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An overseas consultant for the European Union capital of Brussels costs taxpayers at least $615 an hour, the Premier and Minister of Finance revealed on Monday. Premier David Burt disclosed the cost after he was asked to provide the names and salaries of all overseas consultants hired to represent Bermuda in Belgium. Mr Burt said that Alastair Sutton was paid “500 Euros an hour, which equates to $615.” He added: “He is also reimbursed airfare, travel and accommodation if required.” Ms Atherden also asked if there were any other expenses associated with representation in Brussels, the headquarters of the European Union. Mr Burt said: “At this time, this is the only expense. As was stated in the Budget Statement, the Government will be looking to establish a permanent representative office, which is thought will save funds.” Grant Gibbons, the Shadow Minister of Economic Development, asked when the Brussels office would be open for business. Mr Burt said: “In the next Budget year, which begins April 1.” The Government earlier said it needed an office to represent the island to the EU after Britain voted to leave the organisation in the wake of a referendum in 2016.
The Opposition has attacked the Government over payments made to Ewart Brown after medical imaging fees were slashed. Trevor Moniz, a One Bermuda Alliance MP, questioned in the House of Assembly whether the payments from Ministry of Health funds had been a “payoff” for Dr Brown’s support for the Progressive Labour Party during the 2017 election campaign. The ministry agreed in December to pay his two clinics a total of $600,000. Dr Brown declined to comment yesterday. A separate payment has been agreed for the Bermuda Hospitals Board, but Kim Wilson, the health minister, said the amount would not be known until the end of March. Diagnostic imaging, which covers high-tech medical scans from MRIs to CT scans, were targeted by the Bermuda Health Council last year as part of the regulator’s attempt to cut mounting healthcare costs. Dr Brown said in January that the cutbacks in fees, some as high as 87 per cent, had hit his medical practices hard enough to mean the closure of the CT scanner service at the Brown-Darrell Clinic in Smith’s by the end of that month. Mr Moniz told MPs during Friday’s Budget debate that the payouts to Dr Brown were “irresponsible expenditures which are not budgeted for”. He said the Government was “paying a large sum of money” but that it was “never clear why these payments were being made”. Mr Moniz said that Dr Brown had shut down the CT unit but “the Government went ahead and paid him anyway and we could not see the quid pro quo”. He added: “There is no contractual obligation. He is not giving you anything back, so why are you paying him? The minister said she was intending to raise health rates on the scans in the coming year, but that’s another matter. People out there in the public want to know, is the payment to Dr Brown a quid pro quo? Was Dr Brown a major donor to the PLP election campaign, and is this some sort of payoff to him?” The Royal Gazette asked the Government for comment yesterday, but no response was received by press time. The Shadow Attorney-General’s remarks came after details of a legal threat leveled against the ministry last year by doctors opposed to the fee cuts were revealed. One doctor, J.J. Soares of Hamilton Medical Centre, confirmed yesterday that he had been among the group that threatened a constitutional challenge to the reductions. A spokeswoman for the Ministry of Health confirmed receipt of “a letter before action in October 2017 pertaining to judicial review of the Bermuda Hospitals Board (Hospital Fees) Amendment Regulations 2017, with respect to the reduction in fees chargeable for diagnostic imaging under the standard health benefit”. She said that “several parties” had been involved, but the matter was resolved without legal proceedings. She added: “As it was a legal matter, there will be no further details provided.
A date has been set for a Supreme Court challenge against a new law designed to replace same-sex marriage with domestic partnerships. Chief Justice Ian Kawaley will hear the civil case brought by gay Bermudian Rod Ferguson, 38, against Attorney-General Kathy Lynn Simmons on May 21 and 22. Mr Ferguson’s lawsuit, filed on February 15, claims that the new Domestic Partnership Act is unconstitutional and will subject gay people to “inhuman or degrading treatment” by denying them the right to wed. He is seeking to have the legislation declared void by the court on the basis that it is inconsistent with his fundamental rights as set out in the Constitution. The Domestic Partnership Act was passed by Parliament in December and given Royal Assent by John Rankin, the Governor, on February 7, but has yet to come into effect. The law was created to halt same-sex marriages and replace them with partnership arrangements open to both gay and straight couples. The Ministry of Home Affairs said last week that the Act would come into operation “on such day as the minister may appoint by notice published in the [Official] Gazette”. A request for more information yesterday received no response by press time. Former attorney-general Mark Pettingill, who is representing Mr Ferguson, said the law not yet being in force was unlikely to make any difference to whether the case could be heard. The legislation reversed a Supreme Court decision last May that enabled gay people to wed on the island and on Bermuda-registered cruise ships around the world. The judgment came after gay couple Winston Godwin and Greg DeRoche took legal action against the Registrar-General in the wake of a refusal to post their wedding banns. Parliament’s decision to remove the right of gay people to marry sparked international criticism, including from Theresa May, the British Prime Minister, who said she was “seriously disappointed”.
Taxpayers have forked out at least $5.3 million on the failed Sandys 360 facility, The Royal Gazette can reveal. The now-shuttered sports centre, which the Government plans to buy for $1 million and renovate for an as-yet-unknown sum, was funded with a bank loan, a government grant and donations from the public. The education ministry provided $1 million towards its construction costs and, according to disclosures made to The Royal Gazette by the Ministry of Finance under public access to information legislation, further payments from the public purse totaled $4.3 million. A duplicate payment of more than $800,000 made by mistake to the center's trustees has never been recovered and the ministry said there were no records to show how it has sought to recover the cash or from whom. The Government has also refused to make public a report into the financial affairs of the centre carried out by professional services firm KPMG. Lieutenant-Colonel David Burch, the public works minister, revealed last week that the Progressive Labour Party government is to go ahead with a plan first announced by the previous One Bermuda Alliance administration in 2016 to buy the facility for $1 million. He told the House of Assembly: “There is a significant amount of money that is owed to HSBC, I believe, and so we are purchasing the facility for $1 million. “No capital funds have been budgeted in the next financial year on the facility but, once the purchase is complete, a thorough survey of the structure will be carried out.” Colonel Burch said any major work would have to be “properly scoped and budgeted for the following financial year”. The state-of-the-art Sandys 360 Sports, Aquatic and Enrichment Centre opened its doors in September 2009 next to Sandys Secondary Middle School after 15 years of fundraising and planning and two years of construction. The sports centre boasted the island’s only 25-metre indoor swimming pool and diving platform, plus a full-sized gym, an aerobics and fitness room, a weights room, a viewing gallery and a juice bar, as well as six classrooms. More than 2,000 people were reported to have attended its official opening, when it was described as a “magnificent” $12 million facility, which would benefit the entire community. But management admitted less than four years later in March 2013 that they were struggling to keep up with bills and repay a loan from HSBC. Sandys 360 closed that year and Michael Fahy, then home affairs minister, later said in the Senate that it had been “run very badly”. Mr Fahy, speaking in July 2015, said the Government was still spending “a little money” to keep it in operational condition. He said it was “a private entity and a private concern — not a government initiative”. The Government stonewalled questions in December that year about how much it was still paying to keep the facility from falling into disrepair. The Pati disclosures, made in response to requests from The Royal Gazette, show a series of payments beginning in 2009 and ending in 2013. They include:
The Ministry of Finance’s information official said: “All the payments ... were used to defray the cost of previous capital works undertaken by Sandys 360 and to reduce associated debt. Funding went directly to service debt and was not used for operational expenditures of Sandys 360.” A further $253,700 was spent between 2009 and 2013 to subsidize use of the centre by “seniors, youth etc”. The official said The Royal Gazette’s question on how the Government had sought to recover the missing $807,000 could not be answered. She added: “There are no records showing how government is seeking to recover the funds it is owed by Sandys 360 and who it is seeking repayment from. Hence, there are no records of letters, invoices, or court papers pertaining to repayment. However, government has sought to recover these debts by pursuing its customary debt collection procedures.” The information officer later said in an e-mail in January 2017: “We confirm we have now provided you with a list of all payments made to Sandys 360.” A request to the Ministry of Public Works for the KPMG report and confirmation of the total amount of public funds spent on Sandys 360 did not receive a response by press time.
Daniel’s Head is to be marketed to global developers in a bid to revive the former resort location. The Bermuda Land Development Company Ltd is working with KPMG Advisory Ltd to market the site to potential developers. The site was formerly the 9 Beaches resort. “We are delighted to have access to KPMG’s professionals,” said Francis Mussenden, BLDC’s chief executive officer. “This engagement is part of our work to position BLDC as a facilitator of land development opportunities that will yield significant benefits for Bermuda and its residents.” KPMG’s work will comprise several phases, beginning with an initial assessment of market appetite. The firm will also develop a compelling business case, analyze proposals and support BLDC in finalizing lease terms. “Daniel’s Head is a significant asset for BLDC and Bermuda,” said Stephen Woodward, managing director and sector lead, KPMG Enterprise. “We look forward to helping BLDC attract a global developer, with a successful track record in the hotel and leisure industry, in order to optimize the value of the property.” KPMG will work alongside BLDC property development and marketing manager Michele Renda, who joined the organisation in 2017 to spearhead work on Daniel’s Head, Tudor Hill, and Southside. Mr Mussenden said: “Ms Renda has been a valuable asset to our team. Her experience in marketing, civil construction, and real estate development — and as an accomplished entrepreneur — ensures we have significant insight into the targeting and selection of viable developers.” Ms Renda, who has led a number of private tours for hotel operators, investors and developers in recent months, said: “We have received a great deal of interest in Daniel’s Head since taking possession last year. In particular, a great deal of interest was expressed during the Caribbean Hotel Investment Conference and Operations conference in November 2017, when every major player from the regional hotel industry was in Bermuda.” Daniel’s Head beach facilities were upgraded in early 2017, and BLDC indicates the site will be open to the public again for the summer season.
Bermuda’s insurance industry has registered a year-on-year increase in company registrations across multiple sectors, driving job growth on the island. Fifty-eight new insurers registered last year compared in 42 in 2016. The new registrants ranged from captives and long-term re/insurers to special purpose insurers, according to Bermuda Monetary Authority statistics. Risk sector companies were responsible for at least 61 corresponding new jobs, including 20 in the fast-expanding long-term (life and annuity) sector, according to the Bermuda Business Development Agency. Ross Webber, chief executive officer of the BDA, said: “The BMA figures reaffirm Bermuda’s status as the ‘world’s risk capital’ and also underscore the breadth of our risk-solutions market, as well as the innovation and expertise that distinguish the island as a centre of excellence across each risk sector. “Most importantly, this trend, encouraged by our business-development efforts, is creating much needed jobs that help fuel economic growth.” Despite challenging market conditions globally, including mergers and acquisitions activity and consolidations, Bermuda last year held its number-one position atop captive insurance domiciles, based on total licensed captives. Some 739 active captive licences were on the BMA register at year-end, including 17 new entities, compared to 13 in 2016, and Bermuda captives wrote $54.7 billion in net premiums. Grainne Richmond, president of the Bermuda Insurance Management Association, said: “We’re delighted to see an overall increase of 38 per cent in licensed insurance carriers in Bermuda last year. Of the 58 new licences issued, 17 are in the limited purpose/captive space. We’re not surprised by the continued confidence stakeholders place in the overall Bermuda insurance product, and we’re particularly pleased to see the increase in captive registrations. This continued growth highlights how important Bermuda’s captive offering is in the global arena where our experience, pragmatic regulation, professionalism and integrity continue to set Bermuda apart from competing jurisdictions.” Bermuda saw growth in the life sector, with six long-term insurance companies, one Class C and five Class E companies, licensed by the BMA. That compared with three 2016 registrations. With incorporations of companies such as Monument Re, Athora Life Re, Allianz Re Bermuda Life, Langhorne Re, and Private Bankers Life & Annuity Co, the sector generated at least 20 new jobs in Bermuda. Sylvia Oliveira, board director, Bermuda International Long Term Insurers and Reinsurers, said: “Life reinsurance continues to expand as part of the Bermuda international business sector. Long-term re/insurers provide significant diversification for the Bermuda economy since we are affected by a different set of drivers than property and casualty re/insurers. Our markets keep expanding as ageing populations seek to protect assets during retirement and for their heirs. We are confident the BMA’s sophisticated regulatory environment continues to attract life reinsurers to domicile in Bermuda.” Bermuda dominated the global insurance-linked securities market, issuing 24 SPI licences, seven more than the previous year, with reinsurance covers consisting primarily of cat bonds, collateralized reinsurance and sidecars. The Bermuda Stock Exchange was the listing venue of choice for ILS vehicles, noted Greg Wojciechowski, BSX president and CEO, and ILS Bermuda chairman. He said: “New ILS listings on the BSX totaled 103 securities for the year, with a nominal value of $11.54 billion. This represents annual growth of 69 per cent in the number of new securities listed, and 87 per cent growth in the nominal value.” At year end, the total number of BSX-listed ILS securities was 227, valued at $25.99 billion. “Bermuda’s global market share reached record levels of approximately 84 per cent, cementing Bermuda’s continued position as leader in this innovative asset class,” Mr Wojciechowski said. “The devastating natural catastrophe events in 2017 demonstrated Bermuda’s resilience, tried-and-tested infrastructure, as well as expertise in the property and casualty space.” One new Class 4 commercial reinsurer was also formed in Bermuda in 2017, namely Premia Re, a property/casualty reinsurance run-off group. Jereme Ramsay, business development manager at BDA, said the agency would continue to lead aggressive business development efforts overseas, particularly in Canada, and major markets across the United States. “We’ll continue to work with all our valued industry stakeholders to educate corporate audiences about what makes Bermuda different. Bermuda’s leading position and longstanding reputation make our jurisdiction the sensible domicile choice,” he said. Mr Ramsay led an industry team to the World Captive Forum in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, last month, and heads to the annual Captive Insurance Companies Association in Scottsdale, Arizona on March 11. Rick Irvine, PwC Bermuda Partner and tax leader, will be featured alongside industry leaders on the event’s closing panel offering updates on US tax reform. The Bermuda team at the Scottsdale event will also promote the Bermuda Captive Conference, which takes place from June 11 to 13. Mr Ramsey said: “So far this year, insurance registrations are already off to a solid start, with four new formations, including a captive, an SPI, a life company and small commercial insurer. Last year was a strong one, and the first quarter of 2018 appears to be following suit. We’re optimistic for what’s to come.”
