollars spent on claims and expenses — was 117.4 per cent, compared to 99.9 per cent in the fourth quarter of 2015. The cost of deaths on US roads rocketed 12 per cent in 2016 to around $432 billion and there was a 6 per cent increase in road fatalities last year, on top of a 7 per cent jump in 2015. “Despite the significant challenges presented in the commercial auto business, we reported a modest profit for the year and have continued to grow our business and investible assets while strengthening investment income,” Art Raschbaum, Maiden’s chief executive officer, said. “We remain focused on improving the profitability of our business and believe the fourth quarter reserve charge will help us to stabilize underwriting performance as we enter 2017. Importantly, our 2016 underwriting year expected loss ratios reflect solid profitability. While the market remains competitive, we were able to expand our business in 2016 by leveraging our strong franchise and value-added products and services. We believe our prospects for continued disciplined growth are strong. Additionally, we are in an excellent position to improve our cost of capital, and will explore opportunities to refinance our existing indebtedness in 2017 at an improved rate.” Net income for the year was $15.2 million, or 19 cents per share, compared to $100.1 million, or $1.31 per share, in 2015. Gross premiums rose 6.3 per cent to $2.8 billion during the 12-month period, while the combined ratio for the year was 103.2 per cent, worsening from 99.3 per cent in 2015. Net investment income for the year was $145.9 million, up 11.3 per cent from the $131.1 million recorded in 2015. Book value per share at year end was $12.12 per share, up 3 per cent for the year. Maiden shares closed at $16.50 in Nasdaq Stock Exchange trading last night.

February 28. Hiscox made record profits in 2016 helped by favorable foreign-currency moves and increased earnings from its Hamilton-based reinsurance division. The group’s profits totaled £354.5 million ($440.8 million), up 64 per cent on 2015. The relative weakness of the pound helped the Bermudian firm to net foreign exchange gains of £152.4 million. Even with the flattering impact of the currency fluctuations, Robert Childs, chairman of Hiscox said these were “a cracking set of results”. Return on equity was 23 per cent, while the investment return was 1.9 per cent. The company declared a final dividend of 19p, bringing the full-year dividend up to 27.5p, a 15 per cent increase on 2015. In an interview, Mr Childs conceded that political developments around the world, particularly Brexit and the election of Donald Trump and a Republican-controlled Congress in the US — had the potential to affect the business. He said the border-adjustment tax proposed by President Trump could — if it applied to re/insurance — “have an impact not only on Bermuda, but on the industry. No one knows yet what will happen yet — it’s just too early to say." Bermuda’s advantages as a re/insurance centre went further than tax, he added, citing Solvency II third-country equivalency in particular. As a major operator in the Lloyd’s of London market, Hiscox is also grappling with the impact of Britain’s impending departure from the European Union and the likely loss of “passporting” rights that currently allow UK-based financial-services companies to do business throughout the EU. “We are looking to set up a new company in Europe, in either Luxembourg or Malta,” Mr Childs said. “That could happen within the next 12 months.” Hiscox employs more than 50 people at its head office in Wessex House, on Reid Street, where its reinsurance and insurance-linked securities division operates. Gross written premiums for Hiscox Re and ILS increased by 29.1 per cent to £495.2 million, or 16.1 per cent when currency moves are stripped out, driven by growth in casualty and specialty lines as well as business written on behalf of the alternative capital management unit Kiskadee. The division delivered a £115.5 million profit and a combined ratio of 53.7 per cent. Mr Childs said Kiskadee, founded in 2013, had grown rapidly and now had assets under management of $1.25 billion, putting it “firmly in the premier league of ILS businesses”. The Hiscox London Market business generated a £44 million profit, however margins are under pressure from rates driven down by a glut of capital, according to Mr Childs and the soft market shows no signs of hardening. Asked what was needed to turn the market, Mr Childs said: “I think it’s got to do with a combination of low margins followed by a shock loss. When you look back to 9/11, the loss was only about $25 billion, but it hit at a time when margins were very low. The margins are getting very low now.” Hiscox’s retail operations had a stellar year, generating nearly half the group’s total profit. Retail operations in the UK and Europe doubled their profits, while Hiscox USA produced premium growth of 30 per cent. Bronek Masojada, Hiscox’s chief executive officer, said: “This is a good result, flattered by foreign exchange and boosted by a strong investment return. Our retail business has come of age, driving growth and profitability for the group. This gives us options and, although there are uncertainties in both the insurance and political environments, we have the right people, footprint and financial power to adapt. We will remain focused and disciplined where margins are shrinking and invest where we see opportunities for long-term profitable growth.” 

February 27. NEW YORK — Hedge fund manager Dan Loeb, seeking to recover from years of under performing the S&P 500 Index, said he’s optimistic about his approach in the Donald Trump era, as many stocks still have room to advance after the post-election rally. “I’m not sure that — given the increase in S&P earnings that we expect due to changes in policy as well as tax reform — that it’s as overvalued as people think,” Loeb said on Friday in a conference call discussing results at Third Point Reinsurance Ltd, the Bermuda-based firm which he founded, is its CEO and where he oversees investments. “We’re seeing plenty of good valuation situations.” Loeb added to bets on financial and industrial companies after Trump’s victory in November, while reducing holdings in the technology, media and telecommunications group. He said there are also opportunities where valuations are attractive for companies seeking to reshape themselves through mergers, acquisitions or spin-offs. “The complexity is obscuring the earnings power of the company or companies that are going through a financial or operational restructuring,” he said. “We’re not really fazed by that.” Stocks have been climbing for years, extending gains after Election Day. Still Loeb’s offshore fund trailed the S&P 500, including reinvested dividends, every year from 2013 to 2016. Kai Pan, an analyst at Morgan Stanley, asked Loeb on the call why he feels optimistic. “What gives me confidence about the future is I just think we’ve had a paradigm shift with the new administration in terms of having a backdrop that is supportive of business and pro-growth,” he said. “There will also be an increase — we’re already seeing it — in corporate activity, which is something where we typically thrive.” Third Point Re slipped 5 cents to $12.10 at 9:38 a.m. in New York. The company posted a fourth-quarter loss of $46.7 million late on Thursday and said that chief executive officer John Berger is stepping down, to be replaced by chief operating officer Rob Bredahl.

February 27. Business confidence has grown over the past few months, a major survey has shown. And Bermuda-only businesses outstripped their international counterparts in the optimism stakes. Local business hit 105.9 in the second survey of last year, up 5.3 points from the first wave, while firms with Bermuda and international operations fell 3.1 points to 104.4 compared to the first wave of the 2016 survey. Overall, the latest Bermuda Business Confidence Index showed an uptick in the second wave of results for last year, up from 103.1 to 105.1 measured against a benchmark of 100 set in 2014. And smaller firms showed more optimism than larger ones, with companies with 20 or fewer staff recording a score of 106.5. Companies with between 21 and 50 staff logged a score of 102.9, while those with more than 50 employees scored 105.2. The survey, carried out for bankers HSBC, found that the biggest area of concern in the business world was domestic — Government and politics. A total of 63 per cent said that was a key issue, up 15 points over the last six months. The state of politics was followed by the cost of doing business, with a tie for third place between lack of development and business growth and taxation/increased taxation. The survey was completed by 162 companies across the business spectrum between November 23, 2016 and January 25, 2017. It identified a need for “better political leadership and stability”, as well as improved immigration and work permit process, business growth and increased foreign investment, better taxation, less red tape and improved education. The business world also said that a positive business environment could be promoted by more transparency, reduced taxes and closer collaboration between the two political parties. Business leaders also said that collaboration between businesses, closer engagement with Government, better support for education and training and better promotion and marketing, as well as extra support for small local businesses would help create a thriving environment. The report said: “While still at moderate levels, there continues to be growing confidence evident in Bermuda’s economic future.” A total of 24 per cent of those surveyed said they had a high degree of confidence in the island’s economic future, up 11 per cent on the first wave survey. But 31 per cent expressed a low degree of confidence, down three per cent on the 34 per cent recorded in the previous survey. And 79 per cent said they expected the economy to improve over the next 12 months, up four per cent on the previous survey and 17 per cent on the 2014 rating. Just 18 per cent said the economy would be static and three per cent that it would be worse. A total of 40 per cent of businesses, up 16 per cent from 2014, said they had increased revenue in the past year, while 20 per cent said revenue had dropped, down 18 per cent on 2014. But 64 per cent predicted increased revenue in the next year, up 26 points on the survey two years’ prior, with only six per cent expecting a decrease, four per cent down on the figure for 2014. Wage increases at 70 per cent of the firms surveyed went up over the previous year compared to 48 per cent of firms in 2014. The average increase was 1.8 per cent, up from 1.2 per cent in 2014, higher than the 1.5 per cent inflation rate recorded for 2015. The results of the survey by Corporate Research Associates and Total Research Associates were presented at the HSBC’s Front Street headquarters on Friday. John Wight, chairman of the Bermuda Chamber of Commerce, and one of three panellists alongside Marico Thomas, vice-president of the Bermuda Economic Development Corporation and HSBC CEO Mark Watkinson, said: “I wasn’t surprised by the results. “I think that by every gauge you look at, there have been improvements over the past year.” He added that and increase in container volumes unloaded at the docks was a good indicator the economic health of the country. Mr Wight said: “Whichever gauge you look at, things are definitely moving in the right direction.” Mr Thomas added: “The America’s Cup has been a lift for the entire island — everybody’s busier in preparation.” And he added that even critics of the event had noticed an increase in business as a result of the global event being hosted in Bermuda. Mr Watkinson said: “The America’s Cup for the local economy is super-important and just what the island needs. My concern is what happens in July — does the economy fall off a cliff? There is definitely a positive spin-off from the America’s Cup, apart from it just being held here. It’s just the sort of brand we need to help build our own brand. We have got to get that bridge to boost our brand and hopefully converting that to more tourists.” Mr Thomas added: that “optimism will go down pretty fast” following the Cup “if momentum in tourism is not maintained.”

February 27. Bermuda financial watchdogs have slapped a $1.5 million fine on financial services firm Sun Life Financial Investments for failing to comply with anti-money laundering and antiterrorist financing laws. And the Bermuda Monetary Authority has banned the Hamilton-based firm from accepting or looking for any new investment business, as well as blocking any redemptions or withdrawals from existing accounts and policies unless it is vetted by an approved third party. In addition, the BMA has halted any new payments into existing policies and accounts, while Sun Life Financial Investments will have to prove that is making “significant progress” to bring existing files up to the legal standard and to complete the work within two years. The BMA said: “The authority considered that it was necessary to impose these restrictions to reduce the risk of money laundering/terrorist financing and because it was in the best interests of the investors. The restrictions will remain in place until the authority is satisfied by way of independent verification, the costs of which are to be met by the company, that the company is fully compliant with its obligations.” The breaches were discovered during an on-site review of the company’s activities conducted by the BMA last May. After that, the statutory process was followed, culminating in a 28-day appeal period which ended last Friday. The decision was not appealed. The BMA added that some of the findings represented failings of the company to adequately remediate similar findings from an on-site review conducted in 2013. The BMA report said: “The authority views these breaches as serious because of their extent and duration, and because they demonstrated systemic weaknesses in the company’s internal AML/ATF controls. The Regulations have been in effect since 2009. This case highlights the importance of licensees having in place up-to-date AML/ATF policies and procedures which are appropriate, effective and fully implemented in order to avoid the risk of financial products being used as a vehicle for money laundering or terrorist financing. In determining the appropriate level for these civil penalties, the authority took account of the fact that in December 2015 the company closed its investment business to new sales. The authority also took account of the company’s full co-operation during the on-site process. The company has agreed to implement enhanced controls to ensure compliance in the future.” Niall O’Hare, president, Sun Life Financial Investments, said: “We are aware of the announcement today from the Bermuda Monetary Authority regarding the closed investments business of Sun Life Financial Investments (Bermuda) Ltd. This business has been closed to new sales since January 1, 2016. We are working cooperatively with the Bermuda Monetary Authority and have agreed to implement appropriate controls to ensure that we are in compliance with both the license restrictions and applicable regulations moving forward. We place the highest priority on compliance with all requirements and regulations and on meeting our obligations to clients.”

February 27. The Bermuda Tourism Authority has been given a boost in the budget, but the island’s hotels are set to lose concessions. Finance minister Bob Richards revealed that the Tourism Authority Grant will rise from $22.7 million to $25 million. However, he also announced that payroll tax concessions for hotels, restaurants and retailers would all be lifted. “In fiscal year 2014-15 non-legislated concessions to hotels, retailers and restaurants totaled approximately $31 million,” Mr Richards said. “The roll back of these concessions was started in fiscal year 2015-16 and in this fiscal year Government will fully withdraw all such concessions.” The Chamber of Commerce had asked the Government to consider extending payroll tax relief for restaurants for another year. As reported in The Royal Gazette on Saturday, president John Wight expressed concern that the costs would hit the public. “Those people who will benefit initially from paying lower payroll taxes, and in fact all residents, will start paying more for goods and services,” Mr Wight said. Mr Richards praised the hard work of the Bermuda Tourism Authority. “The practical impact of tourism’s growth in 2016 was a 10 per cent jump in hotel occupancy and an 18 per cent jump in spending by air and cruise visitors, to $266.6 million from $225.7 million in 2015,” he said. “This is money going into local businesses and pay cheques, supporting day-to-day lives of Bermudians. Another aspect of Bermuda tourism’s turnaround is the increased interest in Bermuda from an investment standpoint.”

February 27. The Bermuda Government is looking into occupational pensions to ensure the system remains “responsive”, but Charles Jeffers of Age Concern questioned “how in the world they are going to produce” with less people working in Bermuda to contribute funds. A declining birth rate combined with emigration spelled “causes for alarm”, Mr Jeffers said, in the aftermath of the latest Budget statement — in which Bob Richards acknowledged that struggling seniors comprised the bulk of clients on assistance. Precise figures are not kept on the numbers of Bermudians who leave the island, and Mr Jeffers said many who did were “suffering and would love to come home”. “They need an incentive,” he said. “But the incentive would be jobs and somewhere to live. If we don’t increase our base and our jobs market and number of people, we’re in serious trouble.” Pensions were introduced when 65 was the age of retirement and life expectancies stood considerably lower than today, he said: “When I started working in the 1950s, there was no government pension. Private pensions started when I was 59. Now, with medical insurance costs standing as “the big killer”, many seniors were losing most of their pensions to coverage. I know of one lady who cancelled insurance for herself and her husband to save money. She knows that if she has to go to the hospital, they can’t turn away.” Mr Richards did note that “there are still many seniors that are struggling to make ends meet, and with the high cost of healthcare, find themselves in financial straits”. Mr Jeffers said that one of the Government’s problems with revenue dated back to the time of Ewart Brown’s leadership under the Progressive Labour Party “when we decided to make everything free”. He questioned the logic of breaks on payments for seniors, and the provision of free public transport for schoolchildren. “It’s great if we could afford it, but we can’t,” Mr Jeffers said. “It should be a nominal amount. Now seniors are having to pay because the Government cannot give them more benefits. Not every senior is poor. What if we paid $1 to ride the bus or the ferry? That could provide income to prop up pensions or FutureCare.”

February 27. Social justice campaigner Martha Dismont has welcomed tax reform pledges to help the working poor, but warned they could also bring unwanted consequences. Ms Dismont, executive director of Family Centre, described finance minister Bob Richards’s acknowledgement of the less fortunate in last Friday’s Budget as a “victory” for those who need help. However, she warned that some struggling families might be hit by higher taxes unveiled for middle-income earners. On Friday, Mr Richards announced people earning less than $96,000 will receive payroll tax cuts over the next two years, but those earning more than that will pay more tax. The minister conceded the economic turnaround had not trickled down to everyone and that tax reform could help those who cannot pay bills and put food on the table. Ms Dismont said she was grateful for the payroll tax break for lower-income earners, but pointed to potential problems with the hikes for middle-income earners. She said: “If there is increased tax on their salaries, this will impact the lower-income bracket still, as middle-income family members will have less disposable income to support lower-income family members.” Customs tariff rate changes were also announced in the Budget. Mr Richards stressed the rate on several essential goods would remain the same to “avoid placing extra burdens on the least well off”, but said other increases would yield an extra $19.5 million in duty. These include discretionary goods such as machinery or electrical equipment. Ms Dismont wondered if such increased tariff rates would ultimately be inherited by low-income earners. “If the costs in Bermuda for small business owners and retail shops are increased due to increased taxes, those costs will likely be passed along to the consumer and once again force locals to shop overseas rather than buy Bermuda,” she said. “In addition, local businesses may cut costs by laying off individuals, or choose not to hire staff. This will ultimately impact unemployment figures.” She said that addressing Bermuda’s debt was an “important priority” but insisted care should be taken that this should not be the expense of the well-being of the people. “Notwithstanding the lack of ‘wiggle room’ in the Budget, or the risk to an unstable economy with a looming debt, we need to be creative and prioritize spending on behalf of the able-bodied unemployed, or underemployed,” she said. “This is necessary for the sustainability of our people and ultimately the strengthening of this economy.” Major Frank Pittman, Bermuda’s Salvation Army divisional commander, whose organisation is set to receive a Budget bump next year from $400,000 to $800,000, said the money would address existing operational costs — not additional programming. “For the past three or four years, we’ve continually got a cut in budget each year,” he said. “We’re struggling to survive where we are today.” While “delighted” by the cash infusion, he said increased costs, coupled with budget cuts, had left the organisation “holding a very heavy pot”. 

February 27. An American woman has been accused of stealing more than $55,000 from an elderly woman. Appearing in Magistrates’ Court this morning, Melissa Burton, from Sag Harbor in New York, was also charged with abusing a senior by financial exploitation. Ms Burton was not required to enter a plea because the charges are indictable and must be heard in Supreme Court. The 52-year-old faces four charges of stealing money belonging to Katherine Trimingham, who died last year, via bank transfer and one charge of stealing money via credit card charge. A total of $56,284.14 was allegedly taken in varying amounts on dates between November 7 and December 7 last year. The abuse of Ms Trimingham by financial exploitation is said to have happened between October 27 and November 30. Ms Burton was granted $50,000 bail with a like surety and the matter was adjourned for mention until tomorrow morning.

February 25. US President Donald Trump’s plans to cut American tax rates is “a very serious risk” to Bermuda’s economy, finance minister Bob Richards warned yesterday. Mr Richards said: “The threat level to our international model has never been as high or as imminent as it is now. These threats literally pose a clear and present danger to Bermuda’s international business sector, the thousands of Bermudians who depend on that sector for their livelihoods and the economy in general. The situation calls for careful, calculated and targeted action by Bermuda, particularly from the Cabinet Office and Ministry of Finance in close collaboration with our international business stakeholders. The Government will remain vigilant and prepared to defend against these threats. Tax reform in the US context will definitely mean corporate tax cuts. The scenario where US corporate taxes are cut to such an extent that there will no longer be a comparative advantage to use the facilities that Bermuda offers is now possible.” And he added that the island’s insurance and reinsurance business could be damaged as well. Mr Richards said: “There is also the possibility that the details of tax reform could either intentionally or unintentionally target our reinsurance and insurance business and damage Bermuda’s comparative advantage, resulting in the redomiciling of companies to the States with the corresponding loss of Bermuda jobs and income.” Mr Richards was speaking as he delivered his Budget speech in the House of Assembly. He told MPs: “We do not know the details of US tax reform yet, perhaps nobody does at this time. However, the risks to our international business model are very significant and we must be extra alert and vigilant.” Mr Richards said the Republican party controlled both the House of Representatives and the Senate, as well as the White House, which would allow the US Government to push through major shifts in policy. “The idea of a cross-border tax is particularly worrying to our international business sector. If taxes were placed on cash flows from reinsurance claims, it could be catastrophic for Bermuda-based reinsurance companies.” Mr Richards quoted an article in London’s Financial Times by Larry Summers, a former US Federal Reserve governor and economist, which advocated cutting US tax rates, axing tax shelters and cracking down on tax havens.  Mr Richards said: “It is noteworthy that Dr Summers is American, not British, and although writing about the US economy, one wonders whether he was referring to cracking down on his own domestic tax havens like Delaware, Nevada or Wyoming, or whether he was referring solely to the bane of the global economy — these pesky ‘dots on the map’.” And he fired a warning shot across the bow of the UK Government after some British MPs tabled an amendment to the UK Criminal Finances Bill that would allow an Order in Council to be used to force Overseas Territories to adopt public beneficial ownership registers for companies incorporated in them. Mr Richards said: “This initiative is an affront to Bermuda’s constitutional rights enshrined in the Bermuda constitutional order and if it gathers favour in London, we will fight it with all the means at our disposal. Constitution aside, an Order in Council by a large country like the UK, in whose parliament Bermuda has no representation, against the interests of a small one like Bermuda, whose laws are the creation of a locally, democratically elected legislature, in this day and age would be an anachronistic act, typical of a time long past and diametrically opposed to contemporary internationally accepted principles. Such an action would place Bermuda at a distinct competitive disadvantage to other financial centres.” One senior international business figure, who asked not to be named, backed Mr Richards’s view that the island faced unprecedented threats. He said: “He has correctly described the risks — there are risks on both sides of the Atlantic. Both the EU and the G20 are creating lists of jurisdictions that are viewed as non-cooperative in meeting international tax standards.” But the senior figure added that Bermuda had several new Bills being prepared to keep the island in line with overseas standards. And he said: “The US only does tax reform every 30 years or so, so this whole year will be following the bouncing ball between the House, the Senate and Trump versions of tax reform. The tax reform threat is a threat in different ways — the border adjustment tax could affect insurance and reinsurance and be quite damaging to cross-border trade between the US and Bermuda. I’m not saying these things single Bermuda out for punishment, but these are risks that could emerge.” And John Wight, president of the Bermuda Chamber of Commerce, said: “The ministry had a very difficult job in addressing the many economic challenges facing Bermuda. “There is no doubt from economic data gathered over the past year that Bermuda’s economy is moving in the right direction. “Tourist arrivals are up, retail sales are up and virtually every index supports a growing economy, albeit Bermuda needs more people to share in this growth. If Bermuda’s finances were strong, and the international business world was stable, this would be a much easier budget to prepare. Regrettably, that is not the case. Bermuda is facing unprecedented risks, principally from beyond our shores. Potential tax reforms from the new US president and his administration, and Brexit are the two most pressing issues among many. We do not yet know the extent of the associated risks, but we know that their consequences are concerning.”

February 25. Opinion. Nathan Kowalski CPA, CA, CFA, CIM, chief financial officer of Anchor Investment Management Ltd. "As the finance minister initially indicated, the Budget contains both good news and bad. The good news is that the tabled Bermuda payroll tax system is more progressive. This will be welcome relief for those in the lower-income categories who desperately need some help dealing with Bermuda’s almost incessant escalation in costs. The progressive nature of the changes, including raising the exemption ceiling to $900,000, sets up a more equitable and fairer system with a benefit for more than three-quarters of the population. The system also appears to favour small businesses, which are the true engine of growth of any economy, especially job growth. If you truly want more jobs, you need to make the cost of them less expensive — tax breaks in certain brackets can help. It is also worth noting that the Budget targets broadening the tax base, which is an absolute necessity if we are to eventually balance the budget without crushing certain constituents or lines of business. Prior exemptions have been reconsidered and the financial services tax has pulled into the mix two business sectors that were previously exempt — insurers and banks. These previously were to be exempt from the goods and services tax, and now have been included in the tax base. Although bad news to those affected, it is welcome news to others who may find some comfort in the expectation that payroll tax and/or duty alone are not to be the sole source of revenue grab. It is likely that these taxes could be passed on to customers in the form of higher prices, and this does pose a small risk to inflation. The threat of fiscal instability and international rebuff is a real and present danger, but much more focus still needs to be made on reducing the size, scope and cost of government in Bermuda. Current projections consider approximately only 2 per cent reduction in current account expenses over the next three years. More needs to be done on scaling down the overall size and cost of the island’s government. Although the progressive nature of the tax is good, it has a potentially negative consequence: if an executive were to make $900,000 in Bermuda, they would incur payroll taxes of about $166,000 under the proposed new system. In a competing jurisdiction, that same executive/owner would pay roughly $40,000 — a reduction of about 75 per cent. Bermuda needs to be careful not to incentivise decision-makers to move to higher-paid staff to lower-cost jurisdictions. Escalating taxes may help to balance the budget, but it is doing so at the expense of enhancing the island’s competitive situation, especially when we consider the potential bad news that Bob Richards described on the horizon. The potentially really bad news has nothing to do with Bermuda’s debt. There was extensive commentary of two of the greatest geopolitical threats to Bermuda: Trumponomics and tax haven scorn. It may be a bit glib, but it is likely fair to say that if Trump’s corporate tax plan develops into the most aggressive form that does include border adjustment tax on reinsurance and a greatly reduced corporate rate in the United States, all other commentary on budgets and debt become less relevant. Any massive disruption to offshore models and Bermuda’s largest industry could quickly change the island’s revenue projections. It would be like mending a sail on a ship that is rapidly sinking. Details on these threats are sparse at the moment, but they are so critical to the very foundation on how the island operates and would seem to be the most important thing to monitor at this stage. Unfortunately, international business executives will be carefully modelling the cost of their operation on the island versus onshore and offshore jurisdictions. Bermuda is raising tax rates and fees when other countries are looking at reducing taxes and costs. Therefore, it will be increasingly difficult to grow jobs on the island when higher costs are making the island less competitive. While we support a more progressive tax system and appreciate Bermuda’s challenging debt situation, we must also understand that job growth is critical in growing the economy and higher taxes and costs can reduce jobs."

February 25. A lack of cuts in spending to the Civil Service in this year’s Budget has proven a bone of contention for the Bermuda Chamber of Commerce, with president John Wight asking where was the shared sacrifice. In a statement released last evening, Mr Wight said it was critical to start a national discussion on how to create more jobs in the private sector to help to reduce the size of a bloated government. “Chamber members would find their sacrifice more palatable if Government were seen to have done more to share the sacrifice, by reducing the cost of the Civil Service. One issue that was not addressed in this budget, and which is critical to chamber members, is the need for a national discussion on how to create more jobs in Bermuda and the need to adopt laws that make it more attractive to start a business on island. We are concerned about facing a growing tax burden with limited prospect of real growth for many chamber members, which can come only if there are more people in Bermuda to whom they can sell our products and services, and the current residents have greater disposable income.” Mr Wight said the chamber’s reaction to the Budget was “mixed”, noting that the Government had a difficult job in the face of economic challenges, but said he was encouraged that the economy was moving in the right direction. He highlighted many “unprecedented risks” that Bermuda faces as outlined by finance minister Bob Richards, including potential tax reforms under Donald Trump and Brexit. “With a current debt of $2.5 billion, projected to increase to $2.8 billion at the end of the 2017-18 year, and a budgeted deficit of $135 million in 2017-18, achieving the Government’s objective of balancing the budget by the end of 2018-19 will be a challenging one. Citing the $500,000 daily interest cost on Bermuda’s debt certainly highlights how critical it is to balance Bermuda’s budget, and start paying down our debt, so that issues such as public education and care for the elderly can be funded for the benefit of the many Bermudians who need to benefit. Until the debt starts to get paid down, we will be challenged to do this.” He said that shared sacrifice would be “essential” when the burden of increased taxes and new taxes is levied on individuals and companies. “Progressive tax reforms is a feature of the Budget which the chamber supports,” he added. “Those individuals earning more in our community should be paying a higher tax rate than those who earn less. This is fair and equitable. If all shareholders shared this burden, individuals and businesses would understand that each of us needs to do our part in achieving Bermuda’s critical financial goals. The caution that we have that must be monitored closely is any adverse effects that a progressive tax model has on international businesses, the key driver to our economy.” Mr Wight said one area of concern was that the Budget would be inflationary, as those who initially benefit from paying lower payroll taxes, as well as the rest of Bermuda’s residents, will begin paying more for goods and services. “Increased company payroll taxes and rolled-back tax concessions with restaurants and retailers mean that those businesses will have no choice than to pass on these costs to consumers, or reduce their workforce. The chamber is disappointed that 2016-17 Budget objectives to broaden the tax base, such as adopting a goods and services tax and addressing the self-employed, $40,000 notional tax base were not addressed during the past year and were introduced only in the 2017-18 Budget.”

February 25. A $25 million cut in the Bermuda Hospitals Board budget is not expected to affect services for the year ahead, but it will impact investments to improve the Mid-Atlantic Wellness Institute, general wing facilities and IT systems. Bob Richards, the Minister of Finance, announced the one-off cut in his Budget Statement yesterday. “Three years of concerted efforts to become more efficient has placed the BHB in a more stable financial position,” Mr Richards said. “Considering the relatively strong liquidity position of the BHB, it is anticipated that the BHB can withstand the one-year reduction in funding.” Speaking of the areas that would be affected by the reduction, a BHB spokeswoman said: “Funds saved for these purposes are used to cover a significant shortfall in payments. BHB will plan to implement any delayed facility and IT improvements in the next fiscal year commencing April 2018. Should budgets not return to parity after this year, however, we will need to look closely at what services the community needs us to continue to provide, and what we can afford to deliver safely.” The BHB said its 1,800 staff had made “huge cost savings” despite low fee increases since 2012. The spokeswoman added: “Subsidy budgets routinely set below the true cost of care. Our staff come to work each day to relieve the suffering of the body and mind, and do what is needed to keep safe services running. But we also experience the financial and social suffering around us. We feel it in the shortfalls in funding in mental health and medical services and the non-payment of bills, and we see the people who come through our doors struggling to pay for the services they need. Despite these difficulties, our public town hall earlier this month has given us great hope that as a community we can work together to achieve quality, effective, compassionate services. We will hold to our strategic plan to make these improvements in the hope that Bermuda’s economic situation continues to improve and that Government is once more able to support the cost of caring for our most vulnerable patient groups — our youth, indigent and seniors.” The building of a new acute wing at King Edward VII Memorial Hospital had left the BHB in a precarious financial position in 2015, but a reduction in operating expenses was successfully implemented.

February 25. The rise may appear to be modest: 56 more jobs existed as of August 2016 over those reported in the previous year. However, the 0.2 per cent increase raised the tally of jobs from 33,319 in 2015 to 33,375 last year — the first increase seen in Bermuda since 2008 when local jobs boomed at 40,213. The rise brought to a close seven consecutive years of job losses. Overall, the island’s jobs contracted 17 per cent during that time — a loss of 6,838 jobs. Bob Richards, the Minister of Finance, characterized employment as a “lagging indicator” of the true state of Bermuda’s reviving economy. In his Budget statement yesterday, the minister hailed the uptick as “an important positive change in direction from the previous many years”. Mr Richards also acknowledged the delay in tracking employment figures, calling it “unfortunate” that the government’s estimates were not more timely. For example, large projects have been under way in Dockyard, Morgan’s Point and Pink Beach, but the data shows just ten new jobs in construction. Mr Richards told the House of Assembly that it was clear that the dampening effect of consolidation in international business, and the demographic shift of retiring baby boomers outnumbering young people coming into the workforce, needed to be countered by growth in other sectors, such as tourism. The minister’s remarks came as the National Economic Report of Bermuda 2016 was tabled in the House, showing 2008 as the peak year after job growth began to moderate in 2007. The report noted that retail and repair services, along with “other community, social and personal services”, had been the only sectors to gain more than 100 jobs, rising by 154 and 102 positions respectively. Restaurants, cafés and bars came in at second place, adding 73 new jobs. Retail and trade showed the greatest job growth of any industrial sector, a 5.8 per cent climb from 2,646 in 2015 to 2,800 in 2016, while “other community, social and personal services” rose by 5.2 per cent. The increases across various sectors were largely offset by the contraction in the public administration sector, the report said. “With the government continuing their programme of reducing the size of the public service, this sector’s employment numbers fell from 3,936 in 2015 to 3,767 in 2016. This figure equated to a reduction in employment of 4.3 per cent.” There were also significant losses in the hotel sector, which lost 63 positions. Overall, three main occupational groups experienced job growth last year: service workers, shop and market sales workers had the largest increase of 159 positions, followed by craft and related trade workers, at 63 positions. The final growth sector was technicians and associate professionals, who increased their numbers by 19 jobs. “Six major occupational groups experienced job losses jobs in 2016,” the report added. “The largest reductions occurred with clerks who shed 98 positions, professionals’ jobs fell by 24 posts and senior officials and managers posts declined by 22 jobs. Jobs occupied by non-Bermudians were the only status category to exhibit an increase in employment in 2016. Non-Bermudian jobs grew by 158 posts or 2.3 per cent. The figure rose from 6,990 in 2015 to 7,148 in 2016. Bermudian positions declined by a total of 75 posts or 0.3 per cent in 2016. Non-Bermudian spouses of Bermudians accounted for 16 job losses while Permanent Resident’s Certificate holders experienced a decrease in posts of 11 positions.”

February 25. Overseas corporations will end up paying a considerably higher fee to reduce their tax liability by running their business through Bermuda. While the practice contains “nothing whatsoever illegal”, finance minister Bob Richards said the island had taken flak in the international press for the arrangement, and deserved to charge higher. From the old fee of $1,995, the charge to set up a Bermuda “branch” is jumping to $25,000. “There are companies incorporated in other countries that have a branch in Bermuda — many of these are part of elaborate global arrangements for multinational corporations which use it to shelter billions of dollars,” Mr Richards said. “When I saw how much the treasury was actually getting for its trouble, it was totally out of proportion.” Permit companies have been allowed under the island’s regulatory framework for decades, and are tightly vetted. However, they have been “at the eye of the international storm”, drawing accusations that the island was a tax haven. Mr Richards told Parliament that the defence against reputational risk came at “significant cost”. “If there were evidence of unlawful activities, we would not allow them to use Bermuda as a platform. However, in view of the current transatlantic crossfire over multinationals’ tax burden, their presence in Bermuda has meant that our excellent international reputation has become a casualty — a reputation which the Government has a duty to staunchly defend.” Incorporation fees for setting up an exempted company, meanwhile, have been left alone.

February 25. Banks, insurance companies and money service businesses will face a new financial services tax, generating more than $11 million per year. The biggest hit will be for money service businesses, which will have to pay 5 per cent on their aggregated incoming and outgoing transmission volume. Banks will pay 0.02 per cent of assets, while local insurance companies will have a tax on gross premiums earned, excluding premiums from health insurance. The rate of tax will be 2.5 per cent of non-health related gross premiums. Mr Richards said banks, insurance companies and healthcare would be exempt from the general services tax which will come into play next year. He continued: “However, pursuant to Government’s objective of diversifying its tax base, we are introducing a new tax to be called the financial services tax which will be for banks, local insurance companies and money service businesses. Fees currently paid by banks and local insurance companies accrue directly to the Bermuda Monetary Authority to pay for supervision and regulation carried out by the BMA. The new FST is expected to generate about $11.4 million per year. The financial services tax will be introduced in April 2017.” In a later press conference, Mr Richards was asked if the tax risked frightening businesses away. Responding, he emphasized that the tax is “only on local companies; on banks and local insurance companies, not exempt companies”. He added: “We are exempting any local insurance premiums that relate to health insurance.”

February 25. Minister of Finance Bob Richards issued a stark warning on the importance of tackling the island’s debt and added that a casual attitude towards extra borrowing would be “irresponsible and dangerous.” He made the comments in his annual Budget statement, as he projected that Government would spend around $135 million more than it will take in over the coming 12 months. Debt servicing costs of $186 million are now “the largest line item in the Government’s budget” and amount to more than $500,000 per day, he said. Allowing the debt to grow would limit Government’s ability to provide public services, trigger credit ratings downgrades that would in turn impact local banks’ ratings, potentially leading to a real-estate slump and mortgages being called. He said while no one wanted to see such a scenario, “Government must protect against such risks by taking action now so that it never happens. The net public debt will reach nearly $2.4 billion by the end of next month, rising to $2.47 billion by March 31, 2018. Debt servicing costs now outstrip expenditure on the largest ministry, Health and Seniors, by more than $23 million." Increases in payroll tax rates for high earners and employers, a hike in customs tariffs and a new financial services tax that will hit banks and local insurers, will enable the Government to raise revenues and remain on target to eliminate the deficit by 2019. Government plans to increase revenues by 4.6 per cent to $1.04 billion, while reducing spending by 1.6 per cent. For the year ending March 31, 2017, the Government took in less than expected and spent more, resulting in a revised deficit expected to be $212.2 million — nearly $13 million more than had been planned. In the House of Assembly, Mr Richards went to great lengths to explain why more painful measures were necessary, describing the national debt as “the single biggest threat to the future prosperity, standard of living and social stability of the people of Bermuda. For every dollar of revenue that the Government takes in during this upcoming year, 17.7 cents will come off the top to service the debt,” Mr Richards said. “In 1998, it was 2.8 cents. The greater the debt, the larger the debt service costs; the larger the debt service costs the less money Government has available for crucial social and safety services. The danger point here is simple: increasing the national debt will increase debt service and crowd out Government’s ability to perform its core services to the community.” He said there were still “some who remain sceptical about the seriousness of this threat” and who wanted Government to borrow more “to build something, like a new airport terminal”. “The real consequences of such action is debt service costs crowding out Government’s ability to fulfil its obligations to the people of Bermuda for education, healthcare, social services and security. Such casual attitudes to the national debt are both irresponsible and dangerous.” The Ministry of Finance projections show the deficit being eliminated by 2019-20. But to achieve that, it plans to generate a further 6.5 per cent increase in revenue in 2018-19, as well as a 2 per cent cut in spending. Mr Richards said Government had managed to reduce annual debt servicing costs by $4 million through a $665 million bond issue last October with a yield of 3.717 per cent — a record low coupon for Bermuda Government bonds. While $188.9 million was new borrowing, the rest made of higher-yielding debt that was retired. Mr Richards said that with interest rates on a rising path, financing future deficits would become more expensive. “The opportunity the Government recently took to refinance bonds at ultra-low rates may not likely present itself again in the near future,” he said. A $180 million debt repayment is due in 2019-20.

February 25. While there is “nothing mysterious” about the delay in rolling out the general services tax, now set for April 2018, Bob Richards, the Minister of Finance, conceded that the Bermuda Government had “yet to really define the scope of it”. The proposed 5 per cent will be levied on turnover from the provision of most services by service providers to the public, according to the Budget statement. The tax will not apply to banking, insurance and money service businesses, who will face a separate financial services tax instead. Its method of implementation and the list of companies that will be affected remains a work in progress, Mr Richards said. The Government’s long year of consultation on adjustments to the payroll tax system has consumed much of the time that would have been devoted to fine-tuning the GST, which was proposed in last year’s Budget, MPs were told. The minister discussed elements of the 2017-18 Budget at a press conference after his two-hour statement in the House of Assembly, with Mr Richards fending off the suggestion that he had delivered an election year Budget. “People can put whatever spin they want on it, but the things done this year have been laid out for a couple of years,” Mr Richards said, calling it “one part of a multiyear plan to completely eliminate the annual deficit”. The minister was joined by Michael Dunkley, who hailed it as “a Budget for our current times”, in line with “a robust strategy that would help us wrestle back control of our public finances”. The Premier said finer details would start to emerge next week, as the various ministers held press conferences on the Budget’s implications for their portfolios. Mr Richards’s full statement reads: “The National Budget for 2017-18 moves Bermuda closer to our goal of having a balanced budget, whereby no money will be required to be borrowed to finance the needs of Government. Projections for 2018-19 indicate that the Current Account surplus will cover interest charges and capital expenditures, meaning that for the first time in 15 years, Government will not be adding new net debt, and will start reducing it. But for the first time in Bermuda’s history this coming year, our debt service will be the highest line item of expenditure. Servicing the national debt will be more expensive this year than the budget for any single Ministry. All told, for fiscal 2017-18 there will be a projected deficit of $135 million — that’s $135 million more in expenditure, than anticipated revenue, requiring $135 million in new borrowing. But this deficit is $64.4 million less than the 2016-17 deficit, which was nearly $200 million. We have been making annual progress in whittling the deficit down. This Budget puts our net public debt at $2.398 billion, with a projected debt service cost of $186 million, claiming nearly 18 cents of every dollar the Government collects in revenue. This Government Budget is one part of a multiyear plan to completely eliminate the annual deficit — the most important part of our financial plan to ensure the long-term prosperity for the Bermudian people. To take that step, the Government is moving to both broaden the tax base, and, establish tax cuts to ease cost-of-living pressures on lower-income earners.”

February 25. Lower-paid workers will get payroll tax cuts over two years, while big earners will be forced to dig deeper into their pockets. Delivering a 2017-18 Budget yesterday aiming to spread the tax burden more fairly, finance minister Bob Richards also announced island financial sector firms such as banks, local insurance companies and money service businesses will be hit with a new financial services tax in April. Meanwhile, tax breaks for hotels, retailers and restaurants will be withdrawn completely in the coming financial year. The shake-up of the payroll tax system was welcomed as a “good start” by family charities, who have long called for more help for those suffering the most in tough economic times, and praised for its “progressivity” by business leaders. The payroll tax cap will rise from $750,000 to $900,000, while Bermuda’s biggest earners will see a payroll tax rate jump from 6 per cent to 11 per cent. At the other end of the scale, those earning $48,000 or less will see their rate fall from 6 per cent to 4.25 per cent. After presenting to the House of Assembly the One Bermuda Alliance’s fifth Budget — and likely last before the next General Election — Mr Richards told the media: “Payroll tax reform will introduce the principle of fairness into our system of taxation; a system that has always been unfair to lower-income employees. “These progressive reforms will require more from those who earn more, and less from those who earn less.” Further tax reform includes:

Mr Richards said that it had been impossible to introduce the 5 per cent general services tax, mentioned in last year’s Budget, because consultation had been delayed by payroll tax reform. Incorporation fees and annual fees for exempted companies will not increase owing to the level of competition from other jurisdictions, he said, while land taxes are set to remain unchanged in the wake of last year’s “difficult adjustment for the deterioration in annual rental values for Bermuda properties”. The House heard that the budget for the next financial year would be $1.17 billion, including current account spending, capital spending, debt service and sinking fund contributions — $19 million lower than the present financial year. The Ministry of Education and the Ministry of National Security will get increased budgets, by $2 million and nearly $3.8 million respectively, as they tackle school maintenance difficulties and boost policing levels. However, the Ministry of Health and Seniors faces a cut of more than $23 million, largely because the Bermuda Hospitals Board has made itself more efficient, according to Mr Richards. The finance minister said it was estimated that government revenue would be $1.04 billion in the 2017-18 financial year, with current account expenditure of $923.4 million, excluding debt and sinking fund payments. He told the House that there would be a 1.6 per cent decrease on total expenditure of $19 million from last year’s budgeted figure, with revenues forecast to rise by 4.6 per cent or $45.4 million. The current account balance, before debt-service charges, is expected to be a surplus of $118.9 million, but after debt service and sinking fund contributions, that would equate to a deficit of $67.2 million. Mr Richards said: “This represents a drop in the deficit of $44.9 million or 40 per cent. The overall deficit is budgeted to be $135 million, a drop of $64.6 million or 32.3 per cent when compared to the 2016-17 original estimates. While reducing government expenditure has been, and still remains, a focus of the Government, achieving sufficient savings in expenditure to balance the budget in the short term is becoming increasingly difficult considering Government’s current structure. Therefore, Government must aggressively focus on increasing revenues through actions such as tax reform and limiting concessions.”

February 25. Family charities and business associations have welcomed the move by the Government to reform the structure of the payroll tax system. In yesterday’s Budget, Bob Richards, the Minister of Finance, told MPs that the Government was looking to bring tax relief for earners in the two lowest bands of wage ranges. The initiative has been hailed as a “good start” by Sheelagh Cooper, chairwoman of the Coalition for the Protection of Children. “It shows a willingness to begin to distribute the burden a little more evenly,” Ms Cooper said. “However, it should be noted that it is not really the graduated deductions that are crippling the low-income earners, it is the fixed deductions like social insurance and HIP. Take an employee who is making $15 an hour and is fortunate enough to work full time. In four weeks, the gross pay is $2,400. The employee’s portion of HIP plus social insurance is $388. This essentially means that employee works 25 hours before actually making anything. Admittedly, this is a difficult problem to solve unless one tackles the issue of what would be considered a living wage. We have addressed this in our submission to the select committee chaired by MP Rolfe Commissiong.” Under proposals outlined by Mr Richards, the cap rate for tax for the highest earners, the maximum taxable salary level, will also increase from $750,000 to $900,000. People earning $48,000 or less will see the tax rate fall from 6 per cent to 4.25 per cent by 2018-19 and those paid between $48,000 and $96,000 will see their tax rate cut from 6 per cent to 5.5 per cent. But those earning between $96,000 and $235,000 can expect to see their payroll tax rate jump by a half, from 6 per cent to 9 per cent by 2018-19. The biggest earners — those who take home between $235,000 and $900,000 — can expect a five-percentage-point rise from 6 per cent to 11 per cent over two years. Mr Richards said: “This is the most important part of the payroll tax reform and is the part that results in an increase in take-home pay for people who earn less than $137,143. Over three-quarters of the population earn below $137,143 and should benefit from a reduction of the employee’s portion of the payroll tax.” Mr Richards told MPs that those in the lowest-paid category, where an employer is passing on the maximum amount of 6 per cent to an employee, will see a tax cut of up to $600 a year in 2017-18. Those in the next band up, $48,000 to $96,000, will see their tax bill fall by between $600 and $720. The third category, earners taking home between $96,000 and $235,000, provides for a tax decrease of up to $720 for those earning less than $137,143 and allows for an increase of as much as $1,713 for those above. The highest earners will see an increase of $1,713 to $29,000. Employment tax on employers will also be affected using the same approach; that is, having the tax burden falling more on larger companies than on small business,” the minister said. After yesterday’s Budget announcement, Kevin O’Donnell, chairman of the Association of Bermuda Insurers and Reinsurers, also backed the introduction of payroll tax “progressivity”. Mr O’Donnell said: “Abir respects the Bermuda Government’s commitment to strengthening the Bermuda economy and reducing the debt to place the country on a firm financial foundation. Abir fully supports the introduction of payroll tax ‘progressivity’ — an applaudable effort to build some equity for taxpayers in the system, and right away. The change in overall tax rates is significant and, as with any major tax reform, should be introduced via a glide path over time so as not to cause a sudden increase in the payment of taxes by one or more sectors. In an increasingly connected world, every effort must be made to make sure Bermuda remains a competitive job market. Abir urges the Government to develop existing sources and new alternatives to the payroll tax as a means for raising revenues. Having a diverse revenue base will helpfully ease pressure on the payroll tax for everyone’s benefit. An overemphasis on the payroll tax makes Bermuda operations even more expensive than alternative insurance hubs.”

February 25. SoftBank Team Japan have become the fifth America’s Cup team to launch their America’s Cup Class (ACC) yacht, the incredible foiling catamaran the Japanese team will race in their historic challenge to take the America’s Cup to their home in Japan as the first Japanese winners of the oldest trophy in international sport. The yacht, named “Hikari”, was unveiled at the team’s base in Bermuda in front of a crowd which included team members, guests from Bermuda, Japan and around the world. The name “Hikari”, which means “flash of light” was chosen from over 430 entries by fans in a competition run throughout Japan by SoftBank Corp in the lead-up to the yacht’s unveiling. After pouring a ceremonial “masu” (a traditional measuring cup made of cypress to serve sake) of Hakkaisan Sake over the bow of the new yacht, Tatsuro Kurisaka, Vice President of the Communications Division of SoftBank Corp., revealed the name to the public for the first time and then, with the crowd looking on, Shinto Priest Kai Guji then performed a Japanese Oharai purification ceremony for the new boat. Kai Guji travelled to Bermuda from Kagoshima, Japan and brought with him special talismans he had collected from several different Japanese Shinto shrines to bless the sailors, the yacht, and the weather. The 15-meter long carbon fiber yacht itself is a foiling catamaran evolved from the same test yacht design the team has been practicing on for the past year in Bermuda. Capable of reaching speeds of over 50 knots, its wing sail – similar in design to the wing of an airplane – stands over 25-meters high and the complete yacht package has been compared to a Formula One racecar on water. “We established this team in May 2015 and in less than two years we’ve achieved a massive milestone with this launch”, said SoftBank Team Japan Bowman and General Manager Kazuhiko Sofuku. “I want to say thank you to our shore crew and their families for the hours they’ve put in and sacrificed respectively, and also thank you to all our supporters in Japan that have brought us this far.” “Hikari” was first conceived more than a year and a half ago in 2015 when SoftBank Team Japan was first formed, and since that date the team has invested more than 187,000 man-hours, working 12 hour days on a six-day work week honing the technology that is featured across the new yacht. Looking for performance gains wherever they can, SoftBank Team Japan have been testing their design platform on the Great Sound, the same Bermudian waters on which the America’s Cup racing will take place in May and June – an advantage team CEO and Skipper Dean Barker think could be key to success: “It certainly helps to have a year of sailing in Bermuda under us and during the Cup itself it’ll feel like we’re sailing at home. “We’ll have a much better understanding of what to expect and the three teams who were based here will hopefully have an advantage over the other three.” While “Hikari” may look, to the untrained eye, similar to the yachts launched by many of the other America’s Cup teams, many of the biggest advantages continue to be hidden out of sight inside the yacht’s hulls where the high-tech mechanisms required for sustained foiling are installed. “I think we’ve seen differences in all the boats but the biggest unknown is what’s hidden in the hulls - how do the control systems work and how well the boats operate.  That will be the untold story and the biggest determiner of success. We’re very happy with our systems but we know there’s still much to do until the start of the 35th America’s Cup.” The America’s Cup Class rules allow teams to customize their appendage, control, and aero packages, focusing the technological development of the class towards the art of foiling and sustaining fast stable flight over the water. However, in keeping with America’s Cup rules, the hydraulics required to drive those systems must be human powered which means “creating” athletes capable of exerting extreme power outputs for long durations of time.  Grinders Yugo Yoshida and Yuki Kasatani are those weapons for SoftBank Team Japan, picked out of an intense Japanese crew trial in 2015, and the two have put on more than 15 kg of muscle training, at minimum, twice a day. They will join veteran Kazuhiko Sofuku in the crew rotation for the Louis Vuitton America’s Cup Qualifiers, marking Japan’s return to the America’s Cup itself after a 15-year drought. “Coming out of the last America’s Cup we never imagined the development curve on the mechanical and human side would continue to be as steep as it has and I think right up through the Cup you’ll see development”, commented veteran grinder Jeremy Lomas. “No team will stop. The boats will change from what you see here today.”

February 24. Charts only, Bermuda Government 2017-2018 Budget, see http://bernews.com/2017/02/charts-2017-2018-bermuda-budget/

February 24. Finance minister Bob Richards is delivering the One Bermuda Alliance’s Budget for the fiscal year 2017-18 at the House of Assembly today. 12.01pm Mr Richards is wrapping up now and in conclusion says: “We will remain vigilant to the dangers and the opportunities — carried forward, as they always are, by the fates, and keep Bermuda moving forward no matter what the wind.” 12.00pm The Finance Minister says that the increases have been partially offset by reductions in other expenditures “with the most notable being a one-off $25 million reduction in the Government’s annual funding to the BHB”. He adds: “Considering the relatively strong liquidity position of the BHB it is anticipated that the BHB can withstand the one year reduction in funding.” He goes on to outline that $3.2 million will go towards school maintenance and $3.5 million for road works. 11.59am Mr Richards specifies budget increases in tourism, national security and education saying: “We have limited increases to priority areas which include increased funding to the Ministry of Education for enhancements to the Public Education System, additional funding for the Ministry of National Security and supplementary funding to the Bermuda Tourism Authority.” 11.57am The yield of payroll tax following the reform and full rollback for payroll tax concessions is estimated at $439 million, according to Mr Richards. He says that the duty on fuel will be raised five cents per litre in April 2017 to achieve additional customs revenue of about $5 million. The duty on cigarettes and alcohol will be raised in April 2017 to achieve additional customs revenue of about $5.3 million. 11.55am Mr Richards is now talking specifically about the 2017/2018 budget. He says: “The estimates for 2017/18 indicate Government revenues of $1.042 billion, which is $45 million or 4.6 per cent higher than the original estimate from the previous year.” 11.50am The Finance Minister has begun to outline the forecast financial results for the current fiscal year. ‘The forecast deficit for the financial year ending March 31, 2017, of $212.2 million is $7.9 million less than the original 2015/16 deficit estimate,” he says. Moving on to public debt he says: “Government will have to incur new borrowing of $135 million to finance the 2017/18 deficit and as of March 31, 2018, it is estimated that gross public debt will stand at $2.629 billion, and debt, net of the sinking fund, will be $2.481 billion.” 11.45am Mr Richards says that it is not envisioned that the General Services Tax will be implemented before April 1, 2018, while the Financial Services Tax will be introduced in April 2017. Turning to company fees the finance minister says that incorporation fees have not been increased, while land taxes for the upcoming year will also remain unchanged. 11.40am Moving on to customs duties Mr Richards outlines that increases in duty rates will increase customs duty by approximately $19.5 million. He adds: “Imposed excise duties will also be increased to continue the process of increasing the revenue yield from indirect taxes. These increases in specific excise duties on alcohol, tobacco and petrol will increase revenue by approximately $10.3 million.” 11.36am Mr Richards says: “In fiscal year 2014/15 non legislated concession to hotels, retailers and restaurants totaled approximately $31 million. The roll back of these concessions was started in 2015/16 and in this fiscal year Government will fully withdraw such concessions.” 11.35am Mr Richards announces that the salary cap will be raised from $750,000 per annum to $900,000 per annum. He adds: “After considerable consultation Government decided not to split the payroll tax into two separate taxes as our objectives could be achieved under the current structure.” 11.30am Mr Richards outlines new tax rates for employees for each band. These new bands will mean people earning $48,000 or less will see the tax rate fall from 6 per cent to 4.25 per cent by 2018-19 and those paid between $48,000 and $96,000 will see their tax rate cut from 6 per cent to 5.5 per cent. Those earning between $96,000 and $235,000 can expect to see their payroll tax rate jump by a half, from 6 per cent to 9 per cent by 2018-19. The biggest earners — those who take home between $235,000 and $900,000 — can expect a five percentage point rise from 6 per cent to 11 per cent over two years. Mr Richards says: “Government is seeking to give tax relief mainly to the two lowest band of wage ranges.” 11.25am The Finance Minister has moved onto the issue of payroll tax saying the current structure has “always been unfair to lower income employees”. He says the OBA has “seized the nettle” to make the system to fair. He adds: “To numerically model the effect of changes in tax rates on employees we have used bands of income levels from the Department of Statistics data.” 11.20am Mr Richards has moved on to the topic of national debt. He says: “The top priority is debt service, estimated to cost $186 million in the next fiscal year, now the largest line item in the Government’s budget.” He stresses the importance of not adding to the debt before adding: “we are making good progress.” 11.11am Referring to pensions and seniors Mr Richards says: “We are in consultation with the Pensions Commission to make the system more responsive to the needs of users but at the same time ensuring that the assets are sufficiently protected so that they are there when members actually retire”. 11.10am The Finance Minister moves on the banking sector saying that lending is now “in excess of $1 billion less than it was in 2008”. He says the “one bright shaft of light through the gloom” was the successful Initial Public Offering by Butterfield Bank in 2016. 11.05am “The latest jobs figures from the Department of Statistics show that, as of last August, year over year, there were 56 more jobs reported than the previous year,” says Mr Richards as he begins to talk about employment. 11.00am Mr Richards touches on the progress made in the construction and property markets. 10.55am Moving on to international business and the Bermuda Business Development Agency Mr Richards says: “The BDA helped 17 companies establish themselves on the island in 2016, with research indicating the creation of at least 146 jobs through companies that had received BDA assistance”. 10.52am Mr Richards says 2017 will be the start of a renaissance for the East End with the airport redevelopment project, a new hotel, a dedicated cruise ship returning to the town and a new marina in the works. 10.50am The Finance Minister has moved on to talk about the “unprecedented” impact of the America’s Cup. He says AC35 is already a triumph branding it “an example of Government’s economic strategy coming to life”. He tells MPs that collectively the teams have spent over $22 million on their team bases alone. He says the event will be a “boon for Bermudian entrepreneurs” and provide jobs and opportunity for the short term and the long term. 10.45am Mr Richards has moved on to local issues now and is highlighting improved retail sale trends and the “impressive” turnaround of the tourism industry by the Bermuda Tourism Authority. He points to new infrastructure projects including the Caroline Bay resort, the Loren, Surf Side and the “soon-to-break-ground St Regis in St George’s” as proof of the progress. 10.40am Mr Richards warns: “The threat level to our international business model has never been as high or as imminent as it is now.” He describes the situation as a “clear and present danger” and vows that the Government will “remain vigilant and prepared to defend against these threats”. 10.35am Moving on to what he describes as the “tax haven threat” Mr Richards says Government will fight “with all the means at our disposal” proposals by British MPs to amend the Criminal Finances Bill that would enable the British Parliament to use an Order in Council to compel overseas territories to adopt the UK model of public beneficial ownership registers for companies incorporated in the territories. 10.30am Mr Richards vows that Government will do everything possible to minimise the negative fallout of Brexit on Bermuda’s travel privileges. 10.25am Before moving on to talk about the potential impacts of Brexit Mr Richards says: “The risks to our international business model are very significant and we must be extra alert and vigilant.” 10.20am The Finance Minister has begun talking about “economic conditions and outlook”. Highlighting external threats he talks about the “Trump effect” saying: “If taxes were placed on cash flows from reinsurance claims it could be catastrophic for Bermuda-based reinsurance companies.” 10.15am Mr Richards says that tax cuts in his budget statement will ease cost of living pressures for the thousands of people who could “use a break”. He adds: “The cuts, which are based on the income bands a person’s wages fall within, will see people who earn $96,000 or less a year getting tax cuts up to $720.” 10.10am The Finance Minister tells the House “we have made substantial progress” highlighting two years of GDP growth, tourism rejuvenation, hotel developments and job growth. He adds: “For the first time in 15 years the Government will not be adding to its net debt.” 10am Mr Richards has begun his speech saying: “We have entered an age of uncertainly in which the landscape of our life is shifting uncomfortably towards destination not known”. He says the Government has an important “safe hands” role.

February 24. All eyes will be on Bob Richards, Minister of Finance, as he arrives at Parliament with the One Bermuda Alliance’s fifth and likely final Budget before the next General Election. Although Mr Richards said he preferred to let the highly anticipated document speak for itself, he told The Royal Gazette last night: “There will be good news, and some bad news.” Asked if the tough austerity measures of earlier years had given way to more optimistic times, Mr Richards said: “We’re still not there yet, that’s for sure. There’s still a period of adjustment from, shall we say, the indiscretions of the past.” The fiscal agenda for the Bermuda Government came with some extra pressure because of “the convergence of the airport debate and the Budget debate — it’s been very trying with those two squashed together. We work on the Budget for many months before we bring it to the House,” Mr Richards said. “There has been consultation with the private sector for a year, and this is the result.” The 2017-2018 Budget is the sole item of business today in Sessions House, with MPs to break after it is delivered.

February 24. Lord David Waddington, Governor of Bermuda from 1992 to 1997, has died, aged 87. Lord Waddington, who was at the helm during former Premier Sir John Swan’s bid for independence in 1995, was previously a key figure under Margaret Thatcher in British politics. Born in Burnley, Lancashire, he attended Hertford College, Oxford, where he became president of the Oxford University Conservative Association, and was Called to the Bar at London’s Gray’s Inn in 1951. A member of the Conservative Party, he served as a Member of Parliament in the House of Commons from 1968 to 1974 and from 1979 to 1990, and was then appointed a life peer. Lord Waddington was Conservative Home Secretary at the time of the poll tax riots and the Strangeways prison disturbances in 1990, later serving as leader of the House of Lords. In a statement reported in the British media, Prime Minister Theresa May paid tribute to his “long and distinguished career in public service. He combined the sharp intelligence of a Queen’s Counsel with the wit of a proud Lancastrian.” Last night Brian Gonsalves, who served as Lord Waddington’s Aide de Camp between 1994 and 1996, led tributes to the former Governor. The former Regiment Commander described Lord Waddington and his wife Lady Waddington as “unassuming, kind people, who always wanted to do what was best for Bermuda and Bermudians. Lord Waddington was an extremely nice person to work for. He and his wife were very easy going and down to earth. They did not like all the fuss and fanfare associated with the position, they would much rather just slip in without being noticed. They both had the ability to get on with people very well and did a lot of work with the local charities. Lord Waddington himself was very politically savvy and it did not take him long to figure out the undercurrents and problems in Bermudian politics. He was always concerned in doing what was best for Bermuda and Bermudians. I was extremely sad to hear of his passing, and obviously send my condolences to his family.” In a review of his friend and one-time political colleague’s 2012 memoirs, former Gibraltar Governor Richard Luce said Lord Waddington’s long experience with constituency work as a British Member of Parliament served him in particularly good stead when he was appointed Bermuda’s Governor. “Constituency experience as an MP is a good grounding for being a Governor,” said Lord Luce in his review of what he called a “very readable, very frank and colorful” autobiography. David was consequently very interested in the 70,000 or so people of Bermuda and mixed with them in a relaxed fashion. He was sensitive to the mixed racial background on the island and handled with care, for example, senior appointments in the police force. One issue that preoccupied him was the intense debate and proposal for a referendum on the independence of Bermuda. But at the end of the day he judged that the majority, in the 1990s at least, realized that independence could lead to a decline in standards and a withdrawal of many commercial investment services. However, he did face some difficulties with the Legislative Council when, at one stage, they even threatened to reduce his salary!” In a Bermuda anecdote he related in his book, Lord Waddington recalled the appointment of St David’s islander Eddie Lamb, who went to become Commanding Officer of the Bermuda Regiment Band and who is now Commissioner of Prisons, as the Government House aide-de-camp (“a fine choice he turned out to be”, noted the former Governor). “Everyone in Bermuda will tell you that those who come from St David’s are very different from anyone else,” said Lord Waddington. “In the old days St David’s was very cut off from the rest of Bermuda and there was a good deal of intermarriage between the comparatively few families with roots there. The best known surnames on the island were Fox and Lamb and it was said that St David’s was the only place in the world where fox lies down with the lamb.” When the ADC suggested the Governor visit St David’s, Lord Waddington happily obliged." As we were driven in the Daimler towards the centre of St David’s there were quite a few people on the side of the road waving merrily,” he said. “Eddie sat proudly in the front seat helping us to wave back, and it seemed patriotism in St David’s knew no bounds. Then we began to pay attention to what the crowds were shouting. ‘Hi, Eddie,’ they cried as they welcomed home their favourite son.” When the Government House party arrived at St David’s Primary School, events followed a similar pattern. Lord Waddington recalled: “The head teacher asked one child: ‘Now, Raymond, you have your hand up. What would you like to ask the Governor?’ and Raymond replied: ‘I don’t want to ask him anything. I just want to say ‘Hi, Uncle Eddie’.” In a statement yesterday, Governor John Rankin, said: “I am sorry to learn of the passing of Lord Waddington, whose portrait hangs proudly here in Government House. I know he will be remembered fondly by many in Bermuda, where he served as Governor between 1992 and 1997. Those who met him will recall his fine qualities and distinguished service to which Prime Minister Theresa May has referred in her statement.” Lord Waddington is survived by his wife Gillian and their three sons and two daughters.

February 24. BBC London. Former Bermuda Governor and before that Conservative Home Secretary Lord Waddington has died at the age of 87. The barrister turned politician led the Home Office at the time of the poll tax riots and the Strangeways prison disturbances in the spring of 1990. On the right of the party, he entered Parliament in a by-election in the 1960s and served as chief whip and other roles under Margaret Thatcher. After leaving the House of Commons, he served as leader of the House of Lords and latterly as governor of Bermuda. Prime Minister Theresa May paid tribute to Lord Waddington's "long and distinguished career in public service", saying he would be sadly missed. "He combined the sharp intelligence of a Queen's Counsel with the wit of a proud Lancastrian," she said. The Oxford-educated David Waddington served in the army in the 1950s before going into politics and first being elected to Parliament in 1968. He represented a number of different seats in Lancashire between 1968 and 1974, when he lost his seat, and again between 1979 and 1990. After rising through the ministerial ranks, he became chief whip - in charge of party discipline - before succeeding Lord Hurd as home secretary in October 1989. A supporter of capital punishment, he took a tougher line on law and order issues than his predecessor, piloting legislation through the Commons in 1990 to ensure serious criminals served longer sentences. He stood down after John Major became prime minister in November 1990 and accepted a peerage soon afterwards. He retired from the House of Lords in 2015.

February 24. Daily Mail Online, London. Also reported the death of Lord Waddington, see http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4257060/Lord-Waddington-Home-Secretary-Thatcher-died.html

February 24. Nandi Outerbridge has landed her first Cabinet position, with Cole Simons replacing Wayne Scott as Minister of Education. In a Cabinet reshuffle announced yesterday afternoon, Ms Outerbridge was sworn in as Minister of Social Development and Sport, taking over from Sylvan Richards, who replaces Mr Simons in Environment and Planning. Mr Scott’s departure comes shortly after Paul Wagstaff declined the role of Commissioner of Education; it is understood he has left Cabinet to pursue other interests. Leah Scott is the new Junior Minister of Education. Mr Simons is the One Bermuda Alliance’s fourth education minister in four years, following Mr Scott, Grant Gibbons and Nalton Brangman. Speaking on the appointment at a ceremony at Government House, Michael Dunkley, the Premier, said: “Minister Simons has proved himself a very capable performer in Cabinet, moving issues forward for consultation and decision, and providing a perspective to discussions that brings into play his business knowledge, his compassion for others and his love of country.” Mr Simons, speaking to this newspaper shortly after being sworn in, said while he needs to get up to speed on the issues facing education in the coming weeks, he was keen to address vocational opportunities for Bermudians. He said: “My priority for education is this: all Bermudians have different learning styles and we have to address those learning styles. You can be academic, hands on, musical or artistic. People grow through different methods. It will be about servicing students who have different learning styles so that we can give parents and students options in our education system.” He highlighted that he had previously held the position of Shadow Minister of Education, saying: “It gave me some insight into how it operates all the different departments and services that are provided.” Mr Simons was first elected to the House of Assembly in 1998 and has been described by Mr Dunkley as “one of our most seasoned ministers”. He has also served as Opposition house leader and whip. The Premier said he had confidence in Ms Outerbridge to “take the next step” in her political career as, at 29, she became the youngest person to enter Cabinet in recent history. “I have worked with and supported Nandi for nearly five years now, and can say with conviction that she is smart, organised and strong,” Mr Dunkley said. “Nandi has grown from year to year in confidence and knowledge. She has proven herself as an MP, Government house leader and party whip, and she has carried forward her responsibilities as Junior Minister for Social Development and Sport with seriousness and energy. Nandi is ready to take the next step.” Ms Outerbridge said she had three main issues on her agenda: developing the Salvation Army, tackling age discrimination and child maintenance. She said: “I am looking to further the development of the Salvation Army: that is a big one on the list. Also there has been some consultation done already as it pertains to age discrimination so I intend to have further consultation to find out what our options are with regards to that. One of the things that is very close to me is starting a Cabinet committee which will seek to explore what options we have for child maintenance as it pertains to delinquent parents. We have quite a lot of parents who are financially burdened with taking care of their children on their own. It is not an initiative that will throw the hammer down at delinquent parents but to work with them to find the best solution ultimately for the child.” Asked how she felt to be moving up the political ranks, she added: “I am pretty excited by it. I have enjoyed working as the junior minister for this ministry for some time., so I am ready for the next step.” Speaking on the appointment of Mr Richards, Mr Dunkley said he “remains a strong presence at the Cabinet table, using his experience in international business and his community awareness to progress public concerns and needs”. Mr Richards said that one issue on his agenda was to review illegal dog breed legislation, saying he will “bring some changes”. Ms Scott expressed her gratitude to the Premier, admitting that her opinions had “not always coincided with that of the Government or of the party”, but said she would do her best to “get the party where it needed to be”.