A fisherman’s whopping catch of a 110lb black grouper this week won praise from friends. They highlighted Chris Burgess as “a steward with a conscience” when it comes to protected species. Mr Burgess landed the giant off the Souh Shore near Castle Harbour in the East End on Tuesday. His friend, Glenn Clinton, called attention to the haul in the wake of the commercial fisherman’s expedition to the Argus Banks this month. Mr Burgess caught an endangered red rockfish, but it was released unharmed back into the ocean. But he said credit should be shared with colleague Mark Terceira, who made sure that the fish was returned safely to the sea. He added: “It was the right thing to do.” Black groupers are also protected by fishing restrictions, but those regulations are not as strict as those covering red rockfish.
Four arrests have been made in connection with the murder of 17-year-old Lyrico Steede in Nottingham, according to the British media. According to the Nottingham Post, an 18-year-old man has been arrested as well as two 17-year-old boys, while a 17-year-old girl was held on suspicion of conspiracy to commit murder. The Bermudian student was attacked and fatally stabbed in the town of Bulwell on February 13, and died in hospital six days later. Known to friends as Rico, Mr Steede had lived in the country for five years, and his family are now raising funds to bring his body home for the funeral. Detective Chief Inspector Hayley Williams, who is leading the investigation, said that Nottinghamshire Police were continuing to press their investigation.
A trial date has been set for a Supreme Court challenge against a new law aimed at replacing same-sex marriage. Chief Justice Ian Kawaley will hear the civil case brought by gay Bermudian Rod Ferguson, 38, against Attorney-General Kathy Lynn Simmons on May 21 and 22. Mr Ferguson’s lawsuit, filed on February 15, claims that the new Domestic Partnership Act is unconstitutional and will subject gay people to “inhuman or degrading treatment” by denying them the right to wed. He is seeking to have the legislation declared void by the court, on the basis that it is inconsistent with his fundamental rights as set out in the Constitution. The Domestic Partnership Act was passed in Parliament in December and given Royal assent by John Rankin, the Governor, on February 7, but has yet to come into effect. The Ministry of Home Affairs said last week it would come into operation “on such day as the minister may appoint by notice published in the [Official] Gazette”. The legislation reverses a Supreme Court decision from May last year that enabled gay people to wed here — a judgment won after Winston Godwin and Greg DeRoche litigated against the Registrar-General for refusing to post their wedding banns. Parliament’s decision to remove the right of gay people to marry has been met with criticism from around the world, including from British Prime Minister Theresa May, who said she was “seriously disappointed”.
Opinion, by Michael Dunkley, 2014-2017 Premier of Bermuda when the airport reconstruction deal was signed and OBA Shadow Minister of Government Reform. "Bermudians should understand that the Progressive Labour Party government will never ever say the airport project is a good deal for Bermuda — no matter the facts, no matter the positive professional judgments on the deal. Even by its own consultant, LeighFisher. It will never acknowledge the oppressive economic realities that surrounded the deal, including a PLP record in office that left Bermuda economically hobbled, with thousands out of work and government finances severely compromised. It will never acknowledge that the One Bermuda Alliance government managed to negotiate an agreement with the Canadian Government that guaranteed the project be delivered on time and on budget, and be paid for over time by users of the airport; not Bermuda’s taxpayers. It will never acknowledge, as its consultant did, that the agreement achieved important benefits such as:
The PLP’s obsessive commitment to provide negative spin on the airport makes it impossible for it to see the forest for the trees. As a result, David Burt’s statement on Friday locked on to the airport contract, like virtually all contracts, being binding and that to break it would cost Bermuda dearly. The Premier’s spin ignored his consultant’s conclusions that:
The Premier’s spin ignored the judgment of the Blue Ribbon Panel put together by the OBA government to assess the project agreement, a panel comprising highly reputable, independent-minded Bermudians who concluded that the transaction was “commercially sound and reasonable”. His spin also ignored his consultant’s recommendation that the project agreement contained optimizing opportunities to expand workforce development, training and jobs for Bermudians, as well as social investments to promote education, productivity, better health and social inclusion. We say: “Get on with it. Stop spinning. Do your job.” Bermuda negotiated a good deal for a new airport amid serious economic challenges and in the face of extreme political opposition — a deal that is generating jobs for Bermudians that will support their families while rebuilding infrastructure critical to the future of the island. That’s not spin. On a final note, given the Premier’s words on the importance of government transparency, he should report the cost of the airport review by LeighFisher and disclose whether or not it was a sole-sourced contract."
Close to 75 per cent of the work on the redevelopment of the island’s airport last month was done by Bermudians, MPs heard yesterday. Written answers from Walter Roban, the transport minister, said that “man-days” were the standardized reporting format for measuring a “transient type of work”. He added: “For January 2018, Bermudians provided 1,043 man-days of labour out of a total of 1,398 man-days of labour at the Airport Redevelopment Project.” He said the man-days were split between 124 staff and 919 craftsmen. Mr Roban added: “Skyport operates the airport and in this capacity it employs 48 management and staff, of which 44 are Bermudians or spouses of Bermudians.” Mr Roban was also asked for a breakdown of the areas of employment. He said Skyport employees covered areas including airport operations, finance, administration and technical areas. Mr Roban was earlier asked for details on the number of Bermudians employed at LF Wade International on the redevelopment project and at airport operators Skyport by Leah Scott, Deputy Leader of the Opposition and the One Bermuda Alliance spokeswoman for tourism and transport.
The Government has budgeted for 36 more full-time equivalent public-sector posts in the next fiscal year, the Ministry of Finance clarified yesterday. Wayne Furbert, the junior finance minister, was responding to yesterday’s front-page story in The Royal Gazette, which stated that the Civil Service was expected to add 266 positions in 2018-19. The story was based on figures in the Government’s Estimates of Revenue and Expenditure for the Year 2018-19, which stated 266 as the difference between the revised estimate of the number of posts for the year ending March 2018 and budgeted positions for the next year. Mr Furbert said the projection of 5,053 full-time equivalents for March referred to “positions funded, not filled”. He added that it was normal practice for governments in Bermuda to budget for a higher number of posts than they actually expected to fill — a view that is backed up by figures from previous years’ Budget estimates. He explained that this year’s Budget book changed the presentation of numbers to compare next year’s projections with revised estimates for 2017-18. Under the previous method, the projection would have been compared to last year’s original budgeted number, which was 5,017, so indicating an increase of 36 budgeted positions for next year. Mr Furbert said: “We have managed the budget for seven months and the Government has been very efficient, which has allowed us to have a revised estimate of 4,787 full-time equivalent posts for 2017-18, compared to the 5,017 posts that were budgeted for.” He added that David Burt, the Premier, is responsible for approving all new posts in his capacity as Minister of Finance. Mr Furbert said reduction in staffing under the previous One Bermuda Alliance administration, achieved through attrition, a hiring freeze and a voluntary early retirement programme, had left some departments understaffed. He added: “When this government came in, there were staff in Parks and other departments who told us they were burnt out, so we have filled some positions but we also turned down a few.” The fiscal year finishes at the end of March. Mr Furbert said 19 of the 36 extra budgeted posts for next year referred to nurses for the Sylvia Richardson Care Facility, which is scheduled to reopen. The Ministry of Finance budget also allowed for an extra 12 posts, partly because of the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force’s imminent assessment of the island’s ability to stop money laundering and terrorist financing.
New hi-tech computerized heart scans will help cut the risk of heart disease, the Bermuda Hospitals Board has said. The scans can detect calcium deposits and other obstructions in blood vessels which can lead to blockages and heart problems. Dr Joseph Yammine, BHB consultant cardiologist and director of the programme, and Dr Anders Hauggaard, a consultant radiologist who has used the technology in previous posts in Sweden and the Arabian Gulf, set up the programme. A joint statement from Dr Yammine and Dr Hauggaard said: “This programme, where we provide calcium scoring for cardiac risk screening and coronary angiography for assessment of coronary disease and overall heart conditions, is of great value to the community. It is particularly important because Bermuda does not have a cardiac catheterization laboratory. This programme offers an alternative in many cases to surgery to get a clear picture of the state of the vessels in and around the heart and may result in less referrals to facilities overseas.” The new tests available are CT angiography and cardiac calcium scoring. In CT angiography, 3D images of arteries that supply blood to the heart are taken with a CT scanner. The test can help diagnose the cause of chest pain and may indicate blockages in these vessels and conditions like atherosclerosis — fatty deposits in blood vessels. The programme started earlier this month to coincide with Heart Month and about 15 people have used the service so far. Radiology technicians with special training and experienced nurses perform the tests under the supervision of a doctor. Dr Sam Mir, BHB director of cardiology, said: “This programme can be a significant benefit to improve the care of our cardiac patients in Bermuda where heart disease remains the number one killer.” Dr Daniel Stovell, BHB chief of radiology, said: “This testing is carried out with minimal exposure to radiation. We have paid close attention to this and are pleased with the achievement in the pilot phase of the programme which took place earlier this month.”
A one-time tax benefit of $139.4 million helped lift Triton International Ltd’s fourth-quarter profit to $207.2 million, or $2.57 per share. That compares with a profit of $57.2 million in the preceding quarter, and $22.8 million for the same quarter in 2016. The Bermudian-based container company had income before income taxes of $86.7 million, and adjusted pre-tax income of $84.9 million, or $1.05 per share. The company benefited from favorable market conditions and an increased demand for leased containers, with utilization averaging 98.3 per cent for the fourth quarter and 96.9 per cent for the year. Brian Sondey, chief executive officer of Triton International, said the company’s leasing revenue and margins continued to grow as a large number of new containers went on-hire. He said: “Our ability to step in to the supply gap created by the combination of stronger than expected trade growth and constrained buying by many of our customers and several other leasing companies reinforced our position with the world’s largest shipping lines and enhanced our strong reputation for reliability.” Triton saw fourth-quarter benefits that included $6.8 million in insurance receipts related to lost leasing revenue due to the default of Hanjin Shipping in 2016, and an income tax benefit of $139.4 million related to the revaluation of Triton’s deferred tax liability as a result of the reduction in the US statutory corporate tax rate. Mr Sondey added: “We expect market conditions will remain favorable in 2018. Our customers are indicating they expect trade growth will remain solidly positive, and the supply of containers remains well controlled, with a moderate amount of new container inventory and very limited inventories of available used containers.” Triton reported a $344.6 million profit for the year. The company declared a quarterly dividend of 45 cents per share payable on March 28, to shareholders of record as of March 12.