February 24. HSBC Bank Bermuda Ltd booked net profits of $117 million last year — up more than a third on 2015. A fall in loan impairment provisions and lower operating expenses after the sale of private banking operations last year contributed to the increase. Mark Watkinson, HSBC Bermuda’s chief executive officer, pointed to “continuing modest improvement” in the economy and said the bank had seen a significant rise in demand for residential home loans. In its earnings statement, the bank said it took a $21 million charge to lower the carrying value of buildings, since last year’s decision to “explore alternative options” for its offices near Albuoys Point. But this was largely offset by a $20 million gain recorded on the sale of the private bank unit. And the bank paid a $280 million dividend to its owner, HSBC Holdings Ltd, the global banking group. Return on equity was 12 per cent, exceeding the 10 per cent target of the parent group. Excluding the buildings charge, operating expenses were $145 million, down $31 million, or 18 per cent on last year. The decrease was mainly due to the sale of the private banking operations to Butterfield, completed last April, which reduced the number of employees in Bermuda and cut support costs. Total loan impairment charges decreased to $19 million from $36 million in 2015. But non-performing loans, making up 14 per cent of the total loan portfolio, down from 17 per cent in 2015. Phil Alvey, HSBC Bermuda’s chief financial officer, said NPLs included all loans that had been renegotiated — even though the majority of such borrowers were now making repayments on time. Total loans and advances to customers were $2.29 billion at the end of 2016, a decrease of 7 per cent compared to a year earlier. The decrease is the product of the debt being paid off by borrowers outsizing new loans being taken out. Mr Watkinson said new mortgages tended to be smaller than older ones, given the 30 per cent fall in real estate values from pre-recession highs and the 20 per cent minimum down-payment requirement these days. “We saw double-digit growth in lending in the residential housing market last year,” Mr Watkinson said in an interview. “There is generally more confidence in the economy. But there is a split in the level of confidence between local and international. In the local community, people are feeling much better about life. That filters through into car sales, so the auto sector is feeling very good. On the international business side, it’s more difficult. There were a couple of significant surprises last year and it’s a very uncertain world and so the international business sector is feeling a bit uncertain. So in Bermuda we have to be very careful, because international business is a critical part of the economy and we need it to feel positive about Bermuda and the opportunities here.” The recent approval of legislation to enable the building of a new airport terminal was something that would strengthen international business confidence, Mr Watkinson said. “Infrastructure is often overlooked,” he added. On the impact of the change in political power in the US and potential corporate tax cuts eroding Bermuda’s tax advantage, Mr Watkinson said: “No one knows what’s going to happen with the US tax situation. But when I talk with customers about why they choose Bermuda, tax is a factor but it’s not that high on the list. In terms of insurance, it’s a real market. You can walk down the street and put together a half-billion-dollar insurance policy. The regulators do a great job and Solvency II equivalence was an outstanding success and great work by the Bermuda Monetary Authority.” In the earnings statement, Mr Watkinson said it continued to be a challenging environment for banks. “Our core businesses all delivered strong results and show robust prospects for the future,” he said. “The local economy is displaying greater resilience than in recent years and it appears we have worked through many of the problem loans in our portfolio.” The sale of the private banking operations was the main factor in the 19 per cent fall in total assets to $9.76 billion. Total capital adequacy ratio — a measure of financial stability — improved to 24 per cent at the end of 2016 from 22 per cent a year earlier. HSBC said that the sale of its private banking operations allowed it to focus on core strengths in Bermuda. These are retail banking wealth management, including HSBC Asset Management and Premier banking, commercial banking and global banking and markets. The net profit from these continuing operations was $93 million for the year with a cost efficiency ratio of 59 per cent, the bank said. Excluding impairment of buildings, net profit from continuing operations was $114 million with a cost efficiency ratio of 51 per cent. “The core businesses all delivered results ahead of expectations in 2016,” the bank stated. HSBC added: “The balance sheet remains conservative with strong capital and liquidity positions, even after making significant returns to our shareholders in 2016. The bank is well positioned to absorb the impact of future regulatory requirements under Basel III.” Mr Watkinson said staff had also doubled volunteer hours on the bank’s time from 2015. “Such efforts have now accumulated over 10,000 hours of community service since we launched the Staff Volunteer Community Action Day Programme in 2006,” Mr Watkinson said. “We were also able to contribute $700,000 directly to various education, environment and community initiatives, partly supported by funds made available by the HSBC Group to mark its 150th anniversary.” The volunteer effort included a programme in conjunction with the Salvation Army and the Eliza DoLittle Society to provide free cooked meals to the needy once a week at Cathedral Hall. Staff from the bank have been divided into 43 teams, Mr Watkinson said, and two teams per week — one cooking and one serving — make meals for around 100 homeless and poor people. “It energizes our staff and they appreciate that they can go out and do something so worthwhile during bank hours,” Mr Watkinson said. “For the bank, it’s great for team-building and there’s a great return on investment — and it’s a great community investment as well.”

February 24. Dr. Ewart Brown is bracing himself for the possibility of being arrested next week, according to a newspaper interview in the United States. Speaking to The Boston Globe from the Turks and Caicos, the former premier said he feared the authorities might act when he returned to Bermuda: “They may just do it to embarrass me. The one thing I’m tired of is having it hanging over my head,” he said. In yesterday’s article, the former premier also continued his war of words against Attorney-General Trevor Moniz, who he claimed targeted him in last week’s civil complaint because he is a successful, black businessman and political opponent. “There’s a certain amount of personal animus between us,” Dr Brown is quoted as saying. In the lawsuit, the Bermuda Government accuses Dr Brown and the Lahey Clinic of a bribery-based scheme to profit at the expense of Bermudians, which put patients’ health at risk. Dr Brown gave a telephone interview to the Globe from Turks and Caicos, in which he acknowledged he was well compensated by the Massachusetts-based hospital, but said the payments were for services he provided under a contract that was scrutinized by the hospital to ensure compliance with United States and international regulations. The civil action alleges Lahey made millions of dollars reading and interpreting medically unnecessary MRI and CT scans performed at Dr Brown’s clinics, and that the level of testing led to Bermudians becoming “among the most scanned patients in the world”. Dr Brown argued in the Globe that the island’s population is ageing and sickly. “From a medical standpoint, Bermuda would be justified in having more than the US,” he added. He also disputed claims that his wife, Wanda, bought a $3 million property on Martha’s Vineyard with cash he received from Lahey. He described his wife as a successful investment banker who owned property in Oak Bluffs before they married 14 years ago. She bought the new home after selling the old one, he said. The Government’s complaint also alleges Dr Brown used payments from the scheme to buy properties in New York and Turks and Caicos. British newspaper The Times has also run a news feature about the lawsuit, under the headline: “Bermuda’s PM ‘took bribes in health scam’.” That article, published on Wednesday, stated: “The claims of years of abuse by Bermuda’s most prominent citizen will be embarrassing for the Foreign Office.”

February 24. Many are sceptical that a new cannabis caution policy will avert convictions, under the belief that police have long held the power of discretion for minor drug offences. Others at last night’s meeting on the decriminalization of marijuana, hosted at Warwick Workmen’s Club, supported full legalization of the drug via the first step of bringing in medical cannabis. Roughly half of attendees supported decriminalization, with one man telling the gathering: “Everybody smokes it. You’re not going to stop it.” Meanwhile, a drug prevention officer from the Department of National Drug Control said her office was focusing on school-age children and “stopping drug use before it starts”. “Marijuana is coming into our schools in the form of cookies and brownies and we’re very concerned about it,” she told The Royal Gazette. “It’s very hard to regulate potency and young people don’t know about it. All they know is they would like to be high.” Several at the meeting, led by Warwick South East MP Lawrence Scott of the Progressive Labour Party, called for the drug to be legalized as a form of regulating it, with one woman telling the gathering of about 20 people: “Even if we decriminalize, there’s still a criminal element that’s going to give you a tainted product.” One man voiced frustration at the debate over how Bermuda should proceed, saying the argument amounts to “reinventing the wheel. Just look at all the states in North America that have done it,” he said. "All the concerns have already been addressed.” The majority seemed to view legalization as an inevitability, with another man declaring: “We need to become independent thinkers in an industry that’s leaving us behind.” He said he worked with tourists and was regularly approached by visitors curious about buying cannabis. “We’re competing with other places with pink sands and beautiful waters that allow tourists to be free. In Jamaica it’s not legal, but they leave the tourists alone.” Mr Scott characterized the meeting as a fact-finding endeavour, saying many of his constituents had spoken to him regarding the issue. Larry Mussenden, the Director of Public Prosecutions, initiated a survey of opinions in May 2016 for a caution policy on simple possession of small amounts of cannabis, while the Opposition has prepared its own Bill for decriminalization. Mr Mussenden announced yesterday that he had issued the guidance for formal cautions on simple possession of cannabis to the Commissioner of Police, detailing a “three strikes” policy in cases where a person is found with less than 3g of the drug.

February 24. Plans to turn the Grand Atlantic housing project into the Bermudiana Beach Resort have been resurrected. The Bermuda Housing Corporation has announced that it has completed its selection process and selected MacLellan and Associates again to move forward with the project, according to a spokeswoman for the Ministry of Public Works. The Caribbean-based hospitality developer had previously signed a memorandum of understanding for the project. However, the sale of the property fell through due to difficulty securing financing. A fresh request for proposal was published last May. The spokeswoman said: “The decision to select the Bermudiana Beach Resort team, led by resort specialist Robert MacLellan of MacLellan & Associates, was made following the due diligence period as the proposed condominium hotel development was seen to provide the best value for money and was most closely aligned with the Government’s goals for increasing tourism accommodations. “MacLellan & Associates’ business plan has been modified to produce a greater financial benefit for the Bermuda Housing Corporation in a joint venture and allows for more cost-efficient project financing. The developer has received a commitment to source conversion funding from the same finance house which offered funding for the Bermudiana project on the joint venture structured basis in early 2016.” The new RFP specified that development of the site would only begin after September 1 so it would not disrupt the property’s use during the America’s Cup. Developer Robert MacLellan said: “The opportunity to create an economically sustainable new tourism model, which can attract external investment, is exciting because the physical structure of the buildings already exists and Bermuda urgently needs new mid-market hotel inventory.” The proposed Bermudiana Beach Resort would be a condo hotel, which is described as a condominium complex that is operated as a hotel. The property would offer nightly rentals with a front desk and resort leisure facilities, but the condominiums would also be sold as vacation homes with a maximum of 90 nights per year owner occupancy. When owners are not in residence, the design allows the units to be rented as hotel suites and rooms and owners benefit from that income stream. The day-to-day operation of the resort’s restaurants, bars and spa will be undertaken by local management with several support services, including laundry, outsourced to local companies. The Public Works spokeswoman said: “The resort operation and marketing will be supported by an international boutique hotel brand. Final negotiations are ongoing with two interested companies and a final selection will be made this month. “This arrangement will enable the Bermudiana Beach Resort to benefit from an international reservations system and a strong brand loyalty programme. The brand affiliation also facilitates the resort being marketed by sales offices and via over 5,000 group hotels around the world. “ Currently architectural firm OBMI and realtor Coldwell Banker Bermuda Realty have been appointed as team stakeholders, with the spokeswoman stating that other local companies and service providers will be appointed in due course.

February 24. Bermudian telecoms firm One Communications has boosted the revenues of the US firm that owns more than half of it. Massachusetts-based ATN International, which last year acquired a 51 per cent stake in One, formerly known as KeyTech, announced net income of $2.34 million for the fourth quarter and $12.54 million for the year. While ATN did not specify exactly what its Bermuda interest in One had added, it did say that the combined positive impact of acquisitions in Bermuda and the US Virgin Islands was $47 million. ATN’s total revenues were $128.5 million. Michael Prior, ATN’s chief executive officer, said: “Revenue contributions in the fourth quarter from our 2016 telecom acquisitions in Bermuda and US Virgin Islands were consistent with plan, and our first India renewable energy projects, while not generating revenue yet, are set to deliver electricity production in the 2017 first quarter. We are pleased with the market positioning of our international telecom operations. Revenues have remained steady during the integration of our Bermuda and USVI acquisitions, providing a solid platform for long-term development and cash flows. Our early efforts have been focused on improving network performance and delivering service upgrades to ensure a superior customer experience and further strengthen our leading market positions. We will continue to make network investments in all our international markets in 2017, with a significant decline in those capital expenditures expected for 2018.” In December last year, One announced that it was investing $20 million in infrastructure and started laying out its new FibreWire network. The company expects the island-wide launch of FibreWire services to be completed by early 2018. Frank Amaral, One’s chief executive officer, said last year that “the infrastructure will vastly improve internet service, providing more bandwidth as well as a significant increase in speeds”. ATN owns telecoms services providers in the US and the Caribbean, as well as Bermuda, and solar power systems in the US and India. One, formerly known as KeyTech, offers internet, wireless and cable television services.

February 24. Age Concern yesterday called on the Bermuda Government to address “woefully inadequate” community care facilities for the frail elderly after it emerged the King Edward VII Memorial Hospital was buckling under the strain of a flu outbreak. Hospital bosses admitted this week that the $247 million acute care wing had been unable to cope with a surge in demand from flu sufferers over the weekend, with some emergency patients having to wait more than 15 hours for a bed. The shortage of beds, according to Bermuda Hospitals Board, is partly down to an “ageing and increasingly chronically ill community”, while a lack of community nursing home facilities makes it difficult to discharge people as they recover. Reacting yesterday, Age Concern deputy chairman Charles Jeffers urged the Government to direct more funds towards caring for the elderly. “Age Concern is well aware of the challenges being faced with the shortage of beds at the hospital and the need for those seniors who are well enough to be released,” Mr Jeffers told The Royal Gazette. “This is not a new problem and is one that has the potential of becoming acute with the growth of the ageing population. We cannot overly emphasise the fact that a safety net infrastructure for seniors must be firmly in place along with all of the required support systems such as long-term care housing for the frail elderly which, at this time, is woefully inadequate. Government, families and the community need to work in concert to ensure that we get a handle on the issue of the protection, care and safety of vulnerable seniors and implement the right solutions in a timely manner.” Mr Jeffers repeated Age Concern’s call for a Public Guardian, to cover the needs of seniors and the disabled. “The government of the day should ensure that there are required funds available for adequate staffing and operations for Ageing and Disability Services, in particular,” he added. A BHB statement said the maximum number of beds in the new wing was 90 and, with those full, other wings in the older part of the hospital were being used for acute care patients. Before the acute care wing opened in 2014, patients of varying degrees of sickness had been mixed together on three medical surgical wards, which had a combined 110 beds. There were 279 emergency department visits at KEMH between Saturday and Monday, and 38 admissions to beds, as Bermuda grapples with high levels of flu and respiratory illness. Of those admitted, 65 per cent were aged 65 or older. The wait to be admitted to an inpatient bed was 4.83 hours on Saturday, but on Sunday and Monday was more than 15 hours. Yesterday, a BHB spokeswoman said: “If there were fewer non-acute patients in hospital beds, we could better cope with unexpected high surges of the kind we are currently experiencing. The issue is that a significant number of inpatients at BHB are non-acute at any one time, and this was identified in extensive research on hospital inpatients as the new hospital was planned. There are not enough community nursing homes to accept some people when they no longer need acute care, or families are unable or unwilling to accept them home. These individuals do not need acute care but may have some medical requirements. The hospital cares for them when there are no other options as we cannot in good conscience release people who could be hurt or get sick again if they are discharged to an inappropriate setting. The best solution, both clinically and financially, is for Bermuda to have more community nursing home placements and a more extensive home care service. Caring for people in hospital is very expensive; the longer they stay the higher the risk of hospital-acquired infections, and it means individuals are left in an institutional setting when they could have better quality of life in a home setting. Moving patients out of BHB when they are ready is better for them and for Bermuda. This would leave BHB with adequate capacity for surges such as this flu outbreak.” One senior, who asked not to be named, told The Royal Gazette they had just spent three nights on the acute care wing. The senior said: “[I was] lucky to gain admittance, obviously, though perhaps discharged earlier than otherwise might have been.” The senior described the nurses and cleaning staff as “excellent” but questioned why the acute care wing was built to cater for only 90 patients. “Who made that decision?” they asked. This newspaper asked health minister Jeanne Atherden yesterday to comment on the bed capacity of the acute care wing, as well as the often-reported and ongoing lack of community nursing home beds for elderly people. “I commiserate with those who have experienced longer than usual wait times,” Ms Atherden said. “Waiting is difficult for many at the best of times, but becomes more stressful when one is also feeling ill. A small number of non-emergency elective surgeries were postponed and some patients had to wait for a bed in the acute or general wing. Difficult decisions had to be made in order to optimize available bed space. I must commend the hardworking medical professionals and support team at KEMH for, as always, putting patient safety first as they cope with the extra demand. The new acute care wing added 90 beds to those in the existing general wards. All are fully deployed. The ministry is conscious that demand for long-term care has outstripped capacity in the community. With an ageing population and changing demographics, Bermuda, like many countries, is being challenged by this. The ministry has put in place a long-term care action plan, which includes initiatives to address capacity. In addition, HIP and FutureCare offer the personal home care benefit to enable persons who qualify to be cared for at home. We recognise that families are struggling and we must call on the community to be part of the solution in caring for our seniors, as institutionalized care is not always necessary. Seniors who don’t have acute medical needs are better cared for outside the hospital, and we urge families to step in and work together to get their loved ones into the appropriate care setting.”

February 23. Taxpayers may get a hint tomorrow of the potential cost of the Government’s lawsuit against the Lahey Clinic, or at least an idea of how much could be spent on legal fees for it in the next fiscal year. The publication of the Budget book for 2017-18, setting out likely spending from the public purse for every government department, should include an estimate for how much will be spent on legal services. The estimated amount for this year was $4.7 million, while the previous year it was expected that $6.4 million would be spent. With Attorney-General Trevor Moniz having hired the Boston office of law firm Cooley to pursue a civil complaint for unspecified damages against the Massachusetts-based teaching hospital, that figure could be set to rise considerably for the next financial year. Mr Moniz has stonewalled questions from The Royal Gazette about the estimated cost of the lawsuit, as well as the amount of damages being sought. And yesterday Opposition Senator Kim Wilkerson raised questions in the Upper Chamber about the potential cost of the case. “I would hope that all of the necessary research has been done and all of the merits of the particular action have been considered critically before that decision was taken,” said the lawyer and Progressive Labour Party politician. “Lawsuits against healthcare concerns are one of the things I deal with on a daily basis. And I know how expensive litigation can be in the US arena, particularly a litigation that’s mounted in a federal court.” Ms Wilkerson said: “I would be very curious as to what consideration there was of the litigation budget. When a party takes on the decided action to affirmatively sue another party — we are the party taking the action — you would have to have determined what that is going to cost you. And there is always a cost-benefit analysis done about pursuing litigation.” She said anyone getting involved in a legal dispute had to weigh up the benefits of a court case and consider potential alternatives. She questioned whether “every consideration” was taken about the benefit of the action, asking: “What motivation drives it?” The senator said the lawsuit was a “complete and utter shock” to her, adding: “The fact that the Bermuda Government has taken such an affirmative stance in litigation against a well-known, reputable institution is somewhat of a concern to me, from a reputational standpoint.” Cooley is an international company, which opened its Boston office in 2007. It was ranked 35th in the 100 most prestigious law firms in the United States by Vault for 2017. Two of its experienced partners, Luke Cadigan and Robert Lovett, are handling the case, along with two associates. Mr Cadigan’s company biography cites “invaluable experience taking complex securities fraud matters to trial and an insider’s perspective on how to best address government investigations and other regulatory scrutiny”. Mr Lovett’s refers to his experience litigating “high-stakes commercial and class action cases, as well as internal investigations and regulatory matters”. The complaint, filed in a federal court in Massachusetts on February 14, alleges that Lahey paid bribes to Ewart Brown in order to receive preferential treatment when bidding on public healthcare contracts and to gain privileged access to Bermudian patients that it could service at its facilities in Massachusetts and in Bermuda. The figure of $40 million is given as the amount paid to Lahey by Bermuda’s public health insurers — including the government employee health plan, FutureCare and HIP — for services carried out on patients at the hospital in Massachusetts between 2006 and 2016. The complaint alleges those were “services Lahey would not have received but for its relationship with Brown”. It states: “Under principles of equity and good conscience, [the] defendants should not be permitted to retain the benefits they acquired through their unlawful conduct. All funds, revenues, and benefits received by them rightfully belong to Bermuda and should be returned to Bermuda in an amount to be determined at trial.” The Ministry of Legal Affairs was unwilling again to share any information yesterday on the likely cost of the case. We also got no answers on the number of ongoing civil litigation cases being handled by the Attorney-General’s Chambers, how many were instigated by the Government, the cost to the public purse of civil litigation for this fiscal year and the estimated costs for next year. One recent example of how legal fees can impact the public purse is the $4.1 million it cost for lawyers to negotiate the airport redevelopment deal over a three-year period.

February 23. A rise in the Ministry of National Security’s budget will enable upwards of 30 new police officers to be hired in the coming year, The Royal Gazette can reveal. The boost in the ministry’s funding from the Government is expected to see more than ten new firearms officers appointed within the next few months. A further 15 local recruits are expected to be hired as PCs later this summer, while a dozen new police cadet positions will also be filled by Bermudians. Senator Jeff Baron declined to discuss details of the ministry’s budgetary allowance that will be announced by Bob Richards, the Minister of Finance, in the House of Assembly this Friday. However, Mr Baron told The Royal Gazette said he was “very excited” about his first budget as the Minister of National Security. “In the 2016 Throne Speech we said that we would continue to support recruitment and employment in the Bermuda Police Service by adding to the numbers, and specifically adding to the number of firearm officers. It’s vital we continue to sustain and provide strong enforcement capabilities within the service, and that has to be supported by recruitment. When I first became minister I wanted to set a new tempo and tune in the way things were being done in the ministry. Public safety is a huge part of that and this Government is committed to making Bermuda safer.” Last year, the budget for the Bermuda Police Service increased marginally by $172,000 to $64,595,000; of which $46 million was expected to be paid out in salaries. According to the 2016-17 budget booklet, employee numbers within the force in all departments were expected to go from 535 in 2015-16 to 529 in 2016-17, including an increase of two from 442 to 444 in the Commissioner’s Office. That small increase in government funding came after a year of upheaval in the force when the Commissioner of Police, Michael DeSilva, announced a handful of redundancies. In 2016 police agreed to reinstate furlough days and agreed to a pay freeze as part of a deal between the Bermuda Government and the Bermuda Police Association. This year’s budget increase should come as welcome news for the police service. Mr Baron said: “The 2017–2018 budget will continue to invest in our community outreach projects that have proved so successful, and it will further strengthen the social coalitions that we have built up. The community are beginning to win back their neighborhoods and we want to continue to invest in that.”

February 23. Opinion, Everard T. “Bob” Richards, Minister of Finance, Deputy Premier of Bermuda and the MP for Devonshire East Constituency 11.  "The Government of Bermuda, together with our partners will develop a new airport terminal, designed to be more efficient, enjoyable and safe. This month, two pieces of significant enabling legislation regarding the Airport Redevelopment Project will be signed into law by the Governor. This is the culmination of 2½ years’ work, analysis, due diligence and negotiation. The signing of these Bills brings us one step closer towards a new, state-of-the-art airport that will provide a sizeable boost to Bermuda’s economy. This new legislation means that the soon to be launched Bermuda Skyport Corporation — a Bermudian company incorporated by Aecon — will take on the responsibilities of running the existing airport. The revenue from the airport will be collected by Skyport. Collected revenues will go towards urgent repairs to the existing terminal, construction of the new terminal, operating and maintaining the airport over the length of the contract term, paying back investors and paying airport staff salaries. Skyport will also split profits with the Government of Bermuda as per contractual terms. Existing airport staff at the Department of Airport Operations will either transfer to Skyport or to the Bermuda Airport Authority, a new government airport quango responsible for overseeing Skyport. There is expected to be a 50 per cent increase in staff working at Skyport and at the BAA. Construction of the new airport will begin in spring 2017, with ground breaking expected to take place near Stone Crusher Corner. After an information session for local construction industry members in November 2016, Bermudian companies have been invited to pre-qualify to bid for contracts on the project. To date, 43 Bermudian companies have submitted qualifications for consideration. Skyport and Aecon will continue reaching out to local industry and educational institutions to ensure that Bermudians have access to employment and training opportunities. As the new terminal will be built separate from the existing one, it will be business as usual at LF Wade International Airport. This also means that, for the duration of construction, travelers will not have to navigate a major construction site when departing or arriving to our island. With the passing of legislation, immediate urgent repairs to the airport will be made, ensuring visitors for the 35th America’s Cup enjoy the best experience possible at our existing terminal. In 2016, we had an incredible increase of 17 per cent in leisure air tourism to Bermuda and we are working to keep this trend going, so it is crucial that this period of changeover goes as smoothly as possible. The Canadian Commercial Corporation and Aecon, as per the terms and conditions of the agreement with the Government of Bermuda, will deliver the project on time, on budget and to specification. The agreement provides Skyport with a 30-year lease of LF Wade International Airport, but it is important to remember that the airport and the land upon which it sits will always fully belong to the Government of Bermuda. The agreed period for this lease cannot be extended, which means that in 2047, the running and assets of the airport will revert to the Bermuda Government in its entirety. The passing of the legislation marks another milestone achieved in this government’s plan to return Bermuda to prosperity. Having emerged from a recession last year, this is a great stepping stone for our growth and recovery. The new terminal will be a modern, state-of-the-art building that will show our visitors what they can expect from Bermuda and its people: a shining beacon of our hospitality."

February 23. Three Bills were passed by the Senate in the House of Assembly yesterday. The Companies and Limited Liability Company Amendment Act 2017, the International Co-operation (Tax Information Exchange Agreements) Amendment (No 2) Act 2017, and the Proceeds of Crime Amendment Act 2017 were all approved without objection. Under the Companies and Limited Liability Company Amendment Act 2017, companies operating out of Bermuda will now be required to retain their records for a fixed period of time after going into liquidation. “Our ability to maintain our competitive standing in the global community requires that we continue to update our legislative framework as needed to meet international standards,” One Bermuda Alliance Senator Jeff Baron said of the bill. Offering support from the Progressive Labour Party, Senator Kim Wilkerson said: “We understand the significance of Bermuda maintaining its compliance designation. We are satisfied with this piece of legislation.” The International Co-operation (Tax Information Exchange Agreements) Amendment (No 2) Act 2017 addresses shortfalls in legislative compliance in Common Reporting Standards, and Country by Country Reporting. “At the end of the day, it does keep Bermuda competitive as a jurisdiction of choice,” PLP Senate leader Renee Ming said of the amendment. “There is no real opposition from our side when we know what the greater and bigger picture looks like, because it extends to all of Bermuda.” The final Bill, the Proceeds of Crime Amendment Act 2017, looks to ensure that Bermuda remains in compliance with international standards, improving the country’s regulatory framework with regards to antiterrorism funding, and anti-money laundering. “This Bill is pertinent to Bermuda ‘s compliance with international standards, and the credibility of Bermuda’s regulatory practices,” OBA Senator Andrew Simons said. “Bermuda remains committed to working to achieve full compliance with the international standards.” The Senate will meet next on Monday, February 27.

February 23. Superyacht owners could travel straight from the airport to their boats by water during the America’s Cup, after plans were lodged for a temporary dock next to Kindley Field Road. ACBDA has applied for planning permission for a T-shaped floating dock, which would extend from the existing bus lay-by northeast of the Causeway roundabout. The application states: “This dock is an important part of the event transportation plan to deal with the high volume of private aircraft passengers who wish to travel directly to their superyachts via water. “The dock will also serve members of the public who wish to pick up and drop off air passengers by boat. “It is proposed that the dock be installed in April 2017 and removed following the event in August 2017. It is proposed that the dock is installed with a minimum of work due to the temporary nature of the structure.” The application states that the dock has been designed to be supported using two piles driven into the seabed with an access ramp supported on the shore with an “easily removed concrete abutment”. The floating dock was described as being 110ft long, connected to the shoreline via a 55ft gangway. In addition, the project was reported to include “associated works to improve the existing lay-by”. A Marine Ecological Survey, included with the planning application, states that with careful siting the dock would not directly impact any protected species in the area. There is a condition, however: the dock should be placed to the northern end of the bus lay-by.

February 23. Craig Simmons is calling for the payroll tax cap to be gradually doubled to a “reasonable” $1.5 million. Speaking ahead of tomorrow’s Budget, the Bermuda College economist said the slow rather than sudden increasing of the ceiling should be done over the course of the next three years. “Communicating the planned increases now could go a long way to reducing anxiety.  Raising the ceiling to $1.5 million, from its present level of $750,000, seems reasonable.” Payroll tax reform, according to Mr Simmons, is a necessary part of an overall strategy to lighten the tax burden on the bottom 50 per cent of Bermudians while simultaneously increasing the burden on the top half — and especially the top-tier 10 per cent. The One Bermuda Alliance pointed to progressive payroll tax reform in the pipeline in its Throne Speech last November, as it pledged to “ease pressures on lower income earners”. However, in December, the Fiscal Responsibility Panel warned that while progress on payroll tax reform was welcome, “there are clearly limits to how much additional revenue can be raised from this source without doing damage to Bermuda’s businesses and employment”. Mr Simmons said that for the bottom half — and especially the bottom 20 per cent — a negative payroll tax could significantly reduce the tax burden of employees. The tax, he said, had two parts: a guaranteed income provided a minimum number of months are worked, and a flat tax for the employee. “If restricted to Bermudians, a negative payroll tax could also act as a tariff on unskilled foreign labour. To some extent, these reforms make the need for payroll tax exemptions obsolete and go some way towards addressing the problem of rising inequality and declining social mobility. Unfortunately, progress on widening the tax base is behind schedule.” Mr Simmons explained that a service tax mentioned in last year’s Budget, to generate roughly $50 million a year, remains “years away”, putting additional stress on existing sources of tax revenue. The FRP said of progress last December: “The delay in developing proposals for the new GST is disappointing. Determined action is needed if a shortfall in revenue is to be avoided in 2018-19 and possibly in 2017-18 as well.” Looking ahead to the Budget for 2017-18, Mr Simmons said land tax at the upper end of the annual rental value schedule and stamp duties were the most likely areas to see increases. “I would also expect increases in all excise taxes,” he said. Customs duties on vehicles, along with licensing fees, were also likely to go up, he said, in light of strong demand for cars and motorbikes.

February 23. Government and private sector cash — along with laws — are needed to help provide a “striving society” for Bermudians and avoid a stark future state, a prominent island social worker says. Charities figurehead Elaine Butterfield drew a comparison between Bermuda and a “small island” that she once visited on a cruise. According to the executive director at The Centre on Philanthropy, “all looked so well” on the island comprised of “pastel colored and pretty” houses. The true reality, however, soon became apparent. “On taking a tour and immediately on driving past the shore-lined cottages, the air smelled of trash and people begged for money and anything that could help them to eat and live,” Ms Butterfield said. “This may seem to be a farfetched example, but this or something similar could be our future state, if we cannot see the urgency of investing in our social infrastructure.” Ms Butterfield said investment was needed to provide local data identifying core needs of charities, many of which were collaborating in tough times to “maximise their impact”. There are about 320 registered charities operating in the country, down roughly 20 per cent since the establishment of the revised Charities Act in 2014, she said. Of those, approximately 150 are “core charities”, addressing a variety of human services, including abuse, education and human rights. “Trends in social needs will likely continue to strain the capacity of public and private sectors and challenge non-profits to respond. Like organisations are pooling their resources in events, programmes, and a few are even considering consolidation or mergers. What we really need are resources to provide concrete data to identify core needs, promote consensus building, and collaboration to support a collective strategy involving all sectors. Charities would be far more effective and sustainable with this kind of support.”

February 23. Blacks have “a history of our fortitude being tested”, a packed hall heard last night from visiting lecturer Kenneth Hardy. “Keep going,” was his advice. A professor of family therapy from Drexel University in Philadelphia, Dr Hardy heads home today after hosting workshops on racial trauma and young people that culminated in an interactive lecture that brought about 160 people into the Anglican Cathedral’s hall. His words went to a black woman whose son was soon to head to a college that he had been told not to bother applying for. “He was not accepted because of his darker hue,” the woman said, wondering if her son would “still be able to ignore people who tell him no, before he even walks in the door”. Racial trauma was like oxygen, Dr Hardy said: “We can’t see or touch it, but we know for sure it’s in the room.” He likened its legacy down generations to that of alcoholism or chronic disease, with a focus on children of colour — and the need for adults to affirm their inner worth. Tracing slavery’s effects across generations in his own family, Dr Hardy, who came to the island at the behest of the charity Family Centre, called it “foolhardy” to maintain that they did not persist. While black and white people were socialized to look at their racial status and “extract a very different meaning”, Dr Hardy said that “most whites are racially socialized but don’t know it”, while people of colour found that “the world has very abrupt ways of reminding you”, should they attempt to ignore it. “One thing we are taught is to not talk about race,” he said. “I’m always fascinated watching us interact across racial lines.” Blacks feared discussing race around whites, he added, adopting “coded ways of talking about it. It sends incredibly confusing messages to our young people. We see it, but we deny it. It’s crazy, and we wonder why are children are symptomatic.” He recalled a session in which he had spotted a 45-year-old black participant carefully removing watermelon from his fruit bowl because he could not bring himself to eat it in front of white people, after relentless racist teasing in his Alabama childhood. “Each of us has our own version of the watermelon story,” Dr Hardy said — challenging his audience to confront their issues and “become a new self”.

February 23. A group of 16 Royal Bermuda Regiment soldiers have completed a tough four-day course in security and search techniques in the run-up to the America’s Cup. Now the squad will use skills learnt from airport and ports security expert John Pears to train other soldiers to keep the Cup a safe and enjoyable experience. The Miami-based specialist said soldiers trained in search and security would provide a valuable back-up to civilian staff at the airport if a natural disaster meant that airport employees could not get to work. Sergeant Curtis Grant, a full-time soldier based at RBR headquarters, said: “We’ve touched on dangerous goods, pat downs and a whole lot of stuff. “There is a lot to consider for the America’s Cup — it will be good to get out in the public eye and show them how professional we are, apart from the hurricane clear-ups people are used to.” Mr Pears, who has worked as a security consultant in Bermuda and other Overseas Territories for more than a decade, said the training was vital to a successful security operation for the summer sailing competition. He added: “They have done very well — they are all trainers anyway. Usually with this type of programme, it’s getting the confidence to get up and teach. These guys already have that, so it’s more about the techniques. If people don’t understand the arena they are stepping into and what people are trying to achieve, they will be at loggerheads with everyone else. It’s important to understand the limitations and what they can and can’t do. They have to comply with all the rules and regulations — there are no short cuts.” Mr Pears, an ex-Royal Navy regular and former police officer, said: “If for any reason after that there is an issue with a natural disaster or a hurricane and staff can’t get to the airport, we can bring in qualified personnel, which we couldn’t do before.” Sergeant Patricia Alexander, 29, an analyst at the Bermuda Monetary Authority in civilian life, said: “The course has been very informative. We’ve learnt a lot about search techniques and why certain things are done. What’s been an eye-opener for me is the way people can get things into an event they could use as weapons. You have really got to keep your eyes open and know what you are looking for. If not, the simplest thing could pass you by and that might be what does it.”

February 23. A bus driver has described the moment he sped off from a gunman who opened fire at a passenger sat directly behind him. Menelik Isaac told a Supreme Court jury yesterday that a man approached his parked minibus across from Woody’s in Sandys and asked Lorenzo Stovell “what are you doing up here?” before shots rang out. Mr Isaac said he saw Mr Stovell, whom he knew as “Wa Wa”, jump out of his seat and yell at him to go. “He kind of hopped out of his seat and was yelling to go,” Mr Isaac said. “That was really when I started paying attention. As I looked at him to my left that is when I heard the gunshots. From what I remember I started the bus and got out of the situation as fast as I could.” Mr Isaac told the court that he initially drove towards Dockyard before turning around and heading for Hamilton. “I was travelling west and got as far as the rest home. I realized there was no help for me in that direction so I turned around and headed towards Hamilton. I was asking Wa Wa if he was OK, but he was not doing well at the time. He was struggling to breathe and making moaning noises.” Mr Isaac called 911 to tell police there had been a shooting in his bus and drove to the Port Royal Fire Station where he said firefighters took control of the situation. The jury has been told that Mr Stovell, who was 24 at the time and paralyzed from the waist down due to a previous firearms incident, succumbed to his injuries. Zikai Cann and Trevone Saltus are accused of murdering Mr Stovell on the evening of September 23, 2012. Prosecutors say that Mr Cann and Mr Saltus were part of a group of men that descended on the bus before Mr Stovell was shot and killed. A third defendant, Cordova Simons-Marshall, is alleged to have hidden the murder weapon after the shooting. Under cross-examination from Mr Cann’s lawyer, Charles Richardson, Mr Isaac confirmed that in a police statement made at the time of the shooting he had said the man who had approached his bus had been dressed in dark clothing. When questioned further by Mr Saltus’s lawyer, Marc Daniels, he agreed that in that statement he said he looked back in his side mirror when the man was speaking with Mr Stovell and he was one or two foot from the bus. Earlier in the day Mr Stovell’s sister fought back tears as she described the events leading up to her brother’s murder. The woman, who cannot be named for legal reasons, told the court that she had been on the party bus during the afternoon with her brother and other friends and family. She said she had been with friends in Woody’s when someone told her that the bus had driven off. “A friend came up to me and said something had happened at the bus, and that the bus had gone,” the woman added. “After that I remember walking out to the roadside and the bus was not there. My friend tried calling the driver, then the bus came back across us from the direction of Dockyard. The bus did not stop. I went back towards where everyone was sitting and I told them that the driver had said my brother had been shot.” The woman said that she had gone back to check on her brother twice while the party bus had been parked outside Woody’s. “He was fine, on the last occasion he told me his legs were starting to hurt so he was ready to leave,” she added. Yesterday, jurors also heard from Detective Constable Jewel Hayward, a crime scene investigator, who described how he photographed and forensically examined the minibus after the murder. Dc Hayward told the court that he found bullet casings and bullet holes inside the vehicle as well as bloody spatter on the seats. Mr Cann, 27, and Mr Saltus, 28, both deny murder and using a firearm to commit murder. Mr Simons-Marshall, 26, denies handling a 9mm Smith and Wesson auto loading pistol and being an accessory after the murder by concealing the gun. The trial continues.

February 23. The Corporation of Hamilton is looking for proposals to brighten and beautify Washington Lane. According to a recently extended request for proposal, the city is looking to “improve the general aesthetic and night-time safety” of the pedestrian pathway. “Over the past two years the City Arts Festival has focused on beautifying various areas in the City to help contribute to our mandate of being a ‘vibrant’ City,” the RFP stated. “Our aim is to expand public art in the City of Hamilton and bring all of the art communities together to celebrate art in Bermuda. The City Arts Festival aims to work with Bermuda’s arts organisations and independent artists to help curate and implement public art installations in the City of Hamilton. In 2015 we saw the installation of 4 pieces to two main parts of the City and in 2016 we expanded on that by installing five more art pieces in five new locations adding colour to the City. For 2017, we want to capitalize on this project and focus on one high traffic area that connects two major streets; Washington Lane.” Partnering with Washington Properties, the RFP seeks proposals that would implement a range of features including but not limited to lighting, horticulture and wall art, with a maximum budget of $30,000. Artists or Designers may submit more than one proposal, and additional sponsorship from outside sources would be accepted if required to subsidize the instillation. However both City Hall and the property owners reserve the right to refuse any proposal that does not “achieve the desired aesthetic or visual impact”. The deadline for proposals is 5pm on March 20, with the contract being awarded on March 24 and work expected to be completed by May 15. Proposals should be delivered to the City of Hamilton offices.

February 23. Bermuda Press (Holdings) Ltd’s full-year profit more than doubled to $1.26 million as cost-cutting measures bore fruit. While revenue fell in the year ended September 30, 2016, the group was able to generate a $750,000 increase in consolidated net profit, primarily as a result of cost savings through consolidation in print division operations. The company, which owns The Royal Gazette, as well as printing, retail and real estate interests (and this website), said revenue fell to $26.6 million from $27.2 million in the previous year, driven chiefly by a fall in sales of print advertising. Earnings per share totaled 58 cents, up from 2 cents in 2015. And the company’s share price on the Bermuda Stock Exchange rose more than 9 per cent during the year to $7.10. BPHL said real estate was the most profitable segment, with an overall occupancy rate of 98 per cent in 2016, of which more than 60 per cent was made up of third-party tenants. After an 18-month dividend suspension, the company resumed its quarterly payouts in March 2016. Last year it declared total dividends of 15 cents per share. “The board will continue to review the company’s performance and the ability to increase dividend payments to shareholders,” BPHL stated in a press release. Highlights for the company last year included the implementation of a new advertising booking and customer relationship management system, as well as enhanced marketing of products in a bid to increase home delivery of The Royal Gazette and boost sales at the Stationery Store. Training programmes were introduced to support the company’s effort to obtain an Investors In People certification. BPHL added that print operations were expanded to include sign printing, the eMoo website was redesigned with improved functionality and The Royal Gazette launched a mobile website. Stephen Thomson, BPHL’s chairman, described in his commentary in the company’s annual report how the company’s fortunes are tied directly to the performance of the local economy. “More than $23 million of our annual revenue is tied to consumer spending,” Mr Thomson stated. “Leading indicators have shown an improvement in consumer confidence and should ultimately result in increased consumer spending. Despite improving consumer confidence, Bermuda’s economy remains fragile.” He welcomed the positive results seen in tourism and added: “Bermuda’s economy has relied too heavily on international business as the primary driver of its economy and must diversify the economy. Continued positive trends in tourism will lead to increased confidence from investors and, ultimately, new capital investment in new hotels and activities targeting tourists.” He also spoke about the economic impact of demographics. “A declining birth rate and ageing population combined with the former government’s policies on term limits for expatriates and an exodus of residents struggling since 2008 to find employment, while affording Bermuda’s high cost of living, means that Bermudians must accept the reality — as in virtually all First World economies — that future economic growth will rely significantly on immigration.” He lamented the stalling of the Government’s “Pathways to Status” legislation, which was prevented from being debated by MPs last March by protesters who blocked the entrance to the House of Assembly. “The majority of the population supported the legislation, and it provided a sensible and pragmatic approach to the problem of a declining population, while acknowledging the rights of individuals who had resided in Bermuda for long periods of time, including the children born and raised in Bermuda,” Mr Thomson said. “Unfortunately, the legislative process was brought to a halt by a political protest and the democratically elected government was illegally barred from entering Parliament by a minority group of protesters. A democratically elected government must be able to advance its agenda and a vocal or disruptive minority should not be allowed to hinder progress. The silent majority must be represented by the Government. The ability for Bermuda to be economically successful relies on the Government taking immediate action to maintain and ultimately increase the population of Bermuda, along with maintaining stability, both politically and economically. Bermudians must find a peaceful and lawful way to resolving our differences. Our future depends on it.” Mr Thomson also referred to the importance of The Royal Gazette maintaining high standards of journalism, arguing that this was all the more important given the proliferation of opinion on social media, the emergence of “fake news” and the fact that Bermuda is in a general election year. “The Royal Gazette has often been accused of being biased towards one political party or another,” Mr Thomson said. “The truth is that The Royal Gazette goes to great efforts to ensure it is not biased towards anyone. Its responsibility is to report the news, not make news or to manage public relations of a political party, and it must do so while upholding the highest standards of journalism. The role of a journalist to be fair and unbiased is a requirement to enable the public to trust a newspaper.” BPHL’s annual general meeting is scheduled for 9:30am on Friday, March 24 at The Royal Gazette building, 2 Par-la-Ville Road, Hamilton.

February 22. The sale of some Bermuda Government properties will be debated in the House of Assembly in the present session. According to a spokeswoman for the Ministry of Public Works, the Government is hoping to raise $10 million through the sale of public properties in the next three years. The first such sale — that of the Harrington Sound Post Office — was approved by the Legislature last year. That sale is now before the Attorney-General’s Chambers for conveyancing to the successful bidder. The post office was closed in November 2014 and the property was formally put up for sale in May 2015. It was sold for $700,000, according to its sale and purchase agreement. “The Ministry of Public Works will not market any other government properties until we have approval from the Legislature to sell them,” the spokeswoman said. “We intend to obtain approval for several properties during this Legislative session. The ministry has identified 30 government-owned properties that could be offered for sale in the future.” The initiative was initially unveiled in the Throne Speech.

February 22. The Times newspaper of London reported, see http://www.thetimes.co.uk/edition/world/bermudas-pm-took-bribes-in-healthscam-6xl3nrspm

February 22. New frontiers are opening in cancer research, where Bermudian doctor Sheldon Holder sees increasing hope for the future. Dr Holder, who divides his time between laboratory and clinical work through the Penn State Cancer Institute, got special recognition this month from the Big Ten Cancer Research Consortium — a collaborative team drawing together the top ten universities in the United States to move the fight forward. Asked if he felt optimistic when it came to beating cancer, Dr Holder told The Royal Gazette: “Actually, yes. We’re shifting the way we treat cancer.” Chemotherapy is still one of the top weapons against cancer, but with the more targeted therapies emerging over time, it has changed from an indiscriminate destroyer of fast-dividing cells to a precision treatment. Dr Holder likened the new options to “a sniper rather than a bomb”. Working in the field of genitourinary cancer for Penn State’s Milton S Hershey Medical Centre, Dr Holder deals with anything from bladder tumors to cancers of the kidneys, and has thrown himself behind research with the Big Ten’s clinical trial working group in that field. “We meet regularly as well as teleconferencing to talk about potential trials, as well as ongoing trials and new ideas,” Dr Holder said. Most physicians don’t juggle clinical with lab work, but an academic medical centre with links to a major university affords Dr Holder the chance to apply both. With access to trial medicine, he is thus able to offer his patients access to new drug combinations, or treatments that might not otherwise be available. Three years on, one of his patients struck with an uncommon and incurable metastatic kidney cancer was just able to enjoy Christmas with his family. “The cancer is still slowly growing, but he’s up and about, living life,” Dr Holder said. “Those are the really rewarding experiences. I think about those on the hard days when it’s the opposite.” Dr Holder’s latest work in the laboratory focused on tracking down new targets to explore in treating kidney cancer. We use the Big Ten as a way to help the studies move faster,” he explained. “With new targets and new approaches, we’re going to continue to cure more people. If we’re not able to cure, we can at least slow the growth of cancer and prolong life, in quality and quantity. That’s going to make a big difference.”

February 22.  A spike in demand, including “far higher” levels of flu and respiratory illness, is stretching the bed capacity at King Edward VII Memorial Hospital. Problems discharging senior patients have made the situation worse and the facility is using its General Wing for acute admission. A Bermuda Hospitals Board spokeswoman said that non-essential surgeries might be delayed while the hospital tries to free up additional beds to cope with extra demand. The surge in admissions is highest in the senior population, and the public has been asked to use GPS whenever possible. There were 279 Emergency Department visits in the three-day period from Saturday to Monday, with more than three hours for each patient. The maximum number of beds in the Acute Care Wing is 90. Edward Schultz, the Emergency Department chief, said staff were working “around the clock”. He asked for the community’s understanding and patience. Judy Richardson, the chief of nursing, said that the lack of community home beds for elderly patients had made it “increasingly difficult to discharge people when they no longer need acute care services to free-up capacity”. The public has been asked to help by bringing home relatives who are ready to be discharged.

February 22. Concerns about Ewart Brown’s relationship with the Lahey Clinic were raised with the United Bermuda Party Government almost 20 years ago, according to newspaper reports from the time. The Royal Gazette reported in November 1998 on a letter which had been sent to UBP health minister Wayne Furbert in July that year, questioning whether Dr Brown, then an Opposition MP, was receiving a financial incentive for promoting the Massachusetts-based teaching hospital on the island. The letter, from the Health Insurance Association of Bermuda (HIAB), also queried whether it was necessary to bring specialist doctors to Bermuda to see patients and suggested it would drive up healthcare costs. Many of the same issues are raised in the lawsuit filed last week against Lahey by Attorney-General Trevor Moniz, on behalf of the Government. The civil complaint, for unspecified damages, alleges that Lahey paid bribes to Dr Brown in order to receive preferential treatment when bidding on public healthcare contracts and to gain privileged access to Bermudian patients that it could service at its facilities in Massachusetts and in Bermuda. The complaint alleges that “for nearly two decades, Lahey and Brown conspired to promote and ensure Lahey’s increased prominence as both a local and an overseas healthcare provider for Bermudians” and that the scheme, in part, drove up the cost of health insurance premiums for all insured patients. Dr Brown’s relationship with the Lahey Clinic dates back to 1997, the year before the Progressive Labour Party took power and he became a Cabinet minister. At the time, he was an Opposition MP and shadow Cabinet minister, as well as a practising physician. Dr Brown signed an agreement with Lahey to bring specialist doctors to the island to see patients at his Paget clinic, Bermuda Healthcare Services (BHCS). The Royal Gazette reported in October 1997 that BHCS was to offer free mammograms to women who could not afford to pay for them, with the X-ray films being read by the Lahey Clinic — “an associate clinic of Dr Brown’s” — at a cut rate. Mr Moniz’s lawsuit claims that Dr Brown kept his financial relationship with Lahey a secret, failing to declare it on every parliamentary register of interests form that he submitted: in 2000, 2005, 2007 and 2010. But, the HIAB letter from July 1998 reveals the concerns the local health insurance industry had about the linkup between Dr Brown and Lahey; serious enough to warrant writing to a Cabinet minister. The letter was penned by HIAB president Judy Panchaud-White, who stated: “The concept of visiting specialists is a worthy one. However, without controls, it has led and will lead to further escalation in healthcare costs for the island.” Her letter referred to an advert promoting visiting specialists at the BHCS clinic. “This type of advertising will encourage residents to book appointments without their own general practitioner concurring that such a consultation is medically necessary,” claimed Mrs Panchaud-White. “Further, it may result in additional referrals overseas to the Lahey Clinic for follow-up care and further testing.” Her letter asked if the then-UBP Government was aware of any “financial incentive” to BHCS for the promotion of foreign specialists. Mr Furbert, according to the article, responded by saying he had “no problem” with any business arrangement Dr Brown might have with Lahey Clinic. He acknowledged that rising healthcare costs were a concern and said “specialists must be used appropriately”. The article, which was published after the PLP’s general election win and once Dr Brown was in Cabinet, quoted him as saying: “Bermudians have the right to seek the best medical care available and we don’t think anyone has a right to question our integrity.” He claimed many local doctors had boycotted the programme — called “Quality through Linkage” — because they’d allowed politics to interfere with patient care. And he said Mrs Panchaud-White’s question about financial incentives for BHCS was “entirely none of her business”. Mrs Panchaud-White said at the time she planned to express her concerns to Dr Brown’s PLP and Cabinet colleague, health minister Nelson Bascome. Regardless, Dr Brown’s relationship with Lahey continued over the next two decades. According to the unproven claims in the lawsuit, he and Lahey profited “wildly” from their collaboration, with the hospital being paid more than $40 million by Bermudian public healthcare insurers for services performed in the United States between 2006 and 2016. The complaint says those were “services Lahey would not have received but for its relationship with Brown”. Lahey has said it will defend the lawsuit, citing “business practices and commitment to patients in Bermuda [which] are beyond reproach” and claiming the action is politically motivated. Dr Brown, who was Premier between 2006 and 2010, said in a statement the lawsuit against Lahey was an attempt to “settle a political score” against him and contained “countless lies and ridiculous allegations”.

February 22. The Bermuda Tourism Authority took home four trophies this week for its campaign to promote the island internationally. At the Adrian Awards in New York, organised by the Hotel Sales and Marketing Association International, the BTA won prizes in several prizes including a platinum award and Best of Show in the category of public relations. Other awards included a gold award for its “Out Here, Where You Belong” brand and a silver for its “Out Here” print advertising. The awards came in the wake of Victoria Isley, the BTA’s chief sales and marketing officer, being named one of HSMAI’s Top 25 Extraordinary Minds in Hospitality. Kevin Dallas, the BTA CEO, said: “These awards belong to all of Bermuda. The stories our team is telling about Bermuda are resonating with travelers and with our travel industry peers because they’re genuine. The stories represent the best of who we are — our heritage, our spirit, our way of life, and most importantly, they show the world what sets us apart from other destinations.” Meanwhile a BTA spokesman said: “All awards received shared a common theme: they emanated from innovative marketing strategies that delivered compelling stories of adventure, exploration and the spirit of Bermuda. Judges said they were also keen to ensure award-winners showed positive results for the destinations they serve.” The spokesman said the BTA’s efforts to rebuild the island’s tourism product helped bring Bermuda it’s best tourism figures since 2007, including a 76 per cent growth in travelers under the age of 45. “The 2016 turnaround for Bermuda tourism has also resulted in a slew of travel and mainstream media outlets naming the island to its ‘best lists’ for 2017. The same earned media coverage of Bermuda which resulted in the island’s Best of Show prize, played a key role in winning the hearts of travel writers and earning a spot on their ‘best lists. Editorial coverage is a key driver for consumers when deciding where to travel. We are very fortunate to have so many captivating Bermuda stories to pitch and share with journalists. Bermuda has incredible storytellers who speak with passion and love for their country, which is resonating with consumers. We are grateful to have these ingredients and use them to set Bermuda apart and break away from the sea of sameness in the travel industry.”

February 22. The Bermuda Tourism Authority’s efforts to claw back air arrivals for Bermuda have yet to match the high enjoyed under the Progressive Labour Party government, according to Jamahl Simmons, the Shadow Minister of Tourism. It drew a swift response from Senator Michael Fahy, the tourism minister, who said that the Opposition “particular just can’t help themselves but try and find negativity in what is actually incredibly positive news on tourism from the Bermuda Tourism Authority” — hitting back that there were “major indications that Bermuda’s tourism renaissance is now upon us”. At a press conference this afternoon in the Progressive Labour Party headquarters at Alaska Hall, Mr Simmons pointed out that the BTA deserved congratulations for “modernising tourism” and drawing a “younger, more cosmopolitan” demographic to the island. “The latest uptick is encouraging — but all that is happening is merely a return to just average,” the Sandys South MP said. Leisure air arrivals increased by 17 per cent to the highest since 2007, according to the BTA. However, Mr Simmons said: “Over the four-year period prior to 2012, the Department of Tourism under the PLP Government averaged 242,000 air arrivals a year. Over a similar period, the BTA have not been able to match the Department of Tourism highs in air arrivals or total arrivals, which were 652,000 total and 264,000 air arrivals. Additionally, the pre-recession period from 2005 to 2008 had a high of 305,000 air arrivals and 660,000 total arrivals under the PLP Government. The BTA’s high of 245,000 air and 642,000 total falls short. This is not just about numbers of air arrivals being up or down — growth in the tourism sector should bring jobs.” He conceded that the One Bermuda Alliance had inherited “average performing” tourism, which is now at a 48 to 49-year low. Other jurisdictions to the south are reaping “record numbers”, Mr Simmons said, calling for a stronger marketing push. The Opposition has frequently criticised the marketing budget for the BTA, which is considerably lower than that of its predecessor, the Department of Tourism. “We have to get our game out there and keep pushing to stay relevant,” he added, saying that while the upcoming America’s Cup stood to bring in a surge of visitors, “that audience is not necessarily the audience we are looking for in the long term” — although the island was “ideally located” to capitalize on the super yacht market. If the America’s Cup can stimulate that, that’s a good thing.” Low-spending cruise visitors comprise the bulk of visitors at present, and Mr Simmons acknowledged that “we have to break away from that — one thing the PLP did when the numbers started falling was to fill the void with that”. Mr Fahy’s response, meanwhile, accused the Opposition of “convenient amnesia. ”His statement continues with a list of highlights, as follows:

“The Ministry supports the work of the BTA wholeheartedly. There is much work going on behind the scenes by the Ministry in attracting new airlift to Bermuda as was demonstrated by Jet Blue’s recent increases. The BTA has won major awards for its work internationally and will continue to flourish and the tourism sector and related jobs will expand as a result. The Opposition PLP can keep looking in the rear-view mirror and give half-baked ideas or rely on the expertise at the BTA and other tourism partners. We are proud of the work being done and will continue unreservedly along with the BTA to grow this important sector for all Bermudians.” In addition, a BTA spokesman issued the following: “We appreciate the Shadow Minister’s kind words about our team’s hard work and for his acknowledgement of the consistently strong industry performance last year which resulted in 12 consecutive months of leisure air arrival growth. The Bermuda Tourism Authority focuses primarily on leisure air arrivals because growing vacationers to Bermuda who arrive by air is the central mission of our organisation. It’s the metric by which the country, our Board and our community measures our performance. That’s why we are so pleased to report 2016 was the highest volume or vacation air arrivals since 2007. While the BTA has a secondary responsibility to positively impact visitors who come here for business or to visit friends and family, it would be irresponsible, and perhaps even disingenuous, to take full credit for those visitors. When an overseas business person schedules a meeting in Bermuda or a relative comes for a family member’s birthday, that has little to do with the marketing efforts of the BTA.” The BTA will continue to focus on growing leisure air arrivals and group business to Bermuda because it’s what the thousands of people working in our tourism industry need us to do.”

February 22. It is important to know your client — and with that in mind, Massachusetts General Hospital decided to pay the island a visit this week to do exactly that. Boston’s biggest branch of Harvard Medical School, which is ranked number three among hospitals across the United States, caters each year to between 200 and 300 patients from Bermuda. “We thought it would be a good idea to come down and look at the healthcare needs on the island,” said Misty Hathaway, Mass General’s chief marketing officer and director of specialized services. She visited local patients and insurers as well as King Edward VII Memorial Hospital with Jordan Romano, a physician from the hospital’s specialized healthcare services. The pair examined patients’ manifold reasons for travelling to seek healthcare, with the aim of improving the continuity of care when residents return home. “It’s important to understand where patients are coming from and where they’re headed back, to make that transition as seamless as possible,” Ms Hathaway said. Local needs range from cancer care, traffic accident treatment and neurosurgery to comprehensive wellness and executive health screening — and, because of its proximity, Mass General gets more Bermudians than others. Dr Romano declared himself impressed with what’s here — but for those who need care farther afield, “you have to know who you’re dealing with. I’m really impressed with the level of care here."

February 22. Education standards expert Paul Wagstaff, who was the forerunner for the role of Commissioner of Education, has declined the position, this newspaper understands. Mr Wagstaff, who has a history in school improvement and advisory services in Britain including on the Curriculum Division of Ofsted, was tipped to take the position last autumn. But according to well-placed sources, the Dubai-based educator “declined the offer” from the Ministry of Education. It is also understood that an announcement will be made with regards to the hiring of an education commissioner within the next month. The hiring of the non-Bermudian was said to have been delayed last year as no agreement could be made on the “economic terms of the appointment”. Minister of Education Wayne Scott, who has always been a strong advocate of hiring a Bermudian into the position of education commissioner, declined to comment when contacted by this newspaper. However, last September on discovering that Mr Wagstaff was in the running to fill the position, Mr Scott said: “My position has been very clear all along — I think that the position of education commissioner is a position that should be Bermudianised. I have also said that if there is a compelling argument for a skill set that exists outside of what we currently have — like if we need to modify the education system — I would like to see, etched in stone, a development plan in place ahead of time for the training of one of our local people.” Mr Wagstaff was responsible for leading “major evaluations of government initiatives including a major review of the teaching and reading”, according to Ruskin Education where he is chairman. According to his biography, he was appointed the national director of the Primary National Strategy in 2006 and led a revision of Britain’s National Literacy and Numeracy strategies, a major initiative aiming to raising standards in state primary schools. He moved to CfBT in 2011 to help establish a new regional structure and successful strategy for growth in the role of regional director, before moving into his current role at Ruskin Education LLC. It is the latest in a series of difficulties regarding the position of education commissioner. On the appointment of Mr Scott in January 2015, Michael Dunkley said the appointment of a permanent secretary and an education commissioner was “imminent”. However, while Valerie Robinson-James was appointed permanent secretary the following month, the commissioner’s seat remained empty with Freddie Evans sitting as acting commissioner. The previous commissioner, Edmond Heatley, had a short tenure lasting eight months. The Commissioner of Education is a statutory post with legislative responsibilities, and therefore must be filled. The Royal Gazette has reached out to Mr Wagstaff for comment but has not yet received a response.

February 22. Travelers intending to fly to Trinidad and Tobago for the upcoming carnival have been warned to protect themselves against the Zika virus, which has been detected in the Caribbean island. A person can contract Zika through a bite from an infected mosquito or through sexual contact with a person with the virus. Jeanne Atherden, Minister of Health, said: “I urge carnival goers to protect themselves against the Zika virus due to its potential to cause health problems, in particular developmental problems for a baby during pregnancy. “Imported cases make local spread possible because a type of mosquito that could potentially transmit the virus is found in Bermuda.” The mosquitoes that could transmit Zika usually bite during the day. The Health Ministry has advised people to:

“Pregnant women, or those who wish to become pregnant, should avoid unnecessary travel to areas with known Zika virus, and if travel is necessary, take careful precautions against mosquito bites and sexual transmission,” said the Department of Health. “All travelers should monitor their health. If travelers to Zika-affected areas experience fever with joint pains, rash or conjunctivitis (pink eye), they should seek medical attention and inform the healthcare provider of their recent travel history. There is currently no vaccine for Zika and the healthcare provider will advise on how to treat any symptoms.” The department will continue to test those suspected of having Zika. To date, Bermuda has confirmed six cases of travel-related (imported) Zika, but there has been no local transmission. The ministry will update the public in the event of any additional confirmed cases at www.gov.bm/zika-virus.

February 22. Jack Dunckley has been inspired by Bermuda to create a masterpiece for the Chelsea Flower Show — and now he wants the island’s help to make him the youngest person to take a gold medal there in 2017. With a world audience of 1.9 billion, the Royal Horticultural Society’s annual show offers a chance to showcase Bermuda on a global stage. “The idea is, once we have built this garden in London, to transport it back here to the island as something to stay here for ever,” Mr Dunckley, 24, an award-winning landscaper, told The Royal Gazette of his Bermuda Triangle exhibit planned for the show coming in May. Mr Dunckley, who just finished a weeklong research trip here with his father Robert, has been designing gardens since the age of 14, and is already the youngest winner of an RHS Chelsea Flower Show medal. “We came here to collaborate with a local company to build this display — it’s completely inspired by Bermuda and how the island was raised out of the water by this amazing underwater volcano.” The concept piece is a large one: as much as 20ft on each side. Its pyramidal arrangement will intertwine subtropical plants and flowers with triangular pieces of aluminium and perspex, sloping around a towering central palmetto that can light up with simulated volcano colours. Mirror backdrops will reflect the garden multiple times. Fire will be worked into the display, as well as pink Bermuda sand. “I’ve always had a passion for the subtropical part of the world,” Mr Dunckley said. “I have visited a few Caribbean islands and gained inspiration from there. One day, I thought of the Bermuda Triangle. Friends have lived here, he said — and after a week of exploring Bermuda, from the Botanical Gardens to the Cooper’s Island nature reserve, the Dunckleys find it “an iconic landscape”. Ideal sponsorship for the Chelsea Flower Show could run as high as $60,000, but Mr Dunckley believes the prominent event would be worth it for global marketing — and plans to pitch his idea to the Bermuda Tourism Authority as well as local landscapers. “It will be a sculptural conceptual piece in London shouting about Bermuda, and it would have a legacy here on the island with people coming to see it,” he said.

February 22. Butterfield Bank’s biggest shareholder, The Carlyle Group, is a step closer to exiting its position with the bank. A public secondary offering of common shares in the bank, including an additional offering to the underwriters, includes all 7.6 million of the stock owned by Carlyle. It had always been expected Carlyle would move on after between five and seven years as a major shareholder. It was one of the key investors that put $550 million into the bank as part of a recapitalisation programme in 2010. That move helped the Bermudian bank overcome difficulties it faced after it lost millions of dollars as a result of the US sub prime meltdown. Last September, Butterfield joined the New York Stock Exchange after a successful initial public offering. The listing has given the bank’s stock greater liquidity. US-based Carlyle Group is one of the world’s largest investment firms, with about $170 billion of assets under management. It has a 14.3 per cent stake in Butterfield. After the close of the markets on Wednesday, Butterfield announced the launch of the secondary offering. The bank will not receive any of the proceeds of the sale as the offering is from a group of major shareholders. In a statement, the bank said a group of its shareholders, including affiliates of The Carlyle Group, intend to offer 9.55 million common shares in an underwritten public offering. In addition, the underwriter will be offered a 30-day option to purchase up to an additional 1.4 million shares at the public offering price, less underwriting discounts and commissions. The shares offered will include all 7.6 million common shares owned by Carlyle. Butterfield will not be issuing any shares in connection with the offering. Goldman Sachs & Co, Citigroup, Sandler O’Neill & Partners, and Keefe, Bruyette & Woods are acting as the joint book-running managers. Raymond James and Wells Fargo Securities are acting as co-managers for the offering. The pricing and completion of the offering remain subject to a range of conditions. The bank’s share price has gained nearly 40 per cent since last year’s IPO. On Wednesday, the shares fell eight cents in New York to close on $32.93.

February 22. RenaissanceRe has increased its dividend for the 22nd consecutive year. The Bermuda-based reinsurer announced that its board had decided to raise the quarterly payout to 32 cents per share from 31 cents. The next dividend will be paid on March 31 to shareholders of record as of March 15. RenRe’s board also approved an increase in the company’s share repurchase programme, bringing the total current authorization to $500 million.