Hiscox Ltd chairman Robert Childs says there will be no change in the company’s Bermuda residency or staffing levels as a result of US tax reform. However, the insurer and reinsurer will have to bolster capital at its US business and expects the added costs for many companies to lead to higher insurance premiums for consumers. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act cut US corporate tax rates to 21 per cent from 35 per cent. It also imposed a base erosion anti-abuse tax levied on transactions between US corporations and their non-US affiliates — for example from Hiscox USA to Hiscox Re in Bermuda. “This is not just affecting Bermuda, it’s affecting the world outside the US,” Mr Childs said in an interview. “It’s the same issue for Switzerland, Germany and France as it is for Bermuda. Will this affect our residency in Bermuda? No. There will be no effect on staffing in Bermuda. But we will have to put more capital in the US. When you think about what Bermuda provides, it’s a place where lots of companies can bring their diverse sources of income and because we are diverse, it makes the business more capital-efficient. What this [the US tax change] does is force us to effectively Balkanise our capital, put capital in different places. This is less capital-efficient and so more expensive, and more expensive for consumers as well. Beat has not helped consumers.” In its earnings statement, Hiscox said its US capital requirement would increase by $75 million as a result of Beat. Hiscox has also been forced to restructure in Europe with Britain’s impending exit from the European Union meaning the loss of the capability to service clients across the trading bloc directly from London. An EU office in Luxembourg, expected to be fully operational by late this year, will cost Hiscox £12.5 million ($17.4 million) as a one-off hit, an expected ongoing cost of €2 million ($2.46 million) and a temporary increased capital requirement of £50 million. The group is a leading insurer in the Lloyd’s of London market and in 2006 moved its corporate domicile to Bermuda, also home to its reinsurance and insurance-linked securities operations. In 2017, Hiscox made a profit of £93.6 million, or £30.8 million after adjustment for foreign currency fluctuations, despite reserving about $225 million for claims in a year of record catastrophe claims. The group’s strategy of diversification, with a large retail segment that now accounts for 56 per cent of the company’s business, has helped to reduce volatility in results. Bronek Masojada, Hiscox’s chief executive officer, said: “The strong growth and profits in retail countered the volatility felt in our big-ticket businesses which were impacted by an historic year for natural catastrophes. We have made significant investments in infrastructure and brand, both of which will continue. Market pricing has improved and as a consequence we have growth ambitions for every part of our business.” Mr Childs said he expected the reinsurance segment to grow, helped by an increase in rates — although less steep than the company had expected — as a result of the impact of last year’s hurricane and earthquake losses across the industry. “The good thing is that rates are going up,” Mr Childs said. “US treaty rates are up about 10 per cent and in loss-affected areas more than that, while in the rest of the world where we do business, they’re up 3 per cent. When it comes to the London market, in 14 out of 16 areas, we’ve seen rate increases.” But are these increases sustainable? “My view is that they are,” Mr Childs said. “You’ve only got to look at the results of anyone who writes US property business — the losses are staggering.” Overall, he was optimistic for growth in all the firm’s segments this year. Hiscox reported a group combined ratio of 99.9 per cent for 2017, an investment return of 2 per cent and a return on equity of 1.5 per cent. In London Stock Exchange trading, Hiscox shares fell 29p, or 2.1 per cent, to close on 1,367p yesterday, after results were released before the market opened.
A trail of blood across a Hamilton nightclub was described in court yesterday as the trial of Carlton Simmons, a former alderman for the Corporation of Hamilton, began. Crown counsel Nicole Smith told the court that Mr Simmons was working at the nightclub just before 4am when Jahkeil Samuels entered and the two began a conversation. But she said that a brawl broke out minutes later in which Mr Samuels punched Mr Simmons in the head before being pulled away. Ms Smith added: “Mr Simmons had a bladed article in his hand and subsequently began stabbing Jahkeil Samuels multiple times.” The Crown said that the alleged victim “sustained serious, serious injuries” in the fight. Ms Smith told the jury that security footage seized by police “clearly shows that the behavior and circumstances surrounding the altercation were such that the accused either intended to kill Jahkeil Samuels or, at the least, wounding him with the intent to cause him serious harm”. Mr Simmons, 40, pleaded not guilty to the attempted murder of Jahkeil Samuels in his bar, Ambiance Lounge, in Angle Street in Hamilton, in the early hours of August 12 last year. Mr Simmons also denied an alternate charge of wounding Mr Samuels, 32, with intent to do grievous bodily harm. Victoria Holden, a crime scene investigator with the Bermuda Police Service, took the jury through a gallery of pictures that showed blood in the downstairs bar. Other images showed a broken prosecco bottle on the dance floor near a bloodstained white T-shirt. Broken glass and a smashed bottle lay at the bottom of the stairs and a trail of blood led out to Angle Street. Pc Maya Tucker told Puisne Judge Charles-Etta Simmons she arrived with her patrol partner at about 4.25am and found the injured man on a motorcycle outside Ambiance with two others. One shouted: “Take him to the hospital.” Ms Tucker said blood was splattered in the club’s upper hallway and there was a “broken white champagne bottle and broken glass” at the bottom of the stairs. The court heard that Ms Tucker found Mr Simmons downstairs with blood running from the side of his head while one of the bar’s customers wiped his head with a cloth. Defence counsel Saul Froomkin, QC, asked the officer if she had recognized one of the trio outside as a member of the Parkside gang. She said: “Yes.” But when asked if she knew the injured man as the leader of Parkside, Ms Tucker told the court: “I don’t know Jahkeil Samuels. I’ve heard the name.” The trial, which is expected to take a week, continues.
To Eugene O’Connor, there’s nothing better than the buzz of a Bermuda kite. He calls himself the Kite Master, because he’s been making and selling them for 76 years. These days, the skies have grown a little too quiet for his taste. “If I’m driving down the road and hear a kite humming, I stop the car and get out to figure out where it is,” the 83-year-old said. “The skies used to be filled with kites on Good Friday morning. Today, there just aren’t as many. People still want them, they just don’t know how to make them. It’s definitely a dying art.” Mr O’Connor is sharing his knowledge in book form. The Art of Kite Making is on shelves now. It contains detailed instructions and photos he has taken of kites over the years. “I wanted to write my own book when another Bermuda kite-making book came out in 1970,” he said. “Over the years, I kept saying I was going to do it but I put it off. Then we tried to get someone else to do it. We’d give them some money, and then a better job would come along for them. Finally, three years ago, my son, Eugene Jr, said he was going to do it himself. He helped with the writing and my daughter-in-law, Juliette, took photographs.” Mr O’Connor was thrilled when he finally held a copy in his hands. “A lot of work went into it,” he said. “At first the book was a lot longer, but we cut it a lot. We have enough material to do a second book. I am really proud of it, particularly because it is a family affair.” That’s the way his kite-making has always been. When his children — Eugene, Sherrie and Dennie — were little, they would wind string and do other small tasks. Meanwhile, he would make the frames and his younger brother, Calvin, would paste paper. As demand grew, he streamlined the process by creating a mould. “It got to the point where I could make a frame in three minutes,” he said. “The papering took a lot longer, maybe three hours.” He still makes kites in a workshop under his house in Pembroke. “I built the room myself,” he said. “I’ve always been good with my hands. In fact, I’ve built three houses in my life.” He and his brother started making kites for the Phoenix Stores when they were 14 and 13. “At one point, we were making 400 to 500 kites to sell there,” Mr O’Connor said. His brother retired from the business 15 years ago. “I made 200 frames for the Phoenix Store last year,” he said. “I haven’t started making them for this year yet. I will, soon.” Completing his first kite at 7 was a proud moment. “At first, I made them for fun, using fennel sticks and pond weed that I found in Marsh Folly Dump,” he said. He couldn’t afford to buy paper, so he’d use wrappings from crates of apples and oranges. “They were pretty colored sheets,” he said. “They came in all different patterns. I’d find the paper and iron it out. Then I started using wood from the crates instead of sticks. Then an elderly lady asked if I’d make her two.” She paid him six pence, a princely sum for a child in 1945. “That was a lot of candy money for me,” he said. Word of his skill spread and his customers increased. His price rose to nine pence, and then to a shilling per kite. As he grew older, he decided on a different career path. “It’s hard to believe now but over the years Bermuda had 29 movie theatres,” said Mr O’Connor, whose work there spanned 44 years. “Aeolian Hall, Playhouse, The Colonial Opera House — I was chief engineer in them all. It was a great job because while the film was rolling I could string kites. I left when Rosebank Theatre closed in 1984.” He has often demonstrated his kite-making skills on cruise ships docked in Hamilton and showcased it overseas. “It’s hard to take the kites away because they get damaged so easily,” he said. Two years, ago, Bermuda National Trust gave him an award for his work in keeping his craft alive. “That was a proud moment,” he said. To show off his love for kites, he often wears a large gold one around his neck. “After the theatres, I worked in trash collection for Works and Engineering for 15 years,” he said. “We would often find old rings, chains or watches in the garbage. I amassed quite a collection.” In 2014, he took his collection to a jeweler. They sold the gold and had three kite necklaces made up from the proceeds. “I really love my necklaces,” Mr O’Connor said.
The Civil Service is expected to increase by 266 full-time positions within the next fiscal year. Budget figures show the Bermuda Government will have an estimated 5,053 full-time equivalent staff by March 2019, up from 4,787 in March 2018. It reverses an eight-year trend during which numbers were cut from 6,006 in 2009 to 4,707 in 2017, amid fears the bloated Civil Service was adding to Bermuda’s crippling debt problems. Under the One Bermuda Alliance government, a hire freeze was imposed as the Civil Service was shrunk by attrition. Between March 2012 and March 2017, a period comprising most of the OBA’s 4½-year tenure, the number of public sector workers fell by 18 per cent, from 5,767 to 4,707. During that time, the Government’s annual salaries and wages decreased by 6 per cent, from $391.9 million to $366.5 million. Overtime more than doubled from $9.9 million to $20.9 million, but the combined total of salaries, wages and overtime was down 3.5 per cent, from $401.8 million to $387.4 million. Jeanne Atherden, the Leader of the Opposition, said the Sage Commission had warned that the Government was too large and recommended abolishing any budgeted but unfilled posts. She said: “This resulted in what became known as ‘the hiring freeze’. The Minister of Finance also introduced a voluntary retirement programme, but what was missed by many was the fact that the post that the person filled was to be one that the department could manage to do without for two years as the post would join the list of those posts deemed frozen. As the Government has indicated that it supports the Sage Commission recommendations, it is essential that the recommendation to right size the Government and ensure programmes are delivered more effectively and efficiently is still heeded.” Jason Hayward, president of the Bermuda Public Services Union and a senator for the Progressive Labour Party, said the cuts under the OBA had caused staffing levels to drop to a 15-year low, poor morale and poor delivery of public services. Mr Hayward said a voluntary early retirement plan, agreed by Government and the Bermuda Trade Union Congress in 2013, had meant to be for one year but ended up continuing for five. Under that plan, when a public officer retired, their position would remain unfilled for two years, with assessments then carried out to determine whether a replacement was needed. Mr Hayward said: “At the time, the unions were looking for creative ways to assist the Government with its cost-savings measures. The OBA government had a desire to reduce the public service staffing levels through attrition and the unions felt that the one-time early retirement plan was a creative way of assisting the Government to achieving its targets. What was supposed to be a one-time offer spiraled into a systematic multiyear offer that continued until 2018. The critical assessments to determine if a post was needed were overlooked by the need to reduce the level of expenditure by the Government on wages and salaries. That, coupled with a government-wide hiring freeze, led to departments being understaffed and staff being overworked, resulting in a deterioration in staff morale and the delivery of public services. It now comes as no surprise that staffing levels are at a 15-year low. The unions have stated on numerous occasions that if a government wants to determine its appropriate overall staffing levels, departments must be assessed one by one to determine the optimal staff level required for the expected service output. To date that exercise has not taken place; the Sage Commission failed to do it in their study. As a result, the unions rejected claims that the public service was overstaffed.” Budget figures dating back to 2000 show the Civil Service reached a peak under the watch of PLP premier Ewart Brown. It climbed from 5,095 in 2007 to 6,006 in 2009, a rise of 18 per cent. The number was reduced after Paula Cox replaced Dr Brown, with the decline continuing under the OBA. Bermuda College economist Craig Simmons said the OBA’s approach had successfully brought spending under control, but its method of imposing cuts across the board was inefficient. Mr Simmons said: “The previous government did little to reform the Civil Service, despite having a spending and efficiency commission. I think the OBA government correctly entered power in emergency mode, but was not able to transition into reform mode. Emergency mode led to across-the-board cuts, which are generally not efficient, because some departments needed more funding, while others deserved deep cuts. But the OBA stopped the bleeding of out of control spending. Civil Service reform is an arduous and methodical task, based on a sound analysis of each department’s ability to serve Bermuda residents’ needs. Reform demands that we ask some difficult questions: Is the programme or department serving the public interest? Is the programme affordable? Are there alternatives? Can the programme be provided by another department or the private sector?”