February 22. The Lamb Foggo Urgent Care Centre is to reopen next Wednesday. The East End facility was temporarily closed last month for the installation of new vinyl flooring and work on the building. Marshall Minors, vice-president of facilities management and estates, said: “In addition to the flooring we also conducted minor repairs and upgrades to the facility.” These included installing a new shower, repairing windows and improving storm water drainage for the ambulance bay. “The work was scheduled outside of hurricane season and ahead of the America’s Cup and busy summer season. We apologize for any inconvenience caused, but the public will be better served with the improvements now in place,” he added. Bermuda Hospitals Board chief of emergency services Edward Schultz said: “We are happy to have our East End facility available to serve the community again. We are experiencing a busy flu season and the UCC reopening will certainly be convenient for many who require care at night and/or on the weekends.” The public is reminded to visit their GP if their situation is not urgent.

February 21. Racism has overtaken crime as one of the biggest issues facing Bermuda, according to a poll commissioned by The Royal Gazette. A surge of voters named racism as their top concern in the Global Research survey this month: 16 per cent, up from 7 per cent three months ago and 2 per cent in December 2015. Whites and One Bermuda Alliance supporters were more likely to pick racism than blacks and Progressive Labour Party supporters, a breakdown of the results shows. Among blacks, the economy, education and crime remain the chief three concerns; among whites, the economy is only marginally more of a concern than racism, with very few whites citing crime as their main worry. Overall, the economy was once again the top answer, although its figure of 36 per cent is seven points down from the previous survey in November. Education came second with 24 per cent, then racism on 16 per cent, and crime fourth with 15 per cent. The telephone survey of 401 registered voters took place between February 7 and 9, and has a margin of error of +/- 5 per cent. It came in a sustained period of high political tension during which many have pointed to divisions in Bermuda’s community. Since the previous poll, last November, there was the major demonstration and blocking of the House of Assembly over the airport redevelopment on December 2, which culminated in protesters being pepper-sprayed by police; and protests over the refusal of a work permit renewal for the Reverend Nicholas Tweed. On both occasions, the vast majority of demonstrators were black, while the PLP’s Reply to the Throne Speech in November painted a picture of “two Bermudas” where some prosper but others suffer because of social and economic problems. Analysis of the results by race shows that, among whites, the top concern was the economy, with 30 per cent; second was racism (29 per cent), followed by education (20 per cent) and crime (7 per cent). Among blacks, economy won more votes, with 41 per cent, and education was next with 24 per cent, followed by crime on 18 per cent and racism on 9 per cent. Some 21 per cent of OBA supporters said racism was their main concern, compared with 13 per cent of PLP supporters. Results from the differing age groups highlights another disparity, with the 18 to 34 bracket highlighting education as their top issue (32 per cent), and those aged 45 and over picking the economy (more than 40 per cent). A separate question asked voters how much faith they have in the economy, with 27 per cent saying they are confident, unchanged from last November; 31 per cent said they were not confident and 40 per cent in the middle. The survey also asked people to select which out of three specific issues requires most urgent attention. Of the available choices, socioeconomic inequality came first, with 45 per cent, the airport redevelopment next with 43 per cent and same-sex marriage third with 12 per cent.

February 21. The weakness of the UK pound was the major factor driving the owner of Bermuda Commercial Bank to a $10.7 million loss in the fourth quarter of last year. Somers Ltd, a Bermuda Stock Exchange-listed financial services holding company, said more than half of its gross assets were denominated in currencies other than the dollar — chiefly the UK pound and the Australian dollar. During the quarter, sterling weakened by 5 per cent against the US dollar as the repercussions of the UK’s vote to leave the European Union continued to weigh on the currency. Somers’ net asset value per share fell to $17.58 from $17.81 during the three months ended December 31, a fall of 4.4 per cent, mostly unrealized losses. Net foreign exchange losses were $6.6 million for the quarter with an additional $3.6 million of exchange losses on Somers’ investment in its foreign operations. Somers has stakes of varying sizes in several UK-based firms, including Waverton Investment Management Ltd, Ascot Lloyd Holdings Ltd, Merrion capital Holdings Ltd and Stockdale Securities Ltd. During the quarter, Somers completed a deal that gave it a 59 per cent stake in Australian lender Homeloans Ltd. There was a $3.7 million loss on the company’s investment portfolio during the last three months of the year, resulting from a change in the valuations of holdings including Ascot Lloyd, Waverton and BCB. The investment portfolio was $317.2 million at the end of last year, down from $332.0 million as of September 30, with equity investments accounting for 95 per cent of this total. The company did not detail earnings for BCB, but said the bank maintained “a high capital ratio of 23 per cent”. Shareholders’ equity ended the quarter at $215.7 million, down from $230.4 million at the end of the third quarter. Somers bought back 3,149 of its own shares at a cost per share of $13.30 during the three months. Somers’ share price on the BSX ended the period at $13.75 — a discount of 22.8 per cent to the company’s diluted net asset value per share. “The last quarter has been characterized by continued US dollar strength and this has negatively impacted our net asset value by 4.6 per cent due to a significant percentage of our portfolio being denominated in non-US dollar currencies,” Warren McLeland, chairman of Somers, said. “However, the underlying performance of our invested companies continues to be strong. During the quarter, Resimac merged with the ASX-listed Homeloans Ltd and Somers is now a 59 per cent shareholder in Homeloans. We look forward to working with the Homeloans management team and assisting them in driving the synergies that made the merger compelling. In December, PCFG received conditional approval for a deposit-taking licence in the UK and they anticipate being in a position to accept deposits in the second half of 2017. This is a key moment in their development and has the potential to be a step change for the business. Our other investee companies continue to benefit from strong equity markets and even allowing for the increased geo-political risk are well positioned for 2017.” We therefore look forward to the rest of the financial year with cautious optimism.”

February 21. Victoria Isley, chief sales and marketing officer at the Bermuda Tourism Authority, has been named one of the top minds in the global destination marketing business by an international body. Ms Isley has been included in a list of the “Top 25 Extraordinary Minds” by the Hospitality Sales and Marketing Association International, who are set to be honored this evening in a ceremony in New York. In a statement, Ms Isley said: “I’m honored by the designation and proud to be part of a team bringing Bermuda’s stories to life for new travelers. Importantly, I’m grateful to the on-island and off-island partners that were willing to believe in and contribute to our collective success for the Bermuda tourism industry. The island is such a natural muse in our storytelling strategy. There is such a mystique about Bermuda, its people and its stories that are set apart out there in the middle of the ocean. I find that truly inspiring. I’m looking forward to working for even greater success for Bermuda.” According to a BTA spokesman, the honour came after a marketing partner submitted Ms Isley to the HSMAI’s panel of judges for consideration. “Each candidate the panel reviews is an innovator who made a significant positive impact on a country’s tourism efforts over the preceding 18 months,” the spokesman said. “In 2016, Bermuda tourism experienced its best performance year since 2007, growing leisure air arrivals and visitor spending year-over-year 17 per cent and 18 per cent respectively. Ms Isley was instrumental in the development and implementation of a new brand strategy about a year ago, one of the components that drove positive results for Bermuda. The shift in brand identity helped attract a younger audience to the island — more than half of all vacationers arriving by air in 2016 were under 45 years old. These results over the past 18 months got the attention of the HSMAI panel.” In addition to the “Top 25 Extraordinary Mind”s accolade, the HSMAI will also hand out its annual Adrian Awards tonight with BTA’s efforts in public relations and marketing in contention for recognition. Kevin Dallas, BTA CEO, said everyone at the BTA was proud of Ms Isley and her contributions, saying: “With an open mind and a keen ear, she helped Bermuda find its brand voice and, as our 2016 results demonstrate, the marketplace is responding well to that voice. I think this award from HSMAI validates what we already know internally: we have a winning team at the BTA that has developed a winning sales and marketing strategy, which is producing a strong return on investment for Bermuda.” Ms Isley joined the BTA in June 2014 after having worked for Destination DC, Tampa Bay Convention and Visitors Bureau and Destination Marketing Association International. According to a spokesman, since taking over the helm in the BTA’s New York City office she has focused on local storytellers to shape the country’s narrative and has collaborated closely with Bermudian videographers, photographers, graphic designers and stylists to tell those stories authentically.

February 21. Chickenpox has been reported spreading around the island, according to the Ministry of Health. In a statement yesterday, a spokeswoman for the Epidemiology and Surveillance Unit confirmed that there had been an increase in reports of varicella — commonly known as Chickenpox — above usual seasonal levels. “As of February 11, four cases have been reported to the unit through the routine reporting system,” the spokeswoman said. “There have also been reports regarding groups of cases in the community.” Varicella is a highly contagious airborne disease that forms small, itchy blisters. Other common symptoms include fever and headaches. The Ministry of Health recommends that those who contract the disease stay home for at least five days after the trademark rash first appears and until all of the blisters have scabbed over. There is no specific treatment for chickenpox infection but there are several ways to help relieve the symptoms. Rest and fluids are encouraged, while the risk of skin infection from scratching can be reduced by the use of over the counter anti-itch soaps and lotions and by keeping fingernails short. Vaccinations for the disease are available, and anyone who has not been vaccinated is urged to contact their doctor or the Child Health Immunization Clinic at the Hamilton Health Centre on Victoria Street. For information on how to treat symptoms or prevent the disease, please see the chickenpox fact sheet at www.gov.bm/health-data-and-monitoring.

February 21. A Bermudian-registered mega yacht estimated to have cost €400 million (about $422 million) has been impounded in Gibraltar over allegations of unpaid fees. According to the BBC Sailing Yacht A, owned by Russian billionaire Andrey Melnichenko, is being held because the German builder of the vessel says he still owes €15.3 million in fees. However, a spokesman for Mr Melnichenko told the BBC that they were confident the order would soon be lifted, calling the incident a “technical problem”. The vessel, built by Nobiskrug, left the Kiel shipyard in northern Germany just two weeks ago. It is described as being 143 metres (469ft) long with three masts, an underwater observation pod, hybrid diesel-electric propulsion and “state-of-the-art” navigation systems.

February 21. The Bermy Bouncers Jump team will join overseas champions to kick off Jump Week with a display on the City Hall lawn tomorrow. Made up of students from across the island, the Bermuda jumpers are aged between seven and 16. Organised by the Bermuda Heart Foundation, the Jump 2B Fit Programme aims to help “our next generation to become more physically active, enhance their abilities to focus, build their strength, endurance and improve their quality of life,” said a spokesperson. “Our mission is dedicated to raising awareness of childhood obesity and instituting an active initiative to educate them on the importance of a healthy lifestyle.” Tomorrow’s event will begin at 5.00pm. Meanwhile, the World Jump Rope Champion Ambassadors will be hold a community Fun Day open to the public this Saturday at Whitney Institute Gymnasium. That will be followed by a Jump Showcase at 12pm.

February 21. It ran 70 years ago in a girlie calendar — but now Miss Bermuda, a painting from the golden age of the pin-up girl, is headed for the auction block to the tune of $18,500. The piece, offered online by the Grapefruit Moon Gallery, features a scantily-clothed blonde posing against a backdrop of rocks and breaking waves, and was created by the celebrated female artist Pearl Frush in 1947. Many of Ms Frush’s pieces have gone on to be collector’s pieces. The signed original for the Gerlach-Barklow Calendar Company has featured in pin-up publications, and was part of a sequence called the Aqua Series of girls in bathing suits.

February 20. The One Bermuda Alliance has reclaimed its slight lead over the Progressive Labour Party, according to a new poll commissioned by The Royal Gazette. The OBA has a 38-35 advantage over the PLP, a swing of six percentage points after the Opposition led by 38-35 last November. With a margin of error of +/- 5 per cent in the Global Research survey, the race remains extremely tight as Bermuda enters the final few months before the next General Election. Michael Dunkley, the Premier, retains his position on top of the performance approval ratings, followed in order by PLP leader David Burt, OBA deputy leader Bob Richards and PLP deputy leader Walter Roban. The OBA has a 24-17 lead in the performance approval ratings, with both men and women and every age group saying they think the ruling party is performing better than the Opposition. The telephone survey of 401 registered voters took place between February 7 and 9. For the second consecutive poll, the proportion of people who said they would be absolutely certain to vote at an election has risen: that figure now stands at 68 per cent, up from 61 per cent last September. A breakdown by race shows no surprises, with 77 per cent of whites saying they would vote OBA, up from 76 per cent, and an unchanged 4 per cent saying they would vote PLP. Among blacks, an unchanged 55 per cent would vote PLP, and 16 per cent would vote OBA, up by one percentage point. The OBA continues to hold the male vote, by 43-29, and the PLP still has the female vote, by 41-35. The OBA scored well in the 18 to 34 age group, with 43 per cent against 31 per cent for the PLP. This represents a sharp improvement for the OBA, which had trailed that group by 41-24 in November. Mr Dunkley’s performance approval rating is 35 per cent, down from 36 per cent. He gets support from 58 per cent of whites and 21 per cent of blacks, down seven points and one point respectively. He is backed by 36 per cent of men and 34 per cent of women, and continues to draw most support from the older generation, with 43 per cent from the 55 to 64 age group and 40 per cent from the over 65s. Mr Burt has a performance approval rating of 27 per cent, down from 30 per cent, including approval from 10 per cent of whites and 39 per cent of blacks. Mr Richards, the OBA deputy leader, has an approval rating of 21 per cent, up from 19 per cent. He is backed by 43 per cent of blacks and 8 per cent of whites. Mr Roban has an approval rating of 14 per cent, down from 15 per cent. He is backed by 22 per cent of blacks and 4 per cent of whites. General favourability ratings show Mr Dunkley on 41 per cent, ahead of Mr Burt (34 per cent), Mr Richards (23 per cent) and Mr Roban (18 per cent).

February 20. Companies operating out of Bermuda will now be required to retain their records for a set period of time after going into liquidation, under a Bill passed in Parliament with bipartisan support. Grant Gibbons, the Minister of Economic Development, described the Companies and Limited Liability Company Amendment Act 2017 as “correcting a gap”. Opposition MP Zane DeSilva questioned the effectiveness of the $500 fine for non-compliance, saying it was not much of a deterrent for destroying the records and taking the fine. Dr Gibbons retorted that if it was found to be done purposely the fine was would be higher and the resulting loss of reputation of those responsible would be a deterrent in itself. It was passed with no objections from the Opposition. The Proceeds of Crime Amendment Act 2017 was also passed without objection. The Bill aims to ensure that Bermuda remains in compliance with international standards and improves its regulatory framework with regards to anti-money laundering and antiterrorism financing legislation. Bob Richards, the Minister of Finance, said that areas in the legislation required continuing adjustments to keep Bermuda in line with other jurisdictions, adding technical requirements and updating reporting requirements. Shadow Attorney-General Michael Scott, in describing the legislation as “a moving landscape”, said the opposition was happy to support the amendments. The last Bill to pass in the House on Friday was the International Co-operation (Tax Information Exchange Agreements) Amendment (No 2) Act 2017. The objective of the Bill was to address Bermuda’s shortfalls in legislative compliance in Common Reporting Standards and Country by Country Reporting. Among the amendments were making it an offence to fail to comply or report false self certification as well as giving the minister the power to issue guidelines on Common Reporting Standards which will be published on the government’s website. Shadow finance minister David Burt took the opportunity to comment on how the sort of actions that keep Bermuda in line with best international standards is where the two political parties continue to work together, adding “that will not stop today."

February 20. The arrival of fentanyl in Bermuda is prompting warnings over the drug’s potential impact to public health and safety from representatives of the health, policing and government communities. The message follows the arrest of two Canadians in December after allegedly smuggling the drug into the country. A third suspect — a Jamaican national — was subsequently charged. The matter remains before the courts. “This is an incredibly dangerous drug, and people can die very quickly from it,” Edward Schultz, director of Emergency Services for the Bermuda Hospitals Board, said of the synthetic opioid. With a potency roughly 50 to 100 times that of morphine, the drug has been heavily linked to what Health Canada in November described as a “crisis of opioid-related overdoses and death across the country,” and which prompted a nationwide alert from the United States Drug Enforcement Administration nearly two years ago. Widely used by physicians as a pain reliever, forms of fentanyl began to be sold for illicit purposes, most commonly as a cutting agent in other narcotics — primarily heroin — creating greater risks for those using the drug. “I think there’s a huge issue with heroin use in Bermuda,” Dr Schultz said. “We’ve had a large number of people using heroin for the last 20 years. There’s always been a very large heroin-using population,” Bermuda Police Services Detective Superintendent Sean Field-Lament said. According to Mr Field-Lament, the country’s heroin supply — traditionally sourced from either Mexico, via the eastern United States, or more recently The Netherlands, via London — has rarely been stepped on. We tend to get quite high purity,” he said. The arrival of fentanyl, he said, would allow heroin to be cut down by importers and dealers to increase yields, and ultimately profits. “My concern is that you’re going to see an expansion of heroin use by just adding amounts of fentanyl,” he said. Fatal even in small doses, fentanyl’s infiltration into heroin elsewhere has put users at an increased risk for overdose and death. With a 10-milligram “deck” of heroin selling for $25 on the island, the amount of fentanyl needed to cut a single hit is minimal. “The amount of powder that gets somebody feeling good from fentanyl and the amount that will kill you — you can’t eyeball that,” Dr Schultz said. “The amount is even smaller to create a high-risk of toxicity, overdose and death,” Government of Bermuda analyst Nadine Kirkos echoed. Prior to fentanyl’s recent arrival on island, Mr Field-Lament said the drug wasn’t really on “the radar” of police. In fact, fentanyl was not technically illegal when it first showed up, and required fast tracking to add to the Government’s list of banned substances, he said. Ms Kirkos, however, said that the Government had been tracking the issue for some time. “Fentanyl has certainly been on our radar for a while,” she said. “But obviously we can only test what comes in.” Testing of the drug, as well as identifying its effects, also presents a myriad of problems. According to Mr Field-Lament, results on tests ordered into suspicious deaths have taken an “inordinate amount of time, from a policing perspective” to receive. “The capacity on the island to do a very timely toxicology report is not there,” he said. “And that’s one of the things we’re trying to address.” Test results can typically take six to eight weeks to be returned, Mr Field-Lament said. Results on tests ordered relating to three “incidents” in 2017 remain outstanding. “The problem is we are an island,” Ms Kirkos said. “You have a large bureaucratic pathway to go through to be able to ship something away.” Samples dating back to 2013 are also being re-screened for the drug, she said. Fentanyl also does not show up on standard tests, making the diagnosis of an overdose by the drug by first responders and health practitioners particularly difficult. After the death of 25-year-old Christopher Spencer in 2015, the use of Naloxone — a drug used to counteract the effects of an opioid overdose — was approved by all emergency medical technicians without a doctor’s approval following a coroner’s recommendation. Naloxone, commonly sold under the brand Narcan, is now carried by all EMTs. “The drug will save lives,” Dr Schultz said. “What I advised all my colleagues in the emergency department when we found out fentanyl is on the island, is that if anybody comes in under this profile, we need to give large amounts of Naloxone and you’re not going to be able to test for it, so don’t be deterred by negative tests,” he added. A national strategy to address fentanyl is currently being developed, Mr Field-Lament said. “Certainly if your loved one is an addict, you should be aware of the dangers,” he said.

February 20. Legislation paving the way for people to be cautioned for possession of a small cannabis is set to come into force, Attorney-General Trevor Moniz has confirmed. Mr Moniz released a statement after Director of Public Prosecutions Larry Mussenden unveiled a new “three strikes” draft policy meaning people caught with less than three grams will receive formal cautions. He recalled the Police and Criminal Evidence Amendment Act, passed last March, allowed for the Bermuda Police Service to issue formal police cautions to persons suspected of committing offences and who admit culpability. “Formal cautions serve as an alternative to traditional prosecutions before the courts,” Mr Moniz stated. “They give law enforcement another tool in helping to prevent unnecessary criminalisation in the first instance and to further deter persons from future actions that may lead to criminalisation. Cautions permit the police and prosecutors to consider a response which is proportionate to the level of criminality involved. Following passage of the legislation, the DPP commenced a consultative exercise with stakeholders across Government and the community. The result of that exercise was the announcement of Draft Formal Police Caution guidance for Simple Possession of Cannabis weighing three grams or less. To that end, I am now bringing the legislation into force, and a notice to that effect will be published in the Gazette shortly. The DPP will then be in a position to formally bring the guidance into effect. I wish to thank the DPP and his team for all of their hard work in effecting this guidance, and to all stakeholders who took the time to respond to his request for comment.”

February 20. The expansion and development of Bermuda’s “blue economy” could generate green in the future, according to the country’s former Attorney-General. “I don’t speak of the blue economy as only being the sea,” Phil Perinchief said. “I think of the sea and everything under it, and the sky and everything below and above that as being the total blue economy.” Some 15 years ago, Mr Perinchief said he received an unprompted telephone call from a man in the United States asking if he was interested in developing one of Bermuda’s four satellite slots. “I didn’t know exactly what he was talking about,” Mr Perinchief said. “I couldn’t even spell satellite then.” It was this call, he said, that prompted the beginning of his research, along with others, into the country’s satellite industry, whose beginnings date back roughly 35 years. In the early 1980s, Bermuda was allocated four satellite slots — essentially areas in the sky where a satellite can operate. While “some progress” has been made in developing the commercial possibilities of the slots, previous governments have not “taken seriously enough” the possibility of growing the country’s economy is this area, Mr Perinchief said. While the cost of getting a satellite up and running — roughly $100 million, according to Mr Perinchief — can be prohibitive, other income-generating possibilities, including public-private partnerships or forms of rental arrangements, have not been actively pursued. “We have not made, in my view, any serious attempts to do that,” he said. In a recent address to the House, Grant Gibbons, the Minister of Economic Development, detailed a series of meetings with a number of agencies connected with the satellite industry. Accompanied by permanent secretary William Francis, Dr Gibbons’s two-day visit to Washington DC included meetings with representatives from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the Federal Communications Commission, and National Institute of Standards and Technology. According to Dr Gibbons, one of his meetings was “to gain a better understanding” of a moratorium currently in place, since 2005, prohibiting service to the US satellite TV market, including from Bermuda’s own satellite network. “The Department of Telecommunications is currently working with our consultants to consider various options and provide me with a recommendation as to the best course of action to put us into a position to finally maximize the commercial potential of our premier satellite orbital resource,” Dr Gibbons said. The topic of CondoSats — the shared ownership of satellites — was also discussed. “My ministry is currently exploring the viability of creating custom legislation that would attract both the manufactures and the ‘condo’ owners to our shores,” Dr Gibbons said. “I see more movement,” Mr Perinchief said of recent government efforts to explore the expansion of the country’s satellite industry. “We have to stop thinking land-based economy all the time. We’ve got to look out and up. I’m just chomping at the bit to get more people involved.”

February 20. The predicament of seniors facing rising prices has been laid bare by an 80-year-old woman’s inability to cover the surprise cost of a new passport — $160. “Back when this little island was flourishing, it was the people now in their senior years that made the island what it is,” the former hotel worker told The Royal Gazette. “If you didn’t treat guests well, they wouldn’t have come back and back. Now it’s like we’re pushed in a corner.” The woman, who asked not to be identified to protect her privacy, cares for an elderly husband with Alzheimer’s, cancer and diabetes. A substantial portion of her $550 a month pension is deducted for medical insurance, leaving them struggling to get by — with a little help from their family. A $335 bill for her husband to see a doctor leaves her with a $183 co-pay, she said, which she must “struggle” to pay. But she hit her limit after her grandson, who works in the travel industry, offered to take her on a trip — and she found that seniors must now pay for a new passport. According to a spokeswoman for the Ministry of Home Affairs, passport fees for seniors rose when the printing of passports was switched to Britain in June 2016. “The fees for seniors for passport applications was introduced in accordance with the normal fees amendments, per the Government Fees Regulations 1976,” she said. “The rationale for fees for seniors was due to the printing of passports by Her Majesty’s Passport Office. An updated list of fees was placed in our reception area (under normal practice) as information sheets and communicated verbally to passport applicants at the time of application.” However, for one elderly woman, the cost of $160 was too high: “I thought they had to make some leeway for seniors,” she said. Buying a house at an early age and raising seven children left her with little put aside. “I haven’t asked for help. But I am going to have to. I can’t see myself swinging that bill.” Her plight is shared by “a lot of seniors — there are tears that flow from us”, she added. Other elderly residents in her neighborhood must balance their bills and purchases of food with the timing of pension cheques. “People buy food for a certain time and when it runs out they ask Neighbours to help them. It’s a lot of it going on right now. I cook a lot of soups and stews and put it in the freezer. If somebody in my area wants something, I will give it to them. We never thought things would end up the way it is.”

February 20. The Railway Trail is being given a new nickname and higher profile to make it a bigger part of the island’s tourism experience. It will now be known as the “Rail Trail” to make it snappier for hashtags, according to a press release from the Bermuda Tourism Authority. Pat Phillip-Fairn, chief product and experiences development officer, said: “Bermuda is increasingly the choice of younger travelers looking for sport, adventure and culture and the Rail Trail can deliver that. The BTA has three objectives over the plan, called “Rediscover the Rail Trail”:

Explaining the new nickname, BTA director of public and stakeholder relations Glenn Jones said: “A snappier name built for a hashtag instead of a museum is one way we hope to modernize the asset. “It’s not an official name change; we don’t have the authority to do anything like that. But just like we all sometimes use Bermy in place of Bermuda because it’s more youthful, we hope Rail Trail has a similar impact.” #RailTrailBDA will be used as part of the BTA’s 2017 plan which calls for one event in March in the East End, and a second in November in the West End, a “strategic approach to use both ends of the shoulder season”. Mrs Phillip-Fairn said: “The Rail Trail can definitely play a role in our refined position as a truly year-round destination. Residents are already using the Rail Trail more because of recent improvements and better connectivity so at the BTA we want to take that momentum and inspire even more enhancements and more links. We can do this working with Friends of the Railway Trail, our partners in government and a lively group of entrepreneurs who continue to bring fresh business ideas to the trail and to tourism in general.” The BTA kicks off its Rail Trail plan with an event Sunday, March 5, along the Hamilton Parish stretch of the Rail Trail between Shelly Bay and Bailey’s Bay. Health and wellness experiences like paddleboards, yoga and soca-size will be on offer for free at the Shelly Bay end while Gombeys, rum swizzle and island music will dominate at Bailey’s Bay Cricket Club. There will be healthy or culturally relevant food available at each end of the journey. Along the way, the BTA will plan surprises to excite participants and challenge them to experience the Rail Trail in a new way. Visitors and locals are welcome. Mr Jones said: “Our ‘surprise and delight’ activations are where we want to inspire entrepreneurs. Ultimately, we hope they see the Rail Trail as a tourism opportunity ready for services that enhance the experience of those who use it. As we successfully increase usage of the Rail Trail we increase job opportunities for Bermudians.” The BTA added thanks to a collection of partners and entrepreneurs who have enthusiastically jumped on board to help the country rediscover the Rail Trail.

February 18. Update. Attorney-General Trevor Moniz yesterday denied suggestions that the Bermuda Government had committed a breach of treaty over the Lahey Clinic lawsuit. The civil action, which alleges the Massachusetts hospital ran a bribery-based scheme with Ewart Brown, the former premier, to profit at the expense of Bermudians, brought sharp criticism in the House of Assembly throughout Friday. With tensions becoming increasingly fiery as the day went on, Progressive Labour Party members repeatedly questioned Mr Moniz, specifically asking if the US Department of Justice had contacted the Government about alleged breaches of the Mutual Legal Assistance treaty between the two nations. Jamahl Simmons accused the One Bermuda Alliance of “digging 65,000 graves” and drafting an “international suicide note”; Derrick Burgess warned he was hearing on the streets that “fires would continue” and “this Government is fuelling the flames”; Zane DeSilva warned of jeopardizing the relationship with the US. Mr Moniz said several times that he was unable to speak on the subject, citing legal privilege, requirements under the treaty for confidentiality and the rules of the House regarding matters before the court. However, he maintained that there had been no breach of treaty, adding: “The members of the Opposition are charging down the wrong road at full speed. There has been no breach of treaty. They can rest easy on that front, and the public can rest easy.” Criticism of the civil action began during parliamentary questions yesterday morning, and continued in the Motion to Adjourn later in the day. Shadow Attorney-General Michael Scott began the Motion to Adjourn debate by saying the action filed in a Boston federal court “implicates the entire government” and potentially breaches an agreement with the United States. News of the Bermuda Government’s complaint produced “a flurry of reactions” — including queries about Bermuda’s Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty with the United States, Mr Scott told the House. The civil proceedings filed on Tuesday, which materialized from a US-based criminal investigation, will have caused “serious concerns” within the US Department of Justice, the MP said, calling for “clarity on what is going on”. He said: “The alarm we have is that the United States Department of Justice was unaware of this suit and may be potentially embarrassed, and the relationship between Bermuda and the United States embarrassed, by the taking of this suit ... the content of the suit is something that offends the relationship, and offends the treaty.” He called it “regrettable” that Mr Moniz had “escaped to the comfort of unsubstantiated legal protections. This announcement that linked Dr Brown as the operator of two clinics here is part of a running battle between the Bermuda Police and Ewart Brown ... it began with the efforts by the Bermuda Police to block a judicial review application by Dr [Mahesh] Reddy to challenge search warrants at his private residence,” Mr Scott said, alluding to the arrest last year of the director of Bermuda HealthCare Services last year, as part of a “financial investigation”. That action was followed by “an indication from senior police officers that some corruption civil action was in the offing”, Mr Scott said, followed by the police raid on two of Dr Brown’s local clinics last weekend. “Search warrants were executed, and materials taken. Again, the police failed when a judge, Mr Justice Hellman, ordered that all documents seized had to be returned forthwith. The police again, in their effort to advance the case against Dr Brown, came to naught.” Mr Scott called on Mr Moniz to “clear the air”, saying the investigation was coming “under the microscope and scrutiny, from the top. We understand it has created considerable tensions in the Department of Justice in the US and has potentially breached the mutual legal assistance treaty between ourselves and the United States. There could not be a more serious allegation.” Mr Scott said the Attorney-General could not retreat to the protections of sub judice of privilege. “He is under an absolute obligation in justice fairness and transparency to tell the country, make a complete clear hand of what contact he has had with the Department of Justice, or they with him.” Mr Moniz responded that Mr Scott was “indulging in the politics of distraction”, saying the real matter of interest was the investigation of a former premier. “I have no obligation to inform the Department of Justice of any suits by the Bermuda Government,” Mr Moniz said, saying "there was no breach of any obligations under treaty or otherwise. People really want to know what went wrong in that Government, that they got so sidetracked into these allegations of an independent police force, an independent Director of Public Prosecutions,” the AG said. The independent DPP makes a decision whether a person is to be prosecuted, Mr Moniz said, before taking his seat. However, Walton Brown, the Shadow Minister of Home Affairs, noted the island’s special links with the US, including visa waiver access. “We have this long standing, respectful relationship with the US. I’m afraid this relationship will be questioned to some extent. “We have reliable information out of Washington that there is concern within the Department of Justice that the treaty has been violated. If you call the violation of a treaty between countries a distraction, then we have an altogether different view of what is important.” Under the Mutual Legal Assistance treaty, signed in 2009, both nations can make requests of information or evidence from each other with some limitations. Article 3 of the treaty states that parties can refuse requests for several reasons, including if the request relates to a “political offence”. Meanwhile, Article 7 of the treaty limits how the information received is used. The requesting party is not allowed to use or disclose any information or evidence obtained under the treaty for any purposes other than for the proceedings stated in the request without prior consent. The sending party can also request that information is kept confidential, or used only subject to specific terms or conditions as may apply. Mr DeSilva also emphasized the importance of Bermuda/US relations while emphasizing the good work that Lahey does. He asked: “If Lahey is that bad are we still in partnership? Is the agreement still in place?” Mr Burgess focused on his perception that the suit is politically motivated as it is an election year “and the government will do anything they can, even if it is not true, to make allegations against anyone on this side ... to distort the minds of people who don’t know better”. He also warned the Government to “be careful” as “fires would continue”. “I’m not making threats,” he said, “but that is the tone of what I am hearing on the street. This Government is fuelling the flames.” Mr Simmons quoted Chinese philosopher Confucius to say: “When you embark on a journey of revenge, dig two graves.” Believing the motive of the lawsuit against Dr Brown was an act of revenge against the Opposition party, he said that “instead of digging two graves the Government dug 65,000 graves” describing the lawsuit as “an international suicide note”. Despite Mr Moniz’s statements to the contrary, Opposition leader David Burt said the Attorney-General’s actions had put the treaty “at risk. When it comes to a criminal matter, there have been no charges filed in any country. We now have a civil complaint, which has been filed in the United States, which seems to contain information that could have only come from a police investigation. And the question is, how on earth would the Government and the Attorney-General have access to police information or information that would be obtained by law enforcement if no criminal charges have been filed?” Mr Burt said "it was without question that the United States Department of Justice had contacted Mr Moniz about a possible violation of the treaty. And do you know how we know it’s a fact? Because nobody in this Parliament has risen to defend that.” Addressing the “interesting yarn” “spun” by the Opposition, Michael Dunkley, the Premier, said the Government had worked to protect the reputation of the nation. “I think by the actions of the Opposition today, they have hurt Bermuda, as they call into question what has been done without any facts to it,” he said. The Premier said the Government continued to have a “strong relationship” with the United States, Bermuda’s “closest and best trading partner”. He also confirmed that Cabinet had been aware of the matter for “quite some time”. The Premier said that the Government would not “wither away” by “misinformation” from the Opposition. We will stand and protect Bermudians and our reputation at every step. Stating that he has family members who use the Lahey Clinic, he called suggestions that the Government wanted to jeopardize the health of anyone “shallow and low. This is a matter that has to be dealt with in a court, not in an operating room or a doctor’s office.”

February 18. More than 100 retired Belco workers have won a legal action against their former employer over an attempt to change their health insurance. While the company sought to move retired staff from its Lighthouse Plan to alternate schemes in early 2015, Puisne Judge Stephen Hellman found that the offer presented to the retirees did not match what they had been promised on retirement. “The offer does not fulfil the promise,” Mr Justice Hellman wrote. “It is very far from doing so. None of the other health insurance options offered by Belco would satisfy the promise as none of them would be provided to the plaintiffs free of charge. The plaintiffs seek an order that Belco shall continue to honour the terms of the promise. They shall have it.” According to a Supreme Court judgment dated February 16, written by Mr Justice Hellman, Belco moved its employees from the “Lighthouse Plan” to a new “Lighthouse Preferred Provider Network (LPPN) Plan” in January of 2015. At the same time, Belco sought to remove its retired employees from the Lighthouse Plan, which they had previously been allowed to continue on after retirement. “Retired employees continued to enjoy the same benefits under the same policy, save for certain limited exceptions such as dental and vision care, and Belco paid their premiums in full,” Mr Hellman wrote. “Retired employees were able to include dependents in their cover, although they had to pay the dependents’ premiums.” Regarding the proposed new scheme for retired staff, Mr Justice Hellman wrote: “Belco gave the retired employees various options. It offered to transfer them to the LPPN Plan or to another policy provided by Argus, the Signal Plan, which provided fewer benefits than the LPPN Plan but at a reduced cost. Cost was a factor in that Belco was only prepared to pay a maximum contribution of $525 per month towards the premiums and not the full amount. But in 2014 — the year of the most recent figures provided to the Court — the monthly premiums were $812.95 for the LPPN Plan and $756.61 for the Signal Plan. Moreover, Belco reserved the right to reduce the amount of its monthly premium contribution, whereas it was common ground that the amount of medical insurance premiums tends to increase. Only one of the options which Belco offered involved the guaranteed provision of free healthcare. This was an offer that the retired employees would receive, free of charge for so long as they remained ordinarily resident in Bermuda, the following medical coverage: Government FutureCare for those over 65 years of age, or Government HIP for those under 65 years of age, and the Moongate Health Gap Insurance Supplement.” While Belco said the offer fulfilled its promise to provide free hospitalization, home and office and major medical coverage for retired employees, the plaintiffs argued that what was promised was that they would receive the existing level of coverage free of charge for the rest of their and their dependents’ lives. Noting the evidence before the court, Mr Justice Hellman found in favour of the plaintiffs, writing that in exit interviews the retirees had been made a “clear and unambiguous” promise that they would retain the same level of coverage that they enjoyed while working. “It was part of an overall contractual package — whether as part of the contract of employment or alternatively a separate contract — pursuant to which the plaintiffs had rendered loyal service, in some cases for many years, for the benefit of the company,” he wrote.

February 18. Bermuda’s serial vandal has struck again, with Hamilton bus depot the latest target for hateful messages. Racist and sexist language could be seen daubed over the walls at the city centre location yesterday morning, prompting the Bermuda Police Service to call for the public to help catch the culprit. It follows previous attacks in recent weeks at numerous spots across the island, including Blackwatch Pass, Old Military Road, in Devonshire, Fort Hamilton Drive in Pembroke and Naval Tanks Hill, St George’s. A police spokesman said yesterday: “The Bermuda Police Service is aware of yet another instance of graffiti and, as already stated, there is every reason to suggest that this is the act of a lone individual. Detectives continue their efforts to positively identify this individual and encourage members of the public who may have any information that can assist to contact the main police telephone number 295-0011.”

February 17. James River Group Holdings Ltd’s profits surged in the fourth quarter, propelled by a 60 per cent growth in gross premiums written. The Bermuda-based re/insurer recorded net income of $25.7 million for the three months ended December 31 and a record $74.5 million for the full year 2016. Operating earnings per share totaled 77 cents surpassing the 65 cents forecast of analysts tracked by Yahoo Finance. The company’s shares rose more than 3 per cent in New York Stock Exchange trading yesterday in response to the Wednesday night release of the results. During the fourth quarter gross premiums rose to $173.5 million from $108.7 million in the corresponding period in 2015. The biggest contributing factor was the specialty admitted insurance segment, which wrote $63.2 million in premiums, more than double the prior-year quarter’s total. James Rivers’ largest segment is excess and surplus lines, in which premium grew nearly 25 per cent to $91.4 million. It’s casualty reinsurance unit, which is based at the company’s head office in Wellesley House on Pitts Bay Road, saw gross premiums grow by 207 per cent from the previous year to $18.8 million. For the full year, gross premiums written grew 28.9 per cent to $737.4 million, while the combined ratio — the proportion of premium dollars spent on claims and expenses was 94.3 per cent. Net operating income per share for 2016 was $2.39, up from $2.08 in 2015. J. Adam Abram, chairman and chief executive officer of James River Group, said: “Our team continues to drive strong risk adjusted returns for our shareholders. Our full year 14.6 per cent adjusted operating return on tangible equity and 94.3 per cent combined ratio demonstrate the strength of our franchise. We believe we are well positioned for continued success in 2017.” In its guidance for 2017, the company said it expected to generate a 12 per cent or better operating return on average tangible equity for the year and a combined ratio of between 92 per cent and 95 per cent.

February 17. Minister of Economic Development, Grant Gibbons, has updated MPs on the recent meetings he has had with various agencies in the Satellite industry. Those included NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration), the FCC (Federal Communications Commission) and, NIST (National Institute of Standards and Technology). The meetings took place in Washington, with Dr Gibbons accompanied by Permanent Secretary William Francis. “To recap; at Nasa I met with the now retired Administrator and Deputy Administrator, Major General Charles Frank Bolden Jr (ret.), Dr Dava Newman, and Mr Al Condes from the Office of International and Interagency Relations,” Dr Gibbons told MPs. “Dr General Bolden and I discussed the longstanding relationship between Nasa and Bermuda, which dates back to the early 1960s when Bermuda provided downrange tracking capabilities for the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo manned space flight missions. We also discussed Nasa’s current mobile tracking facility and their request to develop a more permanent facility. General Bolden mentioned two of the Agency programmes, which are open to international students, including Bermudians. They are the International Internship Programme for interns, aimed at university undergraduate and graduate level students; and the International Space University, which develops the future leaders of the world’s space community by providing interdisciplinary educational programmes to students and space professionals in an international, multicultural environment. I concluded the meeting with General Bolden by noting the 2014 agreement that Bermuda has with Nasa for Bermudian students to participate in Nasa’s Global Learning and Observations to Benefit the Environment (GLOBE) programme. During the trip, I also met with the former Director and Under Secretary of Commerce for Standards and Technology at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), Dr Willie E. May. Dr May was accompanied by Ms Donna Dodson, the Chief Cyber security Adviser and Director of the National Cyber security Center of Excellence. The purpose of this meeting was to gain a better understanding of the Cyber security framework that was developed by the agency in 2014 under the Presidential Executive Order, ‘Improving Critical Infrastructure Cyber security’. This framework is based upon existing standards, guidelines, and practices to assist critical infrastructure organisations to manage and reduce their cyber security risks. It is also designed to promote risk and cyber security management communications among organizational stakeholders. The Nist Cyber security Framework is of particular interest to the Government, since it has been adopted to be used as the basis for assessing and managing the Government’s own cyber security risks. It is also under consideration by a Government sponsored public/private sector working group investigating the cyber-risks across Bermuda’s critical infrastructure industries. Dr May and Ms Dodson provided valuable insight into the development of the framework and also offered their vision into its future direction, which included the expansion of their private sector and international outreach programmes and an offer to conduct workshops in Bermuda. My ministry is currently following up on this offer and I anticipate being able to announce a series of private and public sector cyber security risk management workshops in the near future. While in Washington, I also took the opportunity to meet with the now former Chief of the International Bureau at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), Ms Mindel De La Torre and Mr Jose Albuquerque, the Chief of the Satellite Division. This meeting was requested to gain a better understanding of the FCC moratorium prohibiting service to the US satellite TV market including from Bermuda’s own satellite network, BermudaSat-1. I should note that the moratorium, which began in 2005 applies to all new satellite network applications, not just foreign ones. Ms De La Torre and her staff were very helpful by providing a historical perspective of the moratorium, together with suggestions about how Bermuda might wish to proceed. The Department of Telecommunications is currently working with our consultants to consider various options and provide me with a recommendation as to the best course of action to put us into a position to finally maximize the commercial potential of our premier satellite orbital resource. As required by US law, we filed an Ex parte notice of our meeting with the FCC. The final series of meetings over this two day visit to Washington DC were with executives from a number of satellite companies. These included companies that were already domiciled in Bermuda and those that we hoped to attract to our shores. I took the opportunity to thank the existing Bermuda-based companies for their continued support and to brief them on several recent developments in our international business portfolio of services, particularly the implementation of the new LLC legislation. I also reminded them that since their businesses were extremely high risk, that Bermuda as the ‘Risk Capital of the World’ was ideally positioned to offer them additional services, including the ability to create their own captive insurance companies. For those companies that were not familiar with the international business services that our island has to offer, I discussed the benefits of Bermuda as an offshore jurisdiction — not only to be able to take advantage of our corporate structure and risk management options; but to also use our satellite network filing administration services. You may recall that this filing administration was created under the Satellite Network and Coordination Regulations 2007 and allows satellite companies to file new satellite networks through Bermuda to the International Telecommunication Union (ITU). The ITU is the United Nations specialized agency for information and communication technologies (ICTs) and in addition to regulating the global radio frequency spectrum, also regulates all satellite orbital resources. Finally, I had the opportunity to look into the future of space commerce. Nasa and several of the private space and satellite companies discussed a wide-ranging view of the future, which included space tourism, asteroid mining, missions to Mars, Earth Observation Services and many others. One very interesting current development, which Bermuda could immediately consider, is the evolution of CondoSats. CondoSats are simply the shared ownership of satellites. Large global satellite manufacturers and operators have developed a business model where they build satellites and offer fractional ownerships to countries and/or companies who cannot either afford, or need, the full capacity of a large satellite. My ministry is currently exploring the viability of creating custom legislation that would attract both the manufacturers and the “condo” owners to our shores. They would not only be able to benefit from our existing corporate legislation, but also have a unique Condosat Act that would serve as the legislative basis for any condosat contracts or agreements that may be required.”

February 17. Grant Gibbons, Minister of Economic Development, has begun a review of the Government’s existing policies and legislation relating to local broadcasting, both radio and television. The Minister told MPs this morning that some of the policies date back 1980 and need amendment. In a ministerial statement, Mr Gibbons said: Developments over the past decade, particularly the transition from analogue to digital technology, have affected the ways in which consumers in Bermuda and around the world access news, information and entertainment. “Increasingly, consumers access audiovisual content from a variety of platforms including: free over-the-air broadcast radio or television services; subscription audiovisual services delivered by cable systems and satellite service providers; and ‘over-the-top’ services on the internet that may be accessed using fixed and mobile devices. In light of these changes, and as the Minister responsible for telecommunications, I have commenced a review of the Government’s existing policies and legislation relating to free-to-air broadcasting (both radio and television), many of which date back to the 1980s, which I intend to consider in the broader context of the evolving audiovisual media services sector. You will note that as the Minister of Economic Development, I set the policies for both broadcasting and for electronic communications. Broadcasting is defined by the Telecommunications Act 1986 as “the act of transmitting or re-transmitting radio communications intended for direct reception and use by any member of the public without charge . . . Subscription audiovisual services, including cable television services, are classified as ‘electronic communication services. Today broadcasting services are regulated quite differently from other audiovisual media services. Broadcasting services are licensed and regulated pursuant to the Telecommunications Act 1986. By contrast, subscription audiovisual services are licensed and regulated under the Electronic Communications Act 2011. My review of the Government’s existing policies and legislation relating to free-to-air broadcasting is, in fact, a continuation of the Telecommunications Regulatory Reform, a multi-phased initiative, which began in 2009. The global law firm formerly known as Squire Sanders & Dempsey was engaged in May 2009 as consultants to assist the Government with the first phase of the telecommunications regulatory reform initiative, which culminated in the enactment of the Regulatory Authority Act 2011 and the Electronic Communications Act 2011, and the establishment of the Regulatory Authority in 2013. At that time, it was considered expedient to limit the reform to electronic communications services, such as telephony and subscription audiovisual services, whilst preserving the pre-existing legal and regulatory regime applicable to broadcasting. The expectation, however, has always been that responsibility for the regulation of the broadcasting sector would eventually be transitioned to the Regulatory Authority. The growth of convergence, which has blurred the distinctions among electronic communications and broadcasting, necessitates creation of a converged regulatory regime that will reflect international best practices and better meet the needs of the people of Bermuda. The review also provides the opportunity to take a fresh look at many long-established policies related to audiovisual content. As previously mentioned, I have begun the second phase of the telecommunications regulatory reform initiative, which focuses on the modernization of the legislative and regulatory framework for broadcast communications. To this end, I have continued the contractual relationship with Squire, Sanders & Dempsey, which is now known as Squire Patton Boggs. Phase II of the Regulatory Reform Initiative will be undertaken in three stages, namely:

“I have begun the process by seeking input from the industry on a number of fundamental issues. Our key industry stakeholders include the providers of free broadcast television and radio services, subscription television service operators, entities that deliver content over leased cable channels and internet-based content providers. The list of preliminary issues includes licensing policies, local content policies, programme content and advertising rules. Based on the input received from industry, as well as my review of best practices in other jurisdictions, and giving full consideration to the needs and concern of the people of Bermuda, I will issue a draft Ministerial Policy Statement Regarding the Regulation of Broadcasting and Other Audiovisual Media Services. At that time, I will engage the wider public by conducting a public consultation on the Policy Statement. After giving due consideration to the comments, I will issue the Policy Statement, which will provide the basis for the legislation that the Government intends to table in this House.”

February 17. The Price Control Commission has not met since April 2016 and has now been made redundant, finance minister Bob Richards told the House of Assembly. The panel was set up in 2011 to protect consumers from unwarranted price increases amid concerns families could not cope with the cost of living in Bermuda. However, Mr Richards said the group’s job had now been overtaken by regulatory authorities and central government, adding: “There’s no need to have a separate body. After review of boards and committees, the Government considers the role of the commission is now redundant and will seek to repeal the legislation.” He was responding to questions from Opposition leader David Burt.

February 17. Insurance chiefs in Bermuda are more worried by threats from too much regulation and technological change than any other business sector. And they also fear the effects of changing customer behavior and competition from new entrants to the market than other areas of financial services. But — despite worries allied to soft premium rates and slow economies in developed markets — insurance CEOs said they are “fairly confident” that they can increase revenue over the next year and they are also among the most ready to handle disruption. The news came in a survey of 1,379 CEOs around the world by professional services firm PwC, which included 95 insurance companies in 39 countries. Arthur Wightman, PwC Bermuda leader and insurance leader, said high-tech insurance companies could open up valuable opportunities for insurers and help them to transition from step-by-step to breakthrough innovation. Mr Wightman added: “Partnerships with lean and agile insurtech entrants can help insurers improve their processes, strengthen efficiency and reduce costs. They can also help insurers improve their analysis of the huge amounts of data at their disposal, which can lead to better customer understanding, higher win rates and more informed underwriting. Playing an active part in the development of insurtech is one of the key elements of the fit for growth platform we believe will enable insurers to compete on cost, innovation and customer intimacy.” The survey found that more than a third of insurance CEOs were “very confident” they could boost revenue over the next year and more than 80 per cent were “somewhat confident.” PwC said that the industry was also very aware of the challenges posed by “robo-advice”, pay-as-you-go insurance and sensor-based coverage. The report added: “Concerns over regulation, competition from new market entrants, the pace of technological change and especially shifting customer behavior have continued to rise from their already high levels in previous years.” Concern over possible barriers to market entry and development also increased over previous surveys — 60 per cent believed that it was becoming harder to compete in an open, global marketplace because of a shift towards protectionist national policies. A further 74 per cent, more than in any other sector surveyed, said lack of trust in business was a threat to growth. In addition, 45 per cent of insurance CEOs said they were “extremely concerned” about changing customer behavior — up 21 per cent on the previous year. But they added that customer intelligence, along with the quality of client insights and the interactions underlying them, was their most valuable asset and best bet for increased profits and business growth. And Mr Wightman said that there was evidence that insurers were responding to threats and appeared ready to face them. He added: “This is evident in the fact that 67 per cent of industry leaders see creativity and innovation as very important to their organisations, more than any other financial services sector.” The survey also found that insurance CEOs were ahead of other financial services sectors in some areas, with 61 per cent looking at the benefits of people and machines working together and nearly half considering the future impact of artificial intelligence on skills needs. Insurance companies said that, apart from their home markets, the US was the top target for growth, followed by China. And, while London and New York remain the most important commercial centres, Hong Kong had seen “a noticeable rise up the rankings” to third place.

February 17. The XL Group board has backed a massive $1 billion share buyback programme, the company announced today. And the insurance and reinsurance giant will pay a quarterly dividend of 22 cents a share on its common shares at the end of next month, up two cents on the previous payout. In addition, a dividend of just over $10.47 per share will be paid in April on XLIT Ltd’s series D preference ordinary shares and a dividend of $32.50 on its series E preference ordinary shares, also to be paid in April. The previous share buyback programme, which had around $349 million remaining, has been cancelled. XL Group said it expected the share purchases to be made on the open market and in privately-negotiated transactions, with the scheme expected to be funded by cash on hand. A spokeswoman for XL said: “The timing, form and amount of the share buy-backs under the programme will depend on a variety of factors, including market conditions, legal requirements and other factors. The buyback programme may be modified, extended or terminated by the board at any time.”

February 17. Locks were changed at a Bermuda Housing Corporation property yesterday, leaving several residents unsure as to where they would call home that night. The move comes one day after an eviction deadline was issued to at least one tenant at the Gulfstream transitional living complex in St David’s. Mother to a young daughter, the woman, who asked not to be identified, said she received the letter informing her that she must vacate by February 15 roughly two weeks prior. Five to ten other building residents received similar letters, the woman said. “Today they came around and changed all of the evicted families’ locks,” the woman said Thursday afternoon. Pictures sent to The Royal Gazette showed what appeared to be a man with power tools changing out door mechanisms inside the building. The woman said she and other residents who have had their locks changed were staying inside their apartments. “We are living in fear of the police showing up to escort us away from the premises only to have to sleep outside in the trees. It’s very unsettling. “We’ve exhausted all of our resources with living with family or friends or renting a place together as everyone is struggling.” The letter, signed by Desiree A. O’Connor, Support Services Manager at BHC, indicates an arrears amount of more than $16,000. The woman said she was in the middle of applying for financial assistance when the letter arrived. She was ultimately denied, she said, because her younger sister was due to receive an inheritance in several years. The building, which overlooks the airport along Southside Road, had 83 rooms when the Government repurposed the former United States Military building, originally an in-transit hotel, later a bachelor officer's quarters in 1962, later a  barracks building back in 2008. In August, a last-minute reprieve was granted by Craig Cannonier, Minister of Public Works, to prevent a similar eviction of tenants from occurring. “Despite tremendous efforts from the Bermuda Housing Corporation to arrange meetings with clients to discuss options and/or set up payment plans, there are some clients who refuse to comply with requests for meetings or adhere to promises made, leaving no other option but to issue eviction notices to those who refuse to comply,” a Public Works Ministry spokesperson said in a statement provided to The Royal Gazette on Wednesday. “These actions are not taken lightly and only after all other options have been explored."  But "they say that we don’t contact them to update them about our situation,” the woman said. "We tell them the same thing everyday — there are no jobs, the jobs that we are applying for we can’t get. It’s like a never ending, impossible process. They expect us to agree to pay $150 a week, to where some of us only make $50 a week.” Sheelagh Cooper, with the Coalition for the Protection of Children, said the renewed attempt to evict building residents is concerning to the organisation “for a number of reasons.  For the 110 women and children who have been placed there this was the place of last resort that was offered to them when they are homeless. For many of these women the situation is just as dire financially as it was when they arrived. Unfortunately, this has meant that many of them have fallen into arrears and are now facing a return to a life of homelessness.” According to Ms Cooper, "building residents are forced to deal with undrinkable water, and mould-related issues caused by leaks. There is also no laundry facilities and playrooms in the building on each floor have remained locked for nearly two years. The bottom line really is that the conditions are such that every woman in that facility dreams of the day that they can support themselves in proper accommodations. "They say that because we aren’t paying them the upkeep of the building stays down,” the tenant said. “We’re not paying our money, so why should they repair or fix anything around here?” Ms Cooper said: "The question we must ask ourselves is whether pushing these mothers with a return to homelessness improves the lives of their children. Can we as a wealthy community not serve our most vulnerable children and families with more compassion and support than this?” “Getting out of Bermuda is our only option,” the building tenant said. “We will do anything to get our girls away from this life.”

Gulfstream, St. David's

Once a USAF hotel and bachelor officer's quarters in St. David's, now a hostel. See above story.

February 17. People caught with less than three grams of cannabis will receive formal cautions, under a new “three strikes” draft policy unveiled by Director of Public Prosecutions Larry Mussenden. On being arrested for a third time, the offender will have to undergo drug assessment or drug counseling or face being sent to court for prosecution. In a statement, Mr Mussenden said that under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act, a provision was created to allow the DPP to give guidance for a formal police caution policy for appropriate offences. “Thereafter, I announced that I would consider a guidance for a police caution policy in respect of simple possession of cannabis,” he said. “I stated that I would welcome input from the community. Also, at that time I reached out to various agencies for their views on a police caution policy for simple possession of cannabis. I have drafted a guidance for a police caution policy for simple possession of cannabis. I am pleased to release a draft of the guidance for a caution policy today as information to the general public. I intend to formally bring the guidance for a police caution policy into effect once the Police and Criminal Evidence Amendment Act 2016 is brought into operation by the Honourable Attorney-General by way of a notice in the Official Gazette.” He said that in order to create the policy, he consulted with a number of bodies and members of the public, who provided a wide range of recommendations. “The submissions ranged along the spectrum of how a police caution policy should be structured from a blanket caution for all cannabis to having a limited number of cautions, and to having some conditions in order to obtain a caution. Other aspects were urged such as reducing the number of people being convicted, preventing the harmful impact of drugs on society, preventing initiation and use of drugs in youth in order to protect the developing brain, protecting minors from drug use which leads to drug abuse as an adult, preventing unintentional accidents, preventing diversion of funds to drugs and to promoting health education generally.” The key points for the policy as laid out by Mr Mussenden are:

If the conditions are met, then a third caution will be issued — otherwise the offender will be sent to court for prosecution. On a fourth arrest within two years of a third caution, the offender will not be eligible for a fourth caution. Upon two years passing from the date of the third caution, an offender is re-eligible for a first caution. “It is a pleasure to release this guidance for a caution policy for cannabis,” Mr Mussenden concluded. It is designed to steer offenders away from the courts with all the consequences arising from convictions, builds in a three strikes policy, and involves counseling and drug testing. The policy is designed to allow our people to pursue their life and career objectives and to be productive, healthy and successful members of the community.”

February 17. Charities and sponsors alike came together for a reception at The Hamilton Princess Hotel & Beach Club last night ahead of this year’s End-to-End event. “It’s a once-a-year gathering that lets us say thank you to the people who are really important to the event, who support us, and help us put this major endeavour on each year,” Anne Mello, event chairperson, said. This year’s fundraising event begins at 7am on Saturday, May 6, with money raised going towards four selected charities; the Adult Education School, Age Concern, Greenrock, and Raleigh. “We’ve decided this year, because it is our 30th anniversary, we would give an extra grant of $30,000, and we would allow our participants to vote for one of four charities for that grant,” Ms Mello said. This year’s special anniversary award charities are the Bermuda Society for the Blind, Bermuda Underwater Exploration Institute, Duke of Edinburgh’s Award, and YouthNet. “When it first began, it was a grassroots effort,” Ms Mello said of the event’s humble beginnings. “It was three fellows challenging their friend to see if they could walk from one end of the island to the other, which at the time was quite unusual.” Since its inception, the event has provided more than $5 million to charities through 190 grants. Participants collect pledges and pick which discipline they want to compete in — walking, cycling, swimming, rowing, or paddle boarding. Different course distances are also offered. “In the end, the great thing is that, because of all their endeavors, the charities get the benefit, Bermuda benefits, and then we all benefit,” Ms Mello said. “So it’s kind of a circular thing.” For more information, call 292-6992 or visit bermudaendtoend.bm. 

February 17. The Ministry of Public Works has reminded the public that pollution is considered an offence in light of an “unscrupulous offender” dumping large volumes of raw sewage in a green space. The ministry reported that the offender is regularly dumping large amounts of the waste in the east end of the island but did not specify the exact location when asked. Government is also aware of an incident where raw sewage has been dumped overboard at a public dock from a sanitation hauling truck. In a statement released to the public this morning, a ministry spokesperson said: “The Water and Sewage Section of the Ministry of Public Works wishes to remind the public that the pollution of land is considered an offence under the Waste and Litter Control Act 1987 and its amendments. Similarly, the pollution of or fouling of public water (groundwater, ponds and seawater) is considered an offence under the Water Resources Act 1975. Anyone who might have information on the identity of the offender committing the aforementioned dumping is encouraged to contact the Water and Sewage Section at 278-0570 or Water@gov.bm.” The polluted site in the east end is in process of being remediated and sanitized. The statement continued: “Raw sewage creates a serious threat to human and animal health, particularly to those who might jog, cycle or play in the affected area. The Ministry of Public Works has had, and continues to have, stakeholder meetings with all Sanitation Hauling companies that use its Septage Receiving Facility at Tynes Bay. These companies and their employees are familiar with the ministry’s policies and procedures for sewage disposal as well as legislation covering this activity. “As industry professionals, it is expected that these companies know and understand the significant health risks associated with the mishandling and illegal dumping of raw sewage.” People who commit an offence under Section 34 of the Water Resources Act 1975 are subject to prosecution — a summary conviction carries a $10,000 fine, plus $1,000 per day for as long as the offence continues. Those who commit an offence under Section 3 of the Waste and Litter Control Act 1987 are also subject to prosecution — a summary conviction carries a $10,000 fine, with subsequent offences carrying a fine of up to $25,000. The ministry, along with the Ministry Health and Seniors and the Ministry of Environment, believe it is in the public interest to inform the community of this activity and thanks the public for their attention to this issue.

February 17. Development at Horseshoe Bay is 21 per cent complete and ahead of schedule as of this week, according to Craig Cannonier, the Minister of Public Works. Mr Cannonier gave an update on the project which has come under scrutiny due to the potential impact of construction as the holiday season gets under way. The MP told the House of Assembly work done so far included:

The details came in response to questions from Progressive Labour Party MP Dennis Lister. Last month, Rick Olson, the operator of Horseshoe Bay concession The Rum Bum Bar and Restaurant, voiced concerns that a major car park renovation would take until May to complete. He said it would threaten his business and visitor experience after his business opens in March. The main access road to the beach was closed last month as a result of development work.

February 17. Lahey Clinic has vigorously defended its reputation and practices in light of the lawsuit filed by the Bermuda Government in the United States. Joanne Conroy, chief executive officer of Lahey Hospital & Medical Centre, said the Boston hospital had a “25-year track record of providing the highest-quality care to our patients in Bermuda, and we are not going anywhere”. Ms Conroy continued: “We remain deeply committed to the people of Bermuda and we will continue to offer care to patients, both on the island and in Massachusetts. The 30 physicians from Lahey Hospital & Medical Centre that travel to Bermuda to provide care in the local community are eager to see their patients on their next trip to the island. The teams of doctors and nurses in Burlington are honored to care for and support the patients and families from Bermuda who travel to Massachusetts for clinical care. We have reassured insurance providers on Bermuda that there will be no interruption in the services that we provide to our patients. We have been a part of the community of Bermuda for 25 years and we will continue to be there for all patients and families in need.”

February 17. Former Premier Sr. Ewart Brown claims the Bermuda Government’s lawsuit against the Lahey Clinic is an attempt to “settle a political score” against him. In a press release, the former premier launched a vigorous defence of his relationship with the hospital, which he insists has saved lives and improved the quality of life for Bermudians. Dr Brown rounded on Trevor Moniz, the Attorney-General, whom he accused of leading an attack on his professional and personal reputation. The 54-page civil complaint, filed on Tuesday, accuses Dr Brown and the Massachusetts-based hospital of a bribery-based scheme to profit at the expense of Bermudians, which put patients’ health at risk. Dr Brown dismissed them as “countless lies and ridiculous allegations”. He stated: “Now we know. For years, the media and others in Bermuda have been asking the question: Who is behind this $3 million, six-year unending investigation of Dr Brown? Now we know. It has been revealed that the Bermuda Government, led by Attorney-General Trevor Moniz, retained a law firm and public relations company in Boston to intensify the effort to destroy my personal and professional reputation. He filed a lawsuit against Lahey Hospital in Boston federal court, which contained countless lies and ridiculous allegations. In yesterday’s Boston Globe, a former federal prosecutor noted that civil racketeering actions are fairly common, but what makes this unusual is that it’s a foreign government bringing the case and alleging corruption by one of its own former members. Why is Bermuda’s own Attorney-General so hell-bent on pursuing a vendetta against a former premier and leader of Bermuda’s Opposition that he sacrifices the reputation of our entire pristine jurisdiction by baselessly alleging political corruption, when none has been remotely proven? In order to bring down a former premier in an election year, why would Bermuda’s own Attorney-General launch a broadside against one of the most reputable medical centres in the United States: one that has treated Bermudian patients with care, dignity and excellent medical care for over the past 20-plus years? Most importantly, why did the Government of Bermuda, now clearly led by the Attorney-General, trample over patients’ rights in a desperate attempt to criminalize me? Why did the Government authorize and carry out a raid on my medical clinics to gain unfettered access to the confidential medical records of thousands of patients without the patients’ prior knowledge or consent? Hundreds of Bermudian patients are in angst right now. They wonder which of the many police officers, seen forcibly breaking into my clinics and totally unmonitored during a 36-hour siege, were able to see even their names on their medical files. They dread that their files were opened and that their medical histories are now known in a community as small as Bermuda. What attorney-general anywhere would sanction such a horrible, unprecedented, disgusting and unnecessary invasion of patient privacy in order to settle a political score with a former premier?” Dr Brown said the link-up with Lahey has benefited Bermuda residents financially. “For over 20 years, Bermuda HealthCare Services brought Lahey sub-specialists to Bermuda so that residents would not have to travel abroad to see them, which actually saved the Government of Bermuda money,” he said. “And of course, thousands of Bermudians have travelled to Lahey and received first-class care at reasonable prices. Pain has been relieved, lives have been saved and many Bermudians now have a better quality of life because Lahey physicians have had a contractual relationship with my clinics since before my party was even elected to run the Government, dating back to when my party was in Opposition and long before I was premier. Until very recently, these Lahey physicians worked out of my offices under work permits issued by the Government of Bermuda to Lahey, which were sought and held by Bermuda HealthCare Services. Perhaps the Attorney-General did not know this. One has to surmise that the Attorney-General also never drove by my most centrally located clinic in town to see our large road or building signs with ‘Lahey Physicians’ on them, or never saw our letterhead, which had on every page ‘An Affiliate of Lahey Hospital, Burlington’. There is no one in Bermuda, obviously save the Attorney-General in this lawsuit, who would call our relationship with Lahey undisclosed or secret.” Regarding the complaint, the former premier said: “One is treated to a litany of lies, designed to convert a fully vetted contractual agreement into a bribe. The Attorney-General’s actions serve to dismiss or tarnish over two decades of hard work conducted by professionals in both Bermuda and Boston to raise the quality of healthcare in Bermuda. Shame on him! Naturally, we are continuing our fight in Bermuda, now armed with the knowledge that Bermuda politics is the driving force behind a six-year, multimillion-dollar farcical investigation and this untenable, frivolous lawsuit.” Seized medical records may soon be returned to Dr Brown’s clinics after the Police confirmed last night that they will obey Supreme Court orders handed down earlier in the day by Justice Stephen Hellman. “The Bermuda Police Service can confirm that we are complying with the order from the court in this matter,” a spokesman said.