Wayne Caines, the Minister of National Security, has responded to the Opposition’s criticism of blockchain and cryptocurrency. His remarks came after Jeanne Atherden, the Leader of the Opposition, raised concerns over the use of digital currency in the Reply to the Budget. Ms Atherden told the House of Assembly on Friday that other countries were “grappling” with the regulation of these technologies — and that regulators globally were taking “a dim view of these developments”. She added: “Just this week, the Governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney, states that Bitcoin has failed as a currency.” Mr Caines said the Opposition had “lack vision” — and that the Government would leave “no stone unturned” on its legal and regulatory requirements. In response to Mr Carney’s reservations, Mr Caines said: “Their view is that as bitcoin sits today, it has not been as successful as a currency from the traditional aspects of money. However, I should stress that its store of value properties and its use as a medium of exchange are being created as we speak. Countries worldwide were engaged in education as they start to experiment and begin to interact with the next internet — and Japan has given bitcoin currency status and was angling to become the first epicentre for these financial systems”. The statement continues: “Switzerland’s creation of an Initial Coin Offering regulation was more than two years in the making. And Canada has labelled them as properties (or commodities) and they are subject to the same laws that largely exist in traditional financial settings. The Commodities Future Trading Commission in the United States recently along with the Securities and Exchange Commission head called for self-regulation of bitcoin exchanges, stating that shying away from governments or the over regulation of these systems so early will disable the potential benefits that they hold for consumers.” Lastly regarding CT Financial Action Task Force, Mr Caines said, “The Ministry of National Security has devoted significant resources to ensure Bermuda is ready for its assessment later this year. It is just plain wrong to suggest that we would do anything to jeopardize that assessment. So, recognizing how traditional business views anything new, we have assembled a team that includes an adviser to the OECD, and an individual who has designed exchanges that have more secure Know Your Customer compliance measures than even the banks. We know we’re going to be assessed; we are working to pass that assessment and everything we are doing in the blockchain ‘space’ is with an eye on using Bermuda’s existing, sterling reputation to guide our steps.” Mr Caines concluded: “We have to look at growth in new ways, and we are being innovative in our vision. In fact, it is the non-financial uses of blockchain where it has been said the next big leap in technology since the internet has arrived. The potentials are virtually limitless, but would include matters such as the following:
Diallo Rabain has taken aim at the One Bermuda Alliance’s educational policies and said the former government “condemned” students. In an impassioned speech, the Minister of Education and Workforce Development said: “The future of our country down the drain for four years. Yes, I’m upset. I’m mad. I am absolutely furious that I have to stand here today and tell every single one of you over there that that’s what you did to our children.” Speaking in the House of Assembly on Friday, Mr Rabain said the slashing of the Department of Education budget had hampered the island’s public schools. Recently released figures showed that only a quarter of middle school students are attaining a target set for maths by the Department of Education. Mr Rabain said: “Last week I released the Cambridge Checkpoint exams that covered their time. The public have been outraged at what they have seen. Rightfully so. I demanded that those results be released to show everybody exactly what we are working with now. If you listen to the public, they are very disappointed. They are up in arms. Why are our children still performing at the levels they are performing?” Mr Rabain said the OBA had left the post of educational officers for maths and science vacant since 2012 because of the “financial brilliance of the OBA”. He added: “How do you freeze two of the most important posts in education and expect our grades to improve? How do you do that? They were funded, but just not allowed to fill them. Well guess what? They will be funded and they will be filled this year.” He said the education officers were tasked with driving education in the schools, ensuring that teachers were doing what they were supposed to be doing. He added: “When they froze these posts, they condemned our children. They condemned them, and they should be ashamed.” The Budget Reply by Jeanne Atherden, the Leader of the Opposition, said the Government would be “slashing funding for improved educational standards” by 35 per cent. However, Mr Rabain said the cut came from a reduction of consultants that had been doing the work of unfilled civil servant positions. “Those education officers whose posts remained funded and unfilled, there was a brilliant idea by some that they would hire consultants to sort-of fill those rolls. And guess what? Those consultants were paid 20 per cent more than the civil servant posts. They were in place for two years. That 35 per cent was the money we were paying consultants because your policies didn’t allow us to replace the people that should have been there in the first place.”
Bermuda-based insurer James River Group Holdings Ltd has altered its corporate structure in response to US tax reform. In its fourth-quarter earnings statement, James River said the reorganization meant its internal quota share would now be ceded to a newly formed Bermudian company called Carolina Re, described as “a related counterparty”. Carolina Re will formally elect to be a US corporate tax payer. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which took effect at the start of this year, slashes the corporate tax rate for US companies to 21 per cent from 35 per cent. It also introduced the base erosion anti-abuse tax, which targets internal company transactions between US companies and their non-US affiliates. This impacts Bermudian insurance groups, which cede premiums from their US subsidiary insurers back to Bermuda by way of quota share reinsurance transactions. Only affiliated reinsurance business is liable to the tax, not third-party business. Robert Myron, James River’s chief executive officer, said: “In light of recent US tax law changes, we altered our corporate structure after year end. We will remain a Bermuda-based company and expect our tax rate will remain consistent with our tax rates over the past five years.” James River stated: “Effective January 1, 2018, the Company will restructure its internal quota share to be ceded to a newly formed related counterparty, Carolina Re Ltd, which will be licensed as a Bermuda Class 3A re/insurance company. Carolina Re Ltd will make a 953(d) election to become a US corporate tax payer. The company does not expect that its third-party casualty reinsurance operations will be affected by the TCJA.” Ratings agency AM Best said the financial strength rating of A (excellent) of JRG Reinsurance Co Ltd, a subsidiary of the firm, and its US-based affiliates remain unchanged after the restructuring announcement. Best stated: “AM Best’s comment takes into consideration that these steps are in response to the introduction of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017. The comment also takes into consideration that while JRG Re will no longer act as the internal reinsurer, it will continue to write third-party casualty reinsurance.”
An international firm that specializes in complex security and public safety management has chosen Bermuda to play a key role in its high-tech operations. The Conceptium Group, which is based in Washington, DC, is an international consortium of innovators, technologists and operational experts and describes itself as “an action organisation”. The group offers services ranging from protection of facilities such as ports and airports and managing complex emergencies in combat zones, to data forensics and insurance investigations and retrievals. Conceptium is partnering with QuoVadis, a Bermudian-based technology firm that specializes in digital security, in a high-tech port security initiative. During a visit to the island, Stefan Templeton, Conceptium’s chief executive officer, said the group’s technology-based activities on the island could grow. Ramadhin “Rammy” Smith, chief inspiration officer of Conceptium, is a well-known Bermudian businessman who worked in the construction industry. He and Mr Templeton made a presentation to the Senate of Nigeria, referring to Bermuda as a base for various operations, as they look to work with the Government of the West African nation on security initiatives. “We are currently in talks to set up command and control centres, because now with the internet you can work remotely,” Mr Templeton said. “We are also working closely with Bermudian companies such as QuoVadis, where we set up monitoring in ports, so our specific project is called the PortSingleWindow where we have developed systems to support harbour and port authorities in their operations using special data and artificial intelligence.” The company has operated in 21 countries in Africa and has developed systems that use satellites to track unusual behaviors over water or inland by tracking containers, vessels, people and movement in ports. Gavin Dent, CEO of QuoVadis Services Ltd, said: “QuoVadis is excited to partner with Conceptium to provide infrastructure as a service for their PortSingleWindow initiative. For start-ups and technology companies needing to rapidly deploy IT platforms in Bermuda, QuoVadis offers the right combination of cloud technologies and advanced professional services. Conceptium selected QuoVadis as its preferred partner in Bermuda because of our high level of technical expertise and the quality of our Bermuda-based hosting platform and data centre. Our solution enables Conceptium to focus on their core business needs without the delays, distraction or high capital cost of building their own infrastructure.” Conceptium (Bermuda) Ltd, which lists Mr Smith is a director, was incorporated on the island last year. Mr Templeton, who is of American and Norwegian descent and is the grandson of Baltimore-based civil rights campaigner Furman Templeton, described why he viewed Bermuda as an attractive jurisdiction for Conceptium. “We are looking to promote Bermuda as a base for operations to provide a regulatory KYC [know your customer] and anti-money-laundering framework and bolster what we have as an active portfolio within the security world,” Mr Templeton said. He described the Bermuda Government as “forward-thinking” and added: “We could go anywhere but Bermuda is a good jurisdiction in which to launch these initiatives under the full compliance and regulatory framework of the Bermuda Government.” Mr Smith met Mr Templeton in France at 19 years of age and developed a friendship. After a downturn in the construction industry, he started to look for other opportunities. “We were two young boys when I met him in Paris,” said Mr Smith, who lives in France. “We reconnected and started to explore the possibility of forming a business partnership. “We have a Bermuda company we are working with and one of the main objectives is to bring employment in Bermuda focusing on security and the technology industry.” Mr Templeton has worked most of his life in the peace and security operations. He holds the rank of Commander in Elisa (Light Airborne Medical Rescue Squadron) based in Cruas, France and has led and co-ordinated several civil-military operations, in places including Honduras, Cambodia, Bosnia, Kashmir, Morocco, Indonesia and Cambodia. He specializes in rapid-response deployment and assessment with the aim of paving the way for the relief efforts of military and civil humanitarian groups. A martial-arts specialist, he has multiple black belts and teaches safety and self-defence seminars to police forces, civic groups, humanitarian workers and non-governmental organisations on location. “I have been an adviser and security adviser in a number of security operations such as the Sudanese civil war, where we did evacuations of about 60,000 Sudanese under fire. I also worked in Mali, Beirut, and in 15 high-conflict zones including Iraq and Nigeria.” Mr Templeton has also performed investigations for insurance companies to locate stolen ships. “We have repatriated aviation and maritime assets after they have been seized illegally by pirates,” he said.
Needy seniors stand to benefit the most from a Budget commitment to add ten new beds to the Sylvia Richardson Care Facility, according to advocates for the elderly Age Concern. The details emerged after the 2018-19 Budget allocated an extra $1.8 million to the Ministry of Health, which would include reopening of the fourth floor of the government-run centre in St George’s. Claudette Fleming, executive director of Age Concern Bermuda, said the extra spaces were “likely to have a greater degree of government subsidy then a private facility. They perhaps represent a more affordable option, that can in turn be accessible to the most vulnerable seniors of our community. I believe that the number of care beds remains at approximately 655,” Dr Fleming said. “So if more than 6 per cent of the current senior population, or 651 people, needed a long-term care bed, we would have a shortage.” A ministry spokeswoman said the staffing would be needed before the ten-bed unit opened for seniors. The Sylvia Richardson unit has been closed since September 2016. She added: “This work is under way now and the exact timing is dependent on that. The aim is to reopen as soon as practicable in the new fiscal year to provide residential skilled nursing care.” Carol Everson, a seniors advocate and caseworker at the Bermuda Legion, said that even without a confirmed start date, any improvement in the number of beds for quality senior care was welcome. Ms Everson said: “Nursing care and assisted living placements are urgently needed, as are beds for respite and palliative care. Going by national and international demographics, the number of new places needed in the very near future probably exceeds 500. The Ministry of Health has pointed out the vital need for home care strategies. Perhaps programmes successfully used in other countries could be considered — for instance, pension credits for family caregivers who have to leave the workforce in order to provide full-time care for a frail, elderly or disabled family member. The recent Budget provides some relief for Bermuda’s seniors. This is most gratifying. The Government is to be congratulated on focusing directly and positively on seniors’ needs at this time.”
The political inaction that has contributed to Bermuda’s high rates of road death and injury is akin to the mass shootings and lack of gun control plaguing the United States. This is the view of orthopedic surgeon and road safety expert Joseph Froncioni who has had “a front-row seat” on the carnage through his work patching together broken bodies. Dr Froncioni was speaking with The Royal Gazette’s Drive for Change campaign, in the hope that the Progressive Labour Party government will enact the legislation that he and others have called on for more than two decades. The former chairman of the Bermuda Road Safety Council said: “The situation we are in with road traffic injuries and deaths is like the American struggle with their gun issues. The massacres that happen every two days, the accessibility to wartime weapons, the hypocrisy of the politicians, the knee-jerk reactions of offering thoughts and prayers, but taking no action is shameful. Something has gone very wrong in that system. That is what I would compare our road situation to. We have politicians, some who have lost children, who send thoughts and prayers, but no one in the last government or the governments before has done the right thing. We have had lots of lip service but no action.” For years, Dr Froncioni has been advocating for three key measures that he believes will reduce the rates of death and injury in Bermuda — rates that are among the highest in the OECD and Pan-American countries. He believes that roadside sobriety testing, speed cameras and a graduated licensing programme will combat the crisis we are in. These objectives are also being pushed by the Bermuda Police Service, emergency services, the Drive for Change campaign and its partners at A Piece of the Rock, and alcohol abuse charity Cada. The Bermuda Road Safety Council is on board with sobriety testing and cameras and is deliberating on what kind of training programme Bermuda needs. Three quarters of road fatalities involve alcohol or drugs. The PLP has announced that it is on the verge of introducing roadside sobriety breath testing, which Dr Froncioni said should be designed to deter people from impaired driving rather than catch them in the act. He said: “You tell them that tonight there is a significant risk that if you drink and drive you will be caught. Amazingly enough, people alter their behavior. In Canada people wouldn’t think of drinking and driving because they know that the consequences are very severe and they know the probability of getting caught is high. People don’t drink less, they just don’t drink and drive.” Dr Froncioni said there was also a lack of will to enact legislation that is already in place. He successfully lobbied for a law in 1997 to allow police medics to take blood samples from patients who end up in hospital suspected of impaired driving. That law was not being enforced, he said, because only one police medic was authorized to perform the task that many are qualified to do. “None of the people in the ER can do it due to our code of ethics. However, there are 30 nurses in Bermuda who are licensed to draw blood — you can employ them to become an arm of the police. If they [the patient] refuse, they are guilty of a refusal — that is all in place it has just never been implemented.” Through his medical practice, Dr Froncioni is familiar with the damage that high-speed crashes have on the human body. Having studied international best practice and conducted numerous local studies, he is convinced that speed cameras are the solution. Even those who speed moderately are a danger, he said, in part owing to Bermuda’s roads infrastructure. He said: “Speed really does matter. In Bermuda we can’t improve the engineering of our roads very much — 95 per cent of the lands that border our roads are private so we can’t have run off zones or separation barriers. The effect of a crash at speed is serious. You are likely to hit an oncoming vehicle, telephone pole, a wall. A 35km/h limit sounds low and it has been around for generations but not much has changed. The changes that have happened have made it even more important to have a low speed limit — there are more large vehicles, there is more traffic and we use motorbikes a lot because of the one car per family rule.” He said there is a correlation between an increase of speed and the release of the 1992 Tumin Report which, while helping to reduce criminalisation of predominantly black men accumulating traffic offences, also resulted in a reduction in the number of police patrolling the roads." Things were getting better and better and then, all of a sudden, removing the cops from their roads patrols, things have gotten worse ever since. You can drive for days without seeing a police car on the road. In the old days that was not the case. Graduated licensing was another crucial piece of the puzzle that will need to be legislated as a priority." Although there are solid solutions firmly in place and agreed upon by those who are closest to the problem, including the police and the medics, as well as numerous campaigns running in the name of road safety, Dr Froncioni remains unconvinced change was imminent. He said: “I have been around for a long time in road safety — there is a lot of hot air. I will not believe it until I see it.”
The Town of St George marked the kindness shown to the last casualty of the War of 1812 with a ceremony on Saturday. The annual ceremony in King’s Square pays tribute to US Navy Midshipman Richard Sutherland Dale, who died aged 20 in 1815 after being wounded in action against the Royal Navy. He was brought to Bermuda as a prisoner, and cared for by sympathetic St Georgians, but died from his injuries, and was buried in St Peter’s churchyard. His grateful family saluted the kindness shown to their son in the inscription at his grave, where a ceremony honoring his memory was begun in 1932. The ceremony faded with the departure of US forces from Bermuda in 1995, but was brought back in 2006. The TS Admiral Sea Cadet Corp served as the honour guard for the ceremony, with the Reverend Erskine Simmons telling the story of Midshipman Dale. Wreaths were laid on Dale’s grave by the Governor, John Rankin, Mary Ellen Koenig, the US Consul General, Captain John Rodgaard, representing the US Naval Order, and Judy Pearson of the 1805 Club
February 25. Sunday.
February 24. The junior finance minister warned high earners on notional salaries yesterday: “We’re coming after you.” Wayne Furbert also praised the Progressive Labour Party’s vision for growth and said the island was “heading for a renaissance”. He told MPs the figure of $10 million from a tax on notional income was “conservative”. Mr Furbert said the island would have been “flowing with money, with milk and honey” if the Government had tapped into notionals as a source of revenue earlier. Notional salaries are a loophole to allow business owner-managers who earn their income in whole or in part through a share of profits to declare “notional salaries” — less than they earn — for tax purposes. The PLP said it aimed to replace notional salaries with a requirement to declare all income received on a cash basis. Mr Furbert added the PLP would “do away with notionals, and go up to a cap of $900,000”. He told the House: “If we had stayed on the same path as Bob Richards and the former OBA government, we would still be going after labour, salaries, payroll tax and duties. It’s time for those who make more to pay more.” The Hamilton West MP admitted that other taxes owed to the Government would never be collected and required an amnesty. Mr Furbert said both the PLP and the One Bermuda Alliance had failed to collect due taxes. But he added: “Let’s put in the proper controls and let’s go forward.” Mr Furbert was confident that Government could save expenditure in areas like training and advertising through the work of an efficiency committee. Mr Furbert also defended the PLP’s postponement of a balanced budget by another year in this year’s financial blueprint, He explained the Government had taken a different approach after “we looked at the numbers and the impact it would have”. Mr Furbert said that years of relying on payroll tax for government finances had been a “millstone”. Mr Furbert told the House of Assembly that the PLP’s plans were centered on the generation of economic growth. He said: “If it’s not growth, we don’t want it.” Mr Furbert praised the revival of the PLP’s pre-Budget report which allowed public consultation. He claimed the majority of Bermudians had called the latest Budget “extremely good — the response from this community has been extraordinary”. Mr Furbert also took a swing at what he claimed to be an uninspired Reply to the Budget by Opposition leader Jeanne Atherden. He added there had been little show of support among the OBA ranks.
February 24. The Progressive Labour Party’s pro-business approach for the latest Budget got high marks from the Opposition. However, One Bermuda Alliance MP Trevor Moniz queried whether the ruling party could balance its mission with its supporters. “The Budget they have produced is, comparatively speaking, for a labour government, very business friendly,” Mr Moniz said in the House. “On the other hand, some of the tried and true believers of the PLP are mumbling in the background that they are not so happy.” The OBA supported the Government’s bid to glean payroll tax from notional salaries, but Mr Moniz said the Premier had backed down on the relaxing of the 60:40 rule for local business. Mr Moniz commended the PLP’s plans to open up the Bermuda market to global law firms, adding that he faced opposition from the Bermuda Bar for supporting such a move. PLP backbencher Michael Scott outlined other “green shoots” that are emerging including stimulating investment, the expansion of banks, the relaxation of the 60:40 rule. “I can’t think of a negative”, he said. Mr Scott also spoke on members of so-called gangs. “They do want to be employed. They resent the connection with them as gangs, many have family members and children to support. We have talked about construction projects that could suck up their employment needs.” Wayne Caines, the Minister of National Security, said action on bitcoin and cryptocurrencies must be done in a “measured and systematic” way with full consultation with stakeholders. He said that consultation had taken place with the Bermuda Monetary Authority and the banking community. “We want Bermuda to be leaders in this space. We have to be forward thinking and put the building blocks in place. There should be concern but there shouldn’t be fear mongering,” he said of the Opposition. He went on to suggest that no members of the Opposition could understand the issues surrounding cryptocurrency. OBA MP Craig Cannonier responded that the only concern on his side of the House was with how cryptocurrencies will be regulated while retaining Bermuda’s reputation. “I do own bitcoin,” he said. “I do understand it and I see where it is going.” Mr Cannonier said that the PLP’s Budget “out-UBPed the OBA. This Government has done nothing but support the oligarchy,” he said. “I see nothing in this Budget that is going to encourage my business — just more costs, more costs and more costs.” Mr Cannonier credited former finance minister Bob Richards for balancing the budget and criticized the Government for not acknowledging it. Mr Cannonier said he had seen hundreds of jobs materialize over a two-year period as a direct result of the America’s Cup and highlighted the community work that was done as a result of the event including “fixing up” sports clubs and boat clubs. PLP MP Christopher Famous took issue with the loan at Cross Island and said the benefits of the America’s Cup had been exaggerated. He also blasted the high salaries recently revealed to have been paid to executives at the Bermuda Tourism Authority, including the top pay packet of close to $400,000 in total. Cole Simons, Shadow Minister for Education, said he supported opening up the market for international banks and legal professionals. But he added that the Government must ensure there was a level playing field. OBA’s Grant Gibbons said the Budget was business friendly, although he criticized the “rhetoric” of the Budget speech itself. He also took aim at the Premier’s comment that the PLP were not elected to continue the status quo. “Had we left the PLP status quo, like Thelma and Louise, we would have gone over the cliff many years ago,” he said. Dr Gibbons said the PLP would benefit from construction projects launched under the OBA, including the airport development and St Regis hotel project. On the subject of the Cross Island project, he said: “Stop whining about the capital costs. That’s a project that can be used for generations. If you don’t like the terms of the loan, renegotiate or pay it off.” PLP backbencher Zane DeSilva, however, fired back that the funds could have gone towards seniors, school buses or any number of other things. He said the OBA were focused only on prosecuting Ewart Brown and bringing “a boat race” to Bermuda, calling the measures against Dr Brown as “draconian and almost criminal”. OBA MP Sylvan Richards made the point that while the legal action was started under the OBA Attorney-General, it is being continued by the PLP Attorney-General. Mr Richards said that austerity measures were not popular and that his government probably paid the price in the election. But he added: “I’d rather be sitting on this side of the house with a shored economy that the PLP can grow, than be living in a Bermuda that is bankrupt.” Diallo Rabain, the Minister of Education and Workforce Development, took aim at the OBA’s record on education, asking how the Opposition expected grades to improve when funding was cut and important positions were left empty. “You don’t care, and you haven’t cared since you were voted in,” he said. “For you to stand here with this drivel is disingenuous at best.” David Burt, the Premier and Minister of Finance, said the debate had made it clear the OBA were focused on the past, while the PLP were looking towards the future. He said: “We will create jobs. We will create economic activity and we will do it in a way that benefits the many and not the few.”