February 17. The alleged “corrupt enterprises” of Ewart Brown and the Lahey Clinic contributed to rising healthcare costs for patients in Bermuda, according to the lawsuit filed in the United States. The civil complaint, made by the Bermuda Government against Lahey, claims the former premier conducted “excessive, medically unnecessary and frankly dangerous scans” at his two private clinics for his own “enrichment” and gave the Massachusetts-based teaching hospital a cut of the fees he collected from insurers. Dr Brown is also accused of offering and paying “kickbacks” to local physicians to “induce patient referrals for diagnostic scanning” at Bermuda HealthCare Services in Paget and at Brown-Darrell Clinic in Smith’s. The complaint states: “Brown scolded those same physicians when their patients cancelled their scans, thus depriving Brown [and Lahey] of revenue.” It quotes an e-mail from Dr Brown to a physician in September 2008, in which he allegedly stated: “Two of yours cancelled because ‘they are feeling better’! Not good doc!” A later e-mail from him said: “You must screen better so that [patients] won’t ‘get better’ and think they don’t need the CT”. The more scans that were carried out, the more Dr Brown and Lahey profited, according to the claim, which says the island’s residents were the victims because their health insurance costs rose owing to the increased number of claims being submitted and paid out for diagnostic testing. Patients were also subjected to tests they did not need, it is alleged, which may have caused them “physiological and psychological harm”. The lawsuit says MRI and CT use in Bermuda, and at Dr Brown’s clinics, skyrocketed, resulting in Bermudians becoming “among the most scanned patients in the world”. The complaint shows that:

And the complaint claims that the actions of Dr Brown and Lahey led, in part, to an increase in the island’s standard premium rate, which is the price of the minimum health benefits package that must be included in every health insurance policy sold in Bermuda. The rate is set by the Ministry of Health and Seniors after it assesses the claims history for everyone who has health insurance, ie, how many claims have been made by each person and for how much. The complaint states that approved changes to the rate “have an impact on the cost of premiums paid by the insured population”, as well as the level of subsidies provided by the Government for certain Bermudians, such as children and seniors. Between the financial years 2007 and 2016, the rate more than doubled from $140.92 to $338.07. In addition to the impact on the SPR, the lawsuit claims Dr Brown “constantly applied pressure to government officials to increase remuneration for tests undertaken” at his clinics. Each of the scans carried out at Dr Brown’s clinics were read by Lahey, for a “substantial percentage” of the reimbursement he was paid by insurers. As such, according to the complaint, “any increase in the fees insurers paid Brown for imaging services resulted in increased remuneration for the Brown clinics, Brown and Lahey. Likewise, their respective revenues also increased proportionally with the number of scans performed.” The Bermuda Health Council sets the fees each year for diagnostic imaging services such as MRI and CT scans, which are covered under the basic health benefits package. A spokeswoman said yesterday that it would be making no comment on the lawsuit. Ricky Brathwaite, the council’s programme manager for health economics, told this newspaper last year there was nothing in law to stop a physician ordering as many tests as they saw fit. He said conversations had been held with a small number of doctors about high ordering rates and the health council had also been asked by insurers to “facilitate discussions” with physicians regarding the issue. The legal complaint from the Government says that at about March 2008, after Dr Brown had secured a new CT scanner for the Brown-Darrell Clinic with Lahey’s help, he and his “surrogates” implored the Health Insurance Association of Bermuda to raise reimbursement rates for diagnostic testing. “He succeeded,” claims the complaint. Association president Holly Flook said yesterday: “We have no comment on this matter.” Dr Brown said last year the health council had “never” approached him to discuss excessive ordering of tests at Bermuda HealthCare Services. He has said all tests ordered at his clinics were for “very necessary diagnostic procedures”. In a statement released last night, the Argus Group said, despite the filing of the lawsuit, it would be “business as usual.” Michelle Jackson, executive vice-president of Group Health said: “We are aware of the court proceedings involving the Bermuda Government and Lahey Hospital & Medical Centre and wish to assure our members that patient care, whether in Bermuda or in the USA, will not be interrupted or compromised in any way as a result. “It’s business as usual at Argus and delivering on our brand promise ‘Our Interest Is You’ is core to our culture. Further, the Argus Group would like to reassure our members that claims coverage for medical services provided by Lahey will not be impacted by these proceedings and that we will continue to honour coverage for our members who are receiving and/or have received treatment at Lahey.” A Colonial spokesman said the company did not wish to comment while BF&M failed to respond our inquiry.

February 17. Attorney-General Trevor Moniz yesterday denied suggestions that the Bermuda Government had committed a breach of treaty over the Lahey Clinic lawsuit. The civil action, which alleges the Massachusetts hospital ran a bribery-based scheme with Ewart Brown, the former premier, to profit at the expense of Bermudians, brought sharp criticism in the House of Assembly throughout Friday. With tensions becoming increasingly fiery as the day went on, Progressive Labour Party members repeatedly questioned Mr Moniz, specifically asking if the US Department of Justice had contacted the Government about alleged breaches of the Mutual Legal Assistance treaty between the two nations. Jamahl Simmons accused the One Bermuda Alliance of “digging 65,000 graves” and drafting an “international suicide note”; Derrick Burgess warned he was hearing on the streets that “fires would continue” and “this Government is fuelling the flames”; Zane DeSilva warned of jeopardizing the relationship with the US. Mr Moniz said several times that he was unable to speak on the subject, citing legal privilege, requirements under the treaty for confidentiality and the rules of the House regarding matters before the court. However, he maintained that there had been no breach of treaty, adding: “The members of the Opposition are charging down the wrong road at full speed. There has been no breach of treaty. They can rest easy on that front, and the public can rest easy.” Criticism of the civil action began during parliamentary questions yesterday morning, and continued in the Motion to Adjourn later in the day. Shadow Attorney-General Michael Scott began the Motion to Adjourn debate by saying the action filed in a Boston federal court “implicates the entire government” and potentially breaches an agreement with the United States. News of the Bermuda Government’s complaint produced “a flurry of reactions” — including queries about Bermuda’s Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty with the United States, Mr Scott told the House. The civil proceedings filed on Tuesday, which materialized from a US-based criminal investigation, will have caused “serious concerns” within the US Department of Justice, the MP said, calling for “clarity on what is going on”. He said: “The alarm we have is that the United States Department of Justice was unaware of this suit and may be potentially embarrassed, and the relationship between Bermuda and the United States embarrassed, by the taking of this suit ... the content of the suit is something that offends the relationship, and offends the treaty.” He called it “regrettable” that Mr Moniz had “escaped to the comfort of unsubstantiated legal protections. This announcement that linked Dr Brown as the operator of two clinics here is part of a running battle between the Bermuda Police and Ewart Brown ... it began with the efforts by the Bermuda Police to block a judicial review application by Dr [Mahesh] Reddy to challenge search warrants at his private residence,” Mr Scott said, alluding to the arrest last year of the director of Bermuda HealthCare Services last year, as part of a “financial investigation”. That action was followed by “an indication from senior police officers that some corruption civil action was in the offing”, Mr Scott said, followed by the police raid on two of Dr Brown’s local clinics last weekend. “Search warrants were executed, and materials taken. Again, the police failed when a judge, Mr Justice Hellman, ordered that all documents seized had to be returned forthwith. The police again, in their effort to advance the case against Dr Brown, came to naught.” Mr Scott called on Mr Moniz to “clear the air”, saying the investigation was coming “under the microscope and scrutiny, from the top. We understand it has created considerable tensions in the Department of Justice in the US and has potentially breached the mutual legal assistance treaty between ourselves and the United States. There could not be a more serious allegation.” Mr Scott said the Attorney-General could not retreat to the protections of sub judice of privilege. “He is under an absolute obligation in justice fairness and transparency to tell the country, make a complete clear hand of what contact he has had with the Department of Justice, or they with him.” Mr Moniz responded that Mr Scott was “indulging in the politics of distraction”, saying the real matter of interest was the investigation of a former premier. “I have no obligation to inform the Department of Justice of any suits by the Bermuda Government,” Mr Moniz said, saying there was no breach of “any obligations under treaty or otherwise. People really want to know what went wrong in that Government, that they got so sidetracked into these allegations of an independent police force, an independent Director of Public Prosecutions,” the AG said. The independent DPP makes a decision whether a person is to be prosecuted, Mr Moniz said, before taking his seat. However, Walton Brown, the Shadow Minister of Home Affairs, noted the island’s special links with the US, including visa waiver access. “We have this long standing, respectful relationship with the US. I’m afraid this relationship will be questioned to some extent,” Mr Brown said. “We have reliable information out of Washington that there is concern within the Department of Justice that the treaty has been violated. If you call the violation of a treaty between countries a distraction, then we have an altogether different view of what is important.” Under the Mutual Legal Assistance treaty, signed in 2009, both nations can make requests of information or evidence from each other with some limitations. Article 3 of the treaty states that parties can refuse requests for several reasons, including if the request relates to a “political offence”. Meanwhile, Article 7 of the treaty limits how the information received is used. The requesting party is not allowed to use or disclose any information or evidence obtained under the treaty for any purposes other than for the proceedings stated in the request without prior consent. The sending party can also request that information is kept confidential, or used only subject to specific terms or conditions as may apply. Mr DeSilva also emphasized the importance of Bermuda/US relations while emphasizing the good work that Lahey does. He asked: “If Lahey is that bad are we still in partnership? Is the agreement still in place?” Mr Burgess focused on his perception that the suit is politically motivated as it is an election year “and the government will do anything they can, even if it is not true, to make allegations against anyone on this side ... to distort the minds of people who don’t know better”. He also warned the Government to “be careful” as “fires would continue”. “I’m not making threats,” he said, “but that is the tone of what I am hearing on the street. This Government is fuelling the flames.” Mr Simmons quoted Chinese philosopher Confucius to say: “When you embark on a journey of revenge, dig two graves.” Believing the motive of the lawsuit against Dr Brown was an act of revenge against the Opposition party, he said that “instead of digging two graves the Government dug 65,000 graves” describing the lawsuit as “an international suicide note”. Despite Mr Moniz’s statements to the contrary, Opposition leader David Burt said the Attorney-General’s actions had put the treaty “at risk. When it comes to a criminal matter, there have been no charges filed in any country,” Mr Burt said. “We now have a civil complaint, which has been filed in the United States, which seems to contain information that could have only come from a police investigation. And the question is, how on earth would the Government and the Attorney-General have access to police information or information that would be obtained by law enforcement if no criminal charges have been filed?” Mr Burt said it was “without question” that the United States Department of Justice had contacted Mr Moniz about a “possible violation of the treaty. And do you know how we know it’s a fact? Because nobody in this Parliament has risen to defend that.” Addressing the “interesting yarn” “spun” by the Opposition, Michael Dunkley, the Premier, said the Government had worked to protect the reputation of the nation. “I think by the actions of the Opposition today, they have hurt Bermuda, as they call into question what has been done without any facts to it,” he said. The Premier said the Government continued to have a “strong relationship” with the United States, Bermuda’s “closest and best trading partner”. He also confirmed that Cabinet had been aware of the matter for “quite some time”. The Premier said that the Government would not “wither away” by “misinformation” from the Opposition. “We will stand and protect Bermudians and our reputation at every step,” Mr Dunkley said. Stating that he has family members who use the Lahey Clinic, he called suggestions that the Government wanted to jeopardize the health of anyone “shallow and low. This is a matter that has to be dealt with in a court, not in an operating room or a doctor’s office.”

February 17. Attorney-General Trevor Moniz stonewalled questions yesterday on how much the Bermuda Government’s lawsuit against the Lahey Clinic was likely to cost taxpayers. The civil complaint, filed in a federal court in Massachusetts and naming Ewart Brown as a “non-party co-conspirator”, seeks unspecified damages for alleged “corrupt enterprises” that were carried out “at the expense of the Bermudian Government and people”. It states Lahey reaped “huge returns” from the schemes and should not be permitted to retain the benefits it acquired through its “unlawful conduct”. The complaint claims: “All funds, revenues and benefits received by them rightfully belong to Bermuda and should be returned to Bermuda in an amount to be determined at trial.” The Attorney-General’s Chambers has hired Boston legal firm Cooley to pursue the case and, this week, The Boston Globe newspaper reported that Mr Moniz had provided a written statement on the case to Boston public relations firm Liberty Square Group, working with Cooley. The Royal Gazette asked for a copy of that statement from Mr Moniz and the Department of Communications and Information, but was sent a different statement instead, which said the Attorney-General’s Chambers had conducted “many months of investigations” before issuing the proceedings. This newspaper followed up with questions about the case, which went unanswered. A Ministry of Justice spokeswoman said: “The statement from yesterday stands and there will be no comment from the AG Chambers.” Our questions included:

Wendell Hollis, a former lawyer of Dr Brown’s and former deputy chairman of the BHB, criticised Mr Moniz for making a statement about the court matter through a public relations firm. In a Letter to the Editor, he wrote: “Had the Attorney-General made such a press statement in Bermuda after proceedings had been commenced in our Supreme Court, he clearly would have been in contempt of that court. While this may be an American way to practise law, fortunately it is still not acceptable in Bermuda. We still follow the common law-enshrined principle that it is contempt of court to make such statements once proceedings have commenced, as such statements clearly bring with them the possibility that a juror, witness, public opinion or even a judge may become prejudiced or influenced by reading or hearing of such remarks particularly given the eminence from which they come. Sadly, if one reads the remarks they will no doubt come to the opinion that they were deliberately made for exactly that purpose.” Mr Hollis is not mentioned by name in the complaint but is clearly referred to in a section accusing Dr Brown of facilitating the appointment to the BHB of his “personal lawyer and confidante (sic)”. When contacted by The Royal Gazette yesterday, Mr Hollis accepted that the reference was made to him but added: “I barely knew Ewart Brown at the time I was appointed deputy chairman and didn’t become his lawyer until long after my five years was up on the BHB.” Mr Hollis, who expresses in his letter emotions of “dismay and sadness” and admits to being “still bewildered as to why civil proceedings have been commenced in the United States”, said he has not read the complaint and had no knowledge of the reference to him in it until contacted by The Royal Gazette.

February 17. The TN Tatem Middle School, which has been closed for health reasons, will reopen on Monday. The discovery of mould in the building, and the poor air quality, caused the Ministry of Education to shut the school’s doors as maintenance work was carried out. Yesterday the Acting Commissioner of Education, Freddie Evans, received final reports from the Bermuda Government safety and health co-ordinator, giving the go-ahead for the school to reopen. Quoting from the report, Dr Evans said in a statement: “This is to confirm the progress and re-inspections conducted at TN Tatem Middle School on February 16. All areas cleared have returned significantly lowered and acceptable levels of mould and respective species counts. Areas cleared are deemed to pose no immediate or significant threat to the health, safety and well-being of students or staff at this time. Some minor works are still in progress, such as reinstalling ceiling tiles in some classrooms, as well as, final painting works and associated undertakings. These works are to be expedited and are to be completed by the weekend, ending February 18.However, TN Tatem Middle School may be scheduled for reopening and occupancy.” Dr Evans said the following areas will remain out of bounds with no access permissible to students or staff until remaining construction work, final mop-up and routine cleaning exercises are completed:

Dr Evans added: “All remaining construction works for the above listed restricted areas must be undertaken outside of and or after regular school hour. I wish to thank the principal, deputy principal, teachers, staff, parents and especially our students for their co-operation and patience during this period. It has been a challenge but together we have managed to work through this and in the end we have a safer and healthier environment for TN Tatem family.”

February 16. Dr Ewart Brown and the Lahey Clinic conspired on a “wildly successful” and “unlawful” enterprise that profited both “at the expense of the Bermudian government and people”, according to a lawsuit filed in the United States. The 54-page civil complaint, brought against Lahey by the Government of Bermuda and seeking unspecified damages, alleges that the former Premier and the Massachusetts-based teaching hospital “together … concocted a scheme built upon bribery and greed and carried [it] out with complete disregard for Brown’s position of public trust or for the physiological and psychological impact on patients”. Last night, Chris Murphy, Lahey’s executive director of marketing and media relations, responded to the complaints, telling The Royal Gazette the clinic was concerned that the lawsuit was likely motivated by internal island politics, not business practices. “This lawsuit may be a politically motivated attempt by the current government of Bermuda to discredit their political opposition before an election, using Lahey Hospital & Medical Centre as a pawn in an intense partisan political battle,” he said. “Our focus is on providing high-quality care to our patients, not politics.” The suit, which names Dr Brown as a “non-party co-conspirator”, claims: “Over the course of nearly two decades, Lahey conspired with Brown to design and perpetuate an unlawful enterprise fuelled by Lahey’s payment of bribes to Brown disguised as ‘consulting fees’, in return for which Brown facilitated and ensured that Lahey: received preferential treatment when bidding on healthcare contracts issued by the Bermudian government; obtained privileged access to Bermudian patients that it could service at its facilities in Massachusetts and in Bermuda; and made millions of dollars reading and interpreting medically unnecessary MRI and CT scans performed at Brown’s clinics.” It goes on: “[The] defendants’ unlawful activity and practices have resulted in Bermuda’s payment of millions of dollars for medically unnecessary services and for contracts and other services tainted by bribes.” The key unproven accusations in the court filing are that:

The complaint, filed in federal court in Massachusetts, accuses Lahey and Dr Brown of “illegal acts”, which resulted in “mounting returns” for both. It says Dr Brown, who was first elected as a Progressive Labour Party MP in 1993 and was Premier from 2006 to 2010, “is and has been one of the most politically powerful individuals in Bermuda for more than two decades”. While an elected official, according to the suit, he owed “fiduciary duties” to Bermuda, including to ensure that he acted in the best interests of government and that he did not, without approval, profit from his position. The complaint says he never declared his financial involvement with Lahey in the parliamentary register of interests, leaving fellow lawmakers in the dark about the alleged conflict of interest. His alleged involvement in the schemes enabled him to buy a $3 million home in Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, and other properties in New York and Turks and Caicos, according to the complaint. Lahey, according to the claim, engaged in a “pattern of racketeering activity” that caused injury to the Bermuda Government. The hospital’s alleged aim was to exploit Dr Brown’s roles as “government minister, Premier and physician entrepreneur in order to unfairly and unlawfully defraud the Bermudian government of millions of dollars and deprive its people of the right to honest services”. The complaint is being brought under various US laws, including the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organisations Act, the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and the Money Laundering Control Act. Dr Brown told The Royal Gazette yesterday afternoon that he had read the complaint and would be in a position to comment later in the day. Lahey said on Tuesday that it would “review these allegations and vigorously defend ourselves through every step of the legal process”. Attorney-General Trevor Moniz said in a statement he had issued the proceedings after “many months of investigations by the Attorney-General’s Chambers into certain arrangements between Lahey and former Premier Dr Ewart Brown, involving undisclosed payments made by Lahey to Dr Brown over a period of many years. “In return for such payments, we assert that Lahey received preferential treatment from the Government in relation to its work in Bermuda and for Bermudians. Over a lengthy period of time, MRI and CT scans have been carried out by Dr Brown’s clinics and interpreted by Lahey staff, which appears to have been medically unnecessary. As a result of these investigations, the Government believes it has substantial claims against Lahey and has issued the proceedings accordingly.” Lahey is an overseas partner of the publicly funded Bermuda Hospitals Board, as well as a preferred provider for patients on the FutureCare and HIP government insurance plans. This newspaper asked BHB to comment on the allegations in the lawsuit and give details about any current agreements or contracts BHB has with Lahey. A spokeswoman said: “BHB cannot comment and we refer all questions relating to the legal case to the Attorney-General.” The Ministry of Health and Seniors refused to comment when contacted yesterday. Annabel Fountain, president of the Bermuda Medical Doctors Association, which represents physicians, said the association would not be able to comment on the claims in the lawsuit about local doctors. It wasn’t possible to reach anyone from Bermuda Medical Council, which decides on professional misconduct cases. The Government’s complaint against Lahey was filed just three days after police officers raided Dr Brown’s private clinics: Bermuda Healthcare Services in Paget and the Brown-Darrell clinic in Smith’s (see separate story). Mr Murphy added: “LHMC has worked closely with both major political parties in Bermuda over the years to increase access to high-quality care for the people of Bermuda. We are committed to defending this lawsuit and to ensuring this political conflict does not prevent our patients from getting the care they need and deserve. Our business practices and commitment to patients in Bermuda are beyond reproach. Over the years, our Bermuda business contracts and consulting agreements have been thoroughly reviewed by internal and external parties — all of whom have found our practices to be fully compliant with all applicable laws and regulations. LHMC has a 25-year track record of providing the highest-quality care to our patients in Bermuda, and offers this care at what we believe is a lower cost than other academic medical centres. In fact, LHMC was the first healthcare system to bring specialists to Bermuda to care for patients in their communities, where it is more convenient and easier to access.” Dr Brown said in a statement on Monday: “As I have said often, they [the police] have found no political corruption, because there was no political corruption.” After the medical director of his Paget clinic was arrested last year, Dr Brown told reporters regarding the ordering of tests: “I want to make it absolutely clear that these suspicions are completely unfounded. “No patients and no insurance companies that pay for the scans have ever made one single complaint concerning these very necessary diagnostic procedures.”

February 16. Lawyers for Ewart Brown launched an immediate response to the police raids which took place at his two private clinics on Saturday. They successfully applied for an emergency hearing before a Supreme Court judge after officers entered Bermuda Healthcare Services in Paget and the Brown-Darrell Clinic in Smith’s and seized property. Prior to the raids, the Bermuda Police Service obtained a special procedure warrant from a magistrate to enter both clinics and seize material likely to be relevant evidence, including “cost forms” showing information about diagnostic tests ordered for patients between January 2003 and December 2015. The warrant named less than a handful of patients whose records were being sought by detectives. The police’s application for the warrant was made under a section of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 2006 which allows officers to obtain access to confidential records in certain circumstances, where there are reasonable grounds to suspect an indictable offence has been committed. The warrant, seen by this newspaper but with the names withheld, listed the offences suspected to have been committed as corrupt practices, conspiracy to defraud and money laundering. This newspaper understands that an emergency Supreme Court hearing took place before Puisne Judge Stephen Hellman early on Saturday evening, at which the police were not represented. The BPS did have a lawyer at a later hearing that same evening. Counsel for both sides appeared again before Mr Justice Hellman at a hearing which lasted all day Monday. The judge made several orders at the hearings, though none have been made public. This newspaper understands that the legality of police officers removing patients’ medical files from the clinics formed much of the discussion at the three hearings and is dealt with in the judge’s orders. We requested information about the proceedings from the Supreme Court Registrar on Tuesday but did not receive a response by press time last night. Bermuda Medical Doctors Association said yesterday that anything that undermined patient confidentiality was “extremely concerning”. President Annabel Fountain said she was “unable to comment regarding the specific circumstances related to the police raids and we do not have confirmation that any records confiscated relate to patient care”. Dr Fountain added: “However, patient confidentiality is at the core of medical ethics and anything that undermines this or has the potential to do so is extremely concerning. Confidentiality is central to trust between doctors and patients. Without assurances about confidentiality, patients may be reluctant to seek medical attention or to give doctors the information they need in order to provide good care. In our small community, this confidence in the doctor-patient relationship is imperative. Only with patient permission or court order for ‘specifically named records’ should anyone other than the physician or the patient have access to health information of any patient.” It is understood that worried patients have been contacting the Bermuda Health Council, the island’s regulatory health body, to voice concern about the possible seizure of their private medical files from the two clinics. Tawanna Wedderburn, the council’s chief executive officer, said on Tuesday: “The health council is always concerned about patient confidentiality. Given the sensitivities and legal implications of this matter, we are unable to comment any further at this time.” Former Premier Dr Brown, in a statement released on Monday, vowed to challenge the seizure of data, saying he would take “every step legally available” to secure patients’ records. A police spokesman said: “Significant steps have been taken to protect the confidential nature of the information and to ensure that patient safety is not jeopardized in any way.” The weekend raids followed the arrest last May of Mahesh Reddy, the medical director at Bermuda Healthcare Services, on suspicion of fraud and money laundering. Dr Reddy was released on police bail and has not been charged with any offence. Dr Brown has said the targeting of his businesses and of Dr Reddy was an “extension of the witch-hunt that has followed me for years”. The Royal Gazette revealed in July that a police inquiry into allegations of corruption against him had so far cost more than $2.2 million.

February 16. A piece of casino gaming legislation was approved in the Senate yesterday morning, despite concerns over the high initial cost for prospective operators. While Government and independent senators voted in favour of the Casino Gaming (Casino Fees) Regulations 2017, the three Progressive Labour Party senators voted against them. However, Senator Michael Fahy, the minister responsible for tourism, said the Casino Gaming (General Reserve and Casino Taxes) Regulations 2017 would be withdrawn, amended and return to the House of Assembly before debate on it could begin, citing a need to sort out a “minor error” that had been discovered. Explaining the casino fees regulations, Mr Fahy said that the fee structure and 10 per cent tax rate established in the regulations were in accord with the goals of the 2014 Casino Gaming Act. The fee schedule sets the casino licence application fee at $600,000 and the provisional licence issue fee at $1.4 million. Under the regulations a casino licence issue is set at $1 million, while an annual casino licence fee is $1 million, “less any applicable discount”. The regulations state: “The schedule sets out the fees payable, which are in addition to any requirement to reimburse the Commission for the costs of any investigation pursuant to the Act of any regulations”. The fees came under harsh fire in the House of Assembly with both OBA MP Mark Pettingill and independent MP Shawn Crockwell saying the fees were too high and would prevent casinos operators from considering Bermuda as a potential destination. Speaker of the House Randy Horton himself cast the deciding ballot allowing the regulations to pass in the House after the vote ended in a 17-17 stalemate. As the debate began in the Senate, PLP Senator Kim Wilkerson questioned the fees compared to jurisdictions such as the Bahamas where costs are much lower than Massachusetts or Singapore, which were mentioned in the minister’s brief. While she said the fees in the Bahamas were spread along a much longer schedule, she added: “I don’t see how any of these fees in the Bahamas get to the point of our $3 million as a starting point.” Ms Wilkerson also questioned the level of consultation on the proposed fee structure and the training opportunities for Bermudians. “What we would not want to see is a situation like the fibre optic cable where the casinos open and we have a flood of foreign workers because Bermudians have not yet been trained,” she said. “I would like to see the language clarified to specify that the training is for Bermudians.” Responding to questions, Mr Fahy said the Gaming Commission had not consulted gaming operators specifically about the fee structure, but that the information has been in the public for three months and Government had not heard of any push back until the fees were debated in the House of Assembly. He explained that while Grant Gibbons had told the House that the commission had consulted with 12 to 15 operators, that consultation was related to the possibility of operating on the island, not specifically fees. Mr Fahy, however, said the fee structure was designed to fully fund the regulatory scheme without leaving the Gaming Commission needing to dip into the consolidated fund in order to operate.

Gambling/gaming

Gambling/gaming. See above story.

February 16. Maiden Holdings Ltd shares plunged by nearly 10 per cent yesterday after the reinsurer said it was taking a $120 million charge to boost reserves in its commercial auto division. The Bermuda-based company, which has offices at 131 Front Street, is due to report fourth-quarter and full-year earnings on February 27. Despite the charge Maiden said in a statement that it expected to report “a modest level of operating and net income for the full year”. The company’s shares fell by $1.85, or 9.8 per cent, to close on $17 in New York. Art Raschbaum, Maiden’s chief executive officer, said: “For some time, Maiden has experienced adverse development across its historical commercial auto portfolio, primarily emanating from the 2011-2014 underwriting years. “Throughout the industry, commercial auto loss cost severity trends have been rising and we believe it is prudent to address this adverse trend by strengthening the company’s loss reserve position. We believe we have taken appropriate steps to respond to adverse development and believe this reserve strengthening will help to stabilize forward performance and profitability.” Maiden added that it would have generated profitable underwriting results for the year, absent the reserve strengthening measures. The company said it expected no change to be made to its quarterly dividend policy. According to company data, the commercial auto business generated 11 per cent of Maiden’s gross premiums in 2015.

February 16. Bermuda-based Lancashire Holdings has reported after tax profits for the last three months of 2016 at $51.1 million and $153.8 million for the full year, both down on the same figures in 2015. The fourth-quarter drop was about $3 million compared to the same period in 2015, while the full year figure was down $27.3 million. The company noted that the insurance market remains challenging, although it is seizing opportunities when its find them. One such area is the reinsurance market, which is similarly being squeezed. By purchasing additional reinsurance, and securing attachments at lower loss levels, Lancashire has reduced its risk levels to the lowest point in its history. Lancashire Holdings CEO Alex Maloney said last year had proved to be a turbulent one for the global political and macroeconomic environment. “Risk capital remains abundant, and there is continuing pressure upon pricing and terms and conditions. Against this background I am particularly pleased with the results for both the fourth quarter and the full year. The return on equity of 2.8 per cent for the quarter and 13.5 per cent for the year is an exceptional outcome in this environment and a tribute to the dedication and hard work of everyone across the business.” Lancashire’s gross written premiums for the quarter were $95.1 million, a drop of $2 million on the same period the previous year, while for the full year they were $633.9 million, down from $641.1 million in 2015. The company’s combined ratio for the year was 76.5 per cent, up from 72.1 per cent. In an earnings statement, Mr Maloney said: “Our principal focus has been to balance risk and return whilst serving the needs of our clients and their brokers. These results prove that, even in the current difficult times, we have relevance, our model works and is resilient. At 1 January, in line with our expectations and previous communication, we successfully renewed our core book across the Group, including at our Lloyd’s platform.” He said the company had been “rebuilding and reinvigorating” its Lloyd’s platform. Looking ahead, he said: “Whilst we expect market conditions to remain difficult for the foreseeable future, which requires discipline and patience to navigate, our strategy has the ability to respond across the insurance cycle. We are well equipped to meet the needs of our clients and to generate acceptable returns for investors, whilst having the flexibility to capitalize quickly on new opportunities as they arise.” Lancashire’s operating earnings per diluted share was 23 cents for the fourth-quarter, which was flat compared to the same period in 2015. For the full year it was 71 cents, down from 87 cents in 2015. The company’s ceded reinsurance premiums increased by $15.8 million, or 9.9 per cent, during the year as Lancashire and its Lloyd’s member Cathedral Underwriting, bought more reinsurance limit. They added new layers, attaching at lower loss levels for around the same outlay, according to the company report. Elaine Whelan, group chief financial officer, said: “Our outlook for 2017 is for a continuation of current market trends. At 1 January we have once again been able to further reduce our exposure levels with additional reinsurance purchases, and our risk levels are lower now than at any other point in our history. We are therefore carrying a bit more of a capital buffer than we typically would, which gives us the ability to take advantage of any opportunities that may materialize this year.” Within the Lancashire group are Bermuda-based Lancashire Insurance Company and Kinesis Capital Management, together with Lancashire Insurance Company (UK), and Cathedral Underwriting Ltd.

February 16. Shadow tourism minister Jamahl Simmons has said the reported uptick in tourism figures is “little comfort” to those who remain unemployed. The Bermuda Tourism Authority yesterday announced 2016 as “the best year for Bermuda tourism since 2007” with an increase of 18 per cent spend under a One Bermuda Alliance government. While Mr Simmons described the news as “encouraging” he claimed that “isn’t translating into new jobs”. The Progressive Labour Party MP turned attention to his own party’s push for an increased marketing budget and its call for a change from the “nostalgia tourism approach sought by the OBA, BTA chairman and former BTA CEO to win back our traditional visitor, to one that embraced a younger, more diverse and more cosmopolitan audience.” He suggested the government extend its focus to markets such as Montreal, Toronto and Atlanta while working to reduce airfares. “Finally,” he said “we must put as equal a focus on tourism job creation for Bermudians as is placed on arrival numbers.”

February 16. Thank an influx of younger and first-time visitors for the “strong growth” experienced by the country’s tourism economy last year. Such was the message from Bermuda’s Tourism Authority at a press conference to discuss the 2016 Visitor Arrival Statistics on Wednesday afternoon. “2016 was the best year for Bermuda tourism since 2007,” Kevin Dallas, CEO of the BTA, announced. “One of the areas that we think is hugely significant, and we’re having real results, is that we’re getting a younger visitor. Last year was the first time, in a long time, that more than half of our visitors were under 45 years old.” According to statistics released by the Authority on Wednesday, visitors to Bermuda spent $267 million last year — an increase of 18 per cent from 2015. Leisure air arrivals also showed double-digit increases, up 17 per cent over the previous year. According to Mr Dallas, 76 per cent of all growth in 2016 could be linked to visitors under the age of 45. We really are getting a new visitor that wants something different. Slightly more than half” of travelers to the island in 2016 were also first-time visitors. We’re keeping that visitor that’s come year after year, but we are attracting a new, first-time visitor to Bermuda as well — and that is a younger visitor.” While occupancy was up by 10 per cent in 2016, Mr Dallas said that it was still not at a point where the hotel industry could be called “sustainable and profitable. We have a long way to go on that,” he said. From a marketing point of view, the focus in attracting tourism dollars was about bringing the stories of the island to life. “It’s just so lyrical here,” Victoria Isley, chief sales and marketing officer at the BTA, said. “We really wanted to think about how to bottle that and bring that story to life in a different way that would really set Bermuda apart, and really shine Bermuda’s distinct personality. ” According to Isley, a Longwoods International study found that a specific $1.3 million marketing campaign generated 24,500 trips to the island. “Those 24,500 trips generated more than $17 million of on-island spending,” Ms Isley said. “For every dollar that we invested in media, we returned $15 in spending and new taxes generated in Bermuda,” she said of the specific initiative. “We’re really working much better at aligning what Bermuda is offering to the groups that Bermuda is targeting,” Pat Phillip-Fairn, chief product and experience officer at the BTA, said. She described sports training camps as a new focus of tourism — the island’s new college week. “Sports training camps have been really successful for us in the past few years,” she said. “High-end business — not just numbers — but quality business, quality visitors, first-time visitors, younger visitors, who are prime repeat visitors for Bermuda.” She also pointed to the creation and success of Bermuda Hero’s Weekend. “The demographic is our new target,” Ms Phillip-Fairn said. “Under 45, professionals, who want to have a cultural experience but participate in that experience — not just come to watch it. We’re getting a different kind of visitor that wants and expects different things,” Mr Dallas said. The full report is available at gotobermuda.com/bta/visitor-statistics. 

February 16. Bermuda is to push ahead with plans to develop a new airport after two Bills crucial to the project were passed in the Senate last night. While all Progressive Labour Party senators voted against the Bermuda Airport Authority Act 2017 the Bill was supported by all government and independent senators and there were no objections to the passing of the Airport Redevelopment Concessions Act 2017. After a spirited debate, opened with senator and transport minister Michael Fahy saying that an unprecedented level of misinformation had been released, the Upper House came down to a vote shortly after 6.20pm. The first Bill, he said, would create the Bermuda Airport Authority. This would take over responsibility for the general administration, control and management of LF Wade International Airport and oversee the redevelopment of the facility by the Canadian Commercial Corporation, and its maintenance and operation by Bermuda Skyport Corporation Ltd. Several issues were raised throughout the session starting with Progressive Labour Party Leader in the Senate Renee Ming citing what she perceived as the project’s lack of transparency. “How can this be a partnership when the public is kept out of the partner’s business and how can we sit here today to make a fair assessment of a deal we don’t have all the details for,” she pressed. Mr Fahy addressed such concerns raised saying: “More information has been disclosed to the public in this transaction than any other in the history of Bermuda. Any claim otherwise is strictly political theatre, nothing more.” President of the Senate Carol Ann Bassett echoed his remarks in her speech at the end of the debate saying she had not seen such transparency on a project in her 13 years in the Senate. The One Bermuda Alliance’s Jeffrey Baron said the debates on the airport project over the last two years have ranged from mundane to profane, blaming politics for making the issue as heated as it has become. Meanwhile independent senator James Jardine said he hoped that Government would consider a Joint Select Committee to review controversial legislation such as the airport project before it reaches the House of Assembly so that they can be fully and frankly discussed at an earlier stage. Mr Jardine largely welcomed the Bills saying he was confident that the government to government option made the most financial and economic sense under the circumstances. The senator did raise concern about the minimum revenue guarantee designed to protect equity and debt holders should air traffic arrivals not meet expectations. Such a scenario would leave Bermuda liable to foot the difference, but Mr Jardine said he had had reassuring conversations with the government with regards to taking out insurance coverage. “This is a risk that I believe Bermuda should mitigate,” he said. On the subject of the guarantee, Mr Fahy said Bermuda should not be put off by uncertain air arrival numbers. “If that is the way we engage with major projects we would never build anything.” OBA Senator Lynn Woolridge said that to patch up the airport with renovations amounted to “throwing good money after bad.” She spoke on how the Opposition had persistently moved the goalposts on its reception of the deal saying at first the idea was attacked, then the process and now the “rallying cry against privatization”. But she stressed that under the deal, Bermuda would retain control of the airport which would not have been the case with full privatization. The PLP’s Tinee Furbert opened her comments by saying that her husband worked at the airport and while she was “concerned” about the conditions under which he had to work, she was also concerned with the causeway and other areas of Bermuda’s infrastructure that needed attention. Newly appointed Senator Andrew Simons said he had asked himself whether Bermuda needs a new airport, what type of airport it needs and how it should be paid for. “Yes we do” was the answer to his first question describing the facility as “critical infrastructure”. He said while we did not need a “temple for manned flight”, Bermuda did need a modern, safe and accessible facility. And speaking on funding he said Bermuda did not have the capacity to incur further debt when interest rates are connected to risk. PLP Senator Kim Wilkerson insisted that her party “was not being disagreeable for the sake of being disagreeable” in its wide-ranging opposition to the deal but that it felt unable to fulfil its obligations to the people of Bermuda without all the information it requested around the deal.

February 15. The Bermuda Government has filed a lawsuit at a Boston federal court against Lahey Health, alleging a conspiracy with Ewart Brown, the former premier, in what the Boston Business Journal describes as a bribery charge to divert services from the island to the Massachusetts facility. The suit was reportedly filed yesterday by Trevor Moniz, the Attorney-General. The matter was also reported early this morning by The Boston Globe, which said that Bermuda’s “thousands of medically unnecessary scans”, carried out as a result of the arrangement, had placed the island among “the highest users of MRI and CT scans in the world”. Dr Brown, whose local clinics were raided by police over the weekend, is alleged to have conspired with Lahey over the course of almost 20 years to channel Bermuda Government healthcare contracts to the facility in return for “bribes disguised as consulting fees”, the Journal stated. The suit reportedly branded the arrangement “wildly successful” for both Lahey and Dr Brown, “at the expense of the Bermudian Government and people”. Yesterday Christopher Murphy, a Lahey Health spokesman, said the Bermuda Government’s suit had yet to be reviewed by the facility. He however expressed confidence in Lahey’s clean record of providing quality care to Bermudian patients. “We will review these allegations and vigorously defend ourselves through every step of the legal process,” Mr Murphy added. While the suit is directed at Lahey Health rather than Dr Brown, it alleges that the former premier used his position to ensure that Lahey ranked as the island’s overseas partner of choice. The relationship was said to begin in 1997, while Dr Brown served as the Shadow Minister for Human Affairs, and to have continued after he stepped down as premier in 2010. The suit contends that Dr Brown paid “hundreds of thousands, if not millions” to have Lahey interpret CT and MRI scans from his clinic. Bermudian insurers were said to have paid Lahey more than $40 million for services provided between 2006 and 2016. The Journal article added that Dr Brown’s consulting arrangement with Lahey included promoting healthcare opportunities in Bermuda and the Caribbean. The article further stated that, in 2001, those fees totaled at least $125,000, and grew steadily over time. In 2008, e-mails show that Dr Brown was paid $504,000 in consulting fees by Lahey, according to the lawsuit. Meanwhile, according to The Boston Globe, the lawsuit includes details that Dr Brown and his wife were able to purchase a $3 million house on Marsha’s Vineyard. It alleges that he collected fees from insurers and split the payments with Lahey to remotely read the results. The news broke as the Progressive Labour Party issued a statement expressing concern at the lengthy investigation aimed at Dr Brown by local police, which over the course of almost six years had failed to yield charges of wrongdoing. “An individual should not be clouded by a seemingly unlimited criminal investigation for an unspecified period,” the statement said. It added that the confidentiality of patients’ “sensitive medical files has been potentially put at risk and caused concern to those individuals”, and called for “a swift resolution to this lengthy and costly investigation”. In his own statement issued after police descended on both the Brown-Darrell Clinic and Bermuda Healthcare Services, Dr Brown acknowledged that he had been the target of an investigation “ostensibly for political corruption” since 2011, but described the effort as baseless and politically motivated. In May 2016, as part of what police called an ongoing financial investigation, the medical director at Bermuda Healthcare Services, Mahesh Reddy, was arrested. Coming to Dr Reddy’s defence in September of that year, Dr Brown dismissed allegations that his colleague had ordered excessive tests that were medically unnecessary. On that occasion he said that studies ordered by both his Bermuda clinics were screened by experts at Lahey to verify their validity. Dr Brown’s longstanding relationship with the Lahey Clinic has long been a matter of public record: in 1998, for example, he defended his close ties with the hospital and criticised local physicians who refused to refer patients to its consultancy services, calling on them to “cease and desist immediately and spend more of their time fixing the horrendous problems at our hospital”. In 2003, Dr Brown described his practice’s 1997 affiliation with Lahey as “a major milestone for us”. Dr Brown, who was off the island at the time of the local police action on Saturday, has vowed to battle the longstanding investigation in Bermuda’s courts, and to contest in particular the seizure of any patient records.

February 15. All eyes are on the Senate today as two Bills for the airport redevelopment go before the Upper House after getting approved in Parliament following a lengthy debate. With no word of protests planned, The Royal Gazette understands that security is not expected to be heavy. The Progressive Labour Party has staunchly opposed the airport deal, and Opposition leader David Burt issued a statement shortly after MPs finished their deliberations early on Saturday, calling on the public to make their views known to senators ahead of the debate. With the debate strictly following party lines, the role of independent senator and Senate president Carol Ann Bassett, along with independents Joan Dillas Wright and James Jardine, will be especially pronounced. However, it would take a no vote from all three, along with those of Opposition senators Tinee Furbert, Renee Ming and Kim Wilkerson, for the legislation to be turned back. Since the two Bills were amended in the House of Assembly, they are now The Bermuda Airport Authority Act 2017 and the Airport Redevelopment Concession Act 2017. Senators will also discuss casino regulations that were narrowly passed in the House of Assembly. Also coming will be a ministerial statement from Senator Michael Fahy, the Minister of Tourism, Transport and Municipalities, on his attendance at the International Casino Expo held earlier this month in London. The Senate is scheduled to receive the annual reports for the Bermuda Sport Anti-Doping Authority for the financial years ending March 31, 2016 and 2015 — as well as its audited financials for the year ending March 31, 2013.

February 15. A prospective casino operator is said to be ready to walk away from developing in Bermuda over the island’s high gaming fees, according to Progressive Labour Party MP Zane Desilva. And Shawn Crockwell, the Independent MP who also opposed the regulations in Parliament, said the high cost of business had proven unpopular with a number of stakeholders in the aftermath of its debate in Parliament, when the regulations were narrowly passed. “Major players” with designated sites for casino gaming “were not consulted” on the regulations, according to Mr Crockwell, who as former tourism minister kept in regular touch with stakeholders in the nascent industry. “I was contacted by numerous individuals who did not know of the fees until they read about it in The Royal Gazette,” Mr Crockwell said of the Casino Gaming (General Reserve and Casino Taxes) Regulations 2016, and the Casino Gaming (Casino Fees) Regulations 2016. The regulations narrowly passed in the House of Assembly on February 3, and are headed today for the Senate’s consideration. Mr Crockwell said that when it came to charges for casino operators to set up shop, “I was told consistently that we were looking at nothing more than $1 million — that would be the highest. I was quite surprised to see the fee set at around $3 million,” Mr Crockwell added. “I spoke to about three very prominent individuals who were surprised, astounded, at the high levels.” Grant Gibbons, the Minister for Economic Development, brought the regulations to Parliament, and Mr Crockwell said he had questioned the minister as to whether would-be gaming developers had been consulted. The House had heard from Dr Gibbons during the debate that the Gaming Commission has been conversing with between 12 and 15 gaming operators and had not heard “pushback” about the fee structure. “He never answered that question,” Mr Crockwell said. “I suspect that the fees came directly from [Gaming Commission CEO] Richard Scheutz, and no one else.” Dr Gibbons was unavailable for clarification as his portfolio does not cover tourism — but Senator Michael Fahy, the Minister of Tourism, Transport and Municipalities is expected to address concerns today in the Upper House. Mr Crockwell said he believed the fees were an indicator that the island’s “approach has changed” on gaming. “We wanted to have amenity casinos to support hotels by providing entertainment for guests and to create a certain revenue stream, but it was not supposed to be for the Government’s moneymaking, The initial approach was that we wanted to help hotels, particularly new developments. Now we are going down a road of seeing Bermuda as a gaming jurisdiction, and that’s never going to happen.” Mr DeSilva said he felt Dr Gibbons had been “economical with the truth” in telling MPs that there had been no pushback over the regulations. “One particular developer has said they are upset at this legislation, and they will not be moving forward with their development unless things change — which is very disturbing,” Mr DeSilva said, calling the fees “way over the top. I especially think so when you’re talking not one iconic casino but at least four sites, which I am in total agreement with — when we were debating the Gaming Act I was totally against issuing only three licences. I am on the record as saying that we could have ten if we wanted to, and leave it to the market forces.”

February 15. It is the million-dollar question, literally. How much did Bermuda get back from the $1.3 million spent on a nine-month tourism advertising campaign last year? The answer is $17 million, or a return on investment of $15.30 for each advertising dollar spent. That is the conclusion of an independent assessment of the effectiveness of the Bermuda Tourism Authority’s campaign. The study found that, by the end of November last year, visitors had made 24,500 trips to Bermuda directly as a result of one specific campaign, which focused on the markets of New York, Washington DC, Chicago, Boston, Philadelphia and Toronto. Advertising was placed online, on TV, through social networks and in print publications. Using per capita spending figures, the study estimated that an additional $17.1 million was spent by those visitors during a nine-month period. The expenditure yielded $3.9 million in new tax revenue. The study was done by Longwoods International, a marketing, advertising and public opinion research company, based in Toronto. Although intended for internal use by the BTA, which commissioned the report, the authority decided to go public with the results to illustrate the worth of such marketing strategies, and address the often-asked questions about how effective it uses its resources. Kevin Dallas, chief executive officer at the BTA, said the effectiveness of online advertising can be monitored by “following the clicks”, but it is not so easy to quantify offline and out-of-home marketing efforts, hence the need to engage tourism ROI report specialists Longwoods. Beyond the bottom line numbers, the study measured the impact of the advertising on people’s perceptions of Bermuda as a travel destination, and created a 10 to 15 per cent increase in the number of respondents who thought of the island as offering a sense of adventure, having interesting culture, unique local cuisine, and a mystique that set it apart as a unique location. The campaign appears to have helped attract a younger generation of visitors. Victoria Isley, chief sales and marketing officer for the BTA, said: “At the beginning of 2016 we created a new way for telling Bermuda’s stories, which is the brand platform, the brand strategy.” She said it was a new way to talk about Bermuda and to reach new market segments, such as adventure seekers. “It changed people’s opinion about whether Bermuda was a place that they would enjoy visiting; that improved from 59 per cent to 66 per cent.” Last year, 52 per cent of leisure air arrivals were aged under 45. Ms Isley said it was great that the younger visitors the BTA was “trying to connect with emotionally to get them to think about travelling here, are actually showing up”. While Mr Dallas, said: “The overall strategy of the BTA is to target a different, younger visitor who is looking for something more than just a beach holiday. Last year was a breakthrough year with more than half our visitors under 45. It is coming off the back of this rebranding and repositioning of Bermuda as a place with that sense of adventure.” He also recognized that some people might question the validity of the ROI report, as the BTA had paid for it. But he said: “This is a research agency that has its own ethical standard, that is accredited and would jeopardize its market position if they were to tell us what we want to hear rather than what they found.” This was underscored by Michael Erdman, senior vice-president at Longwoods International, who said: “We have had numerous instances in which we reported on campaigns that had zero impact, or less-than-stellar results. “In our methodology, however, we have built in diagnostic tools that will help us guide those clients in identifying and fixing the problems, be they related to messaging, targeting, timing, creative and media choices.” The BTA is likely to use such ROI studies in the future. Mr Dallas said the results validated the course the BTA has taken. He said: “The big changes of last year are resonating and working. We are seeing that in this, and in our year-end numbers. “What we are doing is working and we need to stay focused on that and doing it well.” This afternoon the BTA is due to present its 2016 visitor statistics report.

February 15. Bermudian spirit will overcome negativity to make Bermuda’s hosting of the 35th America’s Cup a success, according to Sir Russell Coutts. Asked about threats to the America’s Cup by the Bermuda Industrial Union and the possibility of industrial action during the event, Sir Russell said he remained confident that Bermuda would come together to highlight the island on the international stage. “Bermudians, from what I have seen, are very, very proud to have the America’s Cup and very proud to showcase the island in the best possible way,” Sir Russell said. “Everything I have seen to date would indicate that Bermudians are going to step up and showcase this country. I have full confidence that this America’s Cup will be the best America’s Cup yet. I don’t say that flippantly. I really do believe that. I think that sort of sentiment will win out over any negativity.” Speaking yesterday, 100 days before the launch of the 35th America’s Cup, Sir Russell said he was thrilled to see the pieces coming together for the international sailing event. “It is really exciting,” he said. “We were just looking at some broadcast figures and compared to previous America’s Cups. We are 240 per cent up on those figures. Everything is tracking in the right direction right now.” While construction continues at the Event Village in Dockyard, Sir Russell said the work was progressing nicely and he expected the finished product to be one of the most memorable in the event’s history. “I was at the America’s Cup Event Village last week over in Dockyard and it’s progressing really well. It’s going to be a fantastic event site,” he said. “You can see that it’s now nearing its final stages. You can really now start to visualize what it’s going to be like. This is a unique village in a way because the event village that houses all the teams is actually overlooking the racecourse. I think that’s unprecedented. It’s a really great feature. The October event highlighted some examples of the challenges. We had an event village in Hamilton, but you couldn’t really see the racing.” Asked if there was any particular team to keep an eye on in this year’s event, the sailing veteran said that this year’s competition would be hard fought with no single team a clear favourite. “There has been some informal racing among the teams here, and that racing has been close. All of the teams have a few wins. The teams are going to be very evenly matched. Of course, with 100 days to go there’s still a lot of development that will happen with the teams. Some will be launching their AC boats in the next few days. Land Rover has already launched theirs, but the others will be following suit soon. That’s the next stage of development. It’s going to be exciting to see how the teams progress over the next few months. Technology will now start to play a greater role because each of the teams can build their own boats. It’s pretty hard to predict who is going to win.” And he said the weather conditions on the course could be a critical factor in determining who takes home the Auld Mug. “Weather will play a role, and that’s one of the exciting things about this venue,” he said. “There will be variable conditions in terms of weak or strong winds and these conditions will favour different teams.”

February 15. A clock that will count down the final 100 days until the beginning of the 35th America’s Cup was unveiled on Front Street this afternoon with Michael Dunkley saying it was Bermuda’s time to “shine on the world stage”. The Premier was joined by Minister for Economic Development Grant Gibbons, Opposition MP Wayne Furbert as well as a number of ACBDA and ACEA representatives for the unveiling at the flagpole. Addressing a small gathering of members of the press and public, Mr Dunkley said: “As I walked off Burnaby Hill and saw the clock which signifies the countdown of the last 100 days, my excitement really started to grow to the next level. As Premier of Bermuda and on behalf of all the people of Bermuda I have been tremendously excited to see the preparation that has taken place. We see the preparation in Dockyard and now the fruit of that labour is starting to be seen by the naked eye with the Event Village taking shape, most of the teams here on the island and practice taking place every day out there when the weather permits. People of Bermuda from one end of the island to the other are truly getting excited and have bought into this event. The best is yet to come. When we revealed that we were hosting the America’s Cup we made it very clear that we wanted Bermuda to shine for our innovation, for our ingenuity but most importantly for the hospitality that Bermudians bring to life every single day. We have 100 days left until these gentlemen put their boats overboard and we start competitive racing. We have some finishing touches to do and I am confident that we will get them done. We will shine on the world stage and these sailors will shine on the world stage.” He went on to thank everyone involved in making the event happen before Mike Winfield, CEO for ACBDA, took to the stage to highlight the work that has gone into the sporting event so far. “For the last two years, hundreds of people have spent tens of thousands of hours, many of them volunteers, to develop plans.” he said. Dr Gibbons, who was instrumental in securing the world class event for Bermuda, thanked key personnel involved including Peter Durhager, the chairman for the ACBDA and members of his ACBDA board; Mike Winfield CEO and his ACBDA operational team as well as the hundreds of ACBDA special committee members; Jasmine Smith as the Government America’s Cup liaison officer and the various ministries and agencies who worked closely with her; the team at Wedco and Alan Burland at BCM; the Ministry of Public Works; Sam Hollis COO at ACEA; and the competing sailors. Dr Gibbons added: “Now that we are only 100 days away from the final stages of the America’s Cup 2017 I would like to join the Premier in saying what an extraordinary privilege it has been to have been involved in the preparations. We are certainly delighted at the prospect of welcoming thousands of visitors and participants on to our shores and seeing Bermuda on the world stage.”

February 15. Almost a dozen years ago, then-New York Attorney-general Eliot Spitzer filed a fraud lawsuit against Bermuda-based former American Insurance Group chief executive officer Maurice “Hank” Greenberg over two reinsurance transactions that purportedly gave an improper boost to the company’s financial statements. On Friday, New York’s current attorney-general, Eric Schneiderman, announced the case was finally settled, with Greenberg admitting he approved two fraudulent transactions and agreeing to pay $9 million. The settlement also resolved civil claims against Howard Smith, AIG’s former chief financial officer, related to the two transactions, Schneiderman said. But on Monday afternoon, Greenberg and Smith sat beside each other at a news conference in midtown Manhattan and made it clear that their animus towards New York state’s top lawyer was hardly settled, even if the lawsuit was. Greenberg, 91, said he never admitted to fraud or any wrongdoing in settling the lawsuit, despite Schneiderman’s claims to the contrary. He said the lawsuit was filed as payback for his criticisms of Spitzer and that Friday’s news release — which came as a surprise to Greenberg’s camp — was an attempt by Schneiderman to put a positive spin on a case in which the attorney-general failed to obtain the penalty and securities ban he sought from the two former executives. “He pursued the case so aggressively. He’s embarrassed the way it ended,” Greenberg said. Eric Soufer, a spokesman for Schneiderman, said the statement that Greenberg agreed to distribute — in which he admitted to initiating, participating in and approving two transactions that led to inaccurate portrayals of the company’s health — speaks for itself. “No number of press conferences or TV interviews by Mr Greenberg or Mr Boies is going to change that,” Soufer said, referring to Greenberg’s attorney, David Boies. Spitzer didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment. The settlement resolves claims that stemmed from two reinsurance transactions: a deal with Berkshire Hathaway’s General Reinsurance Corp used to reverse a decline in loss reserves at AIG, and an agreement with CAPCO Reinsurance Co. The attorney-general argued the transactions were fraudulent and intended to make AIG’s financial statements look better than they were. But rather than admitting fraud, Greenberg has said the inaccurate accounting statements were “honest mistakes” that he didn’t know were wrong. The penalty is a small fraction of the $6 billion in damages the attorney-general originally sought and less than the costs of litigating the suit, Boies said. In an interview on Bloomberg Television on Monday, Greenberg estimated he had spent about $200 million fighting the case over the years. Greenberg and Smith had argued the attorney-general couldn’t prove that either transaction was improperly accounted for, that the defendants knew of any alleged impropriety or that the two deals had a significant impact on AIG’s financial results. Anthony Sabino, a law professor at St John’s University’s Peter J. Tobin College of Business, questioned why the attorney-general continued to pursue the case against the executives long after AIG had settled, restated its earnings and was bailed out by the government, during the financial crisis. He suggested it was the work of a overzealous attorney-general “simply trying to make political points”. “Why did the state of New York spend over a decade pursuing Greenberg when the injuries had already been fully addressed?” Sabino said. “Surely the New York attorney-general had better things to do. Again, the states have a right to enforce the law in their own domains. But when the problem is solved or nearly so, why fight for years, especially here when the final ‘gain’, if you can call it that, is trifling.” Greenberg stepped down from AIG in March 2005, two months before Spitzer sued. New York-based AIG eventually restated its earnings lower by $3.4 billion and agreed to pay $1.64 billion to settle allegations by Spitzer and other regulators, without admitting or denying wrongdoing. Four former Gen Re executives and one from AIG were convicted of accounting fraud in 2008 but won reversals in 2011. Federal prosecutors agreed to drop the charges the following year under deferred-prosecution agreements after the former executives admitted “aspects” of the Gen Re deal were fraudulent. Under the settlement, which came after more than two months of mediation, Greenberg agreed to return $9 million in bonuses and admitted to initiating, participating in and approving the transactions. Smith agreed to return $900,000 in bonuses and admitted to participating in and approving the deals. New York had sought to bar Greenberg and Smith from participating in the securities business, from serving as officers or directors of public companies and to force them to give up more than $50 million in bonuses. While the settlement does include repayment of bonuses, it doesn’t include the work prohibition. The agreement resolves a legal battle in which Greenberg and Boies squared off against three successive state attorneys-general who accused him of fraud. Greenberg, a Second World War veteran, refused to settle, seeing the trial as an opportunity to redeem himself after he was pressured to resign from the company that he built, over almost 40 years, into the world’s biggest insurer. “From the beginning this was not about the facts,” Smith said. “It was about getting press releases for political gain.”

February 15. A Canadian woman has admitted conspiring to import synthetic opioid fentanyl to the island. During an appearance in the Supreme Court yesterday Jacqueline Robinson, 25, from Courtice, Ontario, pleaded guilty to a single count of conspiring with others to import the controlled drug between an unknown date and December 15 last year. However, she denied allegations that she conspired to supply the drug or possessed the drug with intent to supply it. Deputy director of prosecutions said the plea was acceptable for the Crown, requesting that the other charges remain on file. Puisne Judge Carlisle Greaves ordered that pre-sentencing reports be conducted on Robinson, remanding her into custody until the March arraignments session. Also appearing in court was 35-year-old Craig Lawrence, from Markham, Ontario, who was originally charged alongside Robinson. Mr Lawrence denied all three charges. He was also remanded into custody until March, when his case will be mentioned in the Supreme Court.

February 14. New cyber-security regulations for financial institutions in New York have the potential to raise losses for insurers, including those from Bermuda. That is the warning from Fitch Ratings ahead of the New York Department of Financial Service’s new rules, which become effective on March 1. The agency sees the potential for premium growth in cyber security insurance and directors and officers insurance, but warns that the regulations could also raise loss potential for insurers. More than 3,000 financial institutions be covered by the regulations will be required to establish a formal cyber security programme, adopt a written cyber-security policy, encrypt data and conduct periodic tests of the system to identify potential vulnerabilities, among other requirements. They must have a designated chief information security officer responsible for overseeing the policy and reporting to the board at least twice a year. In a statement, Fitch said the rules could set a wider template for other jurisdictions. “There is also potential for other state or federal cyber regulations passed in the future to conflict with New York’s. Notably, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, a non-regulatory agency of the Department of Commerce, has several recommendations that differ from the NYDFS plan,” stated Fitch. “The new rules could raise compliance risks for financial institutions and, in turn, premiums and loss potential for D&O insurance underwriters. The rules require a director or senior officer to annually certify compliance with the regulations. If management and directors of financial institutions that experience future cyber-incidents are subsequently found to be non-compliant with the New York regulations, then they will be more exposed to litigation that would be covered under professional liability policies. Fitch believes that rapid cyber-insurance growth is likely to continue, and new regulatory requirements could play a part in reinforcing the trend. “Part of the NYDFS regulation is that a company has to notify the regulatory authorities within 72 hours of a cyber-security event occurring. Cyber-security insurance can help firms navigate notification laws,” stated Fitch. The agency said data for cyber-claims, remediation costs and potential liability for insurers are limited, and hinders pricing risk, leading it view “substantial growth in stand-alone cyber coverage or higher portfolio concentration in cyber as a credit negative for insurers”.

February 14. A walkout by British Airways cabin crews is set to commence on Friday, with the carrier planning to give details on its contingency plans in the days ahead. The four-day strike, part of a long simmering pay dispute at the UK company, now comes with an additional walkout set for February 22, aimed at ramping up pressure on the airline’s management. British media have reported that BA staff have had 11 days of strike action this year. According to BA, flights out of Gatwick will proceed as usual on Friday, as well as London City Airport and the “vast majority” of departures scheduled for Heathrow.

February 14. The second St George’s Marine Expo will be bigger and better as it rides the crest of an America’s Cup wave, organizers promised yesterday. Ray Lambert, the Bermuda Economic Development Corporation’s development officer for St George, said: “We have a lot of discussions to have — the BEDC is working with America’s Cup Bermuda so we can have an America’s Cup focus in the year ahead. “Exactly what we’re going to do is hard to say but it’s a great opportunity to highlight the event in many ways. The event is going to be bigger — last year was a great start and we’re really pleased by the support from the businesses and organisations that participate. We think many of them will be back and we’re expecting more of them to join in as well.” The one-day event, sponsored by oil company Rubis Energy Bermuda, is scheduled to take place at Ordnance Island in the historic former capital on Sunday, April 23. Mr Lambert said it was hoped to add a water demonstration area off St George so vendors can showcase their products, while another section is planned on the water for charter boat owners to highlight what they can offer in the run-up to the summer season and the climax of the America’s Cup races. He added that the Bermuda Lionfish Task Force, set up to combat the invasive species, will expand on the display they had last year. One confirmed America’s Cup-themed event will be the East End preliminaries of the community grinding challenge, a grueling test of strength and agility on the same grinding machines used in the America’s Cup. Mr Lambert said sponsorship from Rubis and the support of other organisations meant that businesses had a low-cost way to advertise their products and services. He explained: “It’s a minimal cost for them, considering the amount of foot traffic and exposure they will get.” The event was first run last year to promote the island’s large marine-related sector and boost the economy of St George. It attracted more than 50 businesses and organisations and more than 3000 visitors to the show. Mr Lambert said: “We really appreciate the support of our sponsors and are very encouraged by the interest shown thus far by the marine community. Ordnance Island is an excellent venue for the Expo and we look forward to making this another great event.” Graham Redford, managing director of Rubis, said: “After the successful launch of Marine Expo in 2016, we’re excited to be able to continue our partnership with the BEDC, the Corporation of St George and the St George’s Foundation. Rubis is happy to support initiatives that drive business to the town and bring tangible economic benefits to the local businesses. It is also a great way to bring the community closer together and celebrate our strong maritime heritage.”

February 14. The Minister of Home Affairs Patricia Gordon-Pamplin has lashed out at her opposite number, calling PLP MP Walton Brown’s comments on immigration “inaccurate and alarmist”. In a statement released on Sunday, Mr Brown took issue with the MarketPlace supermarket’s attempt to secure the Permanent Resident’s Certificate for five of their expatriate employees. He claimed the Incentives for Job Makers Act, which was approved in 2013, had been subjected to misuse. However, Ms Gordon-Pamplin said yesterday no PR certificates had been approved and they were under review. “Nothing has been granted. I wish that MP Brown would have contacted myself or the Permanent Secretary before issuing a public statement as it puts the department in an unfair position of having to respond to matters that are under review and incomplete. His statement is unfortunately both inaccurate and alarmist”. The supermarket’s application for five long-time employees was received on December 22, 2016. “It is important for the public to understand what is required in order for persons to ultimately apply for a PRC,” explained the minister. “There are a number of checks that must be done before an application can be finalized. Persons cannot apply for PRCs until the application for concessions has been completed. Exemptions have to be approved for individuals before they can make an application to the Department of Immigration for a PRC.” She added: “The intent of the original Incentives outlined in the Job makers Act 2011 was to encourage more investment that would provide more jobs to Bermuda. While international business easily fits into this intent, there is no impediment against local companies applying for the concessions. It cannot be ignored that there are local businesses that also benefit from foreign investment to support their operations. The fact that their ownership can be up to 40 per cent non-Bermudian speaks to this and they may be able to obtain concessions under Section 3B of the Economic Development Act 1968.” In Section 3B (2) states: “The Minister of Home Affairs may designate a company as a company whose senior executive employees can apply for exemption from Part V of the Bermuda Immigration and Protection Act 1956, under section 5 of this Act, where the Minister is satisfied that the company:

However, Ms Gordon-Pamplin pointed to Section 5 of the Act which “sets a high bar for persons seeking exemptions”, such as:

Subsection 5 (5) states: An exemption shall not be granted under subsection (2) in respect of any person, unless the minister is satisfied that there is no person with Bermudian status in Bermuda with sufficient qualifications and experience available to undertake the work concerned, efficiently. “For clarity, the government does not ‘allow’ people to make applications,” said the minister. “Anyone can make an application if they deem it to be appropriate and in accordance with the overarching legislation. The department only has control over the outcome of applications and all applications in this particular category to which MP Brown refers will be processed and decisions rendered according to their merit.” In his statement on Sunday, Mr Brown said: “The PLP is extremely concerned that the Incentive for Job Makers Act is being stretched far beyond its original intended use. The law was introduced by the PLP to strengthen the international business sector to provide security to key executives to ensure these businesses continue operating in Bermuda to maintain and expand jobs for Bermudians. However, by allowing the MarketPlace, a six-decades old local grocery store chain, to apply for PRCs for five non-Bermudian executives, the OBA government has roamed far away from supporting international business. Without a rationale for this extension, the OBA’s granting of PRCs to these men would be a manipulation of immigration policy reminiscent of the UBP’s controversial 1970s policies.  The OBA must explain why the Job Makers Act is being exploited to include local grocery stores, where Bermudian jobs have existed for decades. If the OBA awards PRCs to these men, their jobs will no longer need to be advertised and thus unavailable to Bermudians living here and Bermudians abroad who may be looking to return home. The PLP believes that all businesses, but especially local business such as the MarketPlace, should be looking to promote Bermudians. If the OBA grants these PRCs, it will continue its pattern of putting the interest of non-Bermudians ahead of Bermudians who may be looking for opportunities for advancement in their country of birth.”

February 14. The police raid on former premier Ewart Brown’s medical clinics has elicited concern from the Opposition, which issued a statement today calling for “a swift resolution to this lengthy and costly investigation”. By Dr Brown’s own estimation, the police corruption probe of his affairs has taken close to six years. It was revealed by this newspaper in July 2016 that the case had cost authorities $2.2 million. This afternoon’s statement from the Progressive Labour Party questioned the impact of the latest police action on Dr Brown, along with family, employees and patients using his practice, where records were seized over the weekend by the officers from the Organised and Economic Crime Department. According to a police spokesman, “significant steps” were taken to protect the confidential information and ensure that “patient safety is not jeopardized in any way”. The PLP statement protested that persons should not be subjected to “seemingly unlimited” criminal investigation, adding: “It is disturbing that the confidentiality of patients’ sensitive medical files has been potentially put at risk and caused concern to those individuals”. In a statement of his own, Dr Brown vowed to challenge the seizure of data, and a source connected with the matter told The Royal Gazette that an unspecified judge had ordered the return of the records on Monday afternoon.