February 24. The Progressive Labour Party government can reap the benefits of an economic transformation led by the One Bermuda Alliance, Jeanne Atherden claimed yesterday. The Opposition leader and Shadow Minister of Finance said her party had laid the foundation for a better future with a strategy to steer the island out of debt during its 4½-year term. Delivering her first Reply to the Budget, Ms Atherden told MPs: “The OBA has paved the way. We have bought Bermuda this far. Bermudians are relying on the Government to take us the rest of the way.” She said the OBA had rejuvenated Bermuda with hotel investment, the creation of the Bermuda Tourism Authority and the airport redevelopment, while the America’s Cup had helped improve tourism after decades of decline. Ms Atherden said: “The America’s Cup was one of the most important projects which the OBA government realized. It had a significant and positive economic impact for all Bermudians. This was despite significant and vitriolic criticism from the PLP opposition and deafening silence from the PLP government. This outstanding fiscal performance is borne out in the America’s Cup Review Report, which confirms the overall positive impact of this historic event on Bermuda and Bermudians. It should be noted that the America’s Cup Review Report has not yet been formally released to the public. As well, the Government has not acknowledged that the expenditure on this event produced the desired results and was a fiscally prudent risk/reward revenue growth option.” Ms Atherden added that the 2017-18 Budget, delivered last week by David Burt, the Premier and Minister of Finance, was “built upon many policy initiatives started under the OBA Government”. She said that in 2013 the OBA had faced a choice between “continued PLP insolvency and financial survival”. Ms Atherden added: “We chose the latter, and Premier Burt stands here as the beneficiary of that choice. The OBA stopped the decline in the economy by improving the efficiency of Government without laying off government workers. We brought public spending under control, while ensuring key investments in Bermuda and her people.” She said jobs were created through hotel developments at Morgan’s Point, The Loren, Hamilton Princess and St George’s, as well as at the airport. Ms Atherden was concerned that the PLP expected revenue from customs duty to continue at the same level as 2017-18, despite not having the America’s Cup to boost the coffers. She said: “Rather amazingly, the PLP — in Opposition and then in Government — has refused to acknowledge the phenomenal impact of the America’s Cup to the Bermudian economy. And yet they are continuing to hope for the America’s Cup dividend to continue to deliver government revenue. It is simply not realistic to expect this in a year where there will be no America’s Cup, or any other significant revenue event.” Ms Atherden backed the PLP’s plan to tighten payroll tax on notional salaries in owner-managed businesses, but warned about problems with implementation. She said: “For too long, some firms have sought to avoid responsibly paying their fair share. We support this as an equitable tax rise. However, our concerns centre on the implementation of the tax, on Government’s ability to collect these taxes and on the pressures that this initiative will place on the Office of the Tax Commissioner.” Mr Burt announced in last week’s Budget that the Government would consult on expanding the types of banks that can operate in Bermuda. Ms Atherden said: “We question whether the Premier has properly investigated the economic implications of this initiative. Would new banks realistically come to Bermuda? Would there be significant new business to attract new banks? Or would this simply divide existing levels of banking needs among more participants?” She said many of the Premier’s Budget ideas, including the proposal to reverse the 60:40 ownership rule, left question marks over details. She added: “In the future we will not just simply hold the Government accountable on the numbers spelled out within their Budget but also in the commitment to their policies.”
February 24. The cost to axe a controversial deal to build a new airport only months into its start would have been more than $100 million, a report by consultants revealed yesterday. The LeighFisher report said that the island’s struggling economy would have suffered even more damage if the Government had pulled out of the public-private partnership deal with the Canadian Commercial Corporation and developers Aecon. The report added: “The unintended consequences of termination would include employment loss, economic damage and instability, international reputational risk, threat of credit rating downgrades and negative impact on tourism.” The LeighFisher report said: “Terminating the project agreement would be extremely costly and would have far-reaching negative consequences for Bermuda.” Responding to the report yesterday, David Burt, the Premier, acknowledged the price tag for cancellation of the deal to rebuild LF Wade International Airport was “a minimum” of $196 million and that it would be “fiscally irresponsible” to axe the contract. The report explained that termination of a public-private partnership was “always challenging and this case is no exception”. But it added: “That said, the findings of this review suggest tangible gains for Bermudians are possible to achieve within the framework of the current project agreement.” The LeighFisher report said: “Notwithstanding the inability to change the contract, there are opportunities for optimizing the project agreement but it will require co-operation from Skyport and Aecon.” LeighFisher said it could not recommend an end to the deal “as the downside consequences will have significant and long-lasting impacts on Bermuda while upside benefits, if any, will take longer to materialize.” The report said that after talks with the Bermuda Airport Authority and airport operators Skyport, it had identified about $15 million in “enhancements for Bermuda and Bermudians” that could be negotiated. It added: “There is potential for benefit to be significantly higher when the optimization portfolio initiatives have been implemented." The report identified jobs for Bermudians, workforce development and training, a reduction in energy costs as three of six areas where a better deal could be negotiated. The others were passenger traffic growth and revenue sharing, social investment and accommodation for the BAA. The report said: “The revenue sharing threshold presents a modest hurdle that could be surpassed with the addition of a single new airline route to Bermuda. It remains for the project agreement counter parties, the Bermuda Airport Authority and Skyport, to co-develop and entrench these elements going forward as declared benefits in their framework and to operationalized the fulfillment of the optimization portfolio across the concession term to maximize their value to Bermuda and Bermudians. To formalize the optimization, a commitment letter from Skyport to the Bermuda Airport Authority is suggested as the method to anchor the commitments achieved under the auspices of this review and provide a frame of reference for moving forward to deliver better outcomes for Bermuda.” The report found that the terms and conditions of the contract were “broadly consistent” with similar public-private deals. LeighFisher also reported that the interest rate for long-term debt and the return on equity for Aecon were “within market range”. But it said: “The project was not competitively procured. Typically, these types of P3 projects are competitively procured by a public-sector procuring agency to retain control of the procurement process, to retain competitive tension, increasing Government’s negotiating leverage and ultimately garner best value for money. Unlike other similar P3 projects, this project agreement doesn’t allow changes. It doesn’t have variation provisions, which is unusual for a 30-year concession agreement. The only way to make substantive changes to its terms and conditions is to terminate the agreement.” The report said agreement on the establishment of a new minimum target of a 90 per cent Bermudian workforce at Skyport had replaced an original unspecified target. An increase in the Bermudian workforce on the construction side from 60 per cent to 65 per cent has also been thrashed out as a result of meetings, which started last November. The previous One Bermuda Alliance government negotiated a 5 per cent increase in Bermudian construction jobs to 60 per cent last March. LeighFisher added that workforce and development training had been firmed up to include a $6 million training budget for Bermudians, which was not specified in the original deal. Skyport has also agreed to fund an initial $1.3 million air service development and tourism promotion, designed to “benefit Government’s participation in the project agreement’s revenue sharing agreement”. The airport operator has, in addition, earmarked $4 million over the 30-year period to fund social investment programmes including education, the environment and youth work. The original social investment agreement did not make firm commitments. The Bermuda Airport Authority will also get offices at a peppercorn rent, expected to be worth between $3.8 to $4 million over the life of the contract.
February 24. The disused Sandys 360 sports centre could be bought by the Bermuda Government. A $1 million sale and purchase agreement between the Government and Sandys Secondary Middle School was tabled yesterday by Lieutenant-Colonel David Burch, the Minister of Public Works. The document referred to land and buildings situated off Broome Street in Somerset, referred to as lots 1, 2, 3 and 4, and named trustees Melvyn Bassett, Stanley Lee, Travis Gilbert and Valerie Dill. The $10 million private centre, equipped with an indoor swimming pool, opened in 2009. But it struggled with a high cost of operation and closed in 2013. The centre was backed by government cash, including a duplicate payment of $807,000 in 2012, but the centre was still unable to cover its bills. In 2015, Progressive Labour Party MP Kim Wilson said the shuttered centre was attracting vandals. The purchase agreement did not name Sandys 360 and details of the deal were unavailable from the ministry yesterday. The tabled sale agreement gave a completion date of 30 days from its execution.
February 24. Marc Telemaque, a former Secretary to the Cabinet, has been sworn back into the post once again by John Rankin, the Governor, at the recommendation of David Burt. Announcing the appointment, the Premier said he was “pleased” that Mr Telemaque had accepted the job. He added: “He brings to the post an extensive knowledge of the public service and has served in this role previously. Immediately prior to accepting the position, he was the Secretary for National Security, a role he will continue in until the completion of the Budget process. As Cabinet Secretary, he will provide guidance to the Cabinet and execute policy decisions. On behalf of my Cabinet colleagues, I congratulate Mr Telemaque and look forward to working with him.” Mr Burt added: “I take this opportunity to also thank Dr Derrick Binns, for his hard work, dedication and the sound advice he has provided over the last seven months in his role as Cabinet Secretary and Head of the Civil Service. I look forward to working with him as he assumes the recently revised role of Head of the Public Service to advance the important goals of public service reform.”
February 24. Flora Duffy’s phenomenal winning streak at the Xterra South African Championships came to a halt yesterday after she confirmed that she is not defending her title this year. The Bermudian triathlete and multiple world champion had been a firm favorite to retain her title prior to her announcement, which she made on Twitter. “I’m not racing this year, but wishing everyone the best of luck,” Duffy tweeted. The Xterra South African Championships take place today in Grabouw. Duffy romped to her fourth straight women’s title at last year’s event to get her 2017 season off to a flying start. But it came at a price as she was forced to withdraw from the season-opening ITU World Triathlon Series in Abu Dhabi a week later because of a nagging hip injury. Despite missing the first two races of last year’s WTS, Duffy won six of the seven remaining events to retain her ITU world title. She also won a fourth consecutive Xterra World Championship crown as well as the Island House Invitational in the Bahamas to reinforce her status as a world-class athlete. Duffy, who pocketed nearly $300,000 in prize earnings alone last year, will start the defence of her ITU world title in Abu Dhabi next Saturday. The Bermudian will be joined in Abu Dhabi by Ashleigh Gentle, of Australia, and American Katie Zaferes, comprising the full podium of last season’s world series. However, last year’s winner in Abu Dhabi, Andrea Hewitt, of New Zealand, is hopeful she can retain a season-opening crown she won in 2017 by pipping Britain’s Jodie Stimpson to the finish line. “I’m delighted to be returning to Abu Dhabi this year, a place that holds some amazing memories for me following my first-place finish last year,” Hewitt told the WTS website. “The 2017 race was a turning point for me both personally and professionally. I had trained so hard, went into the race in good form and knew that I had a chance of doing well. To pick up the gold medal, the way I did, it was an overwhelming sense of emotion. I think that showed at the finish line. I’m looking forward to seeing what this year’s race holds and with a bit of luck, I’ll be on the podium again”. Duffy is also scheduled to compete at the Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast, Australia in the triathlon and mountain bike events in April and the MS Amlin World Triathlon Bermuda on April 28 and 29, where the former Warwick Academy student will race in front of her home fans for the first time as world champion.
February 23. The contract on the controversial airport deal will not be scrapped, the Premier announced yesterday. But David Burt pledged that the Government would work through the “bad deal and do all that we can do to realize some good for the people of whom we serve”. Mr Burt said the price tag for cancellation of the deal to rebuild LF Wade International Airport was “a minimum” of $196 million and that it would be “fiscally irresponsible” to axe the contract. Mr Burt added: “In fact, it would be just as fiscally irresponsible as it was for the former OBA government to enter into this contract in the first place.” He was speaking as he unveiled a review of the contract ordered by the Government. The 25-page review was prepared by LeighFisher for the Bermuda Airport Authority and is now available on the Government’s website. Mr Burt said the deal struck “stands as a stain on the relationship between a government and the people it is meant to serve”. He added that the review was ordered to see whether or not Bermuda could get a better deal on the contract signed with the Canadian Commercial Corporation and developers Aecon. Mr Burt added: “That was the intent of the report, that is what was stated inside of our election platform, and that was what the reviewers were meant to execute.” The review outlined two scenarios for consideration — “optimising” of the current contract through “incremental enhancements of key elements”, and termination of the contract. LeighFisher said the termination provisions within the contract were “typical for P3 projects”. The report warned that the “unintended consequences of termination” would include loss of jobs, economic damage and instability, international reputational risk, the threat of credit ranking downgrades, and a negative impact to tourism. LeighFisher said that the contract’s lack of variation provisions was “extremely unusual. The only way to make substantive changes to its terms and conditions is to terminate the agreement.” Mr Burt said the lack of clauses in the deal to allow for changes was the “most shocking” element unveiled by the review. He added: “This is one shameful and degrading failure by the OBA, and maybe the most heinous aspect of the entire agreement.” The review identified six “optimisation elements” that could be pursued to obtain “incremental enhancements for a better deal”, which would represent about $15 million worth of enhancements for Bermuda. Mr Burt said that the review was the “initial examination” of the deal. He added: “We will not rest until we achieve the best possible outcomes from this situation.” Mr Burt said: “The Government remains convinced that this is a bad deal for the country. We are going to make sure that we hold true to our platform promise to make sure that the people of this country get a good deal. We do not believe that this is the best deal that we can get.”
February 23. Kurron Shares of America first made headlines in Bermuda in March 2003 when it was hired to conduct a study of King Edward VII Memorial Hospital and what was St Brendan’s Hospital, now the Mid-Atlantic Wellness Institute. Nelson Bascome, then health minister, announced the appointment of the health management and consultancy firm, whose headquarters were in Manhattan, which sparked opposition criticism that it had come “out of the blue”. The firm was paid $450,000 for a report on the two hospitals, according to parliamentary answers, but a far bigger payday was on the horizon for Kurron. In 2007, the company won a five-year, $13.5 million contract to help the Bermuda Hospitals Board to develop a long-term healthcare strategy for the island, which beat a bid by better-known Johns Hopkins Medicine International. The decision caused criticism by doctors, who branded Kurron Shares as “minor league”, and claims that Dr Brown had insisted on the appointment against the wishes of the hospitals board. Kurron had donated $10,000 to a foundation set up by Dr Brown’s wife, Wanda Henton Brown, the previous year to offset the price of expensive tourism events on the island. Mrs Brown and Kurron’s chairman and chief executive Corbett Price, according to US media reports, had been friends and business associates since at least the 1990s. When Kurron’s donation to the Tourism Helps Everybody Foundation, and donations to the foundation by other non-Bermudian companies who gained government contracts, were mentioned by Opposition MP Grant Gibbons in the House of Assembly, Dr Brown branded Dr Gibbons a “racist dog”. Kurron set up an island firm, Kurron Bermuda, in 2007. The company got permission from Derrick Burgess, when acting finance minister, for its entire share capital to be allotted to Mr Price and his son, Devin Price, both non-Bermudians, according to documents available at the Registrar of Companies. Kurron Bermuda was dissolved by the Registrar of Companies in 2016 because it was no longer active. Kurron’s contract with the BHB was terminated by Paula Cox in 2011 — a year and a half early — after she succeeded Dr Brown as premier. Kurron, which also won a contract with the Ministry of Health to develop the FutureCare health insurance scheme for seniors, appears to no longer exist. The company website still lists the Bermuda Hospitals Board and government agencies in Bermuda as “current engagements”, but the company’s listed phone number is out of service and US news reports suggest it closed its headquarters in Manhattan in 2011. In 2013, a WNYC News article described Kurron and Mr Price as having “cut a trail of financial and medical mismanagement, run-ins with regulators and public controversies”. A BHB spokeswoman said yesterday: “BHB does not have a contract with Kurron and has had no association with the company since the last contract was terminated in 2011.” Mr Price on social media said he is chairman and CEO of Quantix Health Capital, but Quantix’s phone number is also out of service and e-mails to the company bounced back.
February 23. A controversial multimillion-dollar healthcare contract axed by former premier Paula Cox is back in the spotlight in the Government’s lawsuit against the Lahey Clinic. Lawyers involved in the civil case are examining the deal that Kurron Shares of America landed with the Bermuda Hospitals Board during the premiership of Ewart Brown, who is named as Lahey’s co-conspirator in the lawsuit. The Royal Gazette understands that before the change in government last July, the One Bermuda Alliance administration had considered filing a similar lawsuit against Kurron, based on e-mails between the Maryland-incorporated company and Dr Brown. The Cabinet is believed to have decided against the move before the General Election, which the Progressive Labour Party won with a massive majority. It is not known if the new PLP administration plans to take legal action in connection with Kurron. Attorney-General Kathy Lynn Simmons did not respond to a request for comment yesterday. Kurron, led by American businessman Corbett Price, won a contract with the Bermuda Hospitals Board in May 2007. The company got the business despite opposition allegations of cronyism leveled against Dr Brown, who was then the premier. The contract was terminated 18 months early by Ms Cox, after she succeeded Dr Brown as premier. The deal is now being re-examined because of claims in the Government’s lawsuit for unspecified damages against Lahey for an alleged conspiracy with Dr Brown to defraud the public purse. A key allegation made by the Government is that Lahey bribed Dr Brown, when he was premier, in order to win Bermuda contracts and other work. It is alleged “rigging” of the bidding system took place, which prevented the island from getting the best services or best prices. Dr Brown and Lahey deny the allegations. The lawsuit also alleged: “In 2007, Dr Brown secured a $13.5 million, five-year contract to develop a long-term healthcare strategy for the island for an American-based healthcare management and consulting company known as Kurron Shares of America.” It said Mr Price was a former business associate of Dr Brown’s wife and claimed Dr Brown “knew he could control Mr Price and get him to work with Lahey”. The claim added: “As part of the project, various contracts would be awarded to medical partners, including Lahey, to re-imagine and revamp King Edward VII Memorial Hospital. Dr Brown ensured that Kurron obtained this contract by silencing opponents to Kurron’s selection and removing them from the Bermuda Hospitals Board.” It is alleged that Dr Brown “facilitated” the appointment to BHB of Wendell Hollis, “his personal lawyer and confidante, who was also Kurron’s lawyer, thus paving the way for the award to Kurron”. The complaint includes an e-mail allegedly sent from Dr Brown to a Lahey executive, which told her to let Kurron bid for the hospital contract with the promise that “Lahey’s interests will be protected”. Dr Brown told the Lahey executive in another e-mail that Kurron had won the contract before the news became public knowledge. The Government’s claim said: “Dr Brown followed through on his promise that Lahey would receive work from Kurron. In July 2007, he publicly announced a new partnership between KEMH and Lahey.” The Kurron contract was discussed at a court hearing last month in Boston. Judge Indira Talwani heard a motion from Lahey to have the Government’s complaint against it dismissed. The judge has yet to deliver a judgment on the motion. Elizabeth Trafton, lawyer for the Government, referred to the Kurron contract as she outlined Lahey’s alleged “rigging of the bidding process” for contracts. Terence Lynam, counsel for Lahey, said: “The allegation is simply that Dr Brown told Lahey that Kurron won the contract. And that became a matter of public knowledge. I don’t see how that is a corrupt act.” He added: “There’s no allegation that Lahey benefited in any way from the fact that Kurron got a contract. That’s one allegation that they make, but it doesn’t go anywhere.” Mr Lynam said: “It’s really important ... in a case involving bribery under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act to allege some official acts with some particularity. “What is it that Dr Brown did in his capacity as a government official, as opposed to his capacity as a practising physician?” The lawyer added: “Lahey never got anything from a contract that Kurron got. It never led to Lahey getting anything.” Dr Brown told The Royal Gazette this week: “I do not have, and have never had, a business relationship with Kurron. The owner, Corbett Price, has been a friend for many years. I met him after he began working for BHB.” Mr Hollis, who served as deputy chairman of the BHB between 2007 and 2012, told The Royal Gazette last year he “barely knew Ewart Brown” when he was appointed deputy chairman. He added that he “didn’t become his lawyer until long after my five years was up on the BHB”. Mr Hollis represented Dr Brown in July 2009, when the PLP politician threatened legal action against Kim Swan, then the Opposition leader. Mr Hollis said in an e-mail yesterday the matters involved were about ten years old. He wrote: “I am not interested in getting into a ‘who said what to whom when’ debate about matters which took place so long ago and for which memories are now fading.” Mr Price could not be contacted for comment.
February 23. Spending on healthcare is not the same as investing in health, the Bermuda Health Council has warned. The watchdog said more money should be spent on the social causes of poor health after David Burt, the Premier and Minister of Finance, said Bermuda had to be more selective in its healthcare spending. A spokeswoman for the BHeC said: “The $700 million that we spend on healthcare is significant. However, within the scheme of that spend, we have not invested enough on social and economic policies that are shown to impact health. Investing in health is more than spending money in the operating room, urgent care centre, overseas hospital or pharmacy. To spend wisely, we must invest in the social determinants of health and find ways to get more value out of the healthcare dollars we spend. For example, to reduce high blood pressure, we should consider causes of social stress and have options to provide the public with access to affordable options of health prevention and promotion to reduce the causes of those stressors.” The BHeC spokeswoman said health cash had to be better targeted to improve the system for better long-term results. She added: “The amount of money invested should be related to specific health system and population health objectives. To be efficient in getting exceptional healthcare, we need to use available research and learn from the mistakes and successes throughout the world. It is also important to allocate resources to support our health system in becoming more progressive and innovative in the face of ever-changing global medical standards. We, in Bermuda, due to our size and expertise of providers, have a unique opportunity to reform our system and become a model jurisdiction for others to follow.” She was speaking in the wake of Mr Burt’s Budget announcement of a $27.3 million increase in health spending. Mr Burt said the extra cash would be used “to reinstate the Bermuda Hospitals Board subsidy budget and to provide long-term care and health services”. He added that the $700 million a year spent on healthcare was a “continued source of concern” and pledged the Government would reform the system. “There is enough funding in our health system to give all our residents the healthcare they need, but we must be much wiser about how we utilize these funds.” He also announced that a sugar tax on some items would be finalized after the health ministry’s consultation ended on March 1 and that the Government would reduce or scrap duty on a selection of healthy food items. The BHeC spokeswoman said sugar taxes would not fix the island’s health problems, but could “be a powerful tool towards cultural change”. She added that similar taxes had been used abroad to tackle poor nutrition and could also provide governments with extra money to subsidize healthier foods or health education. “Ultimately, the research shows that consuming better foods leads to better health.” The health council would hold talks on health system reforms over the next year.
An investment and solutions wish list
February 23. An upgrade of Belco’s customer self-service portal has left customers temporarily unable to initiate on-demand debit payments. In an e-mail to customers, the power utility said the portal was upgraded at the start of February in an effort to restore customers’ ability to pay bills online using MasterCard. “Unfortunately, during the upgrade, we discovered that the ability of customers to initiate on-demand debit payments had failed,” Belco stated. “We are working on a solution with our billing system vendor and hope to have it available soon.” The message advises customers to e-mail email@example.com, giving their Belco account number and the payment amount, in order for Belco to generate a direct-debit payment. Alternatively, customers can call a customer experience representative on 298-2800.
February 23. Somers Ltd generated net income of $15.5 million in the last three months of last year, helped by a strengthening of the UK pound. The Bermudian-based financial-services holding company, which owns Bermuda Commercial Bank, reported strong results across all its major investments. In what was the first quarter of Somers’ fiscal year, earnings were 80 cents per share, compared to a 63-cent loss in the same period in 2016. Warren McLeland, chairman of Somers, said: “The first quarter of the year has been positive for our major investments with the majority recording strong financial performances. Our portfolio valuations were supported by favorable currency movements with positive sterling currency gains offsetting a weaker Australian dollar. In particular, we recorded a 10.2 per cent increase in our Homeloans valuation following continued solid mortgage settlement flow during the quarter. Recent volatility in the capital markets and the resultant fall in global stock indices and increases in bond yields post quarter-end ensures that we will remain cautious on the outlook for the remainder of the financial year.” The company’s net asset value per share ended the quarter at $19.29, up from $18.55 at the end of September. During the quarter there was a $14.5 million valuation gain on Somers’ investment portfolio. The gain was principally due to increases in the value of Australian lender Homeloans, in which Somers holds a 62 per cent stake, and Stockdale Securities, a stockbroking firm, thanks to strong financial performance at those companies. However, Somers added there was also a slight fall in the valuations of both BCB and PCF, a UK specialist bank in which Somers has a near two-thirds stake. Somers also has a 62.5 per cent holding in Waverton Investment Management, a UK wealth manager with £5.5 billion ($7.7 billion) of assets under management. Somers received dividend income of $1.3 million from Waverton during the quarter. Within its $374 million investment portfolio, three holdings represent 83 per cent of the total. Homeloans is valued at $125.3 million, BCB at $100.8 million and Waverton at $86.1 million. Net foreign exchange gains for the quarter were $500,000. Shareholders’ equity was $375.5 million at the end of last year, up from $361.2 million at the end of September. Somers’ share price ended the year at $14.25 — where it remained yesterday on the Bermuda Stock Exchange — a discount of 26.1 per cent to the company’s net asset value per share.