February 14. Ewart Brown, the former premier, has fired back at police after two of his private clinics were raided over the weekend by officers from the Organised and Economic Crime Department. Vowing to “fight with our last cent and to our final breath”, Dr Brown said that patient confidentiality remained his top concern — branding the police actions, which included seizing information, “unnecessary”, and an assault on his reputation and business. He described himself as “offended, saddened, dismayed and alarmed, but not surprised” after police bearing warrants entered Bermuda Healthcare Services and Brown-Darrell Clinic on Saturday — breaking a window to gain entry to the latter facility. Dr Brown said police had disabled security cameras, and had not permitted management to observe their searches. Noting that last May, Mahesh Reddy, the medical director at Bermuda Healthcare Services, had been arrested in connection with a “financial investigation”, Dr Brown’s statement yesterday came with a timeline dating back to June 2011 when he came under investigation “ostensibly for political corruption”. This was in reference to the 2011 trial of businessman David Bolden, who was ultimately cleared by the Supreme Court along with his wife Antoinette of theft and money laundering, but found guilty of one count of misleading the Bermuda Monetary Authority. During that trial Mr Bolden, whom Dr Brown accused of perjury, alleged corruption on the former premier’s part. Yesterday, Dr Brown called it “specious junk” and said that, six years on, police had yet to divulge any findings. “The public deserves to know,” Dr Brown said. “I deserve to be exonerated. As I have said often, they have found no political corruption, because there was no political corruption.” Dr Reddy’s arrest last year made it “clear that what originated as a suspicious prosecution has now become a dogged persecution”, he added — saying the “witch hunt” had cost $2.2 million by July 2016. Last month, Dr Reddy was approved by the Supreme Court to pursue a lawsuit against police for unlawful arrest. In the latest turn, Dr Brown said he had “no idea” what police had done during the more than 24 hours in the two clinics, saying the raids had caused distress for staff and patients. Suggesting that the tactics were reminiscent of racist ploys used in the past against black businesses, Dr Brown questioned the role of police in 2008, when he was still Premier, and two cheques were discovered, purportedly made out to Dr Brown and to the then Deputy Premier Derrick Burgess. Dr Brown also queried why sole-sourcing of contracts under the United Bermuda Party, or the Jetgate scandal that dogged the One Bermuda Alliance, had not been brought before the Commission of Inquiry — saying it smacked of “past days of privilege and unfair, racist treatment”. Dr Brown was off the island over the weekend, and said he had been unable to return home because of a commitment to his wife, Wanda. According to a source close to the case, a judge yesterday ordered police to return “all medical files” to both clinics — with Dr Brown vowing to take “every step legally available” to secure patients’ records.

February 14. Premier Michael Dunkley has sent a message to the community to say “health is the most important thing” in light of surgery he had to treat skin cancer on his face. The Premier, who says he is in good health following recent outpatient surgery, was speaking after One Bermuda Alliance senator Vic Ball raised the issue during yesterday’s sitting of the Senate. Mr Dunkley told this newspaper: “I get regular physicals and dermatology is part of that because I have had some dermatology challenges. I had an exam at the end of last year and some spots of concern were identified and so at the first opportunity I made sure that I dealt with them by having some outpatient surgery. I had some bruising and swelling but I am pleased that the doctors told me that everything is in good condition now and I should make a full recovery. Because my skin is susceptible to that I have to make sure to pay attention and now I certainly put on a lot of sunscreen. However, the damage has been done and I expect to have continual challenges which I will deal with. My health is good and I don’t allow these little setbacks to hold me back. But I do want to remind the community that health is the most important thing.” He reminded the public of the importance of always applying sunscreen for protection in Bermuda. Addressing an “unflattering” meme posted on social media about him when parts of his face were bandaged and bruised, Mr Dunkley added: “I certainly appreciate my colleague speaking about this. On February 3 when I did an interview with ZBM my face was in bad shape. I was inundated with messages from people wondering how I was doing and if I was all right and I really thank the hundreds of people who got in touch with me. I was very disappointed to see the rumors going around — it does no good to spread those and certainly while I have big shoulders it is not acceptable. Just think about how family and friends felt about it — my family were very disturbed by it. If the shoe was on the other foot, I think people would feel the same way. Senator Ball was right to speak out on the subject.” In addressing the Senate, Mr Ball highlighted that this month was Cancer Awareness Month and in reference to the meme online he said that Bermuda needed to “mature as a community”.

February 14. Argo Group has reported a dip in profits for the fourth quarter and the full year. The Bermudian-based company’s net income for the quarter was $32.9 million, or $1.07 per common share, compared with $41.2 million for the same period in 2015. For the full year the profit was $146.7 million, or $4.75 per share, compared to $162.2 million, or $5.20 per share, in 2015. Argo’s fourth-quarter adjusted operating income was $19.8 million, or 65 cents per share, which was in line with analysts’ estimates. For the full year gross written premiums were $2.16 billion, a rise of 7.6 per cent, and net investment income was $115.1 million, up 29.9 per cent. Mark Watson, chief executive officer of Argo Group, noted that the company ended 2016 with book value of $59.73 per share, a 10 per cent increase “even with an increase in the incidence of global catastrophe losses relative to recent years”. He said: “For the past 15 years, Argo Group has grown book value per share in excess of 10 per cent on a compounded annual basis. As we have discussed in the past, we consider the compounded annual growth in book value as the measure that most clearly demonstrates value creation for our shareholders. Also, our annualized return on equity has averaged 9.8 per cent over the last four years. These results demonstrate the value of a well-balanced and diverse portfolio of businesses as well as thoughtful asset allocation. The recently completed acquisition of Ariel Re provides us with additional presence and scale in both our Bermuda and London-based operations.” The insurer and reinsurer acquired fellow island firm Ariel Re in a $235 million deal. For the fourth quarter, Argo reported estimated pre-tax catastrophe losses of $22.8 million, or 6.4 points on the combined ratio, compared with $5.2 million for the last three months of 2015. Its estimated full year pre-tax catastrophe losses are $61.7 million, up from $23.7 million. The company’s combined ratio for the year was 96.2 per cent, up from 95 per cent, and for the quarter was 98.8 per cent, compared to 94.5 per cent in the fourth quarter of 2015. Argo Group shares yesterday closed at $65.95, up 75 cents, in New York.

February 14.Social justice, pensions and health policy are high on the agenda for incoming senator Andrew Simons. Mr Simons was sworn in, replacing Georgia Marshall, during yesterday morning’s sitting of the Senate. He gave his Affirmation Of Allegiance, and Carol Ann Bassett, president of the Senate, thanked Ms Marshall for her “expertise, presence and service to Bermuda”. Mr Simons was the One Bermuda Alliance candidate in February 2016 for the by-election in Devonshire North Central, which was won by the Progressive Labour Party’s Diallo Rabain. He gave thanks to the Premier for having the confidence to appoint him, Ms Marshall of her guidance as well as his spouse and family members for their support. Speaking to this newspaper shortly after the announcement, Mr Simons said: “It has been a humbling process. I think by canvassing in those constituencies and working behind the scenes, coupled with the responsibility that comes with being a candidate, I have been able to advance with certain ideas. “I have spent the bulk of my time over the last few years serving on a number of boards and progress is slow but you do see meaningful change. I have spent a lot of time on the Health Council and you can see there is much greater enforcement of the health insurance laws requiring employers to provide health insurance. That is one example of other areas of policy I have worked in. Social justice issues often motivate people to get into public service. There are many problems that money alone cannot solve because there will always be a limited budget — even in a rich country at some point you have to make choices. I am thankful for the appointment to the Senate. I just hope to use it to improve things.” Mr Simons also spoke about the importance of joined-up thinking among government departments as well as the importance of an open government. He said: “I like the details of public policy and how we can make the health system work better. In the coming months you can expect me to talk about questions of pension policy and health policy and how we can have some joined-up thinking on subjects such as finance, health and social services. I am hugely interested in open government which is a subject that goes beyond just the Pati request process but an idea that as much information can be shared with the people and made accessible.” Ms Marshall released a statement to the press to say: “I have been very grateful for the opportunity to serve my country and the OBA as a senator and hope I have made a positive contribution. The Premier and the OBA continue to have my full support. I believe Bermuda is going in a positive direction and all the economic indicators show that the policies of the OBA government are working for the benefit of all Bermudians.” The Premier added: “I first want to say how much I appreciate Georgia’s contribution to the public life of Bermuda and to the party. She possesses a keen intellect and compassionate spirit, which she brought to bear in the Senate and in our discussions to advance progressive reform on issues affecting everyday lives. Georgia served well for two years and it is my hope she continues to play a role in public life because Bermuda can only benefit from her commitment. As Premier and Party Leader, I believe it is important to use the Senate as a platform to introduce new perspectives and experience to the issues we face as a community. In that regard, I take this opportunity to announce that Mr Andrew Simons has accepted my invitation to join the OBA Senate team.”

February 14. Anybody who has listened to Parliamentarians on a Friday night can vouch for their smooth talking into the moonlight hours — but when it comes to winning the hearts of the voting public they have some way to go. To celebrate Valentine’s Day, we asked 400 registered voters which of the island’s politicians they would most like to join for a romantic dinner. Unfortunately for the Romeos and Juliets of the House on the Hill, the top answer was: “I would not go.” It wasn’t all bad news though, with 17 different politicians getting at least one mention and Michael Dunkley apparently in need of a stick to beat off all the attention from elderly ladies. The Premier topped the chart with 18 per cent of voters, picking him as their Valentine, followed by Progressive Labour Party MP Kim Wilson with 11 per cent and Opposition leader David Burt on 9 per cent. A breakdown of the results shows Mr Dunkley is most popular with people aged 65 and over, claiming 25 per cent of the vote. And it’s not just the women with a soft spot for the One Bermuda Alliance leader: he was picked by 18 per cent of females and 17 per cent of men. Meanwhile, it appears that the older men get, the more they like Ms Wilson. While 6 per cent of the 18 to 34 age bracket chose the shadow health minister, that figure steadily rises across the age groups before reaching a heady 15 per cent among the over 65s. For Mr Burt, it was largely the other way around, as he was chosen by 12 per cent of the 18 to 34 group and down to 6 per cent among those between 45 and 64. The rest of the top ten was made up of OBA MP Suzann Roberts-Holshouser (6 per cent), finance minister Bob Richards (6 per cent), works minister Craig Cannonier (4 per cent), home affairs minister Patricia Gordon-Pamplin (4 per cent), shadow education minister Lovitta Foggo (4 per cent), shadow home affairs Walton Brown (4 per cent) and Senator Jeff Baron (4 per cent). Other politicians to get a mention were Susan Jackson, Glen Smith, Nandi Outerbridge, Leah Scott and Senator Michael Fahy of the OBA, and Walter Roban and Paula Cox of the PLP. The telephone poll by Global Research, commissioned by The Royal Gazette, took place between Tuesday and Thursday last week and has a margin of error of +/- 5 per cent at the 95 per cent confidence level. We also asked people whether they would participate in Valentine’s Day celebrations, with 32 per cent of people saying yes and 68 per cent no. The younger generation was more likely to have Valentine’s plans, with 42 per cent of the 18 to 34 age group saying they would celebrate, compared to 24 per cent of the over 65s. Pollsters asked what people would spend money on this year, and the top answer was dinner (57 per cent), followed by cards (39 per cent), flowers (31 per cent), gifts (28 per cent), chocolates (26 per cent) and travel (7 per cent). The average amount people were expected to spend was $93, breaking down to $109 by men and $78 by women. People generally expected their partners to spend less on them, with an average of $69.

February 14. Eight of Bermuda’s public schools have been broken into in recent weeks, according to police. They reported a spate of 11 burglaries across the schools from January 16 up until yesterday, affecting:

“Cash or electronic items were removed in seven instances — while it was unclear what, if anything, was taken in the remaining cases,” a police spokesman said. “In addition, three of the school properties were targeted twice each. So far, no arrests have been made in connection with these incidents. However, detectives are following all available lines of enquiry and continue to work with the Department of Education to provide relevant crime prevention advice. With schools out on midterm break later this week, members of the public can assist by reporting any suspicious activity, individuals or vehicles in the vicinity of any school premises — especially during the hours of darkness — to the main police telephone number 295-0011.” The burglaries of four schools was also raised earlier yesterday in the Senate. Progressive Labour Party senator Renee Ming raised the issue, calling on recommendations and plans to be drawn up to ensure it does not happen again. “Public safety cannot wait until the budget so I am raising it now,” Ms Ming told the senate. Minister for National Security Jeffrey Baron outlined the importance of gathering statistics and facts surrounding the incidents, promising that he would address the issue in the next Senate sitting on Wednesday. He said: “I thank senator Ming because as a community we have to continue to be aware and protect awareness of incidents like this. The conversation is important to have and I will return with further updates on Wednesday to provide some insight.”

February 13. Two Bills crucial to the Bermuda Government’s airport redevelopment were finally approved by 5.15am on Saturday, after a hard-fought 14 hours in the House of Assembly, The Upper House will be the next focal point for lobbying of legislators — with the Progressive Labour Party urging the public to “contact Senators to encourage them to bring a pause to the privatization of our airport”. Calling the debate “very impassioned”, Michael Dunkley last night added: “It was an incredibly long and spirited parliamentary session, and I appreciate all Members’ contribution. Government maintains that the airport redevelopment project will be significantly beneficial for the people of Bermuda,” the Premier continued, describing the government as “very satisfied” at the passage of the Airport Development Concession Act 2016 and the Bermuda Airport Authority Act 2016. We now await the Senate debate and we will be following those proceedings very closely.” “Disappointed, yet not surprised” was the verdict from David Burt, the Leader of the Opposition, in a statement issued directly after the close of debate. Mr Burt noted that Independent MP Shawn Crockwell, along with the One Bermuda Alliance back bench, had supported both Bills. Although the Senate is scheduled to convene today, items from February 3 such as casino regulations are up for deliberation, leaving the next phase of the airport debate farther down the line. Much of Friday’s debate reiterated the two parties’ entrenched airport narratives, but both sides occasionally stood in accord: PLP MP Rolfe Commissiong, and Mark Pettingill of the OBA, both raised mistrust over Bermudian employment at the airport, which Mr Commissiong said was viewed as “hardly different than what we’re seeing with the America’s Cup. Bermudians are not convinced with these types of projects ... they know that it will be only one benefiting: a very small, very powerful group,” Mr Commissiong said, rising after public works minister Craig Cannonier challenged the PLP to “name me a business of colour that got a multimillion-dollar contract” under their administration. Accusing Mr Cannonier of “consistently misrepresenting the record of the PLP”, Mr Commissiong also cited the classroom hours required for Bermudian laborers to get work at the LF Wade International Airport redevelopment, which he said presented a barrier to local employment. “Everyone knows that it was Aecon that selected CCC,” he added — suggesting that local construction head Michael Butt, whose position on the board of Aecon was raised in the wake of the airport project’s announcement, had tipped off Canadian Commercial Corporation to the project. “I am going to contend it was people like Michael Butt, a key OBA supporter, that probably within hours of them winning the Government was on the phone to Canada to mobilize the whole thing,” Mr Commissiong went on. “I could be wrong, but that’s my view.” Telling MPs that he had been “fundamentally torn” over the airport development, Mr Pettingill said Mr Commissiong had “referred to Anglo-Saxon discrimination that perpetuates to this day. I am a blue-eyed Anglo-Saxon — that’s my heritage. And if we Anglo-Saxons don’t pause for a second and realize that the honourable Member is speaking his truth and his perception and his facts and his reality from his heart, then we have a serious problem.” Much was made of the OBA MPs’ early arrival at Sessions House, with deputy Opposition leader Walter Roban criticizing the ruling party for entering the House “under cover of darkness like a thief in the night. This project started wrong, and it continues wrong,” Mr Roban added. Jeanne Atherden, the Minister of Health, accused the Progressive Labour Party of “not being honest about why they are against the project”, saying the people of Bermuda had been used as “pawns”. Referring to their early arrival in Parliament Cole Simons, the Minister of the Environment, said: “We did what we did to deliver on the goods.” PLP MP Jamahl Simmons said: “People know this is a shady deal. We are about to make a bad decision. The Government has the numbers but when the book is written it will show only one side stood strong for the people of Bermuda, and there was another group prepared to sell off the airport and send millions to Canada.” Sylvan Richards, the Minister for Sport and Social Development, said: “The Opposition are against the airport deal because it’s the OBA’s plan.” Describing the PLP as “masters of manipulation”, he argued that the polls had changed in the Government’s favour. PLP MP Dennis Lister maintained that the Government did not have the mandate to push ahead with the airport redevelopment plan, and noted that during his talks with Mr Richards during the December 2 standoff outside Parliament, the minister had conceded that the OBA had not campaigned in 2012 with the airport development on its platform. Meanwhile, shadow transport minister Lawrence Scott told the House that he had “good information” that “Aecon are masters of manipulation”, claiming that the airport deal had been “passed around”, and that under the deal the Airport Authority would not be independent. Rising at 2.15am, the Minister of Finance told MPs: “There’s been a lot of talk about giving money and giving profits to Aecon. If you hand over a $35,000 cheque to a car dealer to get a car, are you handing them $35,000? No. You’re buying a car.” Bermuda, Mr Richards said, would own the new terminal “from the moment it’s built”. The narrative that “an alien force is sucking money out of Bermuda” was “unnecessarily inflammatory”, Mr Richards said. As for the public-private partnership, Mr Richards said that but for the government’s $2.4 billion debt, “we would not be even considering this. We are doing this because of the situation we’re in. And the alternatives I have heard from the other side don’t take this into account ... to avoid adding capital debt for this project, we have to do some sort of off-balance sheet financing.” Discounting calls for its finance model to be disclosed, Mr Richards called the demands “sheer rubbish”, adding that even if he could have provided the model, “they would find some other reason to object”. Mr Richards acknowledged that communication over the deal “could have been better”, adding: “If that’s true, it’s my fault. That’s on me.” He insisted that the stipulations involved in the deal had been contingent on “market forces”, but added: “The notion that we gave Aecon everything they wanted — how wrong is that? We negotiated a really good deal for the people of Bermuda.” Addressing the point that the development had not been included in the OBA’s electoral platform, Mr Richards said: “That’s true. But what we did say was that we were going to encourage capital projects — to encourage inward direct investment into this island.”

February 13. Bermuda has asked to be part of an international agreement fighting discrimination against women — but has kept the door open for exemptions on women priests and female conscription. The Bermuda Government has signed up to the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women in Bermuda, social development minister Sylvan Richards told the House of Assembly on Friday. But he said it would only do so with reservations, adding: “The first reservation will preserve the position whereby Bermuda can continue to conscript only male recruits to the Royal Bermuda Regiment and that religious organisations would not be compelled to have women priests.” The second reservation, he said, pertained to an acknowledged inequality in immigration regulations — although Mr Richards said that Government does want to address that issue “in due course”. He explained: “The second reservation will preserve the right of existing constitutional and immigration provisions which have the affect of discriminating against a Bermudian woman married to a non-Bermudian husband, due to the lesser rights granted to a non-Bermudian man compared to a non-Bermudian woman married to a Bermudian man,” he said. Mr Richards said that Michael Dunkley, the Premier, presented a letter of request to have CEDAW extended to Right Honourable Baroness Anelay, the UK Minister responsible for the Overseas Territories. “CEDAW is the landmark international agreement that affirms principles of fundamental human rights and equality for women around the world and is often referred to as the ‘women’s Bill of rights’,” the minister said. "It is one of the core international human rights treaties of the United Nations treaty system, which requires member states to undertake legal obligations to respect, protect and fulfil human rights. As CEDAW is an aspirational treaty, Bermuda must and will focus on improving gender equality to ensure that women and girls enjoy the same access to opportunities and benefits in every aspect of life.” He said CEDAW was adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1979, coming into force as a treaty in 1981. It has been ratified or acceded to by 189 countries to date, including Britain, which signed the treaty in 1981 and ratified CEDAW in 1986. The British Virgin Islands, Turks and Caicos Islands and the Falkland Islands had the Convention extended in 1986. Anguilla and Cayman Islands did likewise last March. Asked if the Government would introduce pay equality legislation, Mr Richards said that they would wait until an already established Parliamentary Committee examining the issue can make recommendations. And challenged about if conscription will continue, Mr Richards said that the matter was not in his ministerial remit. “Right now, it’s well known the Regiment is made up 100 per cent of volunteers and it will continue that way as long as we have people willing to volunteer and serve in the Bermuda Regiment,” he said.

February 13. Police from the Organised and Economic Crime Department descended on two medical businesses run by Ewart Brown, the former Premier, over the weekend. Both the Brown-Darrell Clinic in Smith’s and Bermuda HealthCare Services in Paget were targeted in a joint operation with uniformed and plain clothes officers. Starting on Saturday afternoon, officers armed with warrants spent more than 24 hours at the two locations, and could be seen carrying away boxes; police later confirmed records had been seized. The warrant, sought by Detective Sergeant James Hoyte of the Bermuda Police Service, cited reasonable grounds to suspect indictable offences: namely “corrupt practices and conspiracy to defraud”. A police spokesman said yesterday: “Police officers from the Organised and Economic Crime Department executed search warrants at two medical offices on Saturday in connection with an ongoing investigation. The timing of the warrants was intended to minimise the impact on the businesses and their clients. A number of records were seized during the searches. Significant steps have been taken to protect the confidential nature of the information and to ensure that patient safety is not jeopardized in any way. No further information can be given at this time as this remains an open and active investigation.” Police appeared to gain easy access at Bermuda HealthCare Services early on Saturday afternoon, but spent more than two hours waiting outside the Smith’s clinic before breaking a window and then forcing open the front door at around 4.30pm. Both scenes were sealed with police tape and put under guard while the searches were executed. Detectives remained at both overnight on Saturday, finally leaving the Paget facility at 4pm yesterday but remaining at the Smith’s clinic into yesterday evening. Dr Brown, the Premier of Bermuda from 2006 to 2010, was off the island at the time, although Progressive Labour Party MP Derrick Burgess briefly visited the Brown-Darrell Clinic and, in demanding access to the property, told police officers that no crime has been committed. Dr Brown has repeatedly spoken out about the five-year police investigation, which he has branded as politically motivated. Last July, The Royal Gazette reported the investigation had cost more than $2.2 million; when asked by this newspaper yesterday, police did not provide an update on the cost so far. Last May, Mahesh Reddy, the medical director at Bermuda Healthcare Services, was arrested in connection with a financial investigation — which Dr Reddy has been given the go-ahead to pursue in a civil lawsuit of his own, citing unlawful arrest. Describing himself as the intended target, Dr Brown subsequently dismissed allegations that the practices had been charging for excessive diagnostic testing. Bearing a magistrate’s signature, Saturday’s warrant approved a search of paper or electronic records, in particular citing the price documents for X-rays, ultrasounds, echocardiograms, MRIs and CT scans. It authorised searches on up to three occasions only within one month of its date, allowing for the seizure of any relevant materials. The Royal Gazette contacted Dr Brown last night, but no comment was available.

February 13. Bermuda welcomed 13 new captive insurance companies in 2016, the island’s financial regulator announced today. The Bermuda Monetary Authority said most of the new operations originated in the US, but two of them hailed from South and Central America. In total, the BMA had 776 active captive licences on its register at December 31, 2016, maintaining its status as one of the world’s biggest captive domiciles. A captive is an insurer predominantly formed to self-insure its parent company. Bermuda’s captive register remained stable in 2016, with new registration levels consistent with the overall captive market. Last year, a total of 13 new captives registered in Bermuda, the majority of which originated from the US, however, two new captives hailed from the emerging markets of South and Central America. Craig Swan, the BMA’s managing director, supervision, said: “The Authority continues to ensure that Bermuda’s captive sector, which has made significant contributions to Bermuda’s economy for well over 50 years, remains appropriately regulated. “The global companies that operate captives from Bermuda expect top-quality regulatory standards. As such, the Authority ensures that its supervisory framework for captives, has remained aligned with the Insurance Core Principles of the International Association of Insurance Supervisors.” Jereme Ramsay, business development manager at the BDA, said Bermuda captives have written premiums worth $55.3 billion — more than four times the figure in the nearest competitors. He added: “Additionally, we are seeing increasing interest from emerging markets such as Central and South America, where, not coincidentally, the BDA has been focusing business development efforts over the past year.” The island has registered a captive from Chile, the first on the island, as well as a new one from Mexico. Mr Ramsay said: “We’re finding captives are becoming popular as wealth preservation vehicles for high net worth individuals and family offices from this region.” He added: “We’ll continue to educate corporate markets about what sets Bermuda apart — its premier regulatory reputation, for example, and its commercial insurance and reinsurance sector that offers captive owners and operators access to open-market underwriting capacity.

February 13. The Harbour Nights street festival commences on May 3, and will run through August 30, according to the Bermuda Chamber of Commerce, in tandem with the Bermuda Tourism Authority, the Corporation of Hamilton, and the Department of Community and Cultural Affairs. This year’s instalment of Harbour Nights aims to boost business opportunities ahead of the America’s Cup. A vendor information session for previous and new participants is scheduled for Wednesday, February 15, from 5.20pm to 6.30pm at Gosling’s wine cellar on Dundonald Street, Hamilton. Those interested can register for the session online at bermudachamber.bm, by contacting the Chamber at 295-4201, or by e-mailing Korrin Lightbourne, its marketing and community outreach coordinator, at klightbourne@bcc.bm. Hosted on Front Street, the island’s longest-running street festival combines artisans, crafters, chefs, musicians and other entertainers, along with the Gombeys. Ms Lightbourne said that Harbour Nights, which recently took a Trip Advisor Award for 2016, planned to deliver Bermudian culture to visitors seeking “authentic local experiences”. Vendor registration is now open for Harbour Nights, and applications will be accepted until Monday, March 6. Persons or companies interested in taking part or becoming a sponsor should call 295-4201. For more information, contact Kendaree Burgess, the executive director of the Bermuda Chamber of Commerce, at kburgess@bcc.bm.

February 13. Bermuda industry experts will hit Chicago and Boston next month in a bid to drum up captive insurance business. The executive forum on Bermuda captive insurance solutions will visit Chicago on Tuesday, March 7 and Boston on Thursday, March 9 to offer insurance buyers, risk managers and financial executives a chance to learn about the benefits of doing business on the island. In addition, the Boston event will also feature an evening event aimed at the healthcare sector as the city is a key market for Bermuda’s captive insurance and reinsurance business.

February 13. NEW YORK (Bloomberg) — Maurice “Hank” Greenberg, the former American International Group (with many Bermuda subsidiaries) chief executive officer, lambasted the New York State attorney-general’s office after admitting that he approved two reinsurance deals that regulators have called fraudulent. “AIG is a shadow of what it was, people lost millions of dollars, billions of dollars. Pension funds, the same thing. For what?” Greenberg said on Friday in a phone interview. “So I can pay $9 million?” Greenberg, 91, built AIG into the world’s largest insurer until stepping down in 2005 amid a probe by then-Attorney-General Eliot Spitzer into faulty risk-transfer contracts. The company agreed the next year to pay about $1.6 billion in a settlement with Spitzer and the US Securities and Exchange Commission. AIG stumbled after Greenberg’s departure, nearly collapsing in 2008 on losses tied to sub prime mortgages. The company sold many of its prized units to repay a US bailout that swelled to $182.3 billion. Greenberg has spent years faulting regulators, his successors and others for the decline of AIG. Even after the announcement of the settlement on Friday, he criticised Spitzer for the use of the Martin Act, a law that gives New York prosecutors broad powers to probe white-collar crime. “To have a law like that in the hands of people not responsible is disgraceful,” Greenberg said. The case “destroyed a great company that was a national asset.” AIG and Spitzer declined to comment. Greenberg’s lawyer, David Boies, said in a statement that Eric Schneiderman, New York’s current attorney-general, “has no evidence — none — that Mr Greenberg was aware at the time he approved the two transactions at issue that there was anything improper about them.” The settlement resolved a bitter court fight in which Greenberg and Boies squared off against three successive state attorneys-general over 11 years. “Today’s agreement settles the indisputable fact that Mr Greenberg has denied for 12 years: that Mr Greenberg orchestrated two transactions that fundamentally misrepresented AIG’s finances,” Schneiderman said in a lawsuit. Greenberg had fought allegations that he used two sham transactions to hide the insurer’s true financial condition. The trial began in September, more than 11 years after Spitzer had filed suit.

February 13. Bermuda’s first crematorium, located in St David’s, could be fully operational by April. Amis Memorial Chapel, which will run the facility, says that construction crews have made excellent progress since initial work began last August. Leon Amis told The Royal Gazette that the establishment of the island’s first crematorium would signal the end of a long battle dating back to 1984. “I’m very pleased with how it is going,” Mr Amis said. “It’s been a long time coming so it’s great to see the progress. The guys are moving along very well. They have said that we should be up and running by April.” The structure and equipment for Bermuda’s first crematorium on the previously vacant land off Wallers Point Road has been specially constructed in the United States and will be shipped to the island later in the year. The retort, which is the machine that does the cremation, will be coming from Florida, while the structure itself is being made in Colorado. All the machinery is state-of-the art and it will satisfy a large gap in the market Mr Amis added: “The structure of the building is already on site, while the retort leaves Florida on February 17. It should then be arriving in Bermuda the following Tuesday on February 22.” The project will involve the construction of the crematorium itself, an above-ground liquid petroleum gas tank and 8ft security fence on the land, which is owned by the Bermuda Land Development Company. The most recent planning application to build the crematorium was submitted in May 2015 and was the fourth time that Amis had tried to get permission to build such a facility in Bermuda. Previously, the funeral home proposed building a crematorium at Well Bottom in Warwick, next to its funeral home in Warwick, and most recently at Industrial Road in Southampton. However, all three proposals were rejected by the Development Applications Board.

February 13. Bank of Butterfield has reported profits of $115.9 million for last year — up $38.2 million on the $77.7 million recorded the year before. Net income per share was $1.18, down 5 cents on the previous year. After removing the effects of non-core items, core earnings for the year were $138.6 million, an increase of $24.7 million on the year before. The bank declared a dividend of 32 cents per common share for the last quarter of 2016, a threefold increase on the previous quarter and the same quarter last year. Michael Collins, Butterfield CEO, said that the bank had successfully completed its initial public offering on the New York Stock Exchange, which had improved liquidity for shareholders and given the bank access to international capital. He added: “Our community banking and wealth management businesses performed well in 2016, leading to a 22 per cent increase in core net income.”  Mr Collins said the bank had bought HSBC’s wealth management business on the island, which had increased core net income by 22 per cent and wound down Butterfield’s UK private bank. He added: “Having repositioned the bank in jurisdictions in which we have scale, we are now focused on growing our community banking market share while cautiously expanding our wealth management business through trust acquisitions.” Mr Collins said the bank last year recorded core return on average common tangible equity of 20 per cent — without the level of credit exposure faced by a typical US regional bank. He added the bank had an $11 billion balance sheet, with $3.6 billion in loans and $7.2 billion in cash and securities, invested mostly in US government and federal agencies. Mr Collins said: “With high barriers to entry in each of our jurisdictions we are uniquely positioned to service the global private wealth emanating from Asia, Europe and Latin America.” After the IPO, the bank used $212 million of capital to buy back all the outstanding preferred shares, eliminating $16 million of dividends and government guarantee funds. Mr Collins said: “The bank’s shares have performed well, increasing in value by approximately 40 per cent since the IPO. The bank has declared a common dividend of 32 cents per share for quarter four 2016, which is more than three times the 10 cents quarterly dividend paid to common shareholders for the fourth quarter of 2015.” Non-interest income at the bank rose by $7.3 million, attributed to increases in revenues from banking fees, trust services and asset management, plus the acquisition of HSBC’s private banking investment management and trust businesses. Michael Schrum, Butterfield chief financial officer, said: “The HSBC acquisition was largely responsible for the year-on-year increase in deposits of nearly $1 billion, which, against a backdrop of limited loan demand in our core markets, drove the bank to direct more funds to its investment portfolio, which grew from $3.2 billion at year-end 2015 to $4.4 billion at year-end 2016. “Funds were invested primarily in US government agency securities and 93.7 per cent of the bank’s investment portfolio is held in A or better rated securities. The asset quality of the bank’s loan portfolio is similarly strong, with non-performing loans as a percentage of our total loans amounting to 1.6 per cent.” Operating expenses rose by $0.7 million to $285.9 million in 2016, although there were increased salary and other costs related to the HSBC acquisition, “significant” redundancy costs related to the London bank closure and $8.5 million in costs associated with the vesting of performance-based options triggered by September’s IPO. The bank also reduced professional and outside services costs, which went down by nearly $8.8 million last year. Net income for the last quarter of 2016 was $35.4 million, up $37.7 million from a loss of $2.3 million in the same quarter the previous year.

February 11. Premier Michael Dunkley said that he has fought to retain the ability of Bermudians to move freely through the EU during Brexit talks. Speaking in the House of Assembly yesterday morning about his recent trip to the UK, the Premier said: “The greatest concern for most Bermudians is free movement of our people within the EU, a matter we discussed with the Home Office’s director for EU exit immigration policy. “The main EU Treaty provision relevant for the free movement of people will no longer apply. Nevertheless, my fellow colleagues and I were strong and united in our advocacy for the retention of free movement of British Overseas Territory Citizens throughout the EU after the UK exit.” Mr Dunkley noted that the Overseas Territories derive considerable benefits due to their association with the EU, including funding, trade privileges, political access and profile in addition to free movement through the region. “A major concern is that a UK exit from the EU would remove all of these benefits,” he said. “For some Territories European Development Fund (EDF) support represents 60 per cent of their overall budget. With the UK exit from the EU, these territories will face challenges in retaining access to future EDF allocations.” He said that Lord Bates, the Minister of State for the Department for International Development, has indicated that the UK allocates €4.78 billion to its EDF contribution. “Once the UK leaves the European Union their overall commitment to the EDF will be subject to discussion as to how it is spent on international developmental aid,” the Premier said. “Territory Leaders have asked that the UK uphold its position that OTs can be the first call on this aid. In the view of the Territories, it is an important and moral obligation to push the UK Government to provide a firm commitment on the retention of the benefits those Territories currently derive from their Association with the EU. Moving forward, we have to remember that life goes on after Britain departs the European Union. It is in no one’s interest to have uncertainty on the future, particularly on the economic stability of Britain and its devolved administrations including Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies.”

2017. Saturday, February 11. Legislation paving the way for the Bermuda Government’s airport redevelopment project was approved early this morning by MPs despite vociferous opposition from Progressive Labour Party MPs. At 4.20am today, after almost 14 hours of debate, the Airport Authority Act 2017, was passed by 18 votes to 16, with MPs voting on party lines and independent MP Shawn Crockwell supporting the Act. The Parliamentarians went on to consider a second piece of legislation, the Airport Redevelopment Concession Act 2017, which was approved at 5.15am. The heated debate came after Chris Furbert, the president of the Bermuda Industrial Union, had opted to send union members back to work after just 150 to 200 showed up yesterday morning at Union Square. Disappointed by the turnout, Mr Furbert declared that it was impossible to ask “the minority to carry the majority forward.” According to Premier Michael Dunkley, One Bermuda Alliance MPs arrived at the House far earlier than usual: the Premier said he showed up at about 6am, aiming to be “early and prepared”. Yesterday afternoon, as the debate neared, it faced another challenge in the form of an Opposition motion, brought by Shadow Attorney-General Michael Scott, which sought to defer it, charging that Bob Richards, the Minister of Finance, had breached parliamentary rules — first, on December 2, by withholding the project agreement from MPs, and most recently by withholding the financial model. The motion was allowed by Randy Horton, the Speaker of the House, but ultimately defeated. When the debate of the Bermuda Airport Authority Act finally got under way at about 3.30pm Mr Richards, told the House that the project would cost $302 million and take 40 months to complete. He maintained that Bermudians and local firms would be given priority when it came to jobs created by the project adding: “More information, over 1,000 pages, has been disclosed to the public in this project than any other project in the history of Bermuda”. Pointing to the findings of the Blue Ribbon Panel that described the deal as “commercially sound” Mr Richards concluded: “This transaction represents the best way forward given the atrocious hand left to us by the former Government.” But Opposition leader David Burt condemned the Government for lying about the project, which he said would result in hundreds of millions of dollars being sent to a Canadian company. In an impassioned speech Mr Burt questioned whether the OBA thought a building was more important than the people of Bermuda adding: “The priorities are wrong”. He told the House: “A vote ‘no’ tells the people of this country that our schools and our children’s future is more important than a building.” Mr Burt accused the Government of privatizing the airport under the deal saying: “It’s a private company making money off a public asset. Why won’t the Minister of Finance tell us how much the private partner stands to make from this deal?” He claimed that under the 30-year deal, using the most conservative estimate, Aecon would receive $356 million in dividends, while the tax payers of Bermuda would get zero. “But we are still stuck with $586 million in expenses, “ Mr Burt added. “That’s a difference of $942 million which works out as $31 million a year.” Grant Gibbons, the Minister of Economic Development, branded the Opposition hypocritical for questioning the transparency of the project adding: “It’s very easy to multiply out these numbers over a long time, but that is not the way that these projects should be analyzed.” Telling the House that “somebody on this side will probably be cutting the ribbon on an airport we don’t want”, Opposition MP Wayne Furbert said that the only people who could stop the project were MPs on the Government side. Mr Crockwell gave his support for the legislation but conceded that the warring opinions, including those of economists, “can cloud your mind” — and that information had taken root in the community that was “way off-base, and that became entrenched”. The ensuing debate played out along party lines: OBA MP Suzann Roberts-Holshouser, who represents St George’s South, called for a better working environment for her constituents, while PLP MP Walton Brown called the deal tainted from the start — saying Aecon had “preselected itself” before approaching Canadian Commercial Corporation, and telling the House than an unnamed member of the Blue Ribbon Panel had told him: “That’s the way business is done.” PLP MP Kim Wilson lamented that the “meat and potatoes” of the project was missing, while fellow Opposition MP Michael Scott echoed Ms Wilson’s sentiments and described Mr Richard’s position in the deal as “woefully conflicted. This debate has been weakened and impeded and does a great disservice to our island home,” Mr Scott added. Patricia Gordon Pamplin, the Minister of Home Affairs, hailed the training opportunities the project would give to young Bermudians, while OBA MPs Jeff Sousa and Susan Jackson both expressed support for the airport project. PLP MP Zane DeSilva suggested that some Government MPs had not even read the file about the project before throwing their support behind it and added: “How can we say this is the best deal, if it’s the only deal?” Opposition MP Diallo Rabain branded the airport deal “shady and underhanded” before taking a swipe at the Government saying: “They were weak in opposition, and they’re even weaker as Government.” PLP MP Michael Weeks lambasted the idea of the new airport rejuvenating tourism, saying airports were “the last thing I would consider” when travelling — and suggested the $184 million renovation presented a better option. Craig Cannonier, the Minister of Public Works, extolled the Blue Ribbon Panel’s assessment, praised the overall level of scrutiny, and called it “unfair” to insinuate that the project was being “forced” on the country. The debate over the second piece of legislation, the Airport Redevelopment Concession Act 2017, was completed in just over an hour before being approved by MPs without the need for a vote. Mr Richards told the House that the Act would afford relief from customs duties, taxes and miscellaneous fees to facilitate the redevelopment project. But PLP MP Lawrence Scott condemned the concessions outlined in the Act accusing Government of “giving everything away. These concessions are not what is best for the country,” Mr Scott said. “They put us at risk at the worst of losing all commercial air traffic. They have given away the airport.” Mr Burt also questioned what he described as “blanket concessions.”

February 11. Government is looking into introducing universal broadband service, ensuring all Bermudians have access to a basic level of internet, according to Grant Gibbons. Addressing the House of Assembly, the Minister for Economic Development said he had requested the Regulatory Authority to assist him in formulating and potentially implementing a universal broadband service obligation on local service providers, carry out public consultation on the concept and create a report detailing how it could be funded. “Faster and more widely available broadband is considered an important opportunity to improve education, communication and public participation in a country’s affairs,” Dr Gibbons said. “One of the main goals to provide universal broadband service is to narrow the digital divide on the island between those that have access to the internet and those that do not. Typically, seniors, people on lower incomes and the unemployed tend to be those who have lower rates of broadband use at home.”

February 11. The Progressive Labour Party refuses to go quietly into the night on the airport redevelopment project and has now called on the public to flood senators with their concerns about LF Wade International being turned over for “privatization”. Parliamentarians debated until almost 4.30am today before the second reading of the Bermuda Airport Authority Act 2017 was passed by a vote of 18-16 and within an hour David Burt, the Leader of the Opposition, penned a press statement in which he all but authorised the 11 senators who make up the Upper House to have their inboxes bombarded and phones ringing off the hook. “We are disappointed, yet not surprised, that the OBA government acted against the best interests of Bermudians by voting to privatize our airport for 30 years,” Mr Burt said. “This deal will send $2.4 billion of revenue to a Canadian company, while Bermudian taxpayers are burdened with a $586 million bill. “This deal has been marked with questions and controversy from the very start. Since no members of the OBA back bench or the independent MP [are] willing to take a stand, the privatization of Bermuda’s airport is one step closer to reality.” With voting expected to remain on party lines, independent senators Carol Ann Bassett and Joan Dillas-Wright, the president and vice-president respectively, and James Jardine are expected to come under the most scrutiny. “The Senate now has a chance to weigh in and vote against the OBA’s airport privatization Bill that will weaken the country’s finances,” Mr Burt added in his statement. “We urge all Bermudians opposed to the transfer of $2.4 billion in tax revenue to a Canadian company to contact senators to encourage them to bring a pause to the privatization of our airport.” Senate returns to session on Monday but the airport deal, although on the Order Paper, will not be debated as the Upper House gets through a raft of other legislation that had been put in abeyance owing to the disruptions that stemmed from December 2. Also passed this morning, but without a vote required, was the Airport Redevelopment Concession Act 2017. The Government’s five senators are Jeff Baron, Michael Fahy, Georgia Marshall, Vic Ball and Lynn Woolridge, while the PLP’s three are Kim Wilkerson, Renee Ming and Tinee Furbert.

February 11. They responded to the rallying cry and gathered for another day of protests, but by 9.15am they were sent back to work. Between 150 and 200 people were at Union Square yesterday morning, with a podium set up and speakers playing gospel music, in anticipation of a demonstration against the One Bermuda Alliance’s plan to build a new airport.  However, BIU chief Chris Furbert — who had urged the country to show up to “stop police and the Bermuda Government” as key airport-related legislation finally reached Parliament — made the shock announcement that planned action had been called off. Mr Furbert also lashed out at the public for their lack of support in trying to block the airport plans. “I don’t blame the OBA government totally. I blame the people,” he said. “Because no matter how many times they do this we simply go and kick the can down the road. Why? Because they can’t afford to lose a day’s pay? News flash — with all the increases in the fees we are going to lose it anyway. It’s gone.” He said that while union members have struggled and worked hard to benefit the people they could not bear the burden alone, adding that he would not send his people on a mission doomed for failure. There are a lot of people who are not going to be happy,” Mr Furbert said. “We tried, we tried and we tried and that’s all we can do. We cannot ask the minority to carry the majority forward.” While he said that general members of the public were free to demonstrate at the House, Mr Furbert urged all union members to return to work, saying that if they chose to stay and protest they would be on their own. From midnight, police had been in place outside Sessions House, with sections barricaded to ensure MPs could get into the building. However, it emerged One Bermuda Alliance MPs had been inside five hours before the House was due to open, and barricades were eventually removed at about 10am. “They have been there since 5am,” Mr Furbert told union members and supporters. “That’s to avoid being in confrontation with the people. Someone called me and told me that, so I made some phone calls and I confirmed that the OBA members are already in the House. What kind of Government is supposed to be leading the people’s business like that? What are they hiding?” At 6am, the Government had warned public services could face disruption, but by late morning it announced buses and ferries were running as normal.

February 11. A handful of protesters turned up at the House of Assembly yesterday to make their own stand against the airport Bill, with one saying they didn’t need the union to lead them as if “we have got a ring in our nose”. The majority of those making a peaceful demonstration against two airport Bills that were scheduled to be debated in Parliament were retired seniors. They told The Royal Gazette they decided to make a stand despite Bermuda Industrial Union president Chris Furbert calling off an official union protest following a lack of support. Francis Breary, retiree and former manager at Hamilton Princess Hotel, told The Royal Gazette: “The people here are the older generation — we fought to make this country what it is. We know what it is to protest, it is the only power we have. We are here to let the people in the House know that there are still concerned people. We are all individuals. When the union is doing something, let’s not figure they are leading us around like we have got a ring in our nose.” Ross Furbert, a former government employee in the Department of Health and BIU supporter, felt the same way, telling this newspaper: “People have been riding on the back of the BIU members but it is time for the people to stand up. The union has done as much as it can. I don’t blame him [Chris Furbert].” Mr Furbert not only lost the support of his members over yesterday’s protest — he also suffered a backlash over his threat to derail the 35th America’s Cup. Both Mr Furbert and Ms Breary said that it was not up to them to decide whether Chris Furbert was the best man for the job and such a decision was up to the members. Ms Breary said: “I can imagine how Chris Furbert feels — like the door has been slammed in his face and he feels belittled. He is in a strong position but the people feel that it is useless. Government has set out to do it and so they are up against a brick wall. Chris Furbert is only one man — he has proved he can be level-headed.” Ross Furbert added: “He has served the union well. Only members can decide — this is a democracy.” Asked why they believed more people had not supported the protest, both felt that the people had given up hope that they could make a change. “The people feel defeated after the Blue Ribbon [panel which this week endorsed the airport deal],” Ms Breary said. “I expected Blue Ribbon to endorse what they endorsed — they had no objections from day one.” Ross Furbert said: “People are sick and tired of being sick and tired. Some people said to me what’s the use, they are going to do what they want to do anyway — 18 people are going to tell us it [the airport] is the best deal. I am tired but I have to persevere for my grandchildren. The Government has a false sense of security but it is going to come back and bite them. They have to learn to listen to the people.” Ms Breary said she had hope that a better relationship could be nurtured between the union and employers, making reference to successes in Hamilton’s docks. “Since Mr [Warren] Jones has been there he has been willing to make a change; to make things better and has collaborated with the union. There is criteria for training and more modern equipment. It has been turned around and they have a good morale and pride. Happy cows give good milk.”

February 11. Chris Furbert says he will continue to head the Bermuda Industrial Union after protests focusing on the proposed airport expansion plan failed to materialize yesterday. “My position is not up until 2018,” the BIU president told The Royal Gazette. “I have no intentions of going anywhere right now.” Mr Furbert spoke to this newspaper shortly after telling a crowd of up to 200 people to go back to work instead of protesting against the One Bermuda Alliance’s plans for a new terminal. In the run-up to yesterday, Mr Furbert had led a rallying cry for people to show up and oppose the development as MPs debated airport legislation at the House of Assembly. It came a month after the BIU’s threat to derail the America’s Cup received a very poor reception from the public, and from sections of the union membership. Speaking to this newspaper about his future yesterday, Mr Furbert said: “I’m elected by the membership, and if the membership will help me serve another term, I will serve another term for the membership. It’s their decision, not mine, it’s theirs.” Mr Furbert also offered further explanation for why he had urged union members to return to work. “We said that if we got a good response then we would go to the House, and if we didn’t get a good response then we wouldn’t go,” he explained. “There are a lot of people out there that are agreeing that this deal is not a good deal, but are not prepared to come out and protest.” The airport project has been vehemently opposed by the BIU, the Progressive Labour Party and the People’s Campaign, but a poll commissioned by The Royal Gazette, published yesterday, found that 62 per cent of registered voters want the Bermuda Government to pursue the plan. Mr Furbert argued support thrown behind the proposal — including by the Blue Ribbon Panel and the Bermuda Tourism Authority — was not surprising. “All these people support the OBA government. So why would they not come out and make a statement that we support?,” he said. Mr Furbert was in the headlines last month when he helped lead protests against the Bermuda Government’s refusal to renew the work permit for the Reverend Nicholas Tweed. At that time, he warned unless Mr Tweed’s permit was renewed, and the airport redevelopment taken off the table, the America’s Cup “will be in jeopardy”. A poll commissioned by The Royal Gazette found that 86 per cent of respondents did not support the ultimatum, with 7 per cent agreeing with the stance, and 7 per cent undecided. Of the 12 BIU members included in the poll, 10 said they did not support the demand.

February 11. The Bermuda Police Service have been conducting a joint operation against the business interests of Ewart Brown, the former Premier, over the past two days. Eight police officers arrived at Dr Brown’s Brown-Darrell Clinic in Smith’s yesterday afternoon with a warrant to search the property. The first officer was at the scene before 1.30pm, with others joining within the next hour. By 2.15pm, a police car and van were in the car park, with officers in uniform standing on guard and others in plain clothes moving around the property, where they remained for the rest of the day and through the night. A similar police presence has been at Bermuda Healthcare Services in Paget, where uniformed police and several plainclothes officers are on location. Both facilities have been taped off and, at 9am today, officers remained at both scenes. Dr Brown, the Premier of Bermuda from 2006 to 2010, is off the island. At 4pm yesterday, Progressive Labour Party MP Derrick Burgess briefly visited the Brown-Darrell Clinic and, in demanding access to the property, told police officers that no crime has been committed. Police gained access by breaking a window and forcing open the front door of the clinic, shortly after 4.30pm

February 11. Premier Michael Dunkley has said he was in phone contact with the Commissioner of Police during the protests of December 2. Speaking in the House of Assembly, the Premier said that he had six separate phone conversations with the Commissioner on the day of protests against the proposed airport redevelopment project. That protest culminated with a clash between police and protesters in which officers controversially used pepper spray on demonstrators. Inquiries into the incident are under way, including one being conducted at the request of the Governor by a senior police officer from the United Kingdom. However, the Progressive Labour Party has called for an independent investigation. Responding to parliamentary questions by David Burt, the Leader of the Opposition, the Premier said the first phone conversation with the Commissioner on December 2 took place at 8.29am, with subsequent calls at 10.15am, 11.06am, 11.45am, 1.12pm and 5.55pm. He said the subject of the first five phone conversations was about getting MPs into the House of Assembly. Asked if there were discussions about the use of riot police during the conversations, he said: “Police operations are in the remit of the Commissioner and that’s where it stands.” He told the House he did not have conversations with anyone else within the Bermuda Police Service that day.

February 11. Sylvan Richards formally apologized in the House of Assembly yesterday for remarks he made last week during a heated debate. Mr Richards, the Minister of Social Development and Sport, was told to leave the chamber by Speaker of the House Randy Horton for not apologizing for comments he made while Opposition MP Lawrence Scott had the floor. As Mr Scott spoke of how he was pepper-sprayed as he tried to help a senior on December 2, Mr Richards allegedly said: “You deserved it.” However, moments after Friday’s sitting of the House began, the MP gave a brief statement, telling the Speaker: “For my comments last week, I would like to apologize to you, the House and the member from Constituency 24.” Mr Richards’s comments, and his initial refusal to apologize, had drawn fierce criticism from the Progressive Labour Party.

February 10. Expect a marathon debate down party lines as two key Acts for the airport project go before legislators today in the House of Assembly. The Airport Authority Act and the Airport Redevelopment Concession Act have been kept on hold for months — through a combination of protests, calls for details, and an independent assessment. MPs have had two weeks to study more than 600 pages of the airport project agreement, with Bob Richards, the Minister of Finance, sparring with Opposition leader David Burt over whether or not its financial model merited inclusion. Although a three-line whip is guaranteed, compelling MPs to attend and to toe their respective party lines, potential twists remain — assuming today’s debate proceeds uninterrupted. Last week, when Parliament resumed after the tumultuous protests of December 2, One Bermuda Alliance MP Sylvan Richards was ordered by Randy Horton, the Speaker of the House, to leave the chamber for refusing to retract an alleged verbal jab at Lawrence Scott of the Progressive Labour Party. “You won’t be back in this House until you apologize,” Mr Horton told him on that occasion — raising the question of whether that remains the case. Mr Richards could not be reached yesterday by The Royal Gazette. Mr Horton himself proved decisive last week, casting the critical vote on the deadlocked casino legislation debate. However, the OBA has the numbers: 18 to the PLP’s 16 — although Michael Dunkley, the Premier, was grounded in New York yesterday, albeit temporarily, as the East Coast’s winter storms held up his return home from London. Meanwhile, Independent MP Shawn Crockwell, the possible wild card, assured this newspaper that he supported the project. “The Blue Ribbon report addressed any issues, hopefully, for the public,” Mr Crockwell said. “I appreciate some of the disquiet, and I will highlight my concern, but overall we need a new airport. Out of all the options, the one they are pursuing is the most practical and beneficial. Of course, while in Cabinet, I voted on entering phases one and two, knowing fully what was involved.” He added: “There will be a whip on both sides; this is one of those issues where if any member of either party breaks ranks, significant consequences will ensue.” While Mr Crockwell said he knew of no dissent in the OBA, he attributed disquiet to “how it’s been handled”. Although he called himself “thankful” for the disclosures of recent weeks, Mr Crockwell said there were OBA reservations lingering over the “methodology. The Blue Ribbon report would have been very helpful many months ago. Opposition is well entrenched and I don’t think it will be able to persuade people. To the minister’s defence, he was going about business as normal for all large contracts. There was not much disclosure for the hospital. When I was the minister I did not give disclosure to the Opposition for hotels.” Today’s first two speakers in the House get an hour each to make their case. All other Members are allowed 30 minutes’ speaking time, and OBA whip Nandi Outerbridge said all Government MPs are ready to speak. Even with just two Acts scheduled for their second readings, it adds up to a long day on the Hill. If passed, the Airport Authority Act will dispense with the Government’s Department of Airport Operations, creating a new entity to run LF Wade International Airport, while the Airport Redevelopment Concession Act grants a swath of taxes and duties connected with the terminal project. While Mr Richards has stressed that today’s debate does not amount to a vote for or against the project, it has effectively stood as such: the OBA has consistently touted the need for a new terminal without adding to the Government’s debt, while the PLP has branded it a privatization that turns over airport revenue to a foreign entity.

February 10. Parliament will hear today from Michael Dunkley, the Premier, on his telephone conversations, including contacts with police, during the protests at the House of Assembly on December 2. Mr Dunkley dismissed suggestions from Walter Roban, the Shadow Minister of National Security, that he had been “hiding” details, saying Mr Roban was “trying to pull something out of thin air”. “Mr Roban is continuing a trend of gutter politics, with misinformation and prevarication.” He also criticised the Opposition’s dissatisfaction with the pace and scope of investigations into tactics used by police, including pepper spray, to move protesters off the gates of Parliament. “I had death threats against me on the Saturday after December 2. It’s been two months now and I am not aware of any closure. You don’t hear me complain.” Asked if he felt the Bermuda Police Service’s investigation with the Police Complaint Authority and a UK peer review were sufficiently independent, the Premier told The Royal Gazette: “I certainly hope so. That was my thought when they were set up. I still believe that will be the case.” The Premier sparred with Progressive Labour Party MPs at last week’s sitting of the House over parliamentary questions on his communications with police regarding the protests. After repeated questions, MPs heard that he was “not going to stand on the floor of the House and give details without going through my phone records”. Yesterday, he reiterated: “I had dozens of calls. One phone had over 100 and the second had 50. I had to go through each number in my phone and see who it was.” Mr Dunkley said he had used his travel time to and from London to establish each call. He called Mr Roban’s suggestion that he had denied, on December 6, that he had spoken with the Commissioner of Police “totally inappropriate”, saying he had never made such a denial, and that, in any event, did not get involved in police operations. Asked by this newspaper for the substance of his discussions with police, Mr Dunkley said he would rather bring those details to Parliament today. The Premier said he was satisfied with the details he had given on December 6 — adding that the question as to why the PLP would allege that he deliberately withheld information was best left to the Opposition. “I have no idea what political opportunity they are trying to create,” he said. Mr Dunkley also thanked the Blue Ribbon panel for their assessment of the airport project. “They’re a good cross-section of the community and they did their work very comprehensively in a short period of time. I had an opportunity to read the report a couple of times. It’s a good overview of why this is the best way forward.”

February 10. Bermuda has asked to be part of an international agreement fighting discrimination against women, Sylvan Richards said today. Mr Richards, the social development minister, told the House of Assembly the Bermuda Government has formally requested that Britain extends the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women to Bermuda. Michael Dunkley, the Premier, has presented a letter of request to have CEDAW extended to Right Honourable Baroness Anelay, the UK Minister responsible for the Overseas Territories, Mr Richards said. “CEDAW is the landmark international agreement that affirms principles of fundamental human rights and equality for women around the world and is often referred to as the ‘women’s bill of rights’,” the minister said. “It is one of the core international human rights treaties of the United Nations treaty system, which requires member states to undertake legal obligations to respect, protect and fulfil human rights.” He said CEDAW was adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1979, coming into force as a treaty in 1981. It has been ratified or acceded to by 189 countries to date, including Britain, which signed the treaty in 1981 and ratified CEDAW in 1986. The British Virgin Islands, Turks and Caicos Islands and the Falkland Islands had the Convention extended in 1986. Anguilla and Cayman Islands did likewise last March.

February 10. A total of 641 labour dispute inquiries were handled by Government’s labour relations section during the 2015-16 year. More than 180 of the were complaints, while 448 were described as consultations. Patricia Gordon-Pamplin, Minister for Home Affairs, said 58 per cent of complaints involved termination and 20 per cent were concerned with wages. The remaining 22 per cent of complaints was made up of disputes over layoffs, redundancy, constructive dismissal, sick pay and vacation pay. Ms Gordon-Pamplin was speaking as she delivered the National Training Board reports for the 2014-15 and 2015-16 years in the House of Assembly. She said 2014-15 saw 661 labour dispute inquiries lodged. A total of 216 were complaints, while 445 were consultations. Ms Gordon-Pamplin said that the department had upgraded the Job Board website since the last annual report, while new and updated policies had been introduced to improve efficiencies. She highlighted some success stories through the summer employment programme and students who had achieved qualifications through the NTB’s overseas funding programme. Ms Gordon-Pamplin added: “There is a concerted effort to encourage businesses to invest in the development of Bermudians by using the tax waiver incentive programme.” The scheme means employers can apply for a payroll tax waiver if they can provide evidence of training programmes designed to develop Bermudian talent, which must be accredited by the department before a waiver is given. Ms Gordon-Pamplin said nine organisations were granted waivers in 2014 and seven in the following year.

February 10. Union president Chris Furbert sent members back to work this morning, as anticipated protests about the proposed building of a new airport took a dramatic twist. Mr Furbert lashed out at the public for their lack of support as the Bermuda Industrial Union tried to block the One Bermuda Alliance’s plans for the new terminal. Between 150 and 200 people had showed up at Union Square this morning, in response to the Mr Furbert’s rallying cry yesterday. Mr Furbert told the crowd that union members had been behind the struggle and they will not bear the burden any more. It comes as MPs prepare to debate two pieces of legislation paving the way for the building of a new airport, which has been vigorously opposed by the Progressive Labour Party and the People’s Campaign. From the early hours today, police have been in place outside Sessions House, with sections barricaded to ensure MPs can get into the building during the early part of the day. One Bermuda Alliance MPs were said to be inside the building from about 5am. Mr Furbert said of the OBA politicians: “They have been there since 5am. That’s to avoid being in confrontation with the people. Someone called me and told me that, so I made some phone calls and I confirmed that the OBA members are already in the House. What kind of Government is supposed to be leading the people’s business like that? What are they hiding?” And addressing a crowd outside the BIU headquarters, Mr Furbert lamented that only 150 to 200 people had come this morning to demonstrate. “I blame the people, because no matter how many times they do this we simply go and kick the can down the road.” He said that while the union has worked hard for the people, they cannot do it alone and he would not send his people on a mission doomed for failure. “There are a lot of people who are not going to be happy,” he said. “We tried, we tried and we tried and that’s all we can do. We cannot ask the minority to carry the majority forward.” While he said that general members of the public are free to demonstrate at the House, he urged all union members to return to work, saying that if they chose to stay and protest they would be on their own. Mr Furbert said that regardless of the party, MPs should be doing the people’s business. He dismissed the Blue Ribbon Panel’s approval of the airport project, along with that of several bodies including the Chamber of Commerce, who have voiced support for the airport redevelopment saying all of the bodies support the OBA. Outside BIU headquarters, speakers had been set up and music was being played, ahead of an anticipated gathering. The Bermuda Government had warned public services could face disruption at 6am, but by late morning it announced buses and ferries were running as normal. Follow The Royal Gazette’s website for major breaking stories this evening as MPs prepare to vote on the Airport Authority Act and the Airport Redevelopment Concession Act. 3.30pm: The first debate on two pieces of airport legislation is now under way. 3.20pm: The motion to defer the debate has been defeated. MPs vote on the PLP’s motion, with Mr Horton ruling that the nays will prevail. 3.05pm: Mr Richards, rising for his allotted 20 minutes, tells Parliament that “myself and my colleagues have been the best stewards of the public purse that this country has seen in a long time”, charging that the Opposition’s record had been “abysmal”. The finance minister accuses the PLP of giving “nary a whimper” in October when he approved a $660 million loan for ten years: “nearly double the size of this airport transaction. We have counter parties to this transaction. Everything that has been released by myself, either voluntarily or at the request or demand of the Opposition, we have had to have the permission of our counter parties.” Mr Richards points out that the Government was under non-disclosure agreements, citing similar restrictions on information for the hospital’s acute care wing. “The request is not for financial information for this transaction. That is not it at all,” Mr Richards says, saying the model applied to a private company referred to as Project Co, properly named Bermuda Skyport Corporation, which has “no Bermuda Government ownership, none whatsoever”. The minister says the Government had gone “the extra 100 miles” in giving information, likening the financial model to the tools of the trade of financial analysts and not the property of the Government. 2.50pm: Mr Scott says privilege extends to “informing members with documentation or calling witnesses so that they can make rational, intelligent, meaningful decisions” for the effective discharge of collective functions, adding that Mr Richards had thereby breached parliamentary rules. “Members of the Legislature are here for singular purposes: to make good law, effective law, and we can’t do that without being informed about what we are debating,” Mr Scott says. 2.45pm: Mr Scott accuses Mr Richards of refusing to share “vital information” in the form of the Project Agreement before December 2, and a further breach of privilege for not including the finance model for today’s debate. Mr Scott says it had been the Opposition’s realistic expectation that the details would have been included when the agreement was released. 2.40pm: Shadow Attorney-General Michael Scott issues a formal complaint, calling for the airport debate to be deferred until the agreement’s financial model is disclosed to the House. The motion is against Bob Richards, the Minister of Finance. Randy Horton, the Speaker, says both will now give 20-minute presentations to the House. Mr Horton says the motion had been provided to Mr Richards last night as the minister impugned, although Trevor Moniz, the Attorney-General, protests that the OBA side has yet to receive the document. Mr Scott begins his motion by citing a breach of House privilege in Mr Richards’s role as Minister of Finance. Noon: A handful of mostly elderly protesters share their thoughts with this newspaper. Francis Breary, retiree and former manager at Hamilton Princess Hotel, says: “We are here today to let the people in the house know that there are still concerned people. The people here are the older generation. We fought to make this country what it is.” Ross Furbert, a former government employee in the Department of Health and BIU supporter, says: “People are sick and tired of being sick and tired. Some people said to me what’s the use, they are going to do what they want to do anyway: 18 people are going to tell us it [the airport] is the best deal.” 11.40am: Michael Dunkley gives the House details about activities that took place on December 2, when protests over the airport debate caused the legislation to be delayed until today, and led to demonstrators being controversially pepper-sprayed by police. The Premier says he had six phone conversations with the Commissioner of Police on that day, regarding the ability of MPs to get into the House. “Police operations are in the remit of the Commissioner and that’s where it stands,” says the Premier, who has insisted no tactical options were discussed by himself with members of the Bermuda Police Service. Today, Mr Dunkley further states that he did not have conversations with anyone else within the Bermuda Police Service. 11.20am: Bus and ferry services are operating as normal today, the Ministry of Tourism and Transport advises. 11am: About 20 members of the public are in the gallery as normal House activities continue. Another small group remains outside, on Parliament Street. 10.05am: OBA MP Sylvan Richards formally apologizes for his comments in the House of Assembly last week. “For my comments last week, I would like to apologize to you, the House and the member from Constituency 24,” Mr Richards says to Speaker Randy Horton. Meanwhile outside, police take down barriers outside the House. 10am: The session in the House begins, with all OBA MPs present in the Chamber, including Michael Dunkley, who had faced potential travel difficulties because of grounded flights in the United States yesterday. The Premier has announced on Instagram that he made his flight last night. Most PLP MPs are also present. 9.30am: It is all quiet outside the House of Assembly, with one police officer saying: “This is it, hopefully.” 9.15am: Mr Furbert addresses the crowd outside BIU headquarters and sends union members back to work. 9am: A large crowd of people emerge from the BIU entrance, where a podium has been set up. 8.55am: General council members are called into the building at the BIU. 8.45am: Numbers continue to swell outside the BUI with close to 100 people, and a small handful of police officers, now waiting for the next step. 8.15am: A slow trickle of union members begin to arrive at Union Square. 8am: Buses and ferries appear to be running as normal. 7.45am: Speakers are set up and music is being played outside BIU headquarters, ahead of a meeting called by president Chris Furbert. 7am: A route to the House entrance remains clear, with dozens of police officers in place, but hardly any members of the public have arrived at the grounds of Session House. 6am: Government warns of potential disruption to public services as a result of a planned morning meeting for the Bermuda Industrial Union. 5am: One Bermuda Alliance MPs reportedly enter the Parliament building, five hours before the session is due to begin. Midnight: Police take their positions outside the House of Assembly, with barricades in place to ensure MPs can enter Parliament for today’s session, which will include a debate on legislation paving the way for the building of a new airport.

February 10. Nearly two-thirds of registered voters want the Bermuda Government to press ahead with its plan to build a new airport, according to a poll commissioned by The Royal Gazette this week. The survey, conducted by Global Research, found 62 per cent in favour of the proposal, with 26 per cent believing the Government should ditch the project and renovate the existing terminal instead. The remaining 12 per cent wanted neither option. Job creation and the need to repair a crumbling facility were the most popular reasons given by those in support of the development; those wanting to renovate argued that method would be less costly and would avoid leasing the airport out for a long time; a perceived lack of transparency was the top reason for those wanting neither a new build nor renovations. This newspaper commissioned the survey as the One Bermuda Alliance and Progressive Labour Party prepare to debate legislation paving the way for the development after a bitter political wrangle over its pros and cons lasting more than two years. The OBA has repeatedly said its public-private partnership with Aecon will give the island a desperately needed new airport without adding to its debt; the PLP has aggressively attacked the move as privatization, saying it will see airport revenues disappear overseas, and touting renovations as an alternative.  The survey of 401 registered voters took place on Tuesday, Wednesday and yesterday, and has a margin of error of +/- 5 per cent at the 95 per cent confidence level. Voters were asked: “Which of the following statements do you most agree with?

A breakdown of the results shows whites and OBA supporters overwhelmingly in favour of a new airport; blacks and PLP supporters were more evenly divided. Among OBA supporters, 94 per cent want a new airport, with 4 per cent wanting renovations and 2 per cent saying neither. Among PLP supporters, 29 per cent want a new airport, 46 per cent want renovations and 25 per cent neither. Among whites, 91 per cent are favour of a new airport, with 7 per cent preferring renovations and the rest neither. Among blacks, 43 per cent support a new airport, 36 per cent want renovations and 21 per cent neither. The majority is in favour of a new terminal regardless of sex or age: 64 per cent of men and 59 per cent of women; 58 per cent of people aged over 65 and more than 60 per cent of every other age group. Respondents were also asked for a reason behind their answer. Among those wanting a new airport, the top reasons were:

Among those wanting renovations, the top reasons were:

Among those wanting neither a new airport or renovations, the top reasons were:

The last scientific poll on the airport commissioned by this newspaper took place in March last year, and found 53 per cent of voters did not want the Government to go ahead with its public-private partnership, with 37 per cent in favour and 10 per cent unsure.