February 23. A Second World War US Navy officer who held one of the most closely guarded secrets of the conflict has died at the age of 100. Jim Humphreys was one of the few people who knew a German U-boat captain was being held in Bermuda to hide that his submarine and top-secret Enigma code machine had been captured. His daughter, Paget Humphreys-Jackman, said her father was a kind, funny and devoted man. She added: “He always wanted to help other people. He loved Bermuda and always felt it was his home, even though he only arrived here as a young naval officer.” Mr Humphreys served at Morgan’s Point Naval Base in Southampton from 1945 to 1946 as a supply and security officer. He met his Bermudian wife, Shirley, who at the time worked as a volunteer nurse’s aide while stationed at the base. The couple married in 1945. It was as a result of this relationship that Mr Humphreys discovered the Allies’ secret, as his future wife was tasked with caring for the U-boat’s commander, Captain Harald Lange, for nine months while he was held in Bermuda. She was given strict instructions not to reveal the capture of Captain Lange, but she confided in Mr Humphreys, who kept their secret for decades. Mr Humphreys said in 2014: “At that time we were not married and Shirley had been told that she could not tell anyone because the Germans did not know the submarine had been captured and did not realize the Allies knew their code. She told me what was going on and gave me clear instructions that I could not repeat it to anybody.” Mr Humphreys and his wife later moved to the United States, but the couple returned to the island in 1980 when they retired. Mrs Humphreys-Jackman said her father was a deeply devoted husband who always supported his wife. She said: “When my mother had breast cancer, she was very disappointed to find the island didn’t have a support group. She helped to start Just Between Us, and every time that they met, he would be there to set the chairs up under her directions.” Mrs Humphreys-Jackman said her father also helped raise funds for organisations such as St Paul’s Church in Paget. She said Mr Humphreys loved the island, and enjoyed hosting his eight grandchildren and 13 great-grandchildren in Bermuda. She added: “He would have them down here, get them up first thing in the morning and take them out to the golf course or a museum.” Andrew Bermingham, an island historian, said: “Mr Humphreys was a standard-bearer for the US Navy and was always very proud of his work.” Mr Bermingham said the capture of the U-boat, and the secrecy surrounding it, played a crucial role in the war effort as it allowed Allied forces to know the rendezvous points of all German U-boats operating in the Atlantic. He said: “Even today, Harald Lange was never officially in Bermuda. There is no record of him ever being here.” He added that Mr Humphreys was crucial in revealing the untold story of the captured U-boat after he and his wife kept the secret for more than 50 years. Mr Bermingham said: “It really is thanks to him that this story was told, and it is now still being told as even more information is being unraveled. The story has become folklore and the best-kept secret of the Second World War.”
February 23. A 50-year-old tourist from New York who died after collapsing yesterday outside the Unfinished Church in St George’s has been named by police as Frank Marzocca. A spokesman offered condolences to Mr Marzocca’s family, who are being assisted by a family liaison officer. According to local MP Renée Ming, the incident was witnessed by children from St George’s Preparatory School. Foul play was not suspected, but an autopsy is to be performed. Police say the medical emergency was reported at about 3.30pm. The man was tended by family along with members of the public until help arrived. Life-saving efforts continued as Mr Marzocca was taken by ambulance to King Edward VII Memorial Hospital, but he was subsequently pronounced dead. In a statement today, Ms Ming, the Progressive Labour Party MP for St George’s North, said: “Death is a difficult thing to deal with even for the toughest adult. Explaining to your three children that their father has died seems impossible. My sincere and heartfelt condolences go out to the family of Frank Marzocca who was visiting the town of St George’s with his family. Know that you are in my thoughts and prayers. I understand that several children from the neighboring St George’s Preparatory School witnessed the unfortunate incident. I will personally be reaching out to the principal, Ms Smith, to ensure that the children are OK. I applaud the efforts of our Emergency Response Services who collectively did all they could in their respective roles to preserve life. Thank you all for your professionalism and efforts.”
February 22. The grass is not being allowed to grow under Bermuda’s ambitions to be a leading global player in the world of digital currencies and blockchain technology. Legislation related to ICOs, or initial coin offerings, is in train and is expected to be presented to Parliament next month. But while there is a sense of urgency, the island is not about to jeopardize its international reputation as a “stellar business jurisdiction”. That’s the way Wayne Caines tells it, and he had more than words to demonstrate the seriousness of the Bermuda Government’s commitment. Beneath the shade of a tree the Minister of National Security held a lunch and learn event on the lawn of the Cabinet building where he described Government’s plans regarding digital currency and distributed ledger technologies. He was joined by a number of experts in the field, including Aron Dutta and Loretta Joseph. Mr Dutta is chief executive officer of Vaphr, and formerly a senior partner of Global Blockchain Centre of Competency at IBM. Ms Joseph is the digital chairwoman of the Australian Digital Currency Commerce Association, and she has extensive experience in financial markets. Significantly, she has written crypto-related regulation for Australia that has subsequently been adopted by 17 countries. She is also a blockchain adviser to the OECD. Mr Caines said digital assets and blockchain represent a “seismic opportunity” for Bermuda, however he added: “We need to work with all the regulatory bodies in Bermuda to regulate it. We take advice from the leading government agencies and they have given us red flags that we have to be clear on. We understand that, but we also believe this is a phenomenal opportunity for our country to grow, be strong and be leaders in this space.” Bermuda is preparing for an imminent FATF [Financial Action Task Force] assessment that will look at the effectiveness of the country’s anti-money laundering and counter-terrorist financing. With that on the horizon, warning voices have been raised. “When I talk to my colleagues, they say we have the FATF assessment, how do we make sure Bermuda’s international finance reputation is protected? I said I needed somebody that has written legislation for FATF, written legislation for OECD,” Mr Caines said, in a nod to Ms Joseph. “The biggest challenge is reputation. Bermuda has only one thing it trades on and that is its reputation.” Mr Caines described the enthusiasm that has been shown towards Bermuda as word has spread about the Government’s commitment to be a leading jurisdiction in the crypto and blockchain space. Attending events linked to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland last month, he and David Burt, the Premier, “could not walk ten feet without someone in this cryptocurrency space saying ‘listen, we have heard what Bermuda is doing, how do we get involved with Bermuda?’” That led to 12 teams involved in the technologies showing up for a meeting in Bermuda shortly afterwards to see how they could move forward their plans in Bermuda. Minister Caines was yesterday joined on the lawn by two young crypto entrepreneurs from overseas, one was Joseph Weinberg, who cofounded the company Pay case, a global remittance platform. The Minister described three key aims, the first being the creation of ICO legislation. He said: “We plan to have this within the next three weeks, with a second reading before April 1.” After that there will be an innovation lab and a digital asset exchange. He indicated that legislation is being formulated. A third aim is to create electronic IDs. This is something that has been pioneered by Estonia in Europe. Mr Caines said he has been corresponding with the man who started eID in Estonia. “He told me there are ten things that they did wrong. He said if you can avoid all of those pitfalls we can be in better stead,” said Mr Caines. “We want people all over the world to have assets or register companies in Bermuda. No, they are not coming here to work, they are not coming here to take our homes, they’re not going to be running around on the buses or taking our pensions.” He said the Government wants to have a digital asset exchange that is properly regulated. He added: “We don’t want the bad actors or nefarious players to come to Bermuda. We have worked too hard to create a reputation for Bermuda as being a stellar business jurisdiction to jeopardize that with cryptocurrencies or distributed ledger technology. We know the risk. We see this as a phenomenal opportunity in this space and we are developing a team. Everyone wants to know what is the Bermuda model. We have taken advice from the teams in Estonia, and talked to the teams in Gibraltar and Australia.”
February 22. Amendments to relax restrictions on development at upmarket resort Tucker’s Point were approved in the Senate yesterday. The Tucker’s Point Resort Residential Development Special Development Amendment Order 2018 is intended to provide flexibility for those who purchase lots on the property. Crystal Caesar, who started the debate in the Senate, said the amendment would remove blanket conditions that were “rigid and prescriptive”. Instead, the government hydrogeologist would be given the ability to determine the restrictions on a lot-by-lot basis. In one example, she said: “If there is not a cave found on a specific lot, there isn’t the limitation of having the water tank be a certain size.” Changes include a clause to ensure native plants are used in landscaping rather than invasive species. Other clauses require conservation management plans for some lots, which must be included with planning applications. Ms Caesar said the Government had consulted the Bermuda Environmental Sustainability Taskforce, the Bermuda National Trust and the Bermuda Audubon Society about the changes. Opposition senator Justin Mathias and independent senator James Jardine both questioned what affect the changes would have on the endemic plants already located on the site. Mr Jardine added that it might help to have a representative for the Department of the Environment involved to ensure that natural resources are protected. Ms Caesar explained that the government hydrogeologist is employed by the Department of the Environment and is often used to give the Department of Planning an expert opinion on developments. She also said that endemic plants on the property remain protected under the original 2011 Special Development Order. The amendments were approved without objection.
February 22. Opinion, by Grant Wacker, Gilbert T. Rowe Professor of Christian History, emeritus, at Duke Divinity School. He is the author of America’s Pastor: Billy Graham and the Shaping of a Nation (Harvard 2014). Evangelist Billy Graham tackled the topic of death often and with surprising frankness for a man who made his living telling people the Good News of salvation in Christ. Graham died yesterday, aged 99. When Graham preached, he said that death was, of course, inevitable. Since no one knew when Christ would return, he said, everyone should think instead about the sure thing they did know: the certainty of their own death. While some fundamentalists predicted that some believers would escape death in the Rapture, the evangelist repeatedly insisted that death fell on everyone. In his homily for former president Richard Nixon’s funeral, he reminded the family and audience that some day every one of them would die: “John Donne said that there’s a democracy about death. ‘It comes equally to us all and makes us all equal when it comes’.” Graham noted elsewhere that many people tried to avoid this inescapable reality by playing word games, by changing the title of a cemetery to a memorial park, for example. But he left them no loopholes. First, he said, “accept the fact that you will die”. Second, “make arrangements”. Third, “make provision for those you are leaving behind”. And finally, “make an appointment with God”. Though believers would not escape death, they would face it with greater clarity. During his Las Vegas evangelistic crusade in 1980, the MGM Grand Hotel burnt. “Some day, for all of you, if you don’t know God, the music will stop. It will all be over,” he said. Critics who accused Graham of sentimentality were not paying attention. He was not a profound thinker or preacher, but he dealt with serious things in serious ways. And millions listened. Death was one thing, the passing of time in the midst of life another. Once, when he was in his mid-60s, a teenager asked him what surprised him most in his “old age.” He answered without hesitation: “the brevity of life”. The relentless march of events taught important lessons, too. “I urge each of you to invest your lives, not just spend them,” he told another group of young people. “Each of us is given the exact same amount of seconds, minutes, and hours per day as anyone else. The difference is how we redeem [them] ... You cannot count your days, but you can make your days count.” A good life and a good time were not the same. Of course it was natural to fear death. Everyone did. But facing it squarely put life in a longer perspective. “The future is as bright as the promises of God,” he assured the faithful at the opening ceremony of his North Carolina retreat centre, the Cove, in 1993. What about thoughts on his own death? Until the later decades of his ministry, Graham seemed not to dwell very much on the subject. For one thing, he proved consistently outwardly focused. That outward orientation fostered a perennially sunny disposition, especially in public. “I don’t have many sad days,” he told Larry King. Beyond that, Graham aged well. Into his 70s and beyond, he still cut a dashing profile. He fitted the American media ideal of the seasoned man: tall, lean, blue-eyed, and blessed with a great mane of silver — later snow white — hair right up to the very end. Many compared Graham with Clark Gable and Gregory Peck. Although prone to sniffles and accidents — a bit of a hypochondriac, his friends affectionately allowed — his work and travel schedule showed his amazing stamina, year after year. But with time, Graham did slow down. Ageing quietened his trademark machine-gun sermons into talks that seemed more like fireside chats. He readily admitted that he “yelled” less, and that he had come to favour less demanding indoor auditoriums over the outdoor stadiums that had propelled him to international fame. The mature Graham mastered the art of poking fun at himself, even when it came to mounting infirmities. Grumping about his advancing age, he urged one late-life visitor: “Don’t get old, if you can avoid it.” Yet serious illness took its inevitable toll. He collapsed while speaking in Toronto but climbed out of a hospital bed several days later to preach to a Sky Dome record crowd of 73,500 on the final night of an evangelistic crusade. More significant was the Parkinson’s disease (later diagnosed as hydrocephalus). “You know what happens when you get Parkinson’s? Your handwriting gets illegible and your sermons longer,” he quipped. But his wife, Ruth Bell Graham, saw things more soberly. “This Parkinson’s is no laughing matter,” she judged. “Overnight he has become an old man.” Graham told a friend that he was prepared for death but not for growing old. Still, Graham soldiered on, year after year, until he preached his final evangelistic crusade in Flushing Meadows, New York, in the summer of 2005. Although others had to help him to the pulpit, the image of an old warrior of the cross, pressing far past the normal retirement age, helped normalize the ageing process for many and provided inspiration for millions. As for his future, Graham made clear that he anticipated his demise as a door to a new life in heaven. “I’m looking forward to it — I really am,” he said in 1995, in his late 70s. “I’ll be happy the day the Lord says, ‘Come on. I’ve got something better planned’.” To be sure, Graham admitted that he did not look forward to the dying process itself. He said he had seen “some of the terrible things that happen to people that are dying. I don’t want that.” But beyond the event itself stood heaven as a place of glorious fellowship with the Lord, saints, loved ones and invigorating work to do. “Think of a place where there will be no sorrow and no parting, no pain, no sickness, no death, no