February 10. Bermuda-based Frontline Ltd has acknowledged the decision by DHT Holdings to reject an offer to combine the crude oil tanker businesses. Frontline, which is more than twice the size of DHT in terms of market capitalisation and fleet size, had proposed to acquire all the outstanding common shares of DHT for a per-share consideration of 0.725 Frontline shares. By doing so said it would create the largest public tanker company by fleet size and market capitalisation. However, the directors of DHT, which is also domiciled in Bermuda, this week unanimously rejected the unsolicited proposal. Erik Lind, chairman of DHT said: “We believe that Frontline’s proposal substantially undervalues our company and represents an opportunistic attempt to acquire DHT at a low point in the cycle.” In response, Robert Hvide Macleod, Frontline’s chief executive officer, said: “We believe that our offer to DHT shareholders is highly compelling since it provides a meaningful upfront premium, while also giving all shareholders the opportunity to realize the full benefit of the significant synergies and attractive upside that a combined company would create.” In a statement, Frontline said the proposed offer represented a 19 per cent premium on the share price of DHT at closing on January 27. The statement added: “Rather than engaging in discussions with Frontline with the aim of achieving the highest possible offer to create maximum shareholder value, the board of directors of DHT adopted a one-year shareholder rights plan and has since continued to refuse to enter into any discussions. DHT also stated that the proposed offer represented an opportunistic attempt to acquire DHT at a low point in the cycle, which Frontline finds irrelevant given the all-share offer.” Frontline believes that combining the two companies would better position them to participate in a market recovery. Frontline has a market capitalisation of $1.15 billion, and a fleet of 59 ships, including 19 very large crude carriers, also known as VLCC. Together with its affiliates, it has already bought 15.3 million shares of DHT, representing 16.4 per cent of its outstanding common stock. DHT has a market capitalisation of $44.9 million, and a fleet of 19 VLCC and two Aframax tankers.

February 10. Aspen Insurance Holdings Ltd made an operating loss of $7.4 million, or 34 cents per share, in the fourth quarter, partly as a result of a repositioning of its insurance segment. For the year, the Bermuda-based re/insurer’s net income was $203.4 million, compared to $323.1 million in 2015. Losses from Hurricane Matthew, an earthquake in New Zealand and wildfires in Tennessee impacted the company’s bottom line. The final-quarter net loss of $71.5 million compared to a $117.9 million profit in the same period in 2015. The loss had been expected, but was worse than many analysts had forecast. One consensus view for MarketWatch.com had reckoned on a loss of 5 cents per share. The group’s combined ratio for the quarter jumped to 106.7 per cent, meaning the company made a loss of 6.7 cents on every premium dollar after paying claims and expenses. That compared with 91.8 per cent combined ratio in the same period the year before. Aspen’s full year combined ratio was 98.1 per cent. The insurance segment had a combined ratio of 99.6 per cent, up from 96.1 per cent. The reinsurance division managed 90 per cent, compared to 80.4 per cent in 2015. In a statement, Chris O’Kane, chief executive officer, said: “While the repositioning of our insurance segment had a significant negative impact on the fourth quarter’s results, we are confident that the actions taken are the right ones and that the underlying quality of our book of business is very strong. We remain intensely focused on driving growth and profitability by offering innovative solutions to meet our clients’ needs and risks, diversifying and expanding our global product offering, and enhancing capital efficiency. Our business is now firmly on course for the next stage of profitable growth.” Then, during an earnings conference call yesterday, he further explained that the company had identified elements of business that it had decided not to continue to write, and had decreased underwriting “a great deal of primary casualty business. In all, approximately $150 million of insurance business, or just under 5 per cent of our total underwriting portfolio, fell outside the refocused underwriting guidelines and was not renewed.” Aspen purchased $10 million of additional reinsurance coverage to protect itself from the run-off of some of the discontinued business. When asked about the potential for a sale of the company, Mr O’Kane said he was very confident about Aspen’s future. “We have a pretty strong franchise in reinsurance already. We have an improving franchise in insurance. Aspen is a successful operation relative to peers and is one that we want to carry on running”.

February 10. Arch Capital’s top executive accused some in the insurance industry of “cheating” with reserves. Dinos Iordanou, chairman and chief executive officer of the Bermudian insurer and reinsurer, warned of “noise” in apparently strong balanced sheets among insurers that have mis-priced risk. His comments were reported by industry publication The Insurance Insider, which was hosting the InsiderScope conference at which Mr Iordanou was speaking. “It’s a self-grading exam — you decide what it’s going to be on the day,” Mr Iordanou said. “There’s a tendency within our industry to mis-price risk, and there’s a tendency to cheat, sometimes intentionally, sometimes unintentionally. There’s noise in the underlying healthiness of the balance sheets,” he added. “Those who intentionally or unintentionally cheated the most have the worst problem.” The Arch chairman added that the industry traditionally “has not done well in managing, financing and transferring risks for our clients in a smart and consistent way”, the Insider reported. Mr Iordanou said he expected mergers and acquisitions to continue, with weaker companies becoming opportunistic takeover targets. The reinsurance industry is awash with capital, one of the factors keeping pricing down. And Mr Iordanou did not see that trend changing any time soon. “I think this cycle is going to be prolonged,” Mr Iordanou said. “There’s not going to be an abrupt correction but an evolution, with companies improving.” He added that tighter regulation and tougher auditing “has enhanced our ability to have less defects in our decision making”. “In essence our ability to cheat is less,” he added.

February 10. People must now sign their passports after they are issued, Patricia Gordon-Pamplin has announced. The “Sign After Receipt” system should eventually eliminate the need for passport customers to send their paper forms and printed photographs in support of their UK or British Overseas Territories Citizen passport applications, Ms Gordon-Pamplin told the House of Assembly. The home affairs minister said: “A passport is not valid for travel without the inclusion of a signature. To this end, passport holders should sign their passport on page three, as soon as they receive it. While clear customer guidance will be uploaded on the government portal, passport applicants should know that the passport must be signed above the signature line using black ink.” She said passport holders who are exempt from providing a signature, such as children aged 11 or under, or those with disabilities who are unable to sign, will be exempt. For BOTC passport application forms and for more information relating to SAR, visit www.gov.bm or visit the Bermuda Passport Office.

February 10. The Government’s effort to complete the population and housing census has run into problems with many residents refusing to participate. And adding to the dilemma is a shortage of interviewers. Premier Michael Dunkley told MPs this morning that all data should have been collected by the end of December 2016, having started on May 21 last year. However, that’s hasn’t been the case for two reasons and the census will have to continue until March 31. “Despite several recruitment drives the Department of Statistics has not been able to obtain a sufficient number of active interviewers,” explained Mr Dunkley, “and some members of the public have either outright refused to participate, evaded interviewers visiting their homes or not contacted the Department of Statistics to complete their questionnaire.”  As of February 8, 2017, 90 per cent of assessment numbers have been accounted for which includes a combination of residential, vacant, derelict and commercial assessment numbers. I am also positioned to report the progress geographically. Hamilton Parish has the highest completion rate at 93 per cent and Sandys parish has the lowest completion rate at 86 per cent. At the census district (CD) level, there are 10 CDs with a 100 per cent completion rate and the CD with the lowest completion rate is in Pembroke parish. The 2016 Census will finish within budget and as a reminder, the benefit of a census is that it provides a snapshot of the size and profile of the population and housing stock at a given point of time. Census data is used to devise effective strategies relating to infrastructure, education, health, employment and other economic and social issues. The census is a national undertaking and requires the support of all residents in order to achieve the goal of a 100 per cent completion rate. The Department of Statistics has taken a number of steps recently in an attempt to increase the number of households responding such as: reminding the public via mobile phone texts, letters, radio talk shows, website advertising, etc. Teams of census interviewers are also visiting low-responding districts. In this regard, I take this opportunity to emphasise to households that have not completed their questionnaire that now is the time to be counted. The interview should only take approximately 15 minutes for a household of 4 persons. Failing to complete the census interview may result in a fine up to $1,000 per day upon conviction. The Department of Statistics is in the final phase of census data collection. I ask that all outstanding households take immediate action to be counted by either:

In closing, I would like to extend my appreciation to the Director of the Department of Statistics, Mrs Melinda Williams, and her team of statisticians and support staff for their continued commitment to the data collection process. I would also like to encourage our census interviewers who are going door-to-door. This is important work because many far-reaching decisions this country will make will be based on the information we are collecting now. Finally, I would like to extend my gratitude to all households who have completed their questionnaires. To those 10 per cent yet to be counted, I ask for your support of this initiative of national importance, Because People Count.”

February 10. Minister of Health Jeanne Atherden says the Premier’s Youth Fitness Programme, introduced last year, is continuing to teach school students the benefits of healthy eating and exercise. And she hopes it will ultimately reverse the problem of obesity — now prevalent in Bermuda. In a ministerial statement this morning, Ms Atherden said: “Last September the Premier and the Ministry of Health and Seniors, and the Ministry of Education launched the Premier’s Youth Fitness Programme, under the Premier’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition. The programme is provided through schools and is designed to help our children on the path to a lifetime of good health. You may recall seeing in the media the Premier and Minister Scott doing push ups in Dellwood’s auditorium under their school’s banner of “Deeds not Words” . . . it is my heartfelt belief and practice that everyday fitness and a good diet are the building blocks for a long and active life and that good health underpins both quality-of-life and achievement. I know I don’t need to remind us that Bermudians are not getting adequate levels of nutrition or physical activity. Indeed, the state of our population’s health is not satisfactory. Overall, three in four adults are overweight or obese, and one in four has at least one chronic non-communicable disease. This reduces quality of life for our people, and increases the need for expensive medical treatments for diseases like cancer, circulatory disease or diabetes. Poor habits on nutrition and exercise begin in childhood, so if we are to reverse this trend, we have to address our young people. The Premier’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition is intent on raising our children’s awareness of what their growing bodies need to succeed. After awareness the next step is for them to adopt good habits, and to own, value and nurture their health. Within this programme, schoolchildren have their core and upper body strength, flexibility, body composition and aerobic capacity regularly measured by their PE teacher under the oversight of Mr Arnold Manders, the Ministry of Education’s Education Officer. Children and their parents are receiving guidance for improved activity and nutrition. We want our children in the ‘Healthy Fitness Zone’ which is reflected in lifestyles that feature regular exercise and healthy eating as day-to-day activities. I want to thank the members of the Premier’s Council and all the schools that have been busy implementing the programme in the four months since its launch. Also many thanks to our Well Bermuda Partners who are each arising to do their part in this team effort. PE teachers have completed the first round of FitnessGram Assessments and the Spirit System application training and Heart Rate training is happening this month to coincide with schools’ midterm break. By the end of March all P5 to S3 students will be wearing Heart Rate monitoring devices during their PE classes. Ms Cholay Joell, the Case Manager for the Premier’s Youth Fitness Programme, will work in conjunction with the PE teachers to support students identified as at-risk for overweight, obesity, underweight, and whose FitnessGram results place them outside of the Healthy Fitness Zone for each of the fitness components: aerobic and anaerobic endurance, flexibility, strength and BMI (body composition). Each identified student will have an Individualized Wellness Plan to include a Team Approach with parents, the PE teacher, school counselor, the student, Nutrition Services, and possibly his/her physician. The Council is promoting the importance of choosing water, instead of sugary beverages, and currently there are 15 schools with Water-Only Policies. The Bermuda Diabetes Association has donated EatWell Bermuda Plates for all P5 & P6 students — these plates show clearly that half our plate should be vegetables! The visual image of the EatWell Plate is a great learning tool not only for children but for many adults also. I recommend that you post it in your kitchens at home and at work as a reminder of a balanced diet and healthy portion sizes. On March 21, 2017 the Healthy School Lunch Challenge Awards will be held at the Argus Group Headquarters to recognise schools, students and families that are walking the talk when it comes to health school lunches. The Premier’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition website, stepitup.bm is currently under construction by the Bermuda Yellow Pages, and is expected to launch next month with help from BF&M. The Premier and I are excited by the potential of this programme and the Premier himself and I have accompanied Marie Beach Johnson from the Department of Health to school assemblies to promote the programme and encourage the children. Thank you again to all our partners in this effort to create a healthy and strong Bermuda. Let’s keep the momentum going together. This is a “can do” programme, and we believe that we can reverse the trend on obesity in Bermuda.”

February 10. Another “imported” case of Zika has been reported on the island, but there has yet to be a case of the virus being transmitted. According to the Epidemiology and Surveillance Unit website, a single imported Zika case was reported on the island this month after four straight months without any cases of the virus. The case is the sixth since August 2016 in which someone contracted the virus overseas and was diagnosed on the island. However, the website reiterates that there has still been no known local transmission of Zika virus in Bermuda. The virus made headlines last year as it spread through the Caribbean and South America. It is primarily transmitted via mosquitoes. However, there have also been cases of the virus being transmitted sexually. While many who contract the virus experience no symptoms, those who do can suffer fever, rash, red eyes and joint pain. More seriously, the virus can pass from a pregnant mother to her unborn baby, potentially causing birth defects. As a result, pregnant women are advised to avoid travelling to countries with an ongoing outbreak. As of yesterday, the Centre for Disease Control continued to list islands throughout the Caribbean as areas where the virus is being spread, along with most of South and Central America. Several transmission cases have also been reported in the United States, including 214 cases in Florida and six in Texas.

February 10. Retail sales last December fell 2.4 per cent compared to the same period in 2015. The total spend dropped to $108.9 million from $111.6 million, with three of the seven sectors monitored by Government statisticians reporting decreases in sales revenue. After adjustment for the rate of inflation, which stood at 0.9 per cent in December, the volume of retail sales dropped 3.2 per cent. The month, however, was still the biggest spending one of the year, with last July in second place with retail sales of $105.2 million. The biggest loser in the run-up to last Christmas was the motor industry, which saw a 25.4 per cent drop in sales revenue. Statisticians said the drop reflected a 29.4 per cent fall in sales volume in showrooms. Building materials stores had the biggest increase in sales receipts, up 1.8 per cent. Residents returning from overseas declared purchases totaling $6.5 million, down 4.4 per cent on the $6.8 million in December 2015. The combined island and overseas spend totaled $115.4 million for the month. The increase in sales receipts from building materials was put down to more stock for sale and an increased number of contract jobs. When adjusted for inflation, the real rise was 1.5 per cent. The all other stores types category, which includes furniture, appliances and electrical suppliers, as well as pharmacies and marine and boat supplies, fell by 1.9 per cent, or 3 per cent, when inflation is factored in. Sales receipts for furniture, appliances and electronics dropped by 11.5 per cent, while gross receipts in the marine sector fell 7.8 per cent. Other miscellaneous sales decreased 1.9 per cent. Pharmacies, however, saw gross receipts rise 5.8 per cent. Receipts from food sales also fell, down 0.9 per cent, but liquor stores recorded a 1.4 per cent increase. The sales volume of food and liquor stores were 2.7 per cent and 3.5 cent lower respectively. Service stations saw an increase in the value of fuel sales of 1.1 per cent, attributed to a 1.8 per cent increase in the price of fuel, but after adjustment for inflation, the sales volume of fuel dropped 2.4 per cent. Sales revenue in the clothing sector went up 1.7 per cent, up to 2.2 per cent when inflation was factored in.

February 10. The Royal Fleet Auxiliary ship Wave Knight will be visiting Bermuda next week on routine deployment. A Government House spokesman said the captain will be outlining to the media the ship’s work in the region, in particular her support for Disaster Management in the Caribbean and North Atlantic. Details of the ship can be found on: http://www.royalnavy.mod.uk/our-organisation/the-fighting-arms/royal-fleet-auxiliary/tankers/rfa-wave-knight.

February 10. Local author Giovanna Watson has presented copies of her book Dear Cancer, Let Me Introduce Myself to the Legal Deposit Collection of the Bermuda National Library. Accepting on behalf of the library was Director of the Library, Joanne Brangman. Ms Watson’s book release party will be held on Saturday, February 18 at City Hall from 7.30pm to 10pm. Limited copies of the book are available at The Bookmart and Brown & Co. The paperback version is $34.95, whereas the hardback version is $44.95. To reserve copies in advance of the launch, members of the public can call Ms Watson on 705-8423 or HelloCancerBda@gmail.com.

February 10. Bermuda’s newest hotel, The Loren at Pink Beach, celebrated its opening in style with more than 400 attendees at the launch event last night. Hotel owner Stephen King hopes other hotel developers will be encouraged to come to Bermuda when they see what The Loren has achieved. The five-star boutique hotel features 45 suites, and its amenities include a spa, pool deck, corporate meeting rooms, and fine dining and casual dining restaurants. For Bermuda residents, the restaurants are expected to be a big draw. The Marée offers fine dining, while the Pink Beach Club has outdoor casual dining. Tim Sullivan, an executive chef with New York’s Great Performances, said the menus at both restaurants will have a strong local flavour. As an advocate for using the highest quality local produce whenever possible, he has criss-crossed the island meeting farmers, fishermen and vendors to secure fresh ingredients that reflect “the full story” of Bermuda. The menus will change during the year to reflect seasonality. Any ingredients not available locally will be brought in from the US northeast, including Great Performance’s 60-acre organic Katchkie Farm in upstate New York. Kingh Engelbrecht, general manager, said the hotel will bring the highest level of service, adding that the staff were “the heart of the project”. The majority of the employees are Bermudians. Owner Mr King wants to nurture local talent in the hospitality sector and has plans to set up schemes with that goal. He also paid tribute to Simon Hodgson, a Bermudian architect, who worked on the project for three years. “I’m so grateful for his contribution,” said Mr King. When he visited the island a few years ago, Mr King felt there was something missing. While speaking highly of other Bermudian hotels, he saw the opportunity for a boutique, first-class hotel at the former site of the Pink Beach Club. He believes overseas visitors and locals will appreciate the ambience of The Loren and want to come back again. Ryan Babcock, joint owner, said guests at the launch event had expressed pride that a hotel of The Loren’s calibre was on the island.

February 9. Shadow national security minister Walter Roban alleged yesterday that Michael Dunkley was “hiding” information about his knowledge of the police’s plan for dealing with protesters on December 2. The Opposition MP claimed fresh information shared by the Premier during parliamentary questions on Friday about his conversations with senior police contradicted earlier answers he gave the media. “What is the Premier hiding?” asked Mr Roban. “Why won’t he fully disclose who he spoke with in the BPS [on December 2] and what the substance of those conversations was?” Mr Dunkley told MPs on Friday that “no tactical options were discussed by myself with members of the Bermuda Police Service on December 1 or December 2 regarding the protests at the House of Assembly”. Two days earlier, Michael DeSilva, the Commissioner of Police, told a press conference he did not tell Mr Dunkley on Friday, December 2 about any planned “tactics” before officers in riot helmets used pepper spray on protesters outside Parliament. “There was no discussion between myself and the Premier about tactics, there was no directions given, no directions received,” said Mr DeSilva. “And the reason for that, quite frankly, is because the police work independently of the Government in that regard.” He added that though he did speak to Mr Dunkley that day, discussion about the use of pepper spray and riot helmets “wouldn’t have worked itself into the conversation and it didn’t”. Mr Roban said: “The PLP has no issue with the commissioner’s comments.” He added: “The PLP’s statements have been consistent. We have, from the start, repeatedly asked the question of who in authority knew and we will continue to ask for this information.” The MP repeated his party’s call for “vital information” to be made public about who “in authority” outside of the BPS knew in advance how the police planned to deal with demonstrators. Mr Roban said Mr Dunkley was asked several times at a December 6 press conference about conversations with the commissioner and others and the answers he gave to reporters contradicted his remarks in the House on Friday. “[At the press conference] he denied speaking with the commissioner,” alleged Mr Roban. “We learnt, in Parliament, that he did speak with the commissioner and possibly the deputy commissioner. In fact, he says that several discussions with officers took place; so many that he can’t be certain as to who he spoke with [and] that he has to examine his phone records to determine the identity. He avoided this disclosure during his December press conference and the question is why?” Footage of the entire December 6 press conference is available on The Royal Gazette’s website and on YouTube. The questions and responses on this issue were: Q: What conversations did you have with the police commissioner on Thursday night and during Friday? Premier: “I had no conversation with the commissioner on Thursday night. The police operations, as the commissioner has said on at least two occasions since that time are at the remit of the police. This government has never been involved in police operations. Q: So you weren’t told before pepper spray was used? Premier: “I was not informed of police operations. And we don’t get involved.” Q: Was there any point [that you were told] before [pepper spray was used at]1.15[pm]? Premier: “We don’t get involved in the police operations.” Q: Was it frustrating for you as Premier not to have a dialogue with the commissioner over such an important decision and would you like your Minister of National Security to have been involved?

February 9. A “large-scale fraud and corruption inquiry” is nearing completion, according to an affidavit from Deputy Police Commissioner Paul Wright. In a statement dated last August, Mr Wright said the probe was in “a critical phase” and expressed concern it could be prejudiced by public pronouncements by Ewart Brown, the former Premier, in support of his colleague Mahesh Reddy. Mr Wright’s comments were revealed in a Supreme Court document explaining why Chief Justice Ian Kawaley had rejected the Commissioner of Police’s attempt to prevent Dr Reddy pursuing a civil lawsuit over his arrest last May. Mr Justice Kawaley stated that the Commissioner’s strikeout summons was supported by an affidavit from Mr Wright which alleged Dr Reddy’s arrest “formed part of a large-scale fraud and corruption inquiry commenced in 2012”. Mr Wright had also argued that defending the judicial review application would involve disclosing sensitive material which could prejudice the investigation, the Chief Justice explained. Mr Justice Kawaley said: “The investigation was described as ‘nearing completion and consequently in a critical phase’. It was further deposed that the real purpose of the judicial review application was to obtain sensitive information about the inquiry. As such it was an abuse of process and should be struck-out.” According to the Chief Justice, in a second affidavit Mr Wright “expressed the concern, based on public pronouncements made by Dr Ewart Brown in support of the applicant’s case, that a judicial review hearing would prejudice the ongoing investigation”. However, Mr Justice Kawaley concluded there was no legal reason not to conduct a judicial review of the arrest while the investigation continues. Dr Reddy was arrested last May by detectives understood to be investigating allegations that he ordered MRI and CT scans to be carried out at Bermuda Healthcare Services for his patients when they did not need them and then billed insurance companies for the procedures. Dr Reddy is the chief medical officer at the clinic, owned by Dr Brown. In June, Dr Brown called a press conference claiming the arrest was “unjust and unwarranted” and was really an attempt to discredit himself. Dr Brown said he had been the subject of a long-running but “fruitless” police investigation aimed at uncovering bribery and political corruption. In July, Dr Reddy launched proceedings against the Commissioner of Police, under the name Mahesh Sannapareddy, seeking a judicial review and damages for trespassing and unlawful arrest in relation to the raid. In affidavits, the doctor described prior conduct by the police, which he regarded as harassment that prompted him to make a formal complaint to the local Police Complaints Authority in 2014. He also complained that the search was not necessary as he would have co-operated with the Police in any event, claiming it caused him considerable personal and professional embarrassment. In his reasons for his ruling dated February 6, Mr Justice Kawaley wrote: “The respondent was unable to identify a single authority for the proposition that it was so obviously inappropriate to seek judicial review in circumstances where a pending criminal investigation might be prejudiced that the present proceedings should be struck out, or the leave granted set aside, at the interlocutory stage.” During oral arguments, Anesta Weekes, representing the Commissioner, raised concerns that materials filed during the proceedings would be released to the public. Of that suggestion, the Chief Justice wrote: “It would clearly be an abuse of process to use judicial review proceedings for such collateral purposes. In the modern social media era, it is entirely realistic to fear that litigants with nothing to lose might commence civil proceedings containing scandalous allegations and widely disseminate court filings via the internet to gain some collateral advantage in another domain. “This did not appear on the face of it to be such a case, however. The applicant in any event stands warned in this respect. More over, the risk of a future abuse of process cannot amount to grounds for denying a litigant access to the court when there is no compelling evidential basis to support a finding that an abuse of process has actually occurred.” Mr Justice Kawaley found that there was no legal block preventing the courts from carrying out a judicial review of an arrest while the criminal investigation is still pending, and there was no evidential basis that the complaint was brought forward for a collateral purpose.

February 9. An independent panel has given the thumbs up to the airport redevelopment deal. The Blue Ribbon Panel, tasked by the Bermuda Government to probe documents surrounding the proposed project, announced its decision at a press conference yesterday afternoon. Chairman Malcolm Butterfield said: “The Blue Ribbon Panel has found that this transaction is commercially sound and reasonable and likely to meet the Government’s stated objectives of long-term sustainability and increased traffic volume and revenue. We have also found that its terms are within the parameters of similar P3 airport projects and in some cases this project exceeds those norms positively.” However, the Blue Ribbon Panel acknowledged that the “entire project would have benefited from clearer disclosure of the transaction, its terms and the participants at a much earlier stage”. Mr Butterfield said that the panel had concluded that the 30-year term of the project was “reasonable and consistent with similar projects”. He added: “Overall, the panel’s views is that this is a good deal. It’s not perfect.” In recent days, the Progressive Labour Party has complained that its MPs has not had access to the financial model behind the agreement, although finance minister Bob Richards has argued divulging the financial model would not put politicians in any better position to assess the project’s value for Bermuda, and that the information contained in the model was “not Government’s to give”. Asked if the panel would have benefited from seeing the financial model for the project, Mr Butterfield said: “No, that would not have benefited us. We had volumes of material and a lot of it was the financial information.” He told the press conference that it would have been “unusual” for the financial model of the project to be shared in the public domain before it was completed. Mr Butterfield said the panel concluded that the approach of the Government to enter into a negotiated agreement instead of a competitive tendering was “reasonable” and he also rejected questions that had previously been raised about the panel’s independence. “There is no doubt in my mind that this was an independent panel,” he said. “There was no influence from Government. It was independent in every way.” The panel met with several opponents of the airport development plan over the last three weeks, including Chris Furbert, president of the Bermuda Industrial Union, and David Burt, the leader of the opposition, Mr Butterfield said: “It should be noted that our analysis has revealed the challenges associated with this project. “Legitimate concerns have been expressed as to the process, the representations made to Parliament and the people of Bermuda and the significant opportunity transferred to a private company for an extended period of time.” The panel was unveiled last month by Mr Richards, and tasked to review the controversial airport redevelopment project. It was given access to the Project Agreement and “any other documentation related to the transaction so that it may form its independent view of whether the deal is reasonable and fair”. It looked at documentation related to the transaction, the Bermuda Government’s legal, financial, technical, and project management advisers, senior representatives of the Canadian Commercial Corporation and Aecon Concessions. The panel was chaired by Mr Butterfield, a retired managing director at KPMG, and included Craig Simmons, economics senior lecturer at the Bermuda College, Gil Tucker, retired chairman of Ernst & Young Ltd, Barclay Simmons, a managing partner of ASW Law and chairman of Butterfield Bank, Anthony Joaquin, retired partner of Ernst & Young and chairman of HSBC Bermuda, and Caroline Foulger, retired partner of PwC.

Panel’s key findings

February 9. A decision over the end use of Bermuda’s newest island is unlikely to be made until after the America’s Cup has been completed, according to Andrew Dias. The general manager of the West End Development Corporation acknowledged that if the island secured the sailing spectacle in 2019 the final determination over the future of Cross Island would be pushed back further. Wedco originally submitted plans that would have seen the site of the America’s Cup village transformed into a new Marine and Ports headquarters, a boat service yard that could accommodate superyachts as well as short-term berthing and a maritime school. But after an appeal by environmental group BEST the Supreme Court held that there were deficiencies in the Environmental Impact Assessments completed for the development plans of Cross Island. “Whatever the final plan is we shall have to resubmit it through the planning process again,” Mr Dias said. “There is the chance, depending on who wins the event, that Bermuda could host it again in 2019, in which case under the AC Host Venue Agreement Cross Island has to be available to host the event again. In this case everything would be kept as it is until 2019 when the final end uses decision would be made.” Mr Dias revealed that the Wedco board had a formed a sub-committee, chaired by Wayne Caines, to explore the possible end uses for Cross Island and had consulted with the public and stakeholders over recent months. “We are not resting on our laurels,” he said. “The committee engaged in extensive public consultation with the assistance of Deloitte. They went out to the public at the end of last year in one of the most consultative processes I have ever seen. They asked everyone what their opinion was on what should be there. The short listed uses have been submitted to the Wedco board and are currently being assessed. It is possible that the board may determine that further due diligence and analysis may be required. The board should be able to say something in March. In June after the event we will have to figure out what the process is; although a decision on the future of the America’s Cup may not be made until October or November.”

February 9. Chris Furbert has called on opponents of the airport redevelopment project to “show up” at Union Square this morning as MPs prepare to debate legislation paving the way for the new terminal. The president of the Bermuda Industrial Union’s rallying call came on the eve of the parliamentary debate of two airport Acts that has been repeatedly postponed and sparked protests on December 2. Meanwhile, Michael Dunkley urged those against the redevelopment project to “exercise their democratic right in the appropriate way”. “I urge anyone who is interested to come out and listen to the proceedings, and anyone who is not comfortable with the two pieces of legislation to exercise their democratic right in the appropriate way,” Mr Dunkley said. “We live in a vibrant democracy, and Members should be allowed to get in to the House and do what they have to do. Let’s have the debate in the House, where it should be happening.” At yesterday’s press conference, Mr Furbert said that the country was at “a crossroads” as he called on the “silent majority” to gather at Union Square in Hamilton at 8am today. Asked if he had given any instructions to union members about whether or not to allow MPs to get into the House, he replied: “I have not given them any instructions. I have called on everyone to show up and at that point we will give people instructions about what they are going to do.” Mr Furbert insisted that the House of Assembly grounds belonged to the “people of this country” and added: “People should have the right to protest freely.” Asked if he believed MPs should be allowed into the House this morning to debate the airport legislation, he replied: “Our position has always been that MPs should have access to the House if they are doing the people’s business. The airport legislation is not the people’s business because they do not have the people’s mandate for it.” Mr Furbert encouraged parents to bring their children and told the media that he would be taking his teenage daughter out of school tomorrow so “she can witness history”. Mr Furbert dismissed reports in this newspaper that he suggested there was strong support for the airport redevelopment plan. He also rejected the findings of the Blue Ribbon Panel, which yesterday concluded that the airport project was a good deal for the country. “The panel was appointed by the Minister of Finance; as a result it was going to get the result he was looking for,” Mr Furbert said. The president of the BIU said: “Bermuda has to be the laughing stock of the world that we are now having someone build a new airport for us, and we are going to have someone else run it for the next 30 years.” He added: “When will we get a chance to run the airport for ourselves? Bermuda should be incensed by this deal. Are we being set up to fail? This should be a concern to every construction worker in the country.” Asked if there would be disruption to public services, Mr Furbert replied: “I cannot say whether there will be any public disruption at the moment; we will be holding another meeting at 5.30pm.” By the time this paper went to press no additional information had been provided about potential public services disruption.

February 9. Building a new airport terminal is “unequivocally the best way” to deal with the problems at the ageing present facility, according to Aaron Adderley, general manager at the Department of Airport Operations. “I can only speak from an operations standpoint,” Mr Adderley added, closing his appearance before the Public Accounts Committee yesterday as the group continued to review the proposed redevelopment at LF Wade International Airport. However, analyst Larry Burchall delivered a grim assessment of the island’s economic predicament and the “rosy” tourism arrivals projections given by Aecon, the Bermuda Government’s Canadian partner in the deal for a new terminal. Mr Burchall emphasized that the project would take away $37 million in “desperately” needed revenue, while gambling on an unlikely revival of tourism. Mr Adderley appeared before the PAC first alongside Wendell Burchall, manager of maintenance and engineering for the airport, to provide a breakdown of the $184 million cost attached to renovating the existing terminal. Assessing the cost of overhauling the terminal while relocating services, Mr Burchall said he “did not see anything whatsoever in trying to renovate”. Mr Adderley cautioned that figures for the money generated by the facility were “somewhat overstated”, given that austerity measures did not reflect the true level of expenditure needed: the DAO should have 44 members of staff, he said, but operated with 32. “I’ve had staff in and out of hospital for stress-related issues; I’ve had staff going into hospital with two legs and coming out with one — we are very stressed.” Both PAC chairman Wayne Furbert and Progressive Labour Party MP Michael Weeks spoke favorably of “rolling renovations” at the existing terminal to provide local jobs, keep airport revenue at home, and potentially renovate the Causeway across Castle Harbour, as an alternative to the Government’s public-private partnership with Aecon. Mr Burchall, meanwhile, appeared as “a taxpayer and interested Bermudian”, telling the PAC he had no political axe to grind. Government’s debt burden and struggles to raise revenue, combined with a falling Bermudian population and moribund tourism, created “a morass of problems while we are all fussing about the airport”. Foreign workers in low-echelon jobs took positions that Bermudians could fill, while high-end workers created jobs — “and the job creators are not coming”. Mr Burchall said Aecon had predicated the deal on “a healthy, rosy picture of tourist numbers coming to Bermuda going up and up for 30 years” — but pointed out that “the base case revenue guarantee means that if the rosy picture does not come true, we make up the difference.” The island’s revival depended on wooing foreign workers back to Bermuda, Mr Burchall said, but the Government had failed in communicating that urgency to ordinary Bermudians mistrustful of overseas workers during an economic recession. And he likened present efforts to the attempts by passers-by to revive him last month after he collapsed in the street from cardiac arrest. Passer-by Rick Means had noticed people wiping the blood from his forehead, but checked his pulse and gave the CPR that saved his life, Mr Burchall told the committee. “He asked the right question. I lived,” Mr Burchall said. “This Government is like the bystander — mopping up the blood.”

February 9. A fierce winter storm in the US has grounded several scheduled flights to the island and delayed others. According to Aaron Adderley, general manager at LF Wade International Airport, the storm has impacted traffic out of both New York and Boston.  “JetBlue, Delta and American Airlines’ midday flights to and from JFK have been cancelled, whilst Delta’s flight from Boston arrived slightly delayed, at 1.43pm. The departure time for the return flight to Boston has been pushed back to 5.50pm this evening. Delta’s service to and from Atlanta is operating as per scheduled.” As of this afternoon, New York was preparing for as much as a foot of snow, while as much as 18 inches was expected in Boston. Around 70 per cent of flights out of New York’s LaGuardia Airport were cancelled today, along with half of the flights set to depart JFK. Meanwhile, more than 350 flights out of Boston were grounded over the course of the day.

February 9. The Constituency Boundaries Commission has recommended that the House of Assembly make certain changes to the island’s boundaries. New maps and related legal descriptions of the changes are currently being prepared, and will be presented to Governor John Rankin. He will then pass on the document to the House to decide whether or not to make an order approving the Report. Francis Alexis QC, chairman of the Commission, admitted changing constituency boundaries was a “demanding challenge”. And he credits the unanimous agreement “to the exemplary statesmanship” by the governing One Bermuda Alliance and the Opposition Progressive Labour Party. “The enormity of this statesmanship is emphasized”, said Dr Alexis in a statement, “by the fact that, with Bermuda having 36 constituencies for its voters.” The four parliamentary members of the Commission are OBA MPs Sylvan Richards and Mark Pettingill and Michael Scott and Jamahl Simmons of the PLP. Also on the Commission was David Jenkins, Chief Justice of Prince Edward Island-Canada, who was selected by former Governor George Fergusson. “While both OBA and PLP have their own respective perspectives on constituency boundaries, they both elevated above those party concerns the higher national interest in promoting the mission of the Constitution,” said a statement released by Secretary Tenia Woolridge, on behalf of the Commission. The Constitution requires that, from time to time, the Commission review the constituency boundaries and report thereon to the House. In deciding whether or not to recommend any changes in the boundaries, the Commission has to ensure that the constituencies contain, as far as reasonably practicable, equal numbers of persons qualified to be registered as electors. This is to achieve equality of votes. The Commission has to consider the constitutionally prescribed factors; as geographical features, natural boundaries and contiguity of constituencies.” The Commission had eight meetings of its own and four public consultations. It drew upon the 2010 Report of the previous Commission, written submissions from members of the public, professional geographic information systems expertise from Kevin Mayall and voter registration data provided by Parliamentary Registrar Tenia Woolridge. “The Commission noted that the final Report on the 2016 Census would likely not be ready until after September 2018, which would be too late for the Commission to meet its constitutional time line. On all those factors, the Commission agreed to recommend that there be a maximum tolerance for deviation of 7 per cent from the mean number of voters per constituency. The mean, the average number of estimated eligible voters in each constituency, is 1,480. Ten constituencies fall outside of this tolerance for deviation of 7 per cent. This 7 per cent deviation from the mean would maximize attainment of the goal of ‘equal vote of equal value’, to ensure one-person one-vote of equal value. At the same time, it would minimise confusion caused to voters by being moved from one constituency to another.”

February 9. Carnival Cruise Line’s is to offer a series of four-day cruises from New York to Bermuda during the spring and summer of next year. Its cruise ship Carnival Horizon’s inaugural season includes voyages to Europe from Barcelona and the Caribbean from New York and Miami. The “long weekend” cruises are due to depart Thursdays and feature a full-day visit to Bermuda which is advertised on the cruise line’s website as a place “where guests can relax on the island’s legendary pink beaches, enjoy snorkeling, kayaking and other water sports, and visit historical landmarks such as Royal Naval Dockyard and Gibbs Hill Lighthouse, the oldest cast iron lighthouse in the Western Hemisphere”. Five four-day Bermuda cruises will be offered, departing May 24, June 21, July 19, August 16 and September 13, 2018. Christine Duffy, president of Carnival Cruise Line said: “Bermuda is a beautiful and sought-after destination and what better way to visit this breathtaking island paradise than on the spectacular Carnival Horizon? These visits to Bermuda are part of Carnival Horizon’s terrific inaugural schedule that also features top destinations throughout Europe and the Caribbean, providing our guests with opportunities to create wonderful and fun memories together.” Currently under construction at the Fincantieri shipyard in Marghera, Italy, Carnival Horizon will offer indoor and outdoor dining, bar, entertainment and activity options that debuted on Carnival Vista. Included is a groundbreaking bike-ride-in-the-sky attraction called SkyRide, an IMAX Theatre and a massive Waterworks aqua park featuring a water tube slide called Kaleid-o-slide. A variety of unique dining and bar concepts and spectacular outdoor spaces found only on Carnival Horizon will be announced in the near future.

February 9. Opinion, by James Paul Sabo, CPA, president of ETS Ltd. "As the year progresses the Internal Revenue Service continues to provide taxpayers with updates on expiring legislation that was renewed as well as deductions indexed for inflation. Recent updates follow. FBAR: new filing deadline. The new annual due date for filing Reports of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts (FBAR) for foreign financial accounts is April 15. This date change was mandated by the Surface Transportation and Veterans Health Care Choice Improvement Act of 2015, Public Law 114-41 (the Act). Specifically, section 2006(b)(11) of the Act changes the FBAR due date to April 15 to coincide with the federal income tax filing season. The Act also mandates a maximum six-month extension of the filing deadline. To implement the statute with minimal burden to the public and FinCEN, FinCEN will grant filers failing to meet the FBAR annual due date of April 15 an automatic extension to October 15 each year. Accordingly, specific requests for this extension are not required. (Please note: The due date for FBAR filings for foreign financial accounts maintained during calendar year 2016 is April 18, 2017, consistent with the Federal income tax due date.) In general, the filing requirement applies to anyone who had an interest in, or signature or other authority over foreign financial accounts whose aggregate value exceeded $10,000 at any time during 2016. Because of this threshold, the IRS encourages taxpayers with foreign assets, even relatively small ones, to check if this filing requirement applies to them. Three extra days to file and pay. Taxpayers will have until Tuesday, April 18, 2017 to file their 2016 returns and pay any taxes due. That’s because of the combined impact of the weekend and a holiday in the District of Columbia. The customary April 15 deadline falls on Saturday this year, which would normally give taxpayers until at least the following Monday. But Emancipation Day, a DC holiday, is observed on Monday, April 17 giving taxpayers nationwide an additional day. By law, DC holidays impact tax deadlines for everyone in the same way federal holidays do. Taxpayers requesting an extension will have until Monday, October 16, 2017 to file. Standard mileage rates revised. The standard mileage rates for the use of a car, van, pick-up or panel truck are:

New self-certification available for missed rollover deadline.  A taxpayer who inadvertently fails to properly complete a tax-free rollover of a distribution from an IRA or workplace retirement plan to another eligible retirement programme can often qualify to use a new self-certification procedure. Under the procedure, eligible taxpayers, encountering a variety of mitigating circumstances, can qualify for a waiver of the 60-day time limit and avoid possible early distribution taxes. Normally, an eligible distribution from an IRA or workplace retirement plan can only qualify for tax-free rollover treatment if it is contributed to another IRA or workplace plan by the 60th day after it was received. Previously, in most cases, taxpayers who failed to meet the time limit could only obtain a waiver by requesting a private letter ruling from the IRS. Now, a taxpayer who missed the time limit ordinarily qualifies for a waiver if one or more of 11 circumstances apply to them. They include a distribution cheque that was misplaced and never cashed, the taxpayer’s home was severely damaged, a family member died, the taxpayer or a family member was seriously ill, the taxpayer was incarcerated or restrictions were imposed by a foreign country. Ordinarily, the IRS and plan administrators and trustees will honour a taxpayer’s truthful self-certification that they qualify for a waiver under these circumstances. Moreover, even if a taxpayer does not self-certify, the IRS now has the authority to grant a waiver during a subsequent examination. Refund delays. A law change now requires the IRS to hold refunds on tax returns claiming the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) or Additional Child Tax Credit (ACTC) until February 15. Under this change required by the Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes (PATH) Act, the IRS must hold the entire refund — even the portion not associated with the EITC and ACTC. Even though the IRS will begin releasing EITC and ACTC refunds on February 15, many early filers will still not have actual access to their refunds until the week of February 27. The additional delay is due to several factors, including weekends, the Presidents Day holiday and the time banks often need to process direct deposits. This law change gives the IRS more time to detect and prevent fraud. Beyond the EITC and ACTC refunds and the additional security safeguards, the IRS anticipates issuing more than nine out of 10 refunds in less than 21 days. However, it’s possible a particular return may require additional review and take longer. Taxpayers are reminded that state tax agencies have their own refund processing time frames that vary, and some states may make additional reviews to ensure their refunds are being issued properly. Even so, taxpayers should file as usual, and tax return preparers should submit returns as they normally do. Use e-file and free file. The IRS expects more than 80 per cent of returns to be filed electronically. Choosing e-file and direct deposit remains the fastest and safest way to file an accurate income tax return and receive a refund. The IRS Free File programme, available at IRS.gov, gives eligible taxpayers a dozen options for brand-name products. Free File is a partnership with commercial partners offering free brand-name software to about 100 million individuals and families with incomes of $64,000 or less. Seventy per cent of the nation’s taxpayers are eligible for IRS Free File. People who earned more than $64,000 may use Free File Fillable Forms, the electronic version of IRS paper forms. Pursuant to the requirements relating to practice before the Internal Revenue Service, any tax advice in this communication is not intended to be used, and cannot be used, for the purpose of (I) avoiding penalties imposed under the United States Internal Revenue Code, or (ii) promoting, marketing or recommending to another person any tax related manner."

February 9. Leaks in the roof, ceiling and walls “continue to plague” TN Tatem Middle School, according to an air-quality report commissioned by the Ministry of Education. Widespread mould has been detected throughout the facility, particularly in air vents, with ten areas flagged for re-cleaning — including the school’s gym, cafeteria, machine shop section and educational therapy section. Acting Commissioner of Education Freddie Evans prefaced the report on the school, which is closed at present, by noting that “while there is still quite a bit of work yet to be done ... it is doable in the timelines we have established”. The report’s top recommendation is for greater maintenance and upkeep of the school, with “specific attention” required for the ventilation and air-conditioning system. Students from the middle school have been bused to alternative classrooms at Clearwater Middle School in St David’s since December 2016 because of mould, which is said to have affected staff as well as youngsters. An air-quality assessment seen by The Royal Gazette, dated January 30, compiled results from Bermuda Water Consultants Ltd with Island Air Quality Services, concluding that mould levels, including toxic varieties, stood out as a “major concern”. Out of 79 air samples, 16 contained noteworthy levels of mould, and from 80 surface samples, 53 showed mould — 31 of them showing active growth. “Roof, ceiling, window and wall leaks continue to plague the school’s physical plant,” the study concluded, among other recommendations — saying “corrective maintenance efforts must be improved”. In his statement, Dr Evans said the cleanup would be dealt with before students return on February 20, adding that the Government’s health and safety co-ordinator would sign off on the building’s readiness before students were approved to come back. Amon Smith, president of the school’s parent-teacher association, said the group planned to meet today to discuss the issues. “As a parent, I am tremendously concerned about what’s happening at the school, and making sure the department gets all these issues resolved,” Mr Smith said. “I’m just keeping my fingers crossed. We don’t want to have this scenario again.” Teachers walked off the job in September over air quality, with the Bermuda Union of Teachers subsequently branding it a “sick building”. Several varieties of mould turned up in the study, including Chaetomium mould, which is associated with water damage, as is penicillium, which can set off allergies. Cladosporium, found in “elevated and active growth areas” around the air vents for the principal’s and deputy principal’s offices, has been linked with asthma. Stachybotrys, commonly known as black mould, is a more toxic fungus that has been cited in cases of “sick building syndrome”, and was detected in several areas. One parent reported that her daughter, who is now 13, had lost her allergy symptoms since the relocation to Clearwater. Children who had come to TN Tatem from Purvis Primary School, including her daughter, had fallen sick once they started at the middle school. “I know there’s been mould problems for a very, very long time — when I first talked about it, nobody wanted to admit it,” she said. “I know about mould and what it can do. It can cause serious damage to your lungs and elsewhere in your body. If it’s got to the point where children are suffering, why would you allow children to be there?” The quality assessment closed with 17 recommendations for the school, including prohibiting staff from installing personal air-conditioning units in windows, and removing carpets tainted with dirt and dust, saying they were “not being effectively cleaned”. The report also called for the school’s administration to address “the chronic issue of improper storage and the hoarding of excess materials and supplies, as well as obsolete items, about the school plant generally”.

February 9. Some Bermuda reinsurers may consider changing tax domicile if the US enacts the tax cuts proposed by Donald Trump in his presidential election campaign. That is the view of analysts at Standard & Poor’s Global Ratings, whose new report on the island’s flagship insurance industry illustrates how swathing US tax cuts would dramatically reduce the island’s tax advantage over American competitors. Mr Trump has also spoken about border-adjustment tax, or tariffs, mainly in the context of goods, rather than services such as reinsurance. S&P said this could also be an issue for Bermudian firms, especially if the US considers reinsurance sourced from overseas as an import. S&P added that while there was little detail on how the new administration’s economic vision would translate into policy, the situation represented a new area of uncertainty for Bermudian companies. On the campaign trail last year, Mr Trump proposed cutting the US corporate tax rate from 35 per cent to 15 per cent. In its report entitled “The Bermuda Triangle: The New US Administration, Taxes and Reinsurance”, S&P said such a move, combined with potential tax on imports and lighter-touch regulation in the US, could “erode the relative attractiveness of Bermuda as a jurisdiction. Although most US re/insurers already pay effective tax rates below the current rate, a lower US tax rate would further compress the spread between onshore and offshore effective tax rates. As a result, depending on the geographic footprint and risk profile of their business, some Bermudians may consider reassessing their tax domicile.” According to S&P’s analysis, Bermuda re/insurers have had a roughly 20 percentage-point advantage in terms of effective tax rate, compared to large US property and casualty re/insurers over the past ten years. That would narrow to about 5 percentage points if Mr Trump’s proposal becomes reality. Paul Ryan, Speaker of the US House of Representatives, has proposed an alternative plan that would cut the corporate tax rate to 20 per cent, rather than Mr Trump’s 15 per cent plan. On the border-adjustment tax, S&P sees a lower level of threat to Bermuda, but not one that cannot be ruled out. “Although it’s likely the border-adjustment tax will be targeted towards industries that require manufacturing jobs instead of a relatively small, services-oriented industry like reinsurance, there could be parallels with Bermuda re/insurers that sell protection to customers in the US,” S&P stated. “It is too early to tell what the final rules will be or how they will apply to Bermuda re/insurers. At this early stage, however, we believe a lower corporate tax rate as part of a broader overhaul of the US tax code has a higher likelihood of materializing than a border-adjustment tax, which has met with resistance from other sectors and from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle. Still, if reinsurance underwritten in Bermuda were considered the import of a product that cost American jobs, rather than an export of risk abroad, it is conceivable that the proposed border-adjustment tax could apply.” Mr Trump’s efforts to boost economic growth could also have knock-on effects for the industry, such as higher interest rates. In the short term, this would likely “lower re/insurers’ shareholders’ equity levels as bond portfolios fall in value, while their cost of capital rises with the increase in risk-free rates”, S&P said. However, in the longer term it would lead to higher investment income as capital is reinvested at higher rates and possibly slow the flow of capital into insurance-linked securities as returns on more-mainstream asset classes rises. The authors of the report, led by S&P analysts Taoufik Gharib and Zikomo Simmons, also point out that Bermuda offers more than tax advantages to re/insurers. “Its ease of doing business, sophisticated regulatory regime, deep talent pool, proximity to the US market, and track record for efficiently paying claims are all difficult to replicate and contribute to the industry’s durability,” they wrote.

February 9. A total of 44 businesses have failed to keep up with health insurance coverage for their employees, according to Bermuda Health Council figures. The BHeC said that more than 200 employees and non-working spouses were affected by firms’ failure to pay up. BHeC compliance officer Ian Cameron said: “The increase in non-compliant employers is concerning because health insurance provides access to healthcare. At a time when Bermuda is seeing an increase in chronic disease in patients, this access becomes vitally important. These employees are having to pay out of pocket or are not receiving adequate and necessary healthcare because they cannot afford it.” And Mr Cameron warned: “It is also illegal to deduct money from an employees’ pay check for health insurance and not use that money to purchase health insurance for that employee.” A BHeC report said that between April last year and December this year, May was the peak for health insurance dodging, with 48 companies defaulting and 436 people affected. Figures have fallen since then, but since August 2016, where there were 26 employers in arrears, the numbers of companies with inactive health insurance policies rose steadily to the 46 listed in December of last year. Two firms wrongly included on the list issued by BHeC today have since been removed. The BHeC monitors and enforces compliance with health insurance law and insurance companies have to provide monthly updates on companies that have failed to comply with the law. The only exemptions for health insurance are when workers are employed for 15 hours or less a week, for two months or less or are students working weekends, public holidays or half-term holidays. The latest list of defaulters is:

A spokeswoman for the BHeC said that if a business has been wrongly listed or for inquires about rights to health insurance, people should e-mail healthcouncil@bhec.bm or call 292-6420.

February 8. A bid by Bermuda-based Frontline Ltd to acquire an independent crude oil tanker company less than half its size, is part of consolidation pressure across the sector. And while the non-binding proposal has been rejected by the directors of DHT Holdings, which is also domiciled in Bermuda, the challenges squeezing the sector and other shipping segments are unlikely to diminish in the near future. That is the view of Jens Alers, group director of Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement (Bermuda), which has offices in Par-la-Ville Road, Hamilton. “The move towards further consolidation cannot be stopped, regardless of whether by corporate takeover, merger, or by fleet acquisition. This happens not only in down markets,” he said. Mr Alers was commenting in the wake of a rejected unsolicited proposal by Frontline to acquire DHT. Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement was not connected with the proposal. Frontline has one of the world’s largest fleets of very large crude carriers, also known as VLCC, and Suezmax tankers. It has a market capitalisation of $1.15 billion, and a fleet of 22 VLCC, 17 Suezmax tankers, and 20 smaller tankers. Its target was DHT, which has a market capitalisation of $449.4 million, and a fleet of 19 VLCC and two Aframax tankers. Frontline proposed to acquire all the outstanding common shares of DHT for a per-share consideration of 0.725 Frontline shares. Together with its affiliates, it has already bought 15.3 million shares of the smaller company, representing 16.4 per cent of its outstanding common stock. In a statement, Frontline said a business combination between itself and DHT would create the largest public tanker company by fleet size and market capitalisation. However, DHT’s directors unanimously rejected the proposal. Erik Lind, chairman of DHT, said: “We believe that Frontline’s proposal substantially undervalues our company and represents an opportunistic attempt to acquire DHT at a low point in the cycle. We are confident that DHT will generate significantly more value to shareholders as an independent company than the prospects afforded by this proposal.” The directors rejected the proposal after giving it a “comprehensive review, conducted in consultation with its financial and legal advisers,” the company said in a statement. DHT was formed in 2005 and operates through management companies in Oslo, Norway and Singapore. Given the current market conditions, and Frontline’s history, Mr Alers was not surprised by the larger company’s bid. He said: “Frontline has been the most aggressive consolidator for many years. No other tanker company has been involved in more takeovers than Frontline.” This year, the crude oil tanker sector is likely to face further pressures, according to Peter Sand of international shipping association Bimco. He said the sector was already struggling due to a high inflow of newly build tankers, while “bloated oil product stocks” globally limit demand for tanker transportation. Another operator in the sector, Nordic American Tankers, earlier this week reported a full year profit of $32.9 million. Herbjorn Hansson, chairman of the Bermuda-based company, responding to a question about consolidation during an earnings conference call, said: “Preferably, you should consolidate with somebody who is like yourself. And there’s nobody like ourselves.” Nordic American has a 30-strong fleet consisting solely of Suezmax tankers, something it repeatedly touts as a key strength that helps reduce operating costs. The container ship sector is facing similar pressures as those in the oil tanker segment, said Mr Alers. “The rapid concentration process among container liner shipping companies has created a playing field in which we can see only a dozen, maybe even fewer, global players. Against that stands a still very fragmented field of container ship owners who seek liner companies as their charterers. On the tonnage supply side the concentration process will be driven by much smaller growth rates in containerized world trade, the ever increasing need to reduce slot costs and a significant increase in the number of container vessels being scrapped.” Meanwhile, Bimco sees slightly better prospects for container shipping this year due to growing demand and “decisive action” by shipowners to sell excessive tonnage for demolition. One of the sector’s unwelcome headline stories of last year was the bankruptcy of Hanjin Shipping, the world’s seventh largest shipping line. Bimco said that poor market conditions for Panamax ships had isolated and squeezed them out of the market between feeder ships and ultra large containerships. It also noted that it is a bad omen for the container shipping market to be starting 2017 with 1.4 million TEU [20-foot equivalent unit] of idle capacity. The association expects 2017 to be another tough year on pure tonnage providers. Regarding the bulk sector, Mr Alers said this was the most fragmented of all the major shipping markets. “A large number of owners face a demand side with many players” he said, mentioning agriculture giants Cargill, ADM and Bunge. “Yet, even the sharpest and deepest market downturn in living memory has not led to a marked increase in the rate of consolidation. The same applies to the tonnage supplier side, the shipowners.” Giving an overall assessment of trends, he added: “The confluence of scarcity of finance available to shipowners, and the need to invest into vessel upgrades to comply with environmental rules and regulations, will accelerate the concentration process in all three main shipping sectors.”

February 8. Premier Michael Dunkley concludes the latest round of Brexit talks in London today regarding the impact on the Overseas Territories of Britain’s departure from the European Union. As he prepared to head to a courtesy meeting with Theresa May, the British Prime Minister, Mr Dunkley called it “heartening” that the British Government “understands the positions of the OTs, and that commitment is still there” on the implications of Brexit. Meanwhile, a proposal tabled by the opposition Labour Party, which would force the territories to draw up a register of owners of offshore companies, is unlikely to win approval, Mr Dunkley said. “The Government has stated that they do not support the Bill,” the Premier said, adding that his meeting with Ben Wallace, the Minister of State for Security, would still proceed today as a necessary measure to reinforce Bermuda’s position. “We can’t afford to take anything lackadaisically,” Mr Dunkley said, warning the amendments proposed to the Criminal Finance Bill came with “potentially far-reaching implications”. Deputy Premier and Minister of Finance Bob Richards, also in London, already denounced the tax legislation in an interview with The Guardian newspaper on Monday. A meeting yesterday morning at the Chinese Embassy enabled the Premier to build on the “relatively new relationship” with China and discuss tourism and reinsurance. Officials “know of Bermuda, but did not know much about it”. Brexit is no simple process: the departure from the EU will drag on for more than two years, Mr Dunkley said, with market access, EU funding, trade and freedom of movement high on the OTs’ lists. Bermuda was elected to chair a preparatory session, with a subsequent meeting chaired by Baroness Anelay and including Robin Walker of the Department for Exiting the European Union. Discussions on international trade topped the Bermudian concerns, Mr Dunkley said, as the island does not receive EU funding streams. Mr Dunkley also gave a formal request to Baroness Anelay for the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women to be extended to cover the island, which Cabinet has approved. The convention can be extended to Bermuda “rather seamlessly”, Mr Dunkley said, and a statement can be expected during this Friday’s session of the House of Assembly.

February 8. Strong comments by finance minister Bob Richards in The Guardian newspaper were “right on” in defending Bermuda’s reputation, Premier Michael Dunkley said, adding that he had discussed the interview with Mr Richards. “We are here together, so we had a general conversation about the interview — the minister has been working on these matters for the whole tenure of this Government, and I have complete confidence in him.” It was not the first time that Mr Richards floated the idea of pursuing independence should Britain’s interest run counter to those of the island. This resurfaced in The Guardian on Monday when he said Bermuda remained aligned with Britain but “if that changes then we will have to think of ourselves”. “I don’t support that remark,” Mr Dunkley said when asked if he had addressed that particular line in advance with the Deputy Premier. “The Bermudian people have been very clear that, at this stage, they are very comfortable with the current constitutional arrangement. It’s a never-ending battle. Look how we fought for Solvency II, our work with the UK’s former Prime Minister Cameron on corruption, and how Mr Richards got us off the blacklist in the European Union.” The UK Government “has a good understanding of what Bermuda does — our tax regime has not changed for years”, Mr Dunkley said. “[But] because we are a smaller jurisdiction, some think they can push us around because they’re looking for revenue for themselves. We will get our message across and stand up and lobby in the right areas.” Mr Dunkley added that he had “talked more about Bermuda” today in interviews with the BBC, prior to his return to the island tomorrow.

February 8. Opposition leader David Burt closed the latest town hall meeting on the airport project with a clear message to opponents of the deal: make your presence heard, but abide by the law. Speaking of Friday’s sitting of Parliament to debate two Acts linked with the deal, Mr Burt last night told a crowd of about 300: “I will make sure to encourage you to not break the law, but make sure we assemble in a peaceful fashion, to make sure the people’s representatives see the people, and how the people feel.” The message proved unpopular with some who attended last night’s meeting at Dellwood Middle School, with one woman demanding that protesters “stop this Bill come hell or high water” — while a man decried Mr Burt’s leadership, to applause, saying he should “tell your army to show up for battle”. Responding that he was sorry for disappointing him, the Progressive Labour Party leader said the Opposition’s job was to educate the people and to work in the political sphere. Chris Furbert, the president of the Bermuda Industrial Union, made an appearance, getting a standing ovation by urging “if we want to stop police and the OBA government, the country better show up. It’s time for the silent majority to show up at the House of Assembly Friday, so we can really turn this deal down." Mr Burt’s cautious stance was echoed by Michael Scott, the Shadow Attorney-General, who told the crowd that police could stop anyone “standing in front of the gates and preventing access to a public building”, while a member of the audience advised that “as long as you keep moving, they have no right to stop you”. The bulk of the two-hour meeting concerned the financials for the project, over which Mr Burt and Bob Richards, the Minister of Finance, have differed vehemently since the first PLP town hall meeting on it was held in December 2014. While Mr Burt continued to criticize Mr Richards for his failure to include the deal’s financial model with the agreement under review by MPs, Mr Richards yesterday insisted the model would never have been divulged for a public-private partnership, as it contained economic details for a private company, and thus did not belong to the Government. “Based on the financial information provided, the Opposition should be able to perform all calculations it requires to come to a full understanding of the project economics for Bermuda,” the minister said. Acknowledging a long 27 months in which many had grown “tired of hearing about the airport”, Mr Burt pointed to the school’s absence of wi-fi as part of the reason why the deal should be seen as important. He said that Aecon, the contractor appointed by Canadian Commercial Corporation, stands to reap a minimum of $300 million over the course of the new terminal’s 30 years of management under Bermuda Skyport Limited, modeled off its 15.9 per cent return. Mr Burt said that Aecon stood to put $69 million up front out of a total project development cost of $418 million, telling the audience that the island would receive “nothing” until the contractor had recouped its investment. The Leader of the Opposition said he noted the presence of an Aecon representative in last night’s meeting. Mr Burt also insisted that the airport terminal project could not be likened to the public-private partnership behind the hospital acute care wing, since the airport deal entailed diverting government revenue. Lawrence Scott, the Shadow Minister of Transport, questioned why the model he had brought to Parliament two years and 11 months ago — “without having to give away financial or operational control” — had been dismissed by Mr Richards. “At the end of the day, it looks as though this airport will just be another additional tax on Bermudians, because they only looked at one option,” Mr Scott said. Mr Burt also noted that the independent Blue Ribbon Panel set up by Mr Richards in January had yet to issue its assessment, and questioned its efficacy since “the terms of reference were limited just to commercial soundness — they don’t get to ask the question whether or not it makes sense”. Questions from some in the audience were limited to whatever avenue remained for stopping the deal. Asked by one woman what solution remained, Mr Burt replied: “This is the political process.” He called on voters to make their views known to their MPs, adding: “We want to win this vote in Parliament.” “I don’t know,” the audience member responded. “What’s the answer?” Another answered her: “People power.”

February 8. One Communications has rolled out almost 60 miles of super fast fibre-optic cabling since it started installing its FibreWire network last year. The cabling now reaches about 1,400 homes. It is part of a $20 million investment by the Bermudian-owned internet service provider to improve internet speeds and 4G LTE coverage. “Almost 90 per cent of our shareholder base is Bermudian, which is just one aspect of our business that motivates us to ensure we continue to make improvements,” said Frank Amaral, chief executive officer of One Communications. “The One team is determined to drive our company forward in order to offer more and better services. Bermuda deserves a world-class network and it is our every intention to provide exactly that, so we are proud to be producing a Bermudian-built infrastructure that achieves those objectives.” It is expected that the island-wide launch of FibreWire services will be completed by early next year. The network is designed to increase internet speeds and bandwidth capacity during peak usage times. “Replacing the current infrastructure including, if needed, wiring right into customers’ homes, also means greater reliability and uptime for the customer,” said Mr Amaral. The company has taken steps to ensure people are directly informed when work is going to happen in their neighborhood through a series of notifications by e-mail and outbound calling campaigns. “The FibreWire work is part of a wider package of improvements that the company is implementing — its 4G LTE mobile coverage of the entire Island will be complete later this year giving customers ultra-fast mobile data speeds similar to what they have already been enjoying in the City of Hamilton,” said Mr Amaral. One Communications has pledged to radically overhaul its TV product as well as customer care, which is now available 24/7 for mobile, cable TV and internet subscribers. “The complaints and general feedback from our customers are being heard and I believe that through this very substantial investment in both our products and customer care services we will address many of those concerns. Over the coming months, we will be announcing other initiatives that I am sure will further address any remaining issues that people have raised. These are going to be exciting times for One Communications and our customers will benefit greatly.”

February 8. The rate of inflation dropped slightly last December to 1.6 per cent, 0.1 percentage points down from November. The price change refers to the standard basket of goods and services measured by the consumer price index compared to the same period in 2015. A basket of goods and services that cost $100 in April 2015 now costs $102.10. The transport and foreign travel bounced back from a 2.8 per cent decrease in November with a 1.3 per cent increase in December. The average cost of automotive fuel and cycle fuel rose, up 3.3 per cent and 3.2 per cent respectively. The cost of tobacco and liquor fell 0.4 per cent in December, with the average cost of spirits, discounted over the Christmas period, falling 1.1 per cent. The price of fuel and power fell for the third consecutive month, dropping 3.1 per cent over the month. The fuel adjustment rate decreased by 9.5 per cent over the period. The cost of food dropped for the second successive month, down 1.3 per cent in December, put down to drops in the price of cookies, non-alcoholic drinks and fresh and frozen lamb. The rent sector increased slightly, up 0.1 per cent after three months of no movement. The cost of properties subject to rent control increased by less than 0.1 per cent. The education, recreation, entertainment and reading sector also rose by 0.1 per cent in December after a 0.2 per cent decrease the previous month. Health and personal care, clothing and footwear and household goods, services and supplies were all static compared to last November. The average cost of detergents and bleaches increased by 1.1 per cent, but that was offset by a decrease of 0.5 per cent in the average cost of cleaning materials.

February 7. White Mountains Insurance Group reported a $33 million loss in the fourth quarter, compared with a profit of $268 million in the same period in 2015. However, the Bermuda-based financial services holding company made a profit of $413 million for the year, up from $298 million in 2015. The book value per share was $790, down 1 per cent for the quarter, but up 14 per cent for the year. “It was an okay last quarter in a successful year for White Mountains. For the year, we grew ABVPS by 14 per cent with the Sirius, Symetra, and Tranzact sales,” said Ray Barrette, chief executive officer of White Mountains. The company owns about 75 per cent of Bermuda-based OneBeacon Insurance Group. Mr Barrette said: “OneBeacon grew book value per share by 11 per cent, maintaining discipline in competitive markets.” Regarding other segments of White Mountains, he added: “HG Global/BAM continues to grow at improved margins, and most of our businesses at White Mountains Capital are building value at a good clip. Investment returns of 2.7 per cent were a bit disappointing as we were under allocated to equities, post Sirius sale, in a rising stock market. We returned $900 million to shareholders, mostly through share repurchases. We still have about $1.8 billion in undeployed capital and continue to look for opportunities, well positioned to deal with a world full of unpredictable developments.” Last month there were reports by Bloomberg News and Insurance Insider that OneBeacon Insurance Group was exploring a sale. At the time, a spokeswoman for OneBeacon told The Royal Gazette the company had no comment to make on the matter. OneBeacon reported a fourth-quarter profit of $8.2 million, compared to $22.1 million for the same period of 2015. The company’s full year profit was $108.4 million, up from $36.8 million in 2015. The total included a $16 million tax benefit related to a settlement with the Internal Revenue Service for tax years 2007 to 2012. The book value per share, including dividends, was up 1 per cent for the quarter and 11 per cent for the year. Mike Miller, OneBeacon’s CEO, said: “We are pleased to have delivered solid 11 per cent growth in book value per share in 2016. Investment results reflect the benefits of our short-duration fixed-maturity portfolio in a rising interest rate environment and a decent lift from our allocation to risk assets. Underwriting results reflect the strong performance of our portfolio of specialty businesses. Going into 2017, we are positioned to continue delivering good underwriting results across our diverse portfolio of businesses.” OneBeacon’s net written premiums were $236 million in the fourth-quarter, which was flat compared to the same period in 2015. Full year net written premiums were $1.1 billion, down 3 per cent on 2015. During the final quarter, the company did not repurchase any shares, however, over the course of the year it repurchased 850,349 shares for a total of $10.6 million. White Mountains repurchased 24,808 common shares in the fourth-quarter, for $20 million. During 2016 it repurchased 1.1 million shares for $887 million.

February 7. Nordic American Tankers made a $1.8 million loss in the fourth-quarter. That equates to a loss of two cents per share. Five analysts surveyed by Zacks Investment Research had estimated the Bermudian-based company would post a break-even result. For the last three months of 2016 the company recorded revenue of $52.2 million, down from $77.3 million in the same period of 2015. The full-year profit was $32.9 million, or 36 cents per share, down from $114.6 million, or $1.29 per share, in 2015. Revenue for the year was $236.8 million. The oil tanker sector has faced challenges in the last few years. The yearly average spot rate of Suezmax vessels, the only size of vessel in Nordic American’s 30-strong fleet, dropped below $20,000 per day from 2011 to 2013, and was below $30,000 last year. However, the company has a cash break-even rate below $11,000 per day per ship, and it has reported a rise in TCE, or time charter earnings, in the fourth quarter, up from $16,700 during the third-quarter to $21,600 in the final three months of the year. The company said that level has risen to $25,000 so far this year. Nordic American has ordered the construction of three new Suezmax tankers, to be delivered in the second half of 2018. It plans to pay for those ships mostly from the successful issuing of an additional $120 million of shares last September, but also from cash from operations and with debt. Later this month the company will pay a common share dividend of 20 cents, the 78th time it has paid a dividend since 1997. In a statement, the company said that with TCE rising, it was “reaping the benefits of increasing our fleet over the last few years”. The company is engaged in the transportation of crude oil and has no investments in the dry cargo or container sectors. Nordic American stated: “In addition to paying a quarterly dividend, we wish to continue building a cash position in order to keep the low debt level when we grow our fleet.” The company’s adjusted net operating earnings were $28.2 million for the fourth quarter, up from $21.7 million in the third quarter. Nordic American has a credit facility of $500 million, which matures in December 2020. Commenting on the world economy and tanker market, the company said: “The development of the world economy affects the tanker industry. A low oil price is stimulating the world economy, which is positive for the tanker market.” Nordic American’s shares yesterday closed up 33 cents at $8.68 on the New York Stock Exchange.

February 7. Bermuda-based insurer and reinsurer Argo Group has closed the acquisition of fellow island firm Ariel Re. Agreement on the $235 million deal was announced last November. And today Argo also announced that Ryan Mather, former Ariel Re chief executive officer, will serve as Argo’s global head of reinsurance leading all reinsurance operations. “Ariel Re and Argo Group are a terrific fit — operationally and culturally,” Mark Watson, CEO of Argo Group said. “Ryan’s leadership and collaboration were key factors in our ability to finalise this agreement and begin implementing the company’s integration plan so swiftly. This is reflective of the teamwork and outstanding results we expect to see in the future.” Mr Mather’s organisation will retain the Ariel Re brand as a member of Argo Group, and he will report directly to Jose Hernandez, head of Argo’s international business. Ariel Re was jointly owned by Banco BTG Pactual SA and the Abu Dhabi Investment Council. The company underwrites a global portfolio of insurance and reinsurance business through Lloyd’s Syndicate 1910. Ariel Re employs around 100 people and has offices in Victoria Place, Hamilton. In November a spokesman for Argo told this newspaper that job cuts were not high on the agenda for the combined company. He said: “Cost savings were not a major driver in the rationale for the acquisition of Ariel Re, rather we are excited about bringing two significantly complementary businesses together. Both teams will have a significant role to play in bringing our platforms together for the benefit of our customers.” The reinsurance arm of Argo, whose headquarters is in Pitts Bay Road, will combine with Ariel Re. In November, Mr Watson said that the acquisition was part of Argo Group’s bid to build scale in its London and Bermudian platforms by adding complementary lines of special business. Argo said the combined company will have “a well-balanced portfolio mix” of about 88 per insurance and 12 per cent reinsurance.

February 7. A Swiss company has signed a deal to buy a controlling share in Bermuda-based hi-tech firm QuoVadis. And WISeKey, a leading cybersecurity and internet of things company, said it expects the acquisition to add more than $20 million in revenues to its top line next year. Carlos Moreira, chairman and CEO of WISeKey, said: “This transaction will bring strong synergies to WISeKey with a large recurring customer base of QuoVadis’ proven trust/link and sealsign technologies, in-depth operations experience running multiple secure and high-availability trustcentre environments under strict accreditation regimes and adept sales and support teams based in important customer markets, including Switzerland, the Netherlands and Germany. The deal means WISeKey will take an 85 per cent share of the equity in QuoVadis, with the transaction expected to close this quarter. Existing QuoVadis shareholders will get a cash payment plus equity in WISeKey International Holding and current QuoVadis debt will be extinguished. QuoVadis management shareholders will retain a 15 per cent minority stake, which WISeKey has the option to later acquire. QuoVadis will continue to operate as a stand-alone company, expanding its business from centres in Switzerland, Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium and the UK, as well as in Bermuda. Roman Brunner, CEO of QuoVadis, said: “QuoVadis is enjoying rapid growth providing electronic trust services across the European markets based on our proven track record for local support, practical advice and implementation success. “The transaction with WISeKey will enable QuoVadis to extend our growth serving our multinational corporate markets, as well as the fast-evolving demands for services in the internet of things and eIDAS EID and electronic trust sectors.” QuoVadis provides co-location, managed data centre, infrastructure as a service and cloud hosting, as well as disaster recovery services. Its services also include acting as an international certificate authority and digital signature solutions. QuoVadis was founded in 2000 by Anthony Nagel and Stephen Davidson. It now works with 3,000 customers worldwide, including more than 300 large capitalisation companies, with around $17 million in revenue predicted for this year alone and $20 million for 2017. 

February 7. An international law firm that linked up with an island legal company has won the right to be recognized in Bermuda. But the winning case by Walkers (Bermuda), which set up an agreement with Bermudian firm Taylors under a licensing deal, is set to be challenged by the Bermuda Bar Council, which claimed the company had broken rules requiring local companies to be controlled by Bermudians. Walkers appealed to Supreme Council to reverse a decision last year to block its deal with Taylors. But Chief Justice Ian Kawaley, in a written ruling, said that the Walkers arrangement with Taylors did not breach section 114 of the Companies Act 1981, which requires local companies to be owned and controlled by Bermudians. Mr Kawaley said: “Although in my judgment it would be a bridge too far in terms of statutory interpretation for this court to find that section 114 by implication prohibits licensing arrangements of the sort that the appellant proposes to enter into, it is easy to see that the Bermuda Bar Council would be assisted by legislative support to regulate, either itself or through an appropriate Minister, the terms on which foreign legal brands can be used by local professional companies. I should add that it is not apparent to me that the most pressing concerns underpinning any such regulatory regime would be the minutiae of the financial or service arrangements that Bermudian professional services firms enter into. What those concerns might be was not canvassed in the present appeal, which focused on a different statutory regime altogether. My gentle suggestion that some regulation might be helpful involves no tacit criticism of the proposed arrangement in this case. Rather, it is to express sympathy with the conundrum which confronted the Bermuda Bar Council and prompted the decision to refuse to issue the certificate sought by the appellant on grounds which I have found to be unsound in legal terms.” The written judgment said: “At the time of the relevant application, 100 per cent of the appellant’s shares were owned by Bermudians. At the time of the present appeal, the appellants were 99 per cent owned by a Bermudian lawyer and one per cent owned by a lawyer with a local permanent residence certificate.” Kevin Taylor, partner in Taylors, in association with Walkers, said yesterday that Supreme Court “has declared that the company fulfilled all the requirements of the Bermuda Bar Act 1974 and ordered that a certificate of recognition be granted. On February 2, the Bar Council filed a notice of appeal challenging the Chief Justice’s decision. The company will oppose the appeal, which, it is hoped, will be listed for hearing in the March Court of Appeal session. In the meantime, Taylors continues to provide Bermuda legal services in association with Walkers as usual.” Richard Horseman, of Wakefield Quin and president of the Bar Council, added: “I can’t really comment on it right now because the matter is not yet concluded and may still be ongoing through the courts.”

February 7. Opposition MPs are still yet to review the financial model behind the airport development agreement, according to David Burt, leader of the Progressive Labour Party. “The fact that it continues to be withheld makes me believe they don’t want the people to see it,” Mr Burt said, of the item known as schedule 29, which he said would mark “an integral part of Parliament’s understanding of the ramifications to this deal”. The Project Agreement for the new terminal at LF Wade International Airport was first released to MPs on January 29, with Mr Burt on that occasion criticizing the non-disclosure of details, including the financial model. A debate looms in Parliament this Friday on the creation of the Bermuda Airport authority, as well as the concessions required for the development. That debate was postponed from last week by Randy Horton, the Speaker of the House, to give MPs more time to examine the agreement. The two Acts were first scheduled for debate on December 2, when protests stopped Parliament from proceeding, and a heavy police presence accompanied last Friday’s session, when the House of Assembly resumed with the airport legislation passed over. Mr Burt said yesterday that he had been informed by the minister that “the information is confidential” — despite the financial model contained in schedule 29 being referenced at several points in the Project Agreement. The Royal Gazette was unable to reach Mr Richards, who is overseas, for clarification. However, the minister told ZBM that divulging the financial model would not put MPs in any better position to assess the project’s value for Bermuda — and said that the information contained in the model was “not Government’s to give”. Mr Richards said the model covered the “basic internal calculations” of Bermuda Skyport Corporation, the entity that would operate the new airport terminal. “It’s not owned by Government,” the minister added. A town hall meeting has been called 7pm today by the PLP, with the project to be discussed with the public at Dellwood Middle School — at which Mr Burt will join a panel including Shadow Minister for Transport Lawrence Scott. The Opposition leader declined to discuss any direction to his MPs in anticipation of Friday’s debate, saying 24 hours added up to a long time in politics. “We’re going to remain in the same place we were in the run-up to December 2,” he said, referring to the last time the Acts were set for debate. “If we have a public-private partnership, that means MPs should be aware of how much the private partner stands to profit by way of transferring revenues.” The minister has stated in the past that the partner company would be able to divide revenues for the new terminal “50-50” with the Government after recouping an initial dividend of $63 million on the project. Mr Burt said MPs would be unable to ascertain the Government’s responsibility in the matter without seeing in detail “what profits this company is going to make of public assets.”

February 7. The island’s newest five-star hotel is set to open its doors to its first paying guests next week, according to developer Stephen King. The Loren at Pink Beach, above, a boutique resort on the former site of the Pink Beach Club, will celebrate its launch with a party this week before the first guests arrive on February 16. “This is a great year for Bermuda,” Mr King said. “We have a new hotel here, the first new hotel in a while and that’s exciting in itself. And there’s the America’s Cup coming. There’s a lot going on. Every time I used to come to the island, I thought this is what it needs. There are a lot of executives and 30 to 60-year-olds who want to travel and expect this when they go somewhere. This is what they want, and when they arrive on the island it just didn’t exist.” While the finishing touches were still being put in place at the property yesterday, Mr King said he was excited to welcome the hotel’s first guests. While he said only 12 rooms will be available next week, many more are expected to come online in the following weeks. “We are experimenting at the moment,” Mr King said. “We have various friends, family and workers trying out the rooms at the moment to make sure everything works, but the first fee-paying guests arrive on the 16th, which is really exciting. The inside restaurant we are opening on March 9, and we will be having a big party to celebrate the opening of the beach club in April. Then we’re into the America’s Cup, and there are going to be a series of events during that period.” Mr King said one of the highlights of the new hotel’s design are its views of South Shore, something he said was a focus from the project’s conception. “It always bugged me that no matter where I went the views were so inaccessible,” he said. “And it’s not just the ocean view. For me, it’s as much about the view down the coastline. Bermuda’s coastline is gorgeous. The great thing is that literally all of the rooms face the ocean. Wherever you are, any room of the hotel, in reception, in the restaurant, everywhere you have the views of Bermuda, which is what you are supposed to have.” Each of the rooms also feature a large balcony, which Mr King described as “a living room outside.  Whether it’s windy or rainy, it’s still going to be 60 degrees out here on the worst day in Bermuda,” he said. “You can sit out here with complete privacy from your neighbors and enjoy the view.” Included in the project are a few small homages to the former resort at the site, including a collection of pictures on display at the hotel’s main bar depicting the former Pink Beach Club, its demolition and the development of the new hotel. Meanwhile, the hotel’s beach club is set to get a familiar name when it opens — the Pink Beach Club. While online bookings at the hotel have only begun, Mr King said the response had already been positive. “We have only recently been up on the various online travel agencies, but we have started to get bookings and we have been getting block bookings for the America’s Cup, which is great,” he said. “Every time we open up a block of rooms, we see the interest and prices go up. I think we are in good shape.” Asked how he felt about the project finally becoming a reality, Mr King said: “It feels great. There have been cardboard models and sketches and little pieces of paper that showed what this was supposed to come to be like, and now we are here. It’s really a great thing to see something come to fruition like this, because it is a lot of work. And now it exists. It’s super exciting. I hope international travelers and locals alike enjoy it.”

February 7. Senior Magistrate Juan Wolffe has expressed serious concern at the rising levels of domestic violence and child care orders being dealt with in the islands courts. Civil cases involving child supervision and care orders rose by 26 per cent in 2016 compared to the previous year, while applications for Domestic Violence Protection Orders increased by nearly 14 per cent last year. Mr Wolffe told The Royal Gazette the latest figures painted a worrying picture about the breakdown of the family unit in Bermuda. He also noted a rise in the number of men seeking DVPOs. “Historically, persons who have been abused or assaulted suffer in silence,” Mr Wolffe said. “But we are seeing this trend change as more and more people are exercising their right to come to court and apply for Domestic Violence Protection Orders. The first part of this process requires an individual to outline their circumstances and the court will determine whether to grant an interim order if it is satisfied there is a risk of harm. The second hearing involves both parties. Sworn statements are taken and the parties give evidence to the court, which decides whether the order should remain in place for up to 12 months. We have also noticed a steady increase over the last three or four years in the number of men looking to obtain these orders against women. This trend is also reflected in the number of men coming forward to complain about sexual abuse, some of which may be historic. It’s a very concerning situation. Family Court is already busy and to see an increase in these type of offences is something that needs to be looked at.” Family Court is also responsible for making supervision and care orders in cases where children are deemed to be at risk in a family setting. Supervision orders can impose counseling or workshop requirements on parents while the child remains at home. However, in cases where there is grave concern over a child’s health and safety, care orders can be made. Where care orders are made the child is put into the care of the Director of Child and Family Services and could be moved to a group home, such as the Brangman Home, or a foster family. “We are seeing an increase in both of these kind of cases,” Mr Wolffe said. “What it tells us to a large degree is that our children are under threat from parents who are not carrying out their parental responsibilities. We are seeing more cases where there has been a complete breakdown in not just the family unit but the parents’ ability to be mothers and fathers. Moreover, there seems to be an increase in not just absentee fathers, but absentee mothers. Many fathers, it seems, have stepped up to the plate, but there are more and more absentee mothers now. That should cause us great concern.” The Senior Magistrate added: “The question obviously is why we are seeing this, and it may be down to economic opportunities and other social issues. But I personally believe it is down to the erosion of our values as to what is right and wrong and how it is acceptable for us to behave. There seems to be a disconnect and we see this in family court all the time where parents are ignorant of how their behavior has detrimental effects on their children. It is taxing us as a community more, and it is taxing the system more too.”

February 7. The operators of Shelly Bay Beach House hope to have the facility up and running in time for the summer despite complicated structural challenges with the building. Renovations have begun on the waterfront Hamilton Parish property, which will include a fully licensed restaurant and bar with water sports and beach facilities, as well as expanded parking in the existing eastern lot. Tom Steinhoff, of Shelly Bay Beach House Ltd, anticipates that he will spend more on the facility than the $1m originally estimated in June 2015 due to structural challenges including rusting steel supports in the walls and wood rot in the roof. However, he plans to have the venue open in time for the summer — at the earliest June — and said that up to 20 new jobs could be created once it is completed. Outlining some of the ongoing plans, Mr Steinhoff said: “We want to improve the layout a little bit — it will be the same size; we are just changing the shape of the roof. “We will have a covered patio so we are able to do indoor and outdoor dining. The outdoor patio will be mostly covered and will have retractable walls so we can close it on bad weather days. We had to spend more on the structure of the building but I think the end result will be fantastic. We are shooting for June but the reality is we may come up against some more hurdles and challenges with the construction. We are taking it back to a clean palette so we should be able to make some progress soon. Our spending has gone up a bit but we are certainly still hoping to do the water sports like the kayaks and paddle boards. We hope to represent some local dishes to give it a local flair — some good local seafood. We will have entertainment on the weekends such as solo artists — a brunch atmosphere with music. We are looking to hire about 20 people and we are certainly looking for Bermudian staff.” Original plans for the facility sparked controversy due to the inclusion of a new parking lot near the existing playground but that element of the plan was shelved by the developer. Some concerns have since been voiced about the selling of alcohol near the public playground but Mr Steinhoff does not envisage that being a problem. He said: “We don’t intend on having alcohol near the playground. People take their own alcohol down to the beach all the time. We will be serving responsibly so I don’t see any trouble with it.” Speaking about the opportunity the new venue presents, Mr Steinhoff added: “I think it is good that people are utilizing Bermuda’s waterfront more. It is a great asset to the island and we should really take advantage of it. I think it is good to have more stuff going on the beach. We are excited to bring new amenities to the area, clean up the eyesore of the building and make it into something successful.”

February 7. Ian Mackie, a popular former diver who worked as caretaker on the property of film star Michael Douglas and his wife, has been named by police as the 48-year-old man found in an unresponsive state on Sunday at the Warwick home. The son of veteran diver Doug Mackie, he was recalled by friend Graham Maddocks as a big-hearted and indomitable man who had persevered admirably through the loss of his legs because of medical issues about two years ago. “It didn’t stop him; he was a charger,” Mr Maddocks told The Royal Gazette. “His passion was his family. Once he lost his legs, he could not participate in the boating world, but he was always interested in what was going on.” Shocked at his friend’s abrupt passing after a successful year and a half of painstaking physical rehabilitation, Mr Maddocks said he had just sung at the 23-year anniversary of Mr Mackie and his wife, Aracely. He is also survived by his daughter, Cecilia. Mr Mackie’s lifetime on the water began at his father’s dive business, and he was known to many through his work, including commercial diving, through the family business, Mackie Marine. “The water and diving were rich in Ian’s blood, and our friendship bonded on the water and on barges,” Mr Maddocks recalled. “He loved Central and South America; his wife is originally from Honduras. He was very well travelled and loved everywhere he went.” Well read and known for his quick wit, Mr Mackie was skilled at taking on new business, obtaining a certification as a butler and studying property management. “He worked with some big names before the Douglases, but when that position came, he got it,” Mr Maddocks said. “He had a winning personality.” Although the Douglas residence was up for sale, Mr Mackie was still tending for the residences at the Longford Road, Warwick estate. He was discovered there at about 2.30pm on Sunday and pronounced dead shortly thereafter at the hospital, police said, with foul play not suspected. Funeral arrangements are to be announced.

February 6. Bermuda’s finance minister Bob Richards has fired a broadside at the UK’s hypocrisy over tax legislation. Speaking to The Guardian newspaper, Mr Richards blasted Britain’s bid to have its Overseas Territories establish public registers of the owners of offshore companies and said the UK should get its own house in order. And he repeated the warning that Bermuda would consider independence if British interests collided with the island’s. Mr Richards said the UK itself “is a tax haven” and pointed to its non-domicile laws that allow foreigners to live in Britain but not pay tax on their overseas income. The Deputy Premier is in London with Michael Dunkley, the Premier, for talks with the British government on Brexit. He said: “You have more billionaires resident in London than any place on earth. They are not here for the weather, they are here for the tax climate. We have a double standard going on here.” He added: “We have a much more transparent, much cleaner system than the countries that promulgate these rules in the first place. The popular notion that somehow there is something nefarious going on in a small island that is relatively successful is false.” A British parliament cross-party group of MPs, led by Margaret Hodge, a former Labour minister, has called for an amendment to the UK criminal finances bill to force the Overseas Territories to follow the UK in creating a public register of company ownership by 2020. Bermuda, unlike the UK, has had a central register of company ownership for decades which is shared with other governments if requested, but is not public. But Mr Richards said: “There is a thing is this world called privacy and at least in my island privacy still exists. There is no public right to know anybody’s private business.” He told the left-leaning Guardian: “The register in Bermuda is there to protect the government’s reputation ... it is not the public’s business. We are not here to tell you who is doing business in Bermuda.” Bermuda, which has just become chair of the UK Overseas Territories Association, is now leading the charge against the proposed Hodge amendment. Mr Richards said that there was no reason for Bermuda to make its register public while US states like Delaware, Wyoming and Nevada maintained private registers of company ownership. He added: “We cannot move to a standard that our major trading partner has not adopted. We may very well lose business. Would you take that chance?” Mr Richards said that the island’s Government was prepared to listen to the UK, but would protect its own interests. Mr Richards warned last year that Bermuda “would not hesitate” to break its ties with Britain if the country were to be threatened by Brexit. He said: “At the moment, our interests are aligned, but if that changes then we will have to think of ourselves. This amendment being proposed is not in the interests of Bermuda.”

February 6. Premier Michael Dunkley will this week represent Bermuda and the Overseas Territories in meetings about the potential impact of Brexit. The Premier has travelled to London for the UK Overseas Territories Joint Ministerial Council (UK OT JMC) on European Negotiations in the wake of Bermuda being elected the head of the UK Overseas Territories Association. A spokeswoman for the Premier said: “Part of Bermuda’s role is to represent OT’s by leading and engaging in high-level discussions regarding Brexit’s potential effect on the territories.” Mr Dunkley will be joined by Bob Richards, the Deputy Premier, and Derrick Binns, the Secretary to the Cabinet, on the trip, which will involve a series of meetings. “The Premier will meet with Baroness Anelay to formally request Bermuda’s participation in the UN Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women,” the spokeswoman said. “Mr Dunkley and the Government of Bermuda are keen to ensure that Bermuda has the convention extended to us as the Government has made ‘good progress’ with CEDAW, with extensive work being completed on a series of 13 CEDAW compliance templates provided by the UK Government Equalities Office. “Additional engagements include a courtesy visit of all the OT Leaders with British Prime Minister Theresa May and David Davis, the Secretary of State for exiting the European Union.” Mr Dunkley is also set to meet with Ben Wallace, the Ministry of State for Security, to discuss amendments to the Criminal Finance Bill, and representatives of the Chinese Embassy based in the UK. The Premier is expected to return to the island on Thursday.

February 6. The battle to claw back millions of dollars that went “missing” during financial negotiations to build the Par-la-Ville hotel is set to be played out in London’s High Court this year. Three claimants have launched civil proceedings against businessman Robert McKellar in a bid to retrieve $12.5 million that they say Mr McKellar used to buy a luxury Aston Martin car, an engagement ring and two countryside properties in the south of England. The $12.5 million was transferred from Par-la-Ville Hotel and Residences Ltd through a trust to Mr McKellar’s firm, Argyle UAE Ltd, to help arrange financing for the multimillion-dollar Hamilton hotel project that never got off the ground. Liquidators for PLVHR and Argyle Limited — a Gibraltar-based firm run by Mr McKellar — as well as receivers for the trustees of the Skyline Trust, set up to enable the funding arrangement, have alleged “unjust enrichment, fraudulent misrepresentation and procuring a breach of contract” against Mr McKellar, Argyle UAE Ltd and his wife, Susan Hawes. Hamilton Mayor Charles Gosling has expressed hope that the money will be recovered and the legal proceedings will finally bring to an end a two-year financial fiasco that plunged the Corporation into turmoil. Last August the three claimants obtained an injunction against Mr McKellar and Argyle UAE Ltd freezing their assets worldwide to a total value of $12.4 million. A second proprietary order prevents Mr McKellar from selling his two homes in East Sussex, England, and an Aston Martin Vanquish motor car. In response to the injunctions, Mr McKellar provided sworn affidavits outlining how he received two sums of $499,999 and $500,000 between October and November 2014 into a Barclays Bank account in London and a further $11.5 million into an Argyle UAE account in the Cayman Islands. He says he converted the $999,999 into sterling and put the money into a personal HSBC account “as director’s remuneration to him as director of Argyle UAE”. The claimants allege he used £73,000 of the money transferred to the HSBC account to buy an engagement ring for Ms Dawes. The claimants further allege that Mr McKellar’s affidavits show that of the $11.5 million sum, he converted $328,158 into sterling and bought a £210,985 Aston Martin Vanquish by way of a director loan to him personally. They also claim he transferred $9.9 million into an Argyle UAE account in Zurich and converted more than $8 million of that sum into sterling to buy two properties in East Sussex worth £2,675,000 and £1,250,000, as well as paying for $1.3 million worth of work to be done on one of the properties. The Royal Gazette applied to the Chancery Division of the High Court to obtain all documents relating to the case, which show that Mr McKellar and Miss Hawes filed defence statements with the court last month. In a nine-page defence, Mr McKellar and Argyle UAE Ltd asserts that he is entitled to the $12.5 million as a fee and he provides several defences as to why he is entitled to the money. Meanwhile, Ms Hawes admits that Mr McKellar gave her an engagement ring and they jointly own one of the East Sussex properties. However, she makes “no admissions” relating to the claimants’ allegations and will “abide by such order as the court shall make”. Mr Gosling told The Royal Gazette: “With regards to the missing monies from the release of the final escrow payment: joint liquidators were appointed to Par-la-Ville Hotel and Residences Limited on October 9, 2015, and subsequently joint receivers were appointed to the Skyline Trust — through which the funds were released — in Bermuda on February 18, 2016. Additionally, on July 1, 2016, joint liquidators were appointed to Argyle Ltd in Gibraltar. The Corporation of Hamilton has assisted by meeting some of the immediate costs of this exercise. The issue is now before the UK courts, and besides stating that we hope a significant amount of the funds will be recovered, our counsel is advising us against making further comment.” A spokesperson for KPMG added: “The Joint Provisional Liquidators and the Joint Receivers and the Joint Liquidators have jointly brought proceedings in the High Court of Justice in England against a number of parties. As matters pertaining the affairs of the above companies and trust are subject to litigation and are commercially sensitive, the aforementioned appointees are not in a position to make further comment at this time.”

February 6. It was meant to be the transaction that paved the way for a new luxury hotel that would offer much needed rejuvenation for tourism in Bermuda’s capital. But for more than two years the Corporation of Hamilton’s move to guarantee an $18 million loan to Par-la-Ville Hotel and Residences Ltd from Mexico Infrastructure Finance to help fund the development has been clouded in mystery after the money seemingly disappeared. Now liquidators and receivers, acting for three claimants, believe they have found where the money went and are seeking to recover the cash at the High Court in London. The background to the saga began in July 2014 when developers PLVHR secured the $18 million from MIF. The purpose of the loan was to finance the costs that PLVHR would incur in arranging the finance required for the hotel construction. The proceeds of the loan were transferred to the Bank of New York Mellon to be held in an escrow account. After fees were deducted, this account totaled $15.4 million. Then, under an agreement between PLVHR and businessman Robert McKellar, $12.5 million was transferred to Mr McKellar’s firm Argyle Limited through a trust called the Skyline Trust. The particulars of claim, which were filed with the High Court in October 2016, state that Argyle would “would use PLVHR’s funds ... for speculative securities trading over the course of one year”. The claim continues: “Argyle was due to distribute the net profits on a weekly basis and in any event was to pay the trustees no less than $18 million (the base profit) by December 31, 2014. PLVHR was also due to repay the loan to MIF by December 30, 2014. No such payments were made by Argyle. By an e-mail to PLVHRs lawyers dated December 24, 2014 Mr McKellar acknowledges that Argyle’s ‘obligation is to pay the $18 million to the trustees ... and do so as soon as possible given the timing of receipt of funds. He further promised that Argyle would make a contingency payment to the trustees for $300,000 and that the ‘larger $18 million payment will be made on or before the end of January 2015’. “ By a further e-mail dated December 31, 2014, Mr McKellar noted that ‘the payout is due in January for the $18 million’ and proposed making an immediate payment of $375,000 to PLV’s lawyers. While this payment was subsequently made, no other payments have been received.” At the end of 2014 PLVHR defaulted on its repayment obligations and MIF began legal proceedings to recover its money. In October 2015 Mike Morrison and Charles Thresh of KPMG Advisory Ltd were appointed Joint Provisional Liquidators of Par-la-Ville Hotels & Residences Limited by the Supreme Court of Bermuda. They were also later appointed Joint Receivers for the Skyline Trust trustees. Meanwhile, in July 2016 Mr Thresh and Samuel Moses Vidal Cohen, of Benady Cohen and Co Limited in Gibraltar, were appointed as Joint Liquidators of Argyle Limited. The Corporation of Hamilton was initially found to be liable for repayment of the MIF loan as the loan’s guarantor at Supreme Court in May 2016. But the City’s legal team mounted a challenge to that ruling claiming the Corporation’s administration at the time did not have the authority to guarantee the loan. This legal challenge was upheld by the Supreme Court in Bermuda in November, last year. This ruling has now been appealed by MIF and is due to be heard at the Court of Appeal in Bermuda on March 22.

February 6. Bermuda businesses have “nothing to fear” from new access to information laws, Information Commissioner Gitanjali Gutierrez said as she spoke at a seminar organised by the Bermuda Chamber of Commerce. Ms Gutierrez said that the Public Access to Information Act was designed to improve accountability in public bodies — but that sufficient safeguards existed to protect sensitive commercial information submitted to public authorities as part of tendering or regulatory processes. Ms Gutierrez added: “It’s a standard and common new regulatory environment which exists in 115 countries. Businesses have something new to adapt to and grow with and the Pati Act does strike a responsible balance between public accountability and safeguarding business interests.” Ms Gutierrez was speaking after she delivered a seminar on the Pati legislation for businesspeople. She added: “The main economic impacts are that public spending, the details of public spending, are now much more accessible to the public, which is appropriate. It doesn’t mean that business interests won’t be kept confidential where appropriate. But our post-Pati environment means much more information is going to be available to the public.” But she added: “It’s that balance — more details about public spending will be available to allow the public to understand the procurement process and make their own evaluation about value for money. That doesn’t mean the public gets information that would compromise a business’ interests, which are protected under the Pati Act.” Ms Gutierrez said that Pati meant that businesses could benefit from the legislation. She explained: “Generally, it’s going to mean increased value for money, more competition and increased competition and that’s good for those businesses entering the competitive environment and trying to get their foot in the door. It’s good for the public because there is much more of a chance that contracts will get value for money.” Ms Gutierrez said that public bodies were now required to regularly publish details of all contracts worth more than $50,000. She told the business audience: “You should be aware that not necessarily all the details of the contract but the basic details of the contract will be subject to public exposure.” Ms Gutierrez said that, subject to a public interest test, commercial information such as trade secrets or contract negotiations were exempted from disclosure. But other information, like international tax agreement records, with limited exceptions for some statistical, technical or scientific material, enjoyed absolute exemption. Requests for large amounts or complex information can also be denied where they would create “a substantial and unreasonable burden” and effectively shut organisations down while the submission was dealt with. She added: “It does not serve the public for my trade secret to be given to my competitor — trade secrets are protected under the Act.” And she advised businesses who want to protect sensitive commercial details to include them in a separate schedule in documents and mark it as confidential material “instead of mixing it up in the body of the document”. And Ms Gutierrez said if a business was to hold a monopoly in Bermuda its interests could not be hurt by some disclosures — but that a firm could argue that overseas competitors could use documents like client lists to target customers. And she said that, if a public authority thinks information might be covered by an exemption and gives third-party notification to a business “they now have formal rights under the Pati Act”. Ms Gutierrez explained: “Then you have the opportunity to make submissions which must be taken into account. If you disagree with the result, you can ask for an internal review. If you’re dissatisfied with that, you can seek a review by the Information Commissioner. If you’re dissatisfied with that, you can ask for a judicial review.”

February 6. The Progressive Labour Party is again calling for a independent investigation after protest participants were pepper-sprayed and police officers injured outside Parliament in December. The renewed call today follows the incident outside the House of Assembly on December 2. Twenty-six complaints were filed against police officers by members of the public, and 14 officers were allegedly assaulted during the altercation as protesters attempted to block MPs from entering the House to take part in debates pertaining to the redevelopment of the airport. “More than nine weeks have elapsed since these unfortunate events,” Shadow Minister of National Security Walter Roban said in a press release. “Since then, we have heard the Commissioner publicly declare that his operational plan didn’t work and that the proper contingencies were not in place. We have heard the Premier condemn the ‘violence used against our citizens’ and, just recently, he disclosed that he was, in fact, in extensive contact with the Commissioner, senior police officers and others in the hours before the pepper spraying — something he never disclosed at his December press conference when asked repeatedly.” In addition to the renewed call for the independent inquiry, Mr Roban and the PLP want the findings publicized — including information pertaining to who outside of the Bermuda Police Service knew in advance of the “deployment and tactical options and the equipment to be carried and available for use. We remain deeply concerned the Governor, the Premier and the Ministry of National Security and the OBA Government have failed the Bermuda public by not committing to an independent investigation,” Mr Roban said. “They still have a chance to correct this.”

February 6. The events of December 2 formed the focus of a fiery motion to adjourn on Friday night. Several MPs got to their feet to express shock at what transpired when police and protesters clashed outside the House of Assembly. Opposition parliamentarians attacked Government for arrogance and weak leadership, while two Government ministers incurred the wrath of Randy Horton, the Speaker of the House, during the three-hour motion that ended at 11pm. Sylvan Richards, the Minister for Social Development and Sports, was told to leave the chamber for not apologizing for comments he made while PLP MP Lawrence Scott spoke of how he was pepper-sprayed as he tried to help a senior on December 2. Patricia Gordon-Pamplin, the Minister of Home Affairs, was later chastised for using unparliamentary language as she described how a man greeted her on December 2 by saying “here comes that f***ing b****”. Newly elected PLP MP Neville Tyrrell took to his feet first to tell Government the people of his Warwick constituency had “had enough. This Government had a lot of good will going into the 2012 election, but over the last four years they have completely spent it with the people of constituency 26; they see a lot of arrogance, not listening and not consulting.” Mr Tyrrell finished his speech branding events of December 2 as a “very dark day” before adding: “The PLP will not treat the people of Bermuda like that.” Fellow Opposition Parliamentarian Derrick Burgess attacked The Royal Gazette. He focused on a recent editorial that questioned former Premier Ewart Brown’s choice of which Bermudian sportsman or woman he provided financial support to and an older sports report that suggested a youth team should not be allowed back in the country after their performance. He added: “The editor seems to have a problem because Dr Brown has given financial contributions to black Bermudians. Some of our people go to extreme lengths to prove to their masters they are on the same team and that is how I judged this one.” Independent MP Shawn Crockwell lamented events of December 2 and questioned why measures to secure Parliament on Friday had not been in place on December 2. “Someone should have had the foresight to prevent what happened,” he said. Mr Crockwell then condemned Michael Fahy, the Minister of Tourism and Transport, for comments Mr Fahy made after revisions to Bermuda’s gaming were passed last November. “That minister needs to learn humility,” Mr Crockwell said. Lawrence Scott questioned how many promises the OBA had kept, before fellow MP Jamahl Simmons vowed that Bermudians would come first under the PLP. He added: “Soon we will have the change we seek, for us it is an awesome responsibility to be potentially on the brink of becoming the next Government.” Attorney-General Trevor Moniz accused the PLP of doing everything in its power to bring down the OBA and sabotaging the island’s economic recovery. “We will keep turning the other cheek, we are turning this economy around in spite of those who are trying to sabotage this country for their own political gain,” Mr Moniz said.  PLP MP Diallo Rabain urged Government to “just call an election and we will see what the people want,” while attacking its weak leadership. .“Leadership is being out there with the people, talking to the people and figuring out what they want, not cowering in a building and trying to figure out how we can break through the people that voted for us,” he said. OBA MP Leah Scott called on all politicians to conduct themselves better saying: “It would be better if we worked together.” Walton Brown, meanwhile, said that those who enter politics need to have thick skins, attacking Ms Gordon-Pamplin’s language. "We need to grow up. Being a politician, you will get verbal abuse,” he said. “I cannot accept that something that took place two months ago moved the minister to be so outraged that she couldn’t control herself in Parliament.” And he expressed his own outrage at the comments attributed to Mr Richards, saying: “I think I took a bit more offence to that idiotic comment because my mother was on the front of the gate when pepper spray was used.” Mr Brown added that he suspects Mr Richards will be happy to apologize before the next sitting of the House because his vote will be needed by the Government. Deputy Speaker Suzann Holshouser also called for MPs to work together to represent the people who voted them in. “I don’t honestly believe that what we heard tonight is the best we can offer,” she said. Michael Scott, meanwhile, reiterated PLP calls for an independent investigation into the events of December 2, saying: “The day was one where men were brought to tears, seniors were injured, and it deserves an investigation that is independent. The idea is not to assign blame, but to inform.” Craig Cannonier closed the debate saying that all parliamentarians should share blame for the high tensions on December 2, saying that everyone in the House needs to work together given the island’s international competition. “We need to get back to the decisions that would move the country forward,” he said.

February 6. Legislation aimed at helping the island reach international standards in terms of health and tax agreements has been passed by the House of Assembly. Jeanne Atherden, Minister of Health, presented the Quarantine Act 2017, saying the legislation brings the island in line with the World Health Organisation’s International Health Regulations 2005 when it comes to facing health threats like Ebola and Zika. “The act will increase security for travelers, ships and aircraft arriving in Bermuda, while our Public Health Act continues to apply for general health measures of the island’s population who are no longer in transit. The National IHR Focal Point for Bermuda will be Public Health England, the UK’s executive agency of the UK’s Department of Health. The National Focal Point acts as our conduit for communications with WHO for all matters related to public health threats and will ensure we receive recommendations for best practices of handling specific public health risks that arise. “Our Chief Medical Officer will be the contact person for Public Health England on all matters related to the IHR 2005.” However, PLP MP Walton Brown questioned why the legislation delegates power to a UK body. Ms Atherden said that it made sense to have the assistance of the UK on international health issues, adding that Bermuda became signatories of the international agreements through its status as an overseas territory. She also said in response to another question by Mr Brown that discussions were already under way to ensure that the resources to meet the requirements were made available. The House also debated the USA Bermuda Tax Convention Amendment Act 2017 and the International Co-operation (Tax Information Exchange Agreements) Amendment (No 2) Act 2017, which Bob Richards, Minister of Finance, said were intended to address issues that had arisen related to the international agreements. The first amendments related to exchange agreements with the United States, while the second covered similar agreements with other nations. Opposition leader David Burt said that after discussing the amendments with technical officers, the PLP had no issues, adding that he looked forward to the bills being passed so the island can “continue to remain the gold standard”. Meanwhile, Mr Brown said that while he understood the reasoning for the agreements, he questioned if Bermuda could get “more bang for our buck” through them. Mr Richards said the agreements help defend the island from those who wish to negatively brand the island, and credited one agreement with Canada as helping to attract one company to the island from the Bahamas.

February 6. A 61-year-old American woman is in intensive care after her rental motorcycle crashed with a car. The visitor and her pillion passenger, a 15-year-old American boy, were both injured when their bike collided with the car driving the other way on South Road, Paget, at about 12.30pm yesterday. This afternoon, the Bermuda Police Service said the woman was in a stable condition in the Intensive Care Unit at King Edward VII Memorial Hospital. The boy sustained a foot injury that did not require hospital treatment. No other injuries were reported, but both vehicles involved were damaged. Witnesses or anyone travelling in the area of South Road and Southcote Road in Paget at the time should call police on 295-0011.

February 6. Bermuda residents will be able to explore 500 years of local history at the National Museum for free during the month of February. The museum, which covers 15 acres of land with Grade I listed buildings and Commissioner’s House, holds more than 80,000 artefacts. Its exhibits range from Bermuda’s cultural links with the West Indies and Azores to slavery, defence heritage, shipwrecks and the island’s early settlement. Commissioner’s House is home to Graham Foster’s 1,000 square foot mural depicting the island’s history, while the museum’s playground and playhouse complete with educational activities and a 70ft giant moray eel provides something for the younger generation. People wanting to visit should bring proof of residency such as driver’s licence or utility bill. The National Museum is open every day between 10am and 5pm.

Sunday, February 5. The Walsingham Trust and the Bermuda National Trust have lost their appeal against the Development Applications Board’s decision to allow the erection of gates at either end of their right of way to the Walsingham Reserve. Both organisations had hoped the Minister of the Environment, Cole Simons, would exercise his discretion in favour of the retention of free and open access to Tom Moore’s Jungle. A joint statement released this afternoon said: “This right of way — the Walsingham Trust’s only legal access to the reserve — has been made available to the public for 75 years, since the inception of the Trust in 1942. The application to install the gates was made by Bruno Fiocca, who seeks to improve the security of the Walsingham House property, more commonly known as Tom Moore’s Tavern. The right of way in question crosses Mr Fiocca’s property immediately beside the Tavern and has led to unauthorised public parking on his land.” The Planning Inspector’s report on the appeal, which was accepted by Mr Simons, made it clear that the DAB and the planning department could only rule on planning questions, and not on the legal question of what rights the Walsingham Trust had to allow the public to use its right of way. The Walsingham Trust is reviewing its position with regard to the legal issue. The statement continues: “Whilst the appellants objected to the erection of gates, we wish to acknowledge his long-term support of access to the reserve and his tolerance of the public use of his land for parking. The Walsingham Trust and Mr Fiocca have enjoyed a co-operative and mutually beneficial relationship for many years. Mr Fiocca has indicated a willingness to leave these gates open during the day. However, we must emphasise that any decision to allow public parking at this location is entirely at Mr Fiocca’s discretion and there is no guarantee that this will be the case in the future, in particular if the Tom Moore’s Tavern property changes ownership.” The Walsingham Trust has encouraged visitors to the reserve to access it via the Blue Hole entrance, where there is parking available. However, the public should be aware that this park is managed by the Parks Department, who ultimately control this access to the Reserve.

Sunday, February 5. The Progressive Labour Party has condemned the actions of two Bermuda Government ministers in the House of Assembly on Friday night. Sylvan Richards, the Minister for Social Development and Sports, was told to leave the chamber for not apologizing for comments he made while PLP MP Lawrence Scott spoke of how he was pepper-sprayed as he tried to help a senior on December 2. Patricia Gordon-Pamplin, the Minister of Home Affairs, was later chastised by Speaker Randy Horton for using unparliamentary language as she described how a man greeted her on December 2 by saying “here comes that f***ing b****”. In a statement released this evening, Lovitta Foggo, the shadow minister of education said: “The distasteful and offensive verbiage of Patricia Gordon-Pamplin, coupled with the refusal to apologize for his own offensive remarks by Sylvan Richards show a government that is becoming unhinged and unfocused. “Premier Dunkley needs to enforce the proper decorum from his Cabinet and MPs when debating in the House of Assembly. We all understand that things can get heated in the House of Assembly, however, there is no excusing the way Minister Gordon-Pamplin shouted profane language on Friday night, regardless of the context in which they were used. There could have been young people listening and that language is not one which should be associated with a senior political stateswoman. Ms Foggo added: “Minister Richards’s outburst to MP Lawrence Scott, that he deserved to be pepper-sprayed, shows a minister that is hopelessly out of touch with his community. In making those disparaging remarks, he has told all protesters injured on December 2 that they deserved what they got.”

February 4. Negotiations entailed in the airport redevelopment ran up a tab of $4.1 million to the Government’s law firm, Bennett Jones. But Bob Richards, the Minister of Finance, said the bill would have been higher if a request for proposal had been issued for the deal. “It’s a big bill,” Mr Richards conceded after written answers were given to parliamentary questions from Opposition leader David Burt. “It’s spread over three years and I daresay it’s a one-off.” The fees were paid between January 1, 2014 and January 31 this year, totaling $4,144,333 — an aggregate sum paid to Bennett Jones LLP in Canada and the company’s Bermuda branch. “There is nobody in the Government or the Bermuda legal fraternity with this expertise and experience — they have a lot of experience with P3 type transactions,” the minister said, referring to the public-private partnership underpinning the project with Canadian Commercial Corporation and Aecon. “They had their office here as well as the connection with Canada, but most importantly they have deep experience with these types of deals.” He added: “It’s a complex project. A lot of people think we went in there and just shook hands but there was a lot of negotiations and a lot of it was in legalese, so we had to have lawyers acting on our behalf.” Mr Richards has said in the past that the Government proceeded with its initial deal with CCC on the assumption, backed by Bennett Jones, that no permission was required from the British Government. The deal was approved by Cabinet in July 2014, announced that November, and a letter of entrustment received in July 2015. Asked about the legal bill, Mr Richards said there had been “a great deal of difficulty with the UK over the entrustment documents.  There was a long period of negotiation with the UK Government, and it required a lot of legal opinion and help with negotiations, which of course nobody figured we would have to do. This was not part of what we expected. It hung us up for almost a year, and during that time we had to use the expertise that Bennett Jones had to move the ball farther, so we got nailed with more legal expenses than expected. I think we still saved money than if we had gone by the RFP route. We would have had all the lawyers for that, plus public consultants.” The written response provided to this newspaper in Parliament included details on the company’s rates. Bennett Jones’s fees were discounted by 20 per cent when originally proposed as part of the firm’s public sector discount. Effective February 1, 2015, the firm voluntarily cut their rates a further 10 per cent after the Government called for “increased financial austerity”, the reply said. Monthly accounts are accompanied by a “very detailed” docket describing the firm’s services in such detail that they are “highly confidential”, and the firm vets its accounts for “errors and inefficient time”. The ministry’s response added that the legal fees are assessed each month by the general manager at the Department of Airport Operations, as well as the permanent secretary for the Ministry of Tourism, Transport and Municipalities, before being paid.

February 4. Independent MP Shawn Crockwell and OBA backbencher Mark Pettingill launched a scathing attack on new regulations tabled by Government last night designed to set taxes and fees for casino gaming in Bermuda. However, The Casino Gaming (General Reserve and Casino Taxes) Regulations 2017 and Casino Gaming (Casino Fees) Regulations 2017 were passed, with Speaker of the House Randy Horton casting the deciding vote on the second set of rules relating to fees. Mr Crockwell condemned the “sluggish” progress that had been made establishing the island’s first casino and told the House of Assembly the fee structure would deter operators coming to Bermuda. Taking particular exception to the fee structure proposed by Government, Mr Crockwell said: “The advice I received was $1 million should be the highest we charge for a casino licence. Parties have told me that our fees are too high and prohibitive and it would deter operators. They will go somewhere else.” Mr Crockwell went to on claim that the original vision to bring amenity casinos to Bermuda had been “hijacked” by the Gaming Commission. “That is wrong,” he said. “We went from amenity casinos we can regulate and control without any problem to what appears to be some grand casino jurisdiction. That is not how we started out and that is not what we can achieve. We are going down the wrong path and we are going to be here next year having the same debate, which would be a disservice to this community. We are mucking about with this issue.” Grant Gibbons, the Minister for Economic Development, brought the new regulations before the House. He said that the fee structure and 10 per cent tax rate established in the regulations were “clearly in accord with the stated policy goals of the 2014 Casino Gaming Act”. The fee schedule sets the casino licence application fee at $600,000 and the provisional licence issue fee at $1.4 million. Under the regulations a casino licence issue is set at $1 million, while an annual casino licence fee is $1 million, “less any applicable discount”. The regulations state: “The schedule sets out the fees payable which are in addition to any requirement to reimburse the Commission for the costs of any investigation pursuant to the Act of any regulations”. Mr Pettingill also took aim at the fee regulations, saying that the costs were far too high for Bermuda, noting that he as a lawyer has clients in the gaming industry. “My clients have passed on Bermuda because it doesn’t have the traffic,” he said. He further accused the Gaming Commission of acting outside its remit by meeting with casino operators and attacking the body for its slow movement on bringing gaming to the island. “We needed to get it up and running,” he said. “We spent significant time and energy in getting the initial legislation together and it was entirely workable. The public campaigning by the commission and the lack of progress do not sit well with me.” Progressive Labour Party MPs echoed Mr Crockwell’s and Mr Pettingill’s concerns. Zane DeSilva said: “These fees are not only way too high, but it’s going to scare people away. We are making the cost of doing business way too high.” He urged the Government to withdraw the regulations, axe the Gaming Commission and listen to Mr Pettingill, while Kim Wilson questioned if the fees would price Bermuda out of the industry, leaving the island without a casino. And while Michael Dunkley agreed that the delay in progress was unfortunate, he said gaming is an issue the island must get right, adding that he had not heard of any pushback from those involved in the industry. “Until there is pushback, we don’t want to sell ourselves short, and I haven’t heard of any,” the Premier said. “If there’s pushback, we can drop it, but its hard to go to someone you have given a licence and ask for more money.” Opposition leader David Burt agreed it was important to get gaming right, saying the Minister should take the regulations off the table until they can be supported by the House. But Dr Gibbons said the Gaming Commission has been conversing with between 12 and 15 gaming operators and has not heard pushback about the fee structure. “I’m not disputing what the other members are saying, but our sense is that it’s not unreasonable,” he said. “We are probably on the lower side in terms of sustainability.” When the second set of regulations relating to casino fees came to a vote, MPs voted along party lines with the PLP going against the regulations and the OBA — with the exception of Mr Pettingill, who abstained — voting in favour. Mr Crockwell voted against the motion and, while Dr Gibbons suggested that the independent MP had a conflict of interest, Mr Horton ruled that his vote should count, leaving the vote at 17 to 17. Casting the deciding vote in favour of the regulations, Mr Horton said: “In coming to make a decision, we have to weigh the information that seems to have been brought forward by those that are experts in the industry.”

February 4. Government was challenged in the House of Assembly yesterday over amendments allowing international charter boats to operate in Bermuda before, during and after the America’s Cup. While Grant Gibbons, the Minister of Economic Development, said that the demand for charter boats will exceed supply for the international event, the Progressive Labour Party questioned the decision to allow the boats to operate one month before and after the event. Dennis Lister, Shadow Minister of Public Works, said: “That’s the bulk of our summer season. During the America’s Cup event, I wouldn’t have a problem, but giving them a month before and after is unacceptable. This is an opportunity to get a bit of extra business, but here we are taking the rug right out from under them.” Dr Gibbons responded that in his discussions with the industry most operators were happy to have the additional business, but expressed concerns about the idea of foreign charter boats working in the island in the future, adding that a working group was looking into the concept. The debate came as the House discussed the America’s Cup Amendment (No 2) Act 2017, which was intended to address several elements of the event, scheduled to begin in May. Dr Gibbons explained that the legislation would address issues that had arisen related to customs duty relief and liquor licensing to allow alcohol sales in areas of Dockyard during the event. However, aspects related to foreign charter boats drew concern from some members of the opposition. PLP MP Zane DeSilva questioned if Dr Gibbons had spoken with tour boat operators, saying that some local operators were still under-booked during the event. “They are not fully booked,” he said. “It’s a tragedy, we have all these people coming to Bermuda and some say they have very few bookings.” Shadow tourism minister Jamahl Simmons said that the Progressive Labour Party supports the island’s hosting of the America’s Cup event, calling it an opportunity for Bermuda to showcase itself on an international stage. But he said the Government must ensure that they are doing what they can to make sure that Bermudians benefit first. PLP’s Rolfe Commissiong also said that serious efforts must be made to make sure the event is as inclusive as it can be, and that if the island is given another opportunity to host the event, that black Bermudians are able to participate at every level of the event. Meanwhile, Opposition leader David Burt questioned how much Government remains on the hook for its financial guarantee for the event. “We know where we are with the AC. It’s not going to be all things for all people,” he said. “But we want to make sure we are not paying through the nose.” Dr Gibbons said that more information about the guarantee will be released soon as part of the budget debate, and that organizers have been working to ensure that the wider community benefit from the event. “Clearly it’s going to have a large economic impact. I don’t think we have seen a situation where hotels have seen advanced bookings of this level so far in advance. Because we are going to have teams and spectators here in advance of the five weeks of the event and here after the five weeks, we are trying to get as much of the economic benefit as we can.” He said the local tour operators would not be able to meet the demand during the period before or after the event, which is why the decision was made to allow the foreign operators to remain for a month on either side of the event. “We are talking about larger boats here,” he added. “We have about half a dozen boats in that category.”

February 4. Premier Michael Dunkley sustained visible bruising while undergoing a routine medical procedure. The Premier released a statement last night, stressing that he was “doing well” and in good spirits, after members of the public raised concerns when they saw him on a television broadcast earlier in the day. “I want to thank the public for their well wishes and kind sentiments,” Mr Dunkley stated. “I had recently undergone a routine medical procedure which resulted in me having some bruising as well as having to wear a minor facial bandage. As today was the resumption of Parliament after a long break, it was important for me to be present, as Government had some significant legislation being debated in the House of Assembly. And it was equally important for me to make myself available to our local media, to discuss with them the business taking place in the House of Assembly. I am incredibly heartened by the kind sentiments expressed by members of the public and want to reassure you that I am doing well and am in good spirits.”

February 4. The Department of Health has recommended that all children aged 11 take the vaccine against Human Papillomavirus. The vaccine is effective when administered before the onset of sexual activity. The HPV vaccine was approved last year as part of the routine childhood immunization schedule, and is available for free at the Hamilton Health Centre, 8.30am to 11.30am, Monday to Friday. The virus, which is sexually transmitted, is common. More than half of sexually active persons will contract an infection during their lifetime. Most will show no symptoms of infection, which go away without treatment, or persist. Some cases lead to warts on the genitals or in the throat, some of which may develop into cancers — especially cervical cancer in women. Multiple types of HPV exist, and the present vaccine protects against four. The vaccine is shown to prevent many types of infection. Described as safe and effective, the vaccine is administered in three injections over six months, with the most common side effects being pain and redness at the site of injection, mild fever and headache. There are no booster shots recommended. The HPV vaccine may also be available at private physicians’ offices.

February 3. It’s too early to tell how the Bermuda reinsurance industry will be impacted by likely tax reform in the US. That’s the view of Mike McGavick, chief executive officer of XL Catlin, who believes that making it more expensive for US firms to buy reinsurance through higher taxes would backfire on the US by weighing on economic growth. In contrast, industry rival William Berkley, chairman of US insurer WR Berkley, expects US President Donald Trump’s administration to raise taxes on non-US insurers to “level the playing field” and support the domestic property and casualty insurance industry. Both executives were speaking in conference calls with analysts this week after their companies had announced fourth-quarter results. Mr Trump’s “America first” focus and his threat to impose border taxes on imported goods made outside the US while slashing domestic corporate tax rates, has given the island’s reinsurers much food for thought in how their businesses could potentially be targeted. During the conference calls the Neal bill — a proposal originally made by Democratic Congressman Richard Neal that would tax transactions involving US insurers ceding risk to an offshore affiliated reinsurer — was mentioned as an example of what might be included in a tax reform bill. When asked about the issue by an analyst, Mr McGavick said that “running these companies isn’t just about tax” and that this was not how they competed or won business. “The idea that reform is going to be a huge competitive disruption, I really think that idea is nonsense,” Mr McGavick said. “Look, we’re absolutely for lowering the rates in the US. The US has been at a global tax disadvantage and anything that stimulates US economic activity is a plus. Going to be more to insure, and of course as it relates to our US taxes, we would pay less. Other questions that are floating around as you’ve mentioned like border adjustments or the Neal bill, it just seems to me to be very premature. It’s not exactly clear what will be proposed, it’s not exactly clear what will result from what will be no doubt a very complex legislative process.” He then described one of the advantages for the US of buying reinsurance cover from overseas — a point Bermuda industry representatives will likely make to US politicians in the months ahead. “The idea of exporting your risks is a good idea and the idea of it making it more expensive and more difficult to do is not a way to grow your economy, but rather a way to retard growth,” Mr McGavick said. “It seems to me that that will become evident in the discussion ahead and we’re certainly going to make sure that that is clearly understood.” XL Catlin, whose headquarters are in Bermudiana Road, has around 7,000 employees working in 30 countries around the world. “One other point I’d make on this, remember, the companies with whom we’re mostly competing are global, not US domestics,” Mr McGavick added. “And I don’t see that changing very much. So overall, we’re comfortable with the way we approach tax, we’re comfortable with our competitive position. Absolutely, no matter what comes.” William Berkley, in the WR Berkley call, who has for many years advocated changing US tax rules to disadvantage non-US insurers, believes President Trump and the Republican-controlled Congress will make it happen. “I think the answer is we have a president and a legislature, who are very conscious of the fact that we shouldn’t have a tax law that gives preference to non-US entities and that is what insurance tax laws do at the present time,” Mr Berkeley said. “So two companies who write US business one offshore and one domestic, the company offshore pays substantially less to no tax. So we think that will benefit us because we think this president and his legislature will recognise that some time over the next 12 months and level the playing field.” Analyst Jay Cohen asked Mr Berkley whether such changes would make it more expensive to buy reinsurance from non-US firms. “I think if you go to the border adjustment plan, the most likely event in our opinion would be most of the major foreign insurers-reinsurers would open US subsidiaries and that would take care of the problem,” Mr Berkley said. In his “America first” drive, Mr Trump has focused mainly on manufacturing industries and goods imports. One analyst suggested that financial services might not be in his sights. I think that certainly there are lots of people, especially those people located in Bermuda and Ireland, that would like to put forth a view that’s the case. I think that if you look at what the administration has put forth is they don’t want US business enterprises to be at a disadvantage ... There is no enterprise that would be more suited to their concerns than the property casualty insurance business.” Insurance tax-rules change could bring in “billions of dollars in revenue ... maybe even tens of billions”, Mr Berkley added.

February 3. Premier Michael Dunkley has told MPs that he first became aware of the deployment of helmeted police against protesters on December 2 when he saw images of them on social media. Responding to questions from the Opposition, the Premier said his opinion had not been asked about the deployment of the riot squad. Speaking in the House of Assembly yesterday, Mr Dunkley was unable to give details on his phone conversations throughout the day, saying he had yet to finish going through his phone records. The Premier said his phone had been ringing throughout the day, commencing at about 5.30am, but that he had met at Government House at 3pm with the Acting Governor, the Attorney-General, the Minister of National Security, and the Police Commissioner and Deputy Commissioner. He told the House that “we all have grave concerns about what took place” but repeatedly stated that the tactical decisions lay with the Commissioner of Police. Two special branch officers were in Cabinet at the time, with a discussion on options for MPs to enter the House, but no decision was made as Parliament was called off. Mr Dunkley refused to detail the options that were discussed, despite being pressed by the Opposition on that point, including Progressive Labour Party MP Kim Wilson asking if measures included being escorted through the gates in marked vehicles. When asked by Diallo Rabain of the PLP if “at least two” ministers had asked for access to the House be gained “by force”, Mr Dunkley told the House that he would not answer to “innuendos and rumor.”

February 3. A new Privacy Commissioner will educate groups about new legislation designed to protect people’s personal information. Economic development minister Grant Gibbons said the Office of the Privacy Commissioner would help pave the way for the Personal Information Protection Act, due to come into force around the summer of 2018. Dr Gibbons told the House of Assembly: “An important element for the proper and effective eventual implementation of the legislation is the creation of the Office of the Privacy Commissioner. The role of the Privacy Commissioner is defined in the PIPA as being responsible for monitoring how the PIPA is administered to ensure that its purposes are achieved.  The broad spectrum of powers granted to the Privacy Commissioner in the legislation enables them to discharge these duties. However, it is critical for PIPA’s effective implementation that the Privacy Commissioner inform and provide guidance to organisations regarding compliance with the Act prior to the Act being fully implemented. Privacy legislation will go a long way in providing important rights that traditionally have been lacking and it will also encourage the adoption of robust cyber security practices. Developing a culture of privacy, however, will take time and we recognise that implementing legislative requirements that are wholly new will require education and information.” The minister said legislation allowing the appointment of the officer came into force in December. He said: “The office of Privacy Commissioner is an important appointment and the appropriate regulatory infrastructure is necessary to ensure that the personal information rights of the residents of Bermuda are effectively protected and enforced.” He reiterated the Bermuda Government’s plan to seek an “Adequacy” finding from the European Union which would allow for the free flow of personal information between Bermuda and other jurisdictions. “A key criterion of the EU’s assessment is that the Privacy Commissioner must be wholly independent,” he said. “As a result, the creation, staffing and operations of the Commissioner’s office will be done in a manner to ensure full compliance with these requirements.”

February 3. The Minster for Economic Development Grant Gibbons outlined the success of the Global Entrepreneurship Week last November. Dr Gibbons also described the Entrepreneur’s Guide to Bermuda Government Concessions, Incentives, Obligations, Grants and Awards as “a valuable resource to Bermuda’s entrepreneurs and small business owners”. Brought about by the Bermuda Economic Development Corporation and created in-house by the Department of Communications and Information, it is available online at the BEDC’s website in the ‘Small Business Toolbox’ under the ‘Resources Tab’ at www.bedc.bm/index.php/resources/small-business-tool-box or in person at the BEDC office. Dr Gibbons told the House of Assembly: “Help from the BEDC comes in the form of loans and other types of financial assistance. They also provide useful information, technical advice and guidance. In addition, they manage a register of over 7,000 small and medium size businesses, as well as the Economic Empowerment Zones. The guide includes details on apprenticeships and training programmes, student funding, and incentives that include tax relief for small businesses and duty relief in various forms. For example, the Government provides help for those who take advantage of green solutions including reduced customs duties for energy efficient products and renewable energy technologies.” Dr Gibbons said the guide should not be viewed in isolation pointing to the many resources available including GEW now in its ninth year. “With the support of the Ministry of Economic Development, the BEDC, believes that participating in this initiative helps to demonstrate the benefits of entrepreneurship as an empowerment tool.” Dr Gibbons also highlighted the BEDC’s third annual Entrepreneurship Education Awards which celebrated over 100 students on completion of multi-week intensive training programmes during 2016. The various programmes included the BEDC’s eight-week Entrepreneurship 101 Course in partnership with the Community Education and Development Programme, the BEDC’s eight-week Ice House Entrepreneurship Programme, and the BEDC’s eight-week Financial Statements Planning and Costing using the QuickBooks Programme. Another highlight of GEW was the Annual Celebration of Entrepreneurship and Innovation event which celebrated innovation, technology, and entrepreneurship and announced the winners of the annual Technology Innovation Awards Competition (the TechAwards) and the annual Rocket Pitch Competition. “The wealth of entrepreneurial ambition and technological innovation on display was impressive,” Dr Gibbons said.

February 3. The Government’s fleet of cars has had 16 new purchases since January 2013, according to Francis Richardson, the Permanent Secretary of Public Works. Fourteen came from Bermuda Motors, while two came from the dealership Auto Solutions. The details came in response to parliamentary questions from Progressive Labour Party MP Dennis Lister at the House of Assembly today. However Craig Cannonier, the Minister of Public Works, said that the Government had cut back on the fleet’s size overall. “There will always be a need for the purchasing of new cars,” he said. “But we are not adding to the numbers.”

February 3. There were 148 security cameras island-wide under the BAS-Serco contract, at a cost of $2.6 million, according to Michael Dunkley, speaking for the Ministry of National Security. The details were given in response to parliamentary questions from Walter Roban, the shadow minister. In addition, the Government has paid a further $295,000 on upgrades, including cameras and wireless equipment in Deepdale to rectify “non line of sight cameras”.  The Government has also agreed to provide nine cameras each to St George’s and to Dockyard, at a cost of $239,493.

February 3. More than 2,500 people were signed up on Financial Assistance as of December last year, according to social development minister Sylvan Richards. In total, 2,521 people were signed up, of whom 2,171 were black and 324 were white, Mr Richards told the House of Assembly yesterday. He was speaking in response to parliamentary questions from Progressive Labour Party MP Michael Weeks. Last year’s numbers held fairly steady month by month: 2,606 people were on Financial Assistance as of January 2016, and their numbers peaked in March, at 2,679.

February 3. Prospective guest workers in certain categories must satisfy minimum qualifications before a work permit application will be considered, according to home affairs minister Patricia Gordon-Pamplin. The qualifications apply to welders, automotive services, electricians and landscape gardeners. Current work permit holders are required to register with the Department of Workforce Development by March 31, and those unable to successfully complete the process will not have their permits renewed. For health and safety reasons, prospective guest workers are also required to demonstrate a good level of proficiency in the English language, MPs were told at the House of Assembly today.

February 3. A Request for Proposal has been issued for the Solar Photovoltaic Project on the “Finger” at the LF Wade International Airport, Minister of Economic Development Grant Gibbons announced in Parliament this morning. The project is a joint effort between the Ministry of Public Works and the Ministry of Economic Development with help from consulting firm Castalia Strategic Advisors. With the RFP issued on December 2, Dr Gibbons described the project as “well under way” and anticipated that the successful candidate would be selected by early April. Project oversight is being provided by a steering committee, made up of the permanent secretaries of the both ministries as well as the Ministry of Tourism, Transport and Municipalities and the financial secretary. Prior to the RFP, a Request for Qualifications was issued to ensure standards including a “demonstrated financial capacity to build and operate a solar PV facility of this scale, and an established track record of operating efficiency and reliability.” There were 29 submissions of which 19 met the criteria with potential bidders hailing from Bermuda, Canada, Spain, the United States, Germany, Britain and Australia. One of the objectives of this project is to provide pricing stability for a portion of Bermuda’s electricity supply by ensuring that the price remains fixed over time,” Dr Gibbons said. The cost of electricity generated by solar power is not subject to price fluctuations; therefore this cost can be contractually fixed over the 20-year anticipated life of the facility. Other objectives of this project include the diversification of the energy supply and the reduction in Bermuda’s carbon emissions, which could avoid as much as four thousand metric tons of carbon emissions per year of operation.” The Government will fund site preparation which will be recovered from the rental income for the estimated 15 acres that will be leased to the developer.

February 3. Chartered accountant Craig Mayor, a persistent critic of the airport redevelopment project, returned to the Public Accounts Committee yesterday, saying the Bermuda Government’s “methodology is nonsense, and the results are nonsense”. Meanwhile, the committee agreed to a motion to summon Aaron Adderley, the head of the Department of Airport Operations, if he should decline to appear before the PAC’s sitting next week. Wayne Furbert, the chairman of the committee, said the group wanted Mr Adderley to give a breakdown of spending to maintain the present terminal — as well as to explain “why we can’t just fix the roof”. Mr Mayor told the PAC that the Government had failed to look at the incremental costs for a new terminal, which he said would run at $787 million. Thus, the Government model of $580 million had erred by more than $200 million by failing in basic accounting, he said, telling the PAC: “It’s a rule. Don’t be puzzled by it.” However, he faced scepticism from committee members Susan Jackson and Leah Scott, with Ms Jackson calling it “a fairytale” presentation — and Ms Scott telling him: “I’m not an accountant, but I don’t agree with your analysis.” Mr Furbert defended Mr Mayor’s numbers as conservative and deriving from the Government’s own figures. Mr Mayor told the PAC that the island’s economic position was too precarious to proceed with the proposal, suggesting the present terminal could be renovated and protected with an enhanced berm that would keep it viable for 30 years at just $44 million in actual cost. An audience member handed in a written question asking: “Surely the Minister of Finance has worked extensively in finance markets, and CCC and Aecon have also operated at the highest level of global finance — what explains this abandonment of what you describe as proper methodology?” Mr Mayor said the figures had been prepared by the ministry and not its Canadian partners in the proposal.

February 3. The US military will hand over three refurbished vans and a truck to the Royal Bermuda Regiment next week. The vehicles, three Toyota vans and an Isuzu truck, were formerly used at a US Navy base in Japan and gifted to the Regiment by the US Northern Command (Northcom). They were transferred to Georgia for a makeover before being shipped to Bermuda for use by the island’s soldiers. US Consul General Mary Ellen Koenig said: “We are pleased to see the continuation of the long, strong tradition of close ties between the US military and Bermuda. These vehicles will be used by the Regiment to provide support to relief efforts for events and emergencies across the island.” Northcom Chief of Security Operation, Colonel Andrew MacLean, and Ms Koenig will hand the trucks over to RBR Commanding Officer Lieutenant-Colonel David Curley and Minister for National Security Jeff Baron at the RBR’s Warwick Camp next Tuesday.

February 3. Bermuda-based reinsurer Validus Holdings Ltd’s fourth-quarter net income plummeted to $7.8 million, down from $69 million in the same period last year, as it dealt with losses from Hurricane Matthew and an earthquake in New Zealand. The group’s net income for the year dropped from $374.9 million, or $4.34 per share, to $359.4 million, or $4.36 per share. However, operating income at Validus for the final three months of the year was $64.3 million, or 80 cents per share, comfortably beating the 74 cents consensus forecast of market analysts. Ed Noonan, chief executive officer of Validus, said: “Validus had another strong year in 2016. Despite the global insurance market growing more competitive, we were able to deliver an 84.2 per cent combined ratio and grow our book value per diluted share, including dividends, by 9.5 per cent. We continue to position the company well to weather the soft market while building the foundation to capitalize on better market conditions down the road.” During the January renewals, the Validus Re and AlphaCat segments of the company underwrote $628.9 million in gross written premiums, an increase of 3 per cent on January 2016. Fourth-quarter results included $70.6 million of losses from Hurricane Matthew and the earthquake in New Zealand. This was partially offset by a reduction in the second-quarter losses associated with the Canadian wildfires, which were reduced by $18.3 million. Gross written premiums for the year were $2.64 billion, a rise of $91.2 million on 2015. The combined ratio for the year 84.2 per cent, compared with 79.7 per cent the previous year. During the fourth quarter, Validus repurchased 317,401 shares. Validus shares yesterday rose $1.04 to close at $58.66 before the company announced its results.

February 3. By certain measures, Bermuda’s economy is on the road to recovery — but for some sections of society the patient remains as sick as ever. The Royal Gazette visited the island’s newest feeding programme to speak with guests, and asked charity workers for a progress report on how the economy is impacting those at the bottom of the food chain. The clear verdict was that the ranks of the very poor continue to grow. “There’s a big divide,” said one of the more than 100 people who turned up at the Grateful Bread dinner offered last week at St Andrew’s Church Hall. “Today it’s like it’s only the rich and the poor,” said the woman, dining with her one-year-old child beside her. “The other classes in between are disappearing. But I think there are a lot of rich people that would like to donate.” The needy are “not all homeless”, she added. “There are people here who are working-class poor. The need is definitely growing. More Bermudians are displaced from work daily. My daughter has been looking, and there is none out there, especially for locals. My daughter’s the type of person that wouldn’t want to be seen here. So, I’m getting food to take it to her.” Bermuda’s gross domestic product rose consistently throughout 2015 and early 2016, although it fell by 2.2 per cent taking into account inflation in the third quarter of last year. Craig Simmons, the Bermuda College economist, has argued that while GDP is suggestive of the island’s overall health, it should be treated with caution as it can be pushed up by pay increases for high earners. "There has been no such fortune for many of the attendees at feeding programmes, whose faces have become familiar over the months. You see a lot of the same people,” the woman said. “Although, tonight, I see a lot of new faces.” Asked how long she had come to programmes like the Grateful Bread, she replied: “It’s been quite a while. I wasn’t always in this condition. But I like the spirit here. I’m a person that’s very spiritual. These people are here for a good reason.” The woman we spoke to was far from the only guest at the dinner last Thursday night who was collecting a meal to take to family members in need. While the island’s ailing economy might be turning around for some, she expressed little hope for the sector of society represented in the church hall. “It’s like with the America’s Cup. They are saying it’s going to make all this money. But that money isn’t going to trickle down.” The Bermuda Government has repeatedly stated the showpiece sailing event will stimulate the economy and provide jobs. Although sceptics have claimed the benefits will not be far-reaching enough, poll results have shown the Bermuda Industrial Union’s threat to jeopardize the Cup was extremely badly received by all sections of the community. Judging by the number of food operations, the need for economic rejuvenation is serious. Grateful Bread organizer Juliana Snelling explained it was set up “by friends who are very fortunate to never have to worry about whether we can afford the next meal for us and our families”. It comes shortly after the First Church of God launched a discount grocery initiative by bringing in its own food containers to serve hundreds of families. Other groups involved in feeding the poor include the Eliza DoLittle Society, Family Centre, the Salvation Army and the Coalition for the Protection of Children. A spokeswoman for the Eliza DoLittle Society said the helping group’s food bank in Warwick helped mainly seniors, with “a number of persons collecting on behalf of families. Our mandate is to rescue food and redistribute it to other organisations that serve the hungry. On a regular basis we are at the Cathedral, working with our sponsor HSBC and the church to cook and serve food to the hungry.” Some of the clients who show up in Hamilton were “a bit younger, and more males”, she said. But volunteers saw many of the same at both locations. Asked if need was on the rise, she said: “We see a growth in the number of seniors needing assistance, and are working on the relaunch of a programme designed for them.” While the society was not in any position to evaluate the divide between rich and poor, she said the group did, on occasion, cater to clients with jobs. An 83-year-old man at the Grateful Bread event, who has attended such events for nine years, since the death of his wife, said the need had “definitely grown” — among seniors especially. “A lot of people don’t have their children at home to care for them,” he said. “They really appreciate the help.” Older people often face challenges getting about, he said: “I’m in the family forum at Family Centre and I have a van to give my services. I’m only one, but one is better than nothing. I got into it more in the last five years, because people need help going to the doctor or the dentist.” He also attends charitable events for his own needs — “not every night but when I use up what I have”. He agreed that many of the same faces can be seen at different events. “Some have fairly good jobs, but don’t make the amount they need,” he added. One woman said she had only recently had to rely on feeding programmes after struggling with addiction. “At first, I was a little shamed. I come from prominence and I thought I would never find myself here. It’s been a very humbling experience — I am in recovery now. I have a good network behind me. I used to feel like I was carrying my burden alone; I didn’t realize there are others struggling. It’s not a black and white thing, it’s a people thing.” On the topic of seniors, she said: “I’ve seen a lot of older people coming out that I haven’t seen before. That worries me a bit. We are a proud society, especially old folks. I would like to see more of the people who paved the way being taken care of. A lot of them can’t get out or their grandchildren have relocated and they’re forgotten. So I encourage people to be their brother’s keeper. I see a lot of people that work coming through here. That shows me that incomes are not what they used to be.” Guests had high praise for the volunteers at the Grateful Bread. One elderly man said seniors often were unable to come out. “There are a lot of older folks that don’t come,” he said. “Youngsters come and then bring the food back to them.” A woman nearby was giving her contact details to volunteers, in a bid to obtain work. “It’s definitely grown,” she said. “Older people, young people. I’ve been coming to these things for three years now, since I lost my job. I’ve got five people in my family; only one of them working. We’re all trying to find jobs.” A 58-year-old woman said she had always known where to find a meal if she needed it. “Since my husband passed away, I have had to fend for myself. The poor will always be among us. If there’s a need in December, there’s a need in any other month.”

February 3. A long break from Parliament ends today for MPs as the House of Assembly reconvenes to debate legislation ranging from business to immigration and casino gaming. The introduction of the Land Title Registry, several years in the making, will be brought to the House along with the Quarantine Act 2016, which updates the island’s regime for preventing and containing outbreaks, as well as working with the international community. Legislators last sat in Sessions House at the end of November 2016, with the December 2 session called off after the House was blocked off by protesters demonstrating against the airport development project. Legislation for the America’s Cup is to be tabled, while new regulations on tourist accommodation will be brought with the Bermuda Immigration and Protection Amendment (No 2) Act 2016. The Summary Offences Amendment Act 2016 will bring the offence of selling cigarettes to under-16s in line with the Tobacco Control Act 2015. Two pieces of gaming legislation will be brought: the Casino Gaming (General Reserve and Casino Taxes) Regulations 2016, and the Casino Gaming (Casino Fees) Regulations 2016, Business legislation ranges from the Corporate Service Provider Business Exemption Amendment Order 2016 to the USA Bermuda Tax Convention Amendment Act 2016, the International Co-operation (Tax Information Exchange Agreements) Amendment (No 2) Act 2016, and the Insurance Accounts Amendment Regulations 2016.

February 3. Police were out in force at the gates of the House of Assembly yesterday as Parliament kicked back into action for the first time since November 25. There was little sign of protesters throughout the day, which came as no surprise given that legislation over the contentious airport redevelopment has been deferred until next Friday. Barricades in Parliament Street’s eastern lane went up in the early hours, with police officers in position throughout the day, and many police vans and trucks in the area surrounding Sessions House. Regular House matters got under way at 10am, with Neville Tyrrell, the newly elected Progressive Labour Party MP for Warwick South Central, swearing the oath of allegiance. Items up for discussion included legislation for the America’s Cup, gaming and immigration. The last scheduled House sitting, on December 2, sparked confrontations that culminated in protesters against the airport redevelopment being pepper-sprayed by police officers. Police have said a more thorough plan is in place to prevent a repeat when that issue returns to the agenda.

February 3. Six local musicians have been selected to perform at various events during the 35th America’s Cup as part of The Band. After live auditions and a public vote, the following members were announced: Dave Pitman, saxophonist; Jesse Seymour, male vocalist, Torrey Tacklyn, bassist; Troy Washington Sr, drummer; Raven Baksh, female vocalist/guitarist; and Leroy Francis on keyboard. An opportunity has also arisen for an extra guitarist to ensure all of The Band’s playing commitments can be met throughout the big event. Interested guitarists can e-mail talent@americascup.com by February 7 to register. The same judging panel will review the submissions and decide on the additional musician. Sancha Durham, event and business solutions support co-ordinator for the America’s Cup Events Authority, said: “We look forward to receiving submissions in the coming days, as this is an exciting opportunity for Bermuda’s best guitarist to have the chance to play a unique part in the 35th America’s Cup.” The panel of judges had representatives from the ACEA and America’s Cup Bermuda and included The Band musical director Robert Edwards. The Band will play at various events including Dock-Out shows, in the America’s Cup Village and at America’s Cup parties. They will learn each America’s Cup sailing team’s song as well as playing a mix of soca, reggae, Top 40 and traditional Bermuda-themed songs. In addition to The Band, the Local Talent Programme will see existing local bands, solo musicians and entertainers of all kinds performing in the America’s Cup Village during the five weeks of the event in May and June. For more information, visit www.acbda.bm.

February 3. Brian Peckett, the island’s first full-time anesthetist and fondly known as Dr P, has died at the age of 90. Dr Peckett’s arrival in Bermuda marked a leap forward for local medicine, where doctors had previously relied on colleagues to administer anesthetic during a procedure — or do the job themselves.  Popular and appreciated, Dr Peckett was “a major part in the health community who always viewed coming to Bermuda as winning the lottery”, according to his son, orthopedic surgeon Will Peckett. “He loved Bermuda and was very proud of what he achieved here.” Dr Peckett was the island’s first full-time anesthetist, and at first was “on his own, on call 24/7”, his son said. “In the early days, he was very into sailing. There were no pagers. The story was that if they needed him, they’d hoist a flag at the hospital, and he would come in from Hamilton Harbour.” Dr Peckett was key in bringing in more anesthetists for his practice. A group of practitioners developed until they were employed directly by the hospital. Medicine drew him from his childhood in Grimsby, a booming fishing and industrial port in Lincolnshire: his sister won a medical scholarship to Cambridge University, and Dr Peckett recalled having his tonsils removed on the kitchen table at home, for which the GP arrived in a Rolls-Royce and wearing a top hat. He attended Oundle School, followed by Clare College at Cambridge, then clinical studies at Middlesex Hospital, where he excelled as a top student in the early 1950s. Dr Peckett served in the air force at Boscombe Down before returning to Middlesex to specialize in anesthesiology, a swiftly modernizing field. After spotting an advertisement, he was approached by Bermudian doctors — and decided to come to his new home. “He was a natural doctor who loved what he did — he was gifted, which is a very lucky attribute,” his son told The Royal Gazette. “He was very good, very competent, but also genuinely cared.” A tight knit social life surrounded King Edward VII Memorial Hospital, and through events like the Christmas parties at his home, Dr Peckett was close with its old guard. Both Pecketts were involved in a car crash in October 2016, and Mrs Peckett died in November. Her husband passed away peacefully at home on January 31, with his children Deb, Lorna, Sarah, Tim and Will.

February 2. Governor John Rankin has called for calm ahead of potentially contentious House of Assembly sessions. Mr Rankin issued a short statement commending Commissioner of Police Michael DeSilva for revealing his security plans as Parliament prepares for its reopening tomorrow. “I welcome yesterday’s statement by the Commissioner of Police sharing the policing plan for the upcoming sessions of the House of Assembly,” Mr Rankin said in a statement. "In accordance with Bermuda’s democratic traditions it is important both that any protests are peaceful and conducted lawfully, and that the House of Assembly is able to meet and carry out its business. I trust that any differences of view in Bermuda can continue to be discussed and settled in a calm fashion in the interests of all of its citizens.” The last scheduled House sitting, on December 2, sparked confrontations which saw protesters against the airport redevelopment pepper-sprayed by police officers. That matter is due for debate on Friday next week. At a press conference yesterday, Mr DeSilva said there would be no access for members of the public to the grounds of the House tomorrow, to ensure MPs cannot be blocked from entering and to safeguard against any injury to the public. No members of the public will be permitted through any of the House gates. Parliament Street will be restricted to one lane for traffic on the western side, between the junctions of Reid Street and Church Street. The eastern side of Parliament Street — the side closest to Sessions House — will be reserved for pedestrians. If more space is required, Reid Street could be closed to vehicles after the 9am rush hour, between the junctions of Court Street and Parliament Street. That would create two designated “protest areas” on Parliament Street and Reid Street. The public gallery of the House — with its maximum capacity for 37 people — will be open and anyone wanting to enter should speak to police at the Parliament Street gate.

February 2. Opinion, by Wendell Hollis and Andrew Outerbridge. "We write, not on behalf of any particular party, cause or group, but as two Bermudian professionals who have worked in our respective professions for more than 40 years, have a great love for our island and are deeply concerned for its future. Michael Dunkley, the Premier, has written that the present proposal for the construction of Bermuda’s new airport by Aecon, a Canadian company backed by the Canadian Government, is “the right deal at the right time for the right reasons”. We took him at his word, looked at the plans and then took the virtual tour through the proposed new airport that the Government provided. During that tour, we did not feel in any way that we were in Bermuda. We felt like we were in one of the many too easily forgotten Middle American or Canadian provincial airports that function well but were built to serve only one purpose, which was to transit passengers from the ground to the air and back as efficiently as possible. There was no sense or feel of Bermuda in the airport; either on the outside or the inside. Bermuda is in the tourism business and the tea leaves of geopolitical events indicate that we may need to grow and recharge this business merely to survive. The airport is the first impression that a tourist gets of Bermuda and the last impression they have upon departing. The right airport would be one designed to inject the spirit of Bermuda into them upon arrival and leave that spirit with them on departure. The planned airport before us does not do either. Unlike the new hospital, the Government did not come up with a concept and then go to the people for approval. In the case of the hospital, the first concept was not accepted by the people and withdrawn. When the new concept was accepted, the Government of the day decided to build it on the public-private partnership basis in the same way as this government proposes to have this airport built. Wendell Hollis was deputy chairman of the Bermuda Hospitals Board at that time and the BHB was determined that it would not be subject to criticism on — or an inquiry into — how the process of the building of the new hospital would be carried out. The BHB decided to engage KPMG, one of the world’s top four accounting firms, to advise it every step of the way. Ironically, KPMG appointed Malcolm Butterfield, chairman of the Blue Ribbon Committee just put together to review and justify the figures for the new airport, to be its liaison officer for the hospital project. Butterfield advised that the process should start with a request for proposals. So an RFP was formulated under KPMG’s guidance and issued to the world of finance and construction. More than ten international consortiums with Bermudian participation entered the bidding process. Their proposals included designing, building, financing and maintaining the new hospital. Under the watchful eye and scrutiny of KPMG, those proposals were reduced to five, then to three and finally down to the successful bidder. At each step of the way, the BHB made the final decision under the review of KPMG, which issued and signed an opinion that all was above board and that the process was handled with absolute fairness. Bermuda got the new hospital that it needed and that it wanted. The design before us now is not the airport that we need or want. It is too large and thereby too expensive — and it is not Bermudian. We have examined the plans and taken the time and effort, at personal cost, to come up with a design that is Bermudian and more in scale with what Bermuda needs. As can be seen from the drawings accompanying this opinion, it looks like an airport that “we would be proud to be Bermudian”. We took the initiative to create an alternate design in the image of what was felt more appropriate, thus giving Bermudians a chance to take pause and reflect on this decision and its long-term implications with a visual image. We feel that it is undeniable that Bermuda needs a new airport. It is unfortunate that many Bermudians are left feeling railroaded and frustrated, with an overwhelming sense of a lack of transparency that gives rise to suspicion. Bermuda has an iconic cultural heritage, with our unique and readily identifiable Bermudian architecture, which is part of our DNA, and it seems a matter of common sense that it should be incorporated and reflected in our national airport. We have taken the initiative to draft up a set of conceptual drawings of what a Bermuda airport should look and feel like. The accompanying rendering is but one of them. We feel that it is incumbent on all Bermudians to take an active and participatory role in determining our future, and the airport should be one where both consensus and national interest take precedence over the immediacy of political expediency. We wish to confirm that it is not our intent or will to make a political statement on the matter, but rather to take a practical second look at the proposed development to ensure that we are going down the right path without compromise. The proposed facility is massive in size, and past experience has taught us that bigger is not necessarily better — and it costs a lot more. Thoughtful Bermudian design that incorporates common sense, tried and tested Bermudian building practices and sensible systems that are operationally simple and easy to maintain, replace or repair are the main ingredients that should go into this project. Our design is not intended to be the solution, but a reflection of the direction in which many feel we should be going before it is too late. However, on Tuesday evening, the Minister of Finance was quoted as saying: “The train has already left the station.” That is sad. Our plans present Bermudian rooflines based on an easily expandable, repetitive grid system designed for planned expansion as required in the future. The plans incorporate modern airport function and design, with a forward-thinking look that includes significant elements of our heritage. The front entry, for example, might be an 80ft by 80ft area with a tubular steel structure in the shape of a Bermuda buttery roof soaring up and giving both a strong sense of openness and a nod to our heritage. Passengers would know and feel that they were in the “Bermuda Airport” rather than some nondescript entity. This design is also 25 per cent smaller than the proposed facility, resulting in nearly $100 million in savings. We would ask Bermudians to think about what vision they want to see rather than the Aecon vision, which is better suited for elsewhere and wholly inapplicable to our island. Now is the time to make that decision and it should be driven by one very simple test: what is best for Bermuda and Bermudians now and in the future?

2017 alternative airport plan

Alternative airport plan proposed by objectors above

new airport supported by Bermuda Government

New highly controversial airport the Bermuda Government wants to see built by Canada. See Airport. 

February 2. Small cars are a big hit in Bermuda as sales jumped 15.3 per cent last November compared to the same month the previous year. Lionel Burt, in charge of sales for the Kia marque at Bermuda Motors, said the firm had just taken a delivery of 30 cars, many of them the best-selling A class Picanto model. But Glen Smith, managing director of Auto Solutions in Pembroke, said sales of small SUVs at his seven-marque dealers showed demand for larger vehicles as well. Mr Burt said: “It’s been going very well for us. We’re selling on average about 50 cars a month. That’s pretty good.” He said that older people downsizing from larger cars were a major contributing factor to the boom in sales. Mr Burt added: “They seem to be coming in and buying, plus there are the foreign individuals. But the really young people, we’re not seeing them so much these days, for whatever reason.” Mr Burt said: “People are downsizing — the Picanto most popular. We do a lot of those per month. We’ve just got another 30 off the docks and there are more on the way. People don’t want to pay that H class $1,600 a year. The little Picanto is about $400 a year. With a lot of people, children have moved out and the parents don’t need that large car any more.” Mr Burt said the Picanto was his top seller at Kia’s Hamilton showroom, followed by its stablemate, the hatchback Kia Rio, which falls in the E class for licensing. He added that the Kia Soul, a crossover mini-SUV style, was also popular with buyers looking for more affordable transport. Mr Burt said: “People often don’t want a full-size SUV and people also want to be that little higher off the ground. A lot of people like that.” He was speaking after the Retail Sales Index figures showed successive increases in sales volumes for the three months to November 2016. Mr Burt said: “We did have a sale going on in November and I think Auto Solutions had a sale a week or two later, which may have contributed.” Mr Smith added: “We represent seven brands and we have all different classes, from class A to class H. We pretty much fulfil the small SUV market, which has gone extremely well. It’s not just smaller cars, it’s larger cars we are selling.” The company sells SUVs from Suzuki, Hyundai and Honda, as well as the new Mazda CX3, which has just arrived in Bermuda. Mr Smith said: “We’ve also been selling in the mid-range, which has been very successful. November was a fantastic month for us and January was phenomenal for us. It was the best January we have ever had — we sold 70 vehicles, commercials and personal. What it could be due to is that when a brand has a new vehicle coming out, sometimes there are production delays, so people buy on spec, so that gets pushed back so you’ve got pent-up demand. It’s a combination of pent-up demand, confidence in the market and also the banks are open to financing vehicles.”

February 2. Javaughn Dill, the multiple “Mr Bermuda” winner, said it was never his intention to cheat after testing positive for a banned substance. The bodybuilder is serving a four-year ban imposed by the Bermuda Sport Anti-Doping Authority for a failing a doping test administered during the Annual Night of Champions held at the Ruth Seaton James Auditorium at the CedarBridge Academy in August last year. A urine sample submitted by Dill tested positive for Methandienone metabolites, an exogenous Anabolic Agent in addition to Methylhexeanamine and Oxilofrine — which are specified stimulants and listed on the World Anti-Doping Agency’s prohibited list. He waived off the right to a hearing after being informed of the breach, acknowledged the anti-doping rule violation and accepted his sanction. The 38-year-old, who trains at SeaView Ultimate Fitness Club, is ineligible to compete both locally and internationally until September 13, 2020. Dill revealed that he was banned for taking a fat burner and not a performance enhancer. “It was a fat burner that had a banned substance in it which showed up in the test,” he said. “It was not a performance enhancer and so there was no intent to cheat. I was contacted by the anti-doping association and I didn’t bother to appeal against the ban because I’m self-employed so my focus was elsewhere.” Dill won a fourth “Mr Bermuda” title at the Night of Champions in the absence of defending champion DeVon Bean, who was at the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro as a coach. It remains unclear whether the father of three will be stripped of his title with Candy-Lee Foggo, the Bermuda Body Building and Fitness Federation president, unavailable for comment yesterday. “This probably tarnishes my name because a lot of people look up to me,” Dill added. “But I want people to understand that my progression over the years has not been due to any performance enhancers but rather through hard work and proper eating. There are banned substances out there in all sorts of products like cough syrup and you might not think they’re on the list. But when you take them the chemicals change in your body and might show up on a test. In bodybuilding, automatically people are going to think you are taking steroids or some performance enhancer which was not the case. ”

February 2. Construction work has begun on a new solar installation at the National Museum that will see electricity bills cut by 20 per cent. The $300,000 project has been funded by Low Carbon, the UK-based renewable energy partner of Land Rover BAR, and also made possible thanks to a private donation by The Stempel Foundation. The solar panels will be installed on the Northwest Rampart of Dockyard and will generate more than 93,600 kWh of clean energy per year. The project, which will be made up of 194 high-performance SolarWorld bifacial glass-on-glass monocrystalline silicon panels, is expected to be completed by the beginning of May. “The National Museum is delighted to be the beneficiary of this Land Rover BAR legacy project and would like to thank Low Carbon and The Stempel Foundation for helping us to become more sustainable in terms of reducing our carbon footprint and operational costs,” museum chairman, James Hallett said. “The solar panels will reduce our electricity bills by 20 per cent allowing the museum to concentrate its efforts on cultural heritage preservation. Also a major focus of our museum is Bermuda’s maritime heritage, which makes this gift particularly relevant”. The solar panels are designed to harness the sunlight from the front and back of the panels and will provide a minimum of 30 years of energy production. The installation has been specifically designed to withstand Bermuda’s corrosive, humid and hurricane-prone environment. Skipper for Land Rover BAR, Sir Ben Ainslie, said: “We have set our goal to be the most sustainable sports team, and feel it is important for our team to have a minimum impact on Bermuda and leave a legacy behind us when we have left Bermuda. “The solar project is one of the most important projects to be delivered by our partners. Although our goal is to take the Cup home, we want to leave plenty behind us that will benefit the island and its people”. Roy Bedlow, chief executive at Low Carbon, added: “We’ll be leaving an important sustainable legacy for Bermuda as our project will keep producing renewable energy long after the team has left. It is exciting to be working with Land Rover BAR, local businesses and the museum to apply solar energy in an effective, targeted way that will benefit the people of Bermuda for years to come.” The project will be undertaken by Bermudian firm, BE Solar, and will involve the installation of 3,501 sq ft of solar panels. Travis Burland, sales and engineering director of BE Solar, said: “This is an exciting legacy project for Bermuda and we are extremely proud to have been awarded this opportunity. Our team is looking forward to installing the most advanced solar installation in Bermuda, which will help the National Museum reduce their operating costs and offset their environmental impact well beyond the year 2047.”

February 2. Young Bermudians can learn about exchange opportunities to work and travel in the United States at an information session being hosted by Consul General Mary Ellen Koenig. The programme allows students pursuing certificates or degrees at an academic institution and recent graduates to work as camp counselors, au pairs, interns, or in fields such as the hospitality industry or at theme parks. It also provides exposure to American culture and travel opportunities, according to a press release from the US Consulate. Overseen by the US Department of State, the programme is operated by numerous organisations in the US that promote educational travel. These organisations are responsible for job placements and provide advice on visas, housing, and other programme issues; fees for these services are charged and vary. Each organisation is vetted by and overseen by the Department of State to ensure participants’ health, welfare and safety through government-mandated regulations. The event is open to young people from any school in Bermuda and their parents, although the US Consulate stresses the initiative is only open to young people over the age of 18. The information session will be at 1pm on Monday, at the Bermuda College in Blue Room H115. US advisor Janea Mallory will assist those who are interested. Call 239-4018 to confirm attendance.

February 2. International country music singer/songwriter Jessica Lynn has described Bermuda as “top of the list” of the countries she has visited during her rapid rise to fame. The artist, who has been described as “Shania’s successor” in reference to one of modern country’s most successful artists Shania Twain, is on the island as an act for the Bermuda Festival of Performing Arts. Her love of Bermuda is enhanced by family history — her grandparents honeymooned here some 59 years ago and have travelled back for the first time since to see their granddaughter perform. “We surprised my grandparents at Christmas, it will be their 60th wedding anniversary — it made it so special coming here,” Ms Lynn told The Royal Gazette. “We are on the road five or six months out of the year and the hospitality and people here are incredible. We have been all over the place and I can truly say that Bermuda is top of the list in terms of everything — the people, the experiences and then just having my family here too is special.” Asked whether she hopes to make a return to the island, Ms Lynn — who is gearing up to tour Europe and to open for one of her favourite bands ZZ Top in the summer — responded: “I hope so, I am already trying to plan my next trip — it is so beautiful here. We are from cold gloomy New York right now so just hearing the birds chirp everywhere is amazing. We slept with the balcony open last night it was just beautiful — it is like summer time for us. I absolutely love it here and the overall experience has just been amazing I feel like I have family here now and that if we came back we would be welcomed with open arms which is a really cool thing to feel.” While she has been encapsulating Bermuda’s audiences with her high-energy performances this week, she has taken time out to inspire Bermuda’s students to follow their dreams. The Royal Gazette witnessed the excitement and admiration of students at CedarBridge Academy on Tuesday during a workshop with Ms Lynn where they performed in front of their classmates. Ms Lynn said: “It was great to get them out of their shells and play music together. I was trying to tell them that the more you do it the more comfortable you get. Experiences like that are so memorable — I will always remember that. I had a theme of follow your dreams and work hard for whatever you want in life and you really can be successful. I shared with them earlier that I started from scratch and had more disappointments than happy moments to start with but if you work hard and believe in yourself you really can get to where you want to be.” In the few years that Ms Lynn has found fame she has been able to reach goals she never thought were possible. She performed two full length concert television specials, This Much Fun — Live from the Winery at St George’s, and Jessica Lynn — Takin’ Over — Live from The Paramount Theatre, and recently had the honour of opening for the “Queen of Country Music”, Loretta Lynn. “These last few years have been a dream come true for me I have played with major country acts that I grew up listening to, idolizing and loving. Phil Vassar is a country music singer songwriter and his music got me into country when I was a kid. I would study his songs — he was such a good writer and I got to open for him this past year. He actually called me on stage to sing with him. I never get nervous but they were laughing at me back stage because I was like ‘I can’t believe I am about to do this!’ I got to open for Loretta Lynn, Brad Paisley, Keith Urban — people I have looked up to my entire musical career.”

February 2. Changing the law on same-sex marriage could open the door for “multiple partner marriages” on the island, lawyer Delroy Duncan told a packed Supreme Court yesterday. Mr Duncan, representing the charity Preserve Marriage, which opposes same-sex marriage and civil unions, said: “I say this not mockingly or jokingly.” He noted that four Supreme Court justices in the United States had raised such concerns when same-sex marriage was made legal there. “We have to ask ourselves whether this legislation is permissive of such marriages or whether or not what you are being asked to do could open the door to multiple partner marriages.” He said the common-law definition of marriage was that it was between a man and a woman, and the Registrar-General had to judge each marriage application in that context. Mr Duncan was speaking on the third day of a case brought by Bermudian Winston Godwin and his Canadian fiancé, Greg DeRoche. The couple are fighting for the right to wed on the island and claim their human rights have been breached by the Registrar’s refusal to post their marriage banns. They are seeking an order from the Supreme Court to compel the Registrar to post their marriage banns, as well as issue a declaration that same-sex couples are entitled to wed here. The civil proceedings concluded yesterday, with Puisne Judge Charles-Etta Simmons expected to deliver her ruling within the next six weeks. Mr Duncan started the day by arguing Parliament must decide on the issue of same-sex marriage “through the ballot box”. He said the Bermuda Supreme Court was being asked to become only the second court in the world — after the United States — to decide the matter through the courts, rather than the legislature. “There is no doubt that this is a great and important moment in the history of this country. There is no doubt that we need to grapple with the issues in this case with compassion, fairness and understanding for both sides of the aisle.” He said his clients held no “ill will” for members of the same-sex community and were intervening in the case owing to strongly held beliefs on the meaning of marriage. “The court is being asked to redefine marriage for the purposes of those who seek same-sex marriage,” Mr Duncan said. “This court is facing a cultural challenge of monumental proportions. That challenge has reared its head in the guise of this application.” He cited Bermuda’s Caribbean roots and said a “cultural clash” was at the heart of the marriage equality debate. Mr Duncan cautioned that there would be “no reason” why same-sex couples could not request a religious wedding if the judge amended the legislation to make such unions legal, questioning whether churches would have legal protection allowing them to refuse such requests. Mr Duncan said the law on this issue needed to be developed in an orderly way — by legislators, rather than “piecemeal” in the courts — to “ensure that the protection is upfront for the religious community”. The couple’s case hinges, in part, on the Human Rights Act prohibiting discrimination in the provision of goods and services on the grounds of sexual orientation. The plaintiffs say the Registrar’s marriage duties constitute a service, as defined by the Act, while the Government has argued that not to be the case. Mr Duncan said that the Registrar, in making a determination on marriage, was carrying out a function that only a government official could do. He questioned if the court would have the power to fulfil the plaintiff’s request, saying that while allowing same-sex and unmarried couples to adopt required a simple striking out of marriage, allowing same-sex marriage would require more comprehensive changes in the law. He also took aim at the Human Rights Commission’s comparison of same-sex marriage to interracial marriage, saying that some found the comparison offensive. Responding, lawyer Mark Pettingill, representing the plaintiffs, said that Mr Duncan had repeatedly “picked the plums from the duff” by relying on dissenting opinions in his arguments rather than those in the majority. He argued that the rights of a same-sex couple to marry would not interfere with the rights of people to practise their religion, saying the two can and should coexist. The courtroom at the Dame Lois Browne-Evans building was packed to capacity, with members of the public having to sit in areas normally reserved for jurors, witnesses and the media. Those watching the case included Mr Godwin, Opposition MPs Wayne Furbert and Kim Wilson, and gay rights activist Mark Anderson. The Government is represented by Deputy Solicitor-General Shakira Dill-Francois. Preserve Marriage is an intervener in the case, as is the Human Rights Commission, represented by Rod Attride-Stirling.

February 2. The Mariner’s Club, a popular social centre run for decades by the Bermuda Sailors Home, is to close on Monday as the charity struggles with its finances. The charity expects the establishment to be rented by “an outside entity” which may continue running it under the same name, with existing members eligible. “This is not a decision that has been arrived at lightly, but economically it was necessary,” chairman Bob Greig told members in a letter, explaining that the establishment’s board had been tasked in recent years with “returning the Mariner’s Club to profitability. We regret that it has come to this, keeping in mind the long history of the Mariner’s Club and the great memories we all have. We will feel a certain loss, and hopefully the new management will help keep traditions alive and make us feel welcome in the new organisation.” Originally based in St George’s, the Bermuda Sailors Home was founded in 1927 and moved three years later into Hamilton. It has stood on its premises on Richmond Road since 1963. According to members, the club’s closure would require a janitor and bartender to seek work elsewhere. Mr Greig’s letter said that the board was working with the Sailors’ Society in Britain to revise its constitution, which “until now has only focused on the social side of the charity’s mandate”. The aim was to develop “a fully functioning and sustainable centre for the assistance of sailors”. The letter added that “information has not kept up to the rumours”, and several members who spoke privately with The Royal Gazette said they blamed the management of the charity. However, when contacted by this newspaper, Mr Greig said the bar had been a victim of difficult economic times. “Most certainly,” he said. “We have not had the members coming in to use the facility, and it is not open to the general public as a rule. Nobody likes to see it shut down.” According to the letter to members, the bar had become a “drain” on the charity’s investments.

February 2. Joaquim Alberto Barreto, a former Portuguese Vice-Consul and Acting Consul to Bermuda for nearly 20 years, has died at the age of 91. A career diplomat born in the former Portuguese territory of Goa in India, Mr Barreto enjoyed a lengthy tenure in Bermuda from 1973 until his retirement, along with his wife Maria Celina, in 1992. Both worked for the Consulate. Initially meant to be posted to Bermuda for three years, Mr Barreto loved the island “but people loved him more”, his daughter Berta “Bulu” Barreto-Hogan said. Mr Barreto made a point of attending every event of note, in the Portuguese community or otherwise. “He taught us that unless you were sick or had something else happening, you never turned down an invitation. It’s an honour to be invited. He always rolled up his sleeves and worked alongside people at various functions, fairs, you name it. He was a people person, but very private at the same time, and his family was everything to him,” Mrs Barreto-Hogan said. “He was very kind, a true gentleman who cared about people.” The Barretos were living in Teddington in the UK at the time of his passing on January 17. Today would have marked the couple’s 60th wedding anniversary. Both were born in Goa, a Portuguese territory, which India took back in 1961 — prompting a mass evacuation. Mr Barreto helped process refugees from his posting at the embassy in Karachi. Karachi also became the birthplace of the couple’s four children: Carlos, Berta, Ligia and José. Yesterday marked 44 years to the day that their life in Bermuda began with his arrival by British Overseas Airways, his daughter said. As well as dedicating himself to the thriving Portuguese community, Mr Barreto was a familiar sight at functions around the island and enjoyed a wide circle of friends. A Requiem Mass celebrating his life will be held on February 13, at Teddington’s Sacred Heart Church.

February 2. A 58-year-old man has been charged with a series of sex offences — allegedly committed some 30 years ago — against two young boys. Appearing in Magistrates’ Court this morning, the Southampton man, who cannot be named for legal reasons, faced six charges concerning one boy and a further five concerning a second boy. The offences against the first boy are said to have taken place between 1979 and 1983, and the offences against the second boy allegedly took place between 1981 and 1986. The defendant, who was charged with a raft of historic sex offences concerning a third victim last month, was not required to enter a plea because the charges can only be heard at Supreme Court. He was released on bail with conditions pending his appearance at the March arraignments session in Supreme Court.

February 1. Premier Michael Dunkley will be in London for Brexit negotiations next week. The Premier will represent the island as formal Joint Ministerial Council talks begin over Britain’s departure from the European Union. According to a Cabinet Office press release, part of his job will be to ensure that all Overseas Territories secure the highest level of dialogue with the British Government. It comes after Bermuda was elected to the role of chairmanship of the United Kingdom Overseas Territories Association, with Mr Dunkley becoming president of the Political Council, and the chairman role going to Kimberley Durrant, UK Representative of the Government of Bermuda London Office. The press release says Joint Ministerial Council European Negotiations with the Department for Exiting the European Union will start on Monday. “It should be noted that the Premier will be in London next week to represent Bermuda at the negotiations. At the meeting, Mr Dunkley, in his newly appointed role as president of the Political Council, will chair a high level political meeting of leaders.” He will be joined by finance minister Bob Richards and Cabinet Secretary Derrick Binns.

February 1. Kevin Dallas has branded 2017 a “critical year” for Bermuda’s tourism industry as he looks to build on 11 months of consecutive growth in the sector. The new CEO of the Bermuda Tourism Authority pinpointed the successful delivery of the America’s Cup event as key to ensuring the island takes advantage of the legacy opportunities stemming from the sailing spectacle in 2018 and beyond. He also called for the BTA’s budget, which was $22.45 million in 2016, to be more directly linked to visitor arrivals and spending. Mr Dallas told The Royal Gazette: “We can’t take our foot off the pedal now that we’re growing again; continuous investment in tourism is needed to maintain our momentum. We would also like to see the BTA budget more directly linked to results — which means visitor arrivals and visitor spending. That way, as tourism numbers and receipts grows, we automatically have more to reinvest in tourism and the visitor experience. I hope the Government budget will recognise the opportunity and necessity of sustained investment in tourism and work with us to spread the cost fairly among the beneficiaries and our visitors. The challenge is to maintain that momentum and prove it is not just a one-off bounce back, but a sustained recovery. We still need more hotel rooms and we need sustainable growth to promote investor confidence. If we were to wobble now, we would lose a lot of the positive energy that has been created over the last year.” Mr Dallas welcomed the upcoming opening of the new Loren at Pink Beach Hotel as well as ongoing development of the Caroline Bay Ritz Carlton Reserve at Morgan’s Point, and he maintained he was “cautiously optimistic” of progress on the St Regis Hotel in St George’s. “The biggest threat to our current growth would be to disappoint on our delivery of the America’s Cup,” Mr Dallas said. “People have put a lot of emphasis on the “in-year” benefits of the event. That is hugely important, but much more important is the exposure it can provide; it will put us in millions of living rooms and show organizers we have the venue to host these kind of events. But the America’s Cup has to go well for the legacy benefits to come in the following years. I’m confident we can handle it but we need to be properly prepared.” November marked the 11th month of consecutive growth in the tourism industry with an additional 3,600 air visitors, compared to November 2015. Air arrivals for the year-to-date were also up 16 per cent, or 21,800, compared to the first 11 months of 2015. Mr Dallas said: “I wanted to hit the ground running and have hopefully ticked that box. My second personal goal is to really experience as much of the Bermuda tourism product as possible; I want to visit everywhere and ask to see their best room and their worst room to get the best idea of what we are offering our visitors. The transition has been smooth, I’ve spent a lot of time with the team in Bermuda and the US as well as meeting with stakeholders on the island. Everyone is excited about what we have achieved and by how the indicators look for 2017.”

February 1. The Registrar-General cannot post marriage banns for gay couples because such unions are null and void under Bermuda’s existing laws, a court heard yesterday. Deputy Solicitor-General Shakira Dill-Francois, representing the Bermuda Government in a civil action brought against it by a same-sex couple, told a Supreme Court hearing that under section 33 of the Marriage Act 1944 it was an offence for the Registrar to authorize a marriage, knowing it was void. She said the Matrimonial Causes Act 1974, in section 15, clearly set out the grounds on which a marriage was void, including if “the parties are not respectively male and female. Why would the Registrar proceed to register a marriage that is, in fact, void?” asked Ms Dill-Francois, adding that the two pieces of legislation had to be read and understood together. Ms Dill-Francois was giving her submissions on the second day of a case brought by Bermudian Winston Godwin and his Canadian fiancé, Greg DeRoche, who are represented by former Attorney-General Mark Pettingill. The couple want the right to marry on the island and are seeking an order from the Supreme Court to compel the Registrar to post their marriage banns, as well as issue a declaration that same-sex couples are entitled to wed here. Mr Pettingill told Puisne Judge Charles-Etta Simmons on Monday that the Human Rights Act 1981, which bans discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation in the provision of goods and services, had primacy over all other laws. But Ms Dill-Francois said it was important to consider the intent of legislators when they amended the Human Rights Act in 2013 to include sexual orientation in the list of protected classes. Quoting from Hansard, the official parliamentary transcript, she read comments made in the House of Assembly by the Attorney-General at the time: Mr Pettingill. He had told MPs: “This government considers marriage to be between a man and a woman only. This government will not be issuing marriage licences to same-sex couples.” In court yesterday, Mr Pettingill got to his feet to acknowledge that it was he who was being quoted but he asked Ms Dill-Francois, to read on to include a further remark he made in Parliament on the subject of same-sex marriage: “It’s a different debate for a different day.” Ms Dill-Francois said: “I’m not reading this section to in any way cast aspersions on my learned friend. The reason I am reading it is to show what the purpose of the amendment was for.” She added: “It’s the duty of the court to accept the purposes decided on by Parliament.” The Deputy Solicitor-General argued that posting marriage banns and issuing marriage licences was not a “service” as defined by the Human Rights Act. Ms Dill-Francois said the Act applied to civil servants as it applied to “acts done by private persons” but that was limited and did not include functions carried out by the Government only. “Parliament did not intend for governmental functions to be considered services,” she insisted. Earlier, the court heard from Rod Attride-Stirling, representing the Human Rights Commission as an intervener in the case. He recalled comments made by former Progressive Labour Party leader Dame Lois Browne-Evans when the Stubbs Bill was passed to decriminalize sexual acts between men: “Human rights are for all people.” Mr Attride-Stirling asked: “What would Dame Lois say about this case? I think it’s clear.” He turned to the United Kingdom and said since same-sex marriage was introduced there, “nothing happened, other than people in love got married”. The former HRC chairman spoke about South Africa, where gay marriage was made legal in 2006. He said the country knew plenty about racial discrimination and it had deemed racial and sexual orientation discrimination as “the same thing”. His comments drew murmurs of disapproval from several people sitting in the public gallery, with one person saying “nonsense!” and another adding: “I was born black.” Mr Attride-Stirling said: “In Bermuda, we tend to have a discriminatory view of homosexuals. Through time and education, we have evolved. Not everyone has evolved at the same pace.” He suggested MPs had “passed the buck” on the issue by leaving it for the courts to decide and acknowledged the judge had a difficult task ahead. He noted comments made by Donald Trump in the presidential election about appointing judges to reverse marriage equality in the United States. Mr Attride-Stirling noted a day earlier that three previous Supreme Court judgments concluded that government-only functions were “services” as defined by the Human Rights Act, He said an amendment to that Act passed by Parliament in 2016 “carved out” 28 exceptions, and the Registrar’s marriage licensing duties were not included in the exceptions, so clearly fell within its ambit. Ultimately, he said, the Bermuda courts would be invited to “take either the Trump view of same-sex marriage or the [Nelson] Mandela view”. He said the rights of children needed to be considered because while it was legal for children to be adopted by same-sex couples in Bermuda, those children were now “being prejudiced [against] because they don’t have the right to have two married parents and the rights that are associated with them”. The lawyer said if there was a case where one partner was Bermudian and the other foreign and the Bermudian died, the foreign partner could be made to leave the island. He referenced the controversy surrounding the Reverend Nicholas Tweed, who has a Bermudian daughter, but is separated from his Bermudian wife and has had a work-permit renewal refused, meaning he may have to leave the island. Mr Attride-Stirling said at least in Mr Tweed’s case, he could have chosen to stay married, adding: “Gay couples don’t have that ability.” The case continues tomorrow at 9.30am in Court Four of the Dame Lois Browne-Evans building.

February 1. An uncompromising ban on antisocial elements has been vowed by the Mid Atlantic Boat and Sports Club. In the wake of a fatal shooting outside the club on Sunday night, which claimed the life of 31-year-old Jahni Outerbridge, the club’s committee has pledged immediate steps, including collaboration with other establishments. “We have too many undesirable people who come there and disrespect the club, and we are definitely not having it,” club Commodore Laurie Hendrickson Tait said. “We stepped up security in the past; we just have to step it up more.” Meanwhile, Diallo Rabain, a club member and MP for the area, said the club aimed to position itself as “a more family oriented environment. Unfortunately, this incident took place in the parking lot — I wouldn’t say it is out of the control of the club, but now we have to look at how we can protect our patrons as they are coming and going. It’s an extension of where things are going in Bermuda, but it doesn’t have to go that way. We can pull back.” Mr Outerbridge, described as a popular and gregarious man, was not a regular at the North Shore club, which had opened to the public for a function that night. The gunman is believed to have come into the parking lot and shot him when he came outside. Ms Tait said the club would change its hours, suspend having DJs and rigorously enforce its policy of only guests over the age of 30 being allowed in. “I don’t know what other clubs are doing, but we can put our heads together and see what else we can do. I am not afraid to be a security guard to protect my club. It’s just too much — these young men come here and want to smoke when there’s a no smoking policy, and totally disrespect our club. If I see anyone in there doing something they’re not supposed to, I don’t have any problem telling them to get out.” Discussions included more cameras and lighting in the car park to safeguard patrons, and she said clubs needed to get together and “red flag” troublemakers. While changing the club’s ambience and enforcing an 11pm closing time would likely cut into revenue, Ms Tait said: “It’s a members’ club. Members will do what they need to in support of their club.” It has been four years since cameras and swipe cards were installed, after regular patron Michael Phillips was shot dead at the end of the club’s parking lot, but Ms Tait said they would now strictly check guests and “have no problem banning people”. Mr Rabain offered his condolences to the Outerbridge family, saying words fell short when a friend or family member was taken in such a fashion. He issued a statement saying: “Until we get to the point of believing that nothing can be solved with violence, we are destined to see repeat occurrences of what happened on Sunday night and the pain it causes. We have a ways to go Bermuda, but I firmly believe that together we can get there. Again, I offer my sincere condolences to all in the community who loved this young man.” Mr Rabain told The Royal Gazette: “It’s indicative of where we are as a society. But, at some point, we have to step back and look at the human side. As politicians we can make wonderful speeches, but absolutely nothing can mitigate the pain a family goes through.” Members were determined to keep the club “a place where you can come and feel safe”, he added. “I can only equate it to a ‘Cheers’-type bar, where everybody knows you and they’re happy to see you.” Saying his best course of action as the area MP would be to talk to Jeff Baron, the Minister of National Security, Mr Rabain said it would also make sense to discuss CCTV capabilities on the busy stretch of North Shore Road where the club stands.

February 1. The Commission of Inquiry has been given a third extension after failing to release its report on the misuse of public funds by Tuesday’s deadline. The independent four-person panel, chaired by Sir Anthony Evans, has been tasked with looking into the findings of the Auditor-General in her report on the 2010, 2011 and 2012 financial years. It began its work on April 1 and was originally given 20 weeks to deliver its report, meaning a deadline before the end of August. But in June, after a single public hearing was held, the commission was adjourned for further hearings in September and the deadline pushed back to December 31. In October, the commission stated in the Frequently Asked Questions section of its website that it remained “focused on a target completion date of December 31”. But the report was not completed by that date and the commission revealed that it had asked Michael Dunkley for another extension, until the end of January. Yesterday, the Premier said he had extended the deadline again for the submission of the final report from the commission for another month, until February 28. Mr Dunkley said: “I have been advised by the members of the commission that in addition to completing the mechanics of producing their report, the extension will allow time for communication with those who testified before the commission and who now may be subject [to] criticism in the report. In turn, this provides persons who may be contacted to respond if they wish to do so. As this four-week time period ensures that due process may be followed, I have no issue with granting the commission’s request for extension. It should be noted that this extension is not expected to result in additional costs.” The original sum budgeted for the commission by the Cabinet Office was $480,000 but was later increased to $1.16 million. The panel said on its website in October: “The commission is proposing to account for the expenditure of its budget upon completion of its work, ie when its report is submitted to the Premier.” It noted that the law requires it to present its report in writing to the Premier and “when required, furnish to the Premier a full statement of the proceedings of the commission and of the reasons leading to conclusions arrived at or reported”. As well as former Bermuda Court of Appeal judge Sir Anthony, the commission’s members are lawyer and former MP John Barritt, businesswoman Fiona Luck and businessman Kumi Bradshaw. We asked the commission for comment from Sir Anthony or the panel as a whole on the latest extension but the commission said it could not provide one by press time.

February 1. A plan to build a ten-storey residential building on Serpentine Road has been renewed more than eight years after originally being approved. The proposed building, which would stand at 70 Serpentine Road where it meets Dundonald Street and Park Road, was first submitted to planning in 2007 seeking in-principle approval. The building was described as having a restaurant at the ground floor, and 30 “affordable” one-bedroom units for sale and rental in the floors above. However, an architect at the time said some units may be redrawn to incorporate office space for tele-working. While it was initially refused on the grounds that it was not in keeping with the City of Hamilton Plan 2001, the plan was approved on appeal in 2008. Despite planning approval, ground was never broken on the project. According to the minutes of the January 18 meeting of the Development Applications Board, applicant Dennis Chin had submitted a renewal application for the project. The minutes stated that the Department of Planning had recommended the application be refused in part on the basis that eight years had elapsed and the project should be considered under the City of Hamilton Plan 2015. “The board queried whether the application for renewal had been received before the in-principle permission had expired,” the minutes stated. “The technical officer confirmed that it had. The board then engaged in a discussion concerning the large inventory of available vacant commercial space in the City and the feasibility of converting such spaces into residential accommodations. “The board agreed that the any new application submitted by the applicant should be considered under the new City of Hamilton Plan. However, they did not agree that the applicant should not be allowed to renew at this time based on the volume of available vacant office space in the City.” Asked if the Department would recommend the plan for approval if it were submitted as a new application, the technical officer said that they would not as it does not comply with the current planning policies. The minutes stated that the board also questioned if there was a limit to the number of times one could submit an application to renewal, and were told there was no such maximum number. The board also questioned parking for the proposed building, and were informed that there was only on-site cycle parking, but that on-site car parking was not a requirement under the City Plan. After deliberating, the board resolved to support the application for renewal for a further two years, at which time a new planning application shall be submitted for the board’s consideration.

February 1. David Burt, the Leader of the Opposition, has hit back at Bob Richards over the finance minister’s criticism of his approach to the airport redevelopment project. Mr Richards condemned Mr Burt’s constant criticism of the project and urged him to “get focused on the project not the politics so we can move Bermuda forward”. This afternoon Mr Burt responded to Mr Richards’s comments. “Bermuda’s Parliament is being asked to give approval to the airport redevelopment project and it is imperative that the entire Project Agreement is made available for review,” Mr Burt said. “I would remind the Minister of Finance that it would be impossible for parliament to give proper scrutiny to this deal without viewing the Financial Model for this ‘Public Private Partnership. MPs have received all Project Agreement schedules except for Schedule 29, which contains the Financial Model. The figures contained in the Financial Model are referenced numerous times in the Project Agreement specifically regarding the commitments of Bermudian taxpayers. This isn’t about politics; it is about basic transparency and respect for the role of Parliament as the people’s representatives. This is the first time in Bermuda’s modern history that we have ever privatized the operation of a major asset. There is a reason this agreement needs Parliament’s approval and that is because, unlike the hospital project, it diverts revenue from Government coffers to a private company who will operate the airport. MPs cannot be asked to give consent to an agreement they haven’t seen. Therefore, I again implore the Government and Aecon to live up to their commitments to transparency and share the entire Project Agreement. I specifically request that Minister Richards honour his public commitment to provide the Financial Model so that MPs can have a fully informed debate.”

February 1. Chartered accountant Craig Mayor will give a presentation about the airport redevelopment to the Public Accounts Committee tomorrow. Mr Mayor, who has heavily criticised the Bermuda Government for its proposals over LF Wade International Airport, has been invited to speak about the financial impact at the public hearing at St Paul’s Church Centennial Hall, at 2.30pm. The PAC, chaired by Progressive Labour Party MP Wayne Furbert, is authorised by the House of Assembly to closely examine and report on matters relating to the accounts of the Government and, in particular, to investigate findings reported by the Auditor-General.

February 1. Bermuda has experienced nearly double the usual amount of rain this month — but probably not enough to set a new January record. As of yesterday morning, the island had recorded 9.72in of rainfall, just shy of the record 9.86in recorded in 1958. And despite overcast skies throughout much of the day, a spokesman for the Bermuda Weather Service confirmed that no rain had been recorded at the LF Wade International Airport as of 5pm and none was expected overnight. While the average rainfall for January is 5.3in, that figure was broken on January 5 when the island experienced its wettest January day on record with 5.34in within 24 hours.

February 1. While there were five fewer hunters taking part in this year’s Winter Lionfish Derby than last year, 54 more lionfish were caught. The tournament, which aims to reduce the numbers of the invasive species in Bermuda’s waters, saw a total of 209 fish caught over the course of about ten days by 25 participants. Chris Cabral, Sean Correia and Alex Davidson caught the most number of fish at 80. Organizer Corey Eddy, who published a PhD thesis on lionfish in Bermuda last summer, said that the winter derby served two purposes. Dr Eddy told The Royal Gazette: “First of all, lionfish are very abundant in shallow water between November and May, making them easily accessible close to shore. With that in mind, the derby is meant to encourage lionfish hunters to get in the water, despite the cold temperatures, and catch lionfish. I think we’ve shown that a consistent effort during these months can make a substantial impact in terms of the number of lionfish removed. It’s quick, it’s easy, and its cheap; you don’t even need a boat, fuel, or other added expenses. Second of all, and very importantly, the derby is meant as a thank you to this dedicated group of hunters for all that they do in fighting the lionfish and protecting the reefs.” Dr Eddy, of the Bermuda Lionfish Culling Programme, said he was grateful for the support he had received from the Bermuda Underwater Exploration Institute which has become BLPC’s parent organisation. He also expressed gratitude for the financial support from the Bermuda Lionfish Task Force; Groundswell for covering the catering cost; Chris Cabral for donating 20lbs of fillet; Harbourfront for the lionfish prize-giving menu; support from Guardians of the Reef (formerly Bermuda Ocean Explorers); as well as Blue Water Divers; Dive Bermuda; Blue Hole Water Sports; Makin Waves; La Garza jewelers; and Alexandra Mosher jewelers for donating additional prizes; and Alex Davidson who provided a hand-carved cedar spoon, “perfect for making lionfish chowder”. Dr Eddy’s thesis found that lionfish appear to be more abundant in Bermuda’s shallow waters during the winter months, challenging the belief that the Indo-Pacific invaders are a deep-sea problem only, and fish found in the shallow waters were found to be marginally larger than fish found in deep waters.

February 1. Two movie screenings in honour of Black History Month will take place at the National Library on Queen Street this month. Jointly hosted by the library and the United States Consulate, the programme will feature Freedom Riders on Tuesday next week at 6pm, and Red Tails on Tuesday, February 21, at 6pm. According to a press release, Freedom Riders tells the story of how more than 400 American activists who challenged racial segregation during the Civil Rights Movement in 1961. Americans, both black and white, travelled together in groups on interstate buses throughout the South, challenging local laws that enforced segregated seating. This movement provoked negative reactions in many communities causing the activists to be violently attacked and often times arrested. Red Tails is a heroic movie about the first African American military aviators in the US Armed Forces, stationed in Italy during the Second World War in 1944. Often struggling against discrimination, the pilots were finally given the opportunity to prove their skills in the sky during battle. Directed by Anthony Hemingway, Red Tails features stars including Terrence Howard, Cuba Gooding Jr, David Oyelowo, Tristan Mack Wilds, Bryan Cranston and Michael B Jordan. Admission is free. Due to limited seating, guests will be accommodated on a first-serve basis. For more information visit: https://bm.usconsulate.gov or http://www.bnl.bm.

February 1. Police Commissioner Michael DeSilva admitted yesterday that the police’s plan for dealing with the December 2 protest “didn’t work” with regard to ensuring Parliament was able to sit. The Commissioner of Police told a press conference the “right contingency” was “perhaps” not in place that day to prevent the House of Assembly from being shut down by protestors, even though it was previously shut down in the same way on March 14 last year. But he said his officers were prepared for any protest that might happen tomorrow when the House of Assembly will sit for the first time since December 2, though he said there were “not many” indications one was planned. He said the police did not want to be drawn into avoidable confrontations and warned that anyone interfering with the “free exercise” of a parliamentarian or with the lawful activities of the House would be committing a criminal offence. “The police wish to remind the public, once again, that protests must be peaceful and lawful,” said Mr DeSilva. “Peaceful means the absence of violence. Lawful means that protesters do not engage in activities that might constitute a criminal offence. I hope that this briefing today has assisted in providing absolute clarity in that respect.” Mr DeSilva said there would be no access for members of the public to the grounds of the House of Assembly tomorrow, to ensure MPs cannot be blocked from entering and to safeguard against any injury to the public. No members of the public will be permitted through any of the House gates. Parliament Street will be restricted to one lane for traffic on the western side, between the junctions of Reid Street and Church Street. The eastern side of Parliament Street — the side closest to Sessions House — will be reserved for pedestrians. The commissioner said if more space was required, Reid Street could be closed to vehicles after the 9am rush hour, between the junctions of Court Street and Parliament Street. That would create two designated “protest areas” on Parliament Street and Reid Street. Mr DeSilva said the public gallery of the House – with its maximum capacity for 37 people — would be open and anyone wanting to enter should speak to police at the Parliament Street gate. On December 2, police officers were criticised for using pepper spray on the crowd and several inquiries are being conducted into the events of the day: by the BPS itself; by a senior officer from the United Kingdom; and by the Police Complaints Authority. Asked if officers would carry pepper spray tomorrow, Mr DeSilva responded: “Officers carry pepper spray as part of their daily protective gear, every day of the week. I don’t want to cause alarm in the public and drag the events of December 2 into the third of February, “Officers carry batons and handcuffs and pepper spray and Taser and some officers are armed seven days a week, 24 hours a day, so I don’t want to confuse the public with that. If your question is, are we going to deploy pepper spray, that isn’t what this is about. We are about trying to manage large crowds in a peaceful and lawful way.” He was quizzed about how the police prepared for the December 2 protest, bearing in mind the events of March 14, when Parliament was first shut down. An operational police plan for December 2, released in redacted form under public access to information, flagged up the potential for protestors to breach the Parliament Act and interfere with the House. Mr DeSilva said yesterday: “The plan was not to have it shut down. Certainly the intentions and the objectives came from the angle that the idea was to police it in a way that being shut down was not an outcome. We perhaps didn’t have the right contingency in there for what happens if we can’t get into the Parliament, because that wasn’t the plan. The plan was to keep it open.” The commissioner said the shutting down of Parliament by protesters “wasn’t the outcome that we were policing towards”. Asked if the police plan was geared towards preventing demonstrators from doing that, he replied: “So the plan didn’t work.” The controversial airport deal which prompted the December 2 protest is not up for debate in tomorrow’s House session, according to Speaker of the House Randy Horton. And Senator Jeff Baron, Minister of National Security, told The Royal Gazette that while he expected protesters to gather tomorrow morning, he did not envisage a repeat of December’s confrontations.

February 1. The Bermuda Government is in talks with police and prosecutors over plans to decriminalize cannabis. Attorney-General Trevor Moniz gave the update on the One Bermuda Alliance’s Throne Speech pledge this afternoon, shortly after the Progressive Labour Party revealed it would table a Decriminalization of Cannabis Bill. At a press conference ahead of Friday’s reconvening of Parliament, Shadow Attorney-General Michael Scott announced the PLP’s proposed legislation would drop penalties against those found with a small amounts of the drug. Reacting in a press release, Mr Moniz said: “I am pleased to hear that the Progressive Labour Party is on board with the Government’s plan to decriminalize possession of small amounts of cannabis. “The Government committed to doing so in last November’s Throne Speech and has initiated consultations with the Department of Public Prosecutions and the Bermuda Police Service to develop appropriate legislation. The aim of the legislation is to eliminate unjust consequences that have occurred under the current system, most particularly the unnecessary criminalisation of young Bermudians. Our commitment to decriminalize possession of small amounts of cannabis is one step in the Government’s efforts to reform Bermuda’s cannabis laws as they relate to the criminal justice system and public health.” Earlier this afternoon, Mr Scott, flanked by PLP MP Diallo Rabain and shadow health minister Kim Wilson, said the PLP’s bill would decriminalize possession of 7g and under of the drug and provide education and treatment opportunities for those who are caught in possession of such amounts. He also drew attention to the “epidemic and unjust outcomes for hundreds of black citizens — young black men in particular” which he said is reflected in the disproportionate number of arrests and charges made against them in Bermuda." This bill aims to rectify that as well as include other justice initiatives for education and empowerment opportunities,” he told the media. The bill consists of five clauses which decriminalize the possession of cannabis under the statutory limit minimum of seven grams. It provides that criminal sanctions will not apply to persons possessing cannabis under that statutory minimum and or handling such amounts. “Section 25 of the principal act [Misuse of Drugs Act 1972] is amended to empower the police to seize cannabis from any person and also provides for the Minister of Justice to make regulations providing for assigning drug education and treatment to persons who are likely to benefit from such programmes. This would be part of many other steps we will take to complete our aims and objectives of increasing opportunities for Bermudians. Outcomes we hope will flow from this legislation include the reduction of criminalisation figures among Bermudian residents and guest visitors alike who have been caught with small amounts of cannabis. This is a step along the way of ending life altering consequences including being prohibited to travelling to the United States of America and Canada, and having one’s reputation smeared and job prospects shattered due to simple possession of cannabis. As the statistics show black people in our society are more likely than whites to be arrested, charged and convicted for cannabis possession. This criminalisation for minor, non-violent possession is damaging for hundreds of Bermudians young and old and it must end.” Ms Wilson outlined how the amendment would affect minors, adding: “What we don’t want to do is pass legislation that would have the effect of permitting minors to do likewise. To permit minors to be able to go and possess seven grams of marijuana or less would quite frankly be creating a disservice to our youth. The requirement for minors found in possession of seven grams or less does require mandatory substance abuse education or treatment as the regulations that will come through this act will set out.” Mr Rabain said that the current law is “severely reducing access to educational and other opportunities”: an issue he said was raised often during his time canvassing constituents. He added: “I am speaking from the perspective of talking to people on the doorstep — this is an issue that comes up time and time again from the father who cannot go away to see his child play in a sporting tournament to a young woman who has no access to overseas education and has been frozen out of employment opportunities. We need to stop this system that obstructs real opportunities.” In his response, Mr Moniz also noted legislation was passed last year that would allow the Director of Public Prosecutions to authorize police to issue a formal warning to an individual instead of charge. He said the OBA also introduced legislation allowing the use of medical marijuana and pledged in the Throne Speech to further reform for more medical treatment options through the importation of herbal supplements containing Cannabinol. “While I appreciate the PLP’s need to be seen to be leading this issue, the Government has initiated a responsible and inclusive approach to the development of this important change in the law,” he said. “Proceeding without the input of the Bermuda Police Service and the Department of Public Prosecutions would be premature and flawed. Partisan political maneuvering should not interfere with the responsible implementation of changes to our laws. In this regard, the Government looks forward to working with the Opposition to move this important reform forward for a better Bermuda.” He pointed to the OBA’s Throne Speech pledge, which stated: “The Government will consult with respect to the decriminalization for possession of small amounts of cannabis. To that end, Government reforms will preserve police powers to confiscate cannabis and to test whether road users are under the influence of cannabis. These reforms will complement our efforts to educate our youth about the dangerous effects of drug use, balancing the need to reduce the consumption of cannabis while avoiding the unnecessary criminalisation of our young people.”

February 1. Seniors can get a fuel discount for eight weeks under a promotion from Sol Petroleum Bermuda, its family of Esso service stations and Age Concern. Anyone aged 50 or older can get 10 per cent off fuel purchases at Esso every Tuesday until March 21 when they sign up as a member of Age Concern. According to a press release, the promotion is intended to help Bermuda’s seniors and raise awareness about Age Concern. Jonathan Brewin, general manager of Sol Petroleum Bermuda Ltd, stated: “We are happy to launch the Esso Age Concern promotion for a second year in a row. “It not only benefits our seniors, but sheds light on the many benefits that Age Concern presents to its membership. We hope this promotion creates more awareness for the charity in general as well as helping our seniors save money at the pump.” Claudette Fleming, executive director of Age Concern, said: “I wish to extend sincere thanks to Sol Petroleum Bermuda Ltd, Esso Gas Stations and their staff for their continued commitment to Age Concern. “In the face of retirement many older adults are looking for ways to minimise their living expenses as prices continue to rise year on year. 10 per cent on fuel is a big deal for seniors and will be greatly appreciated.” Participating Esso gas stations are in St David’s, St George’s, Crawl, Collector’s Hill, BIU, Esso City, Warwick, Port Royal and Sandys. To sign up for membership, visit ageconcern.bm.

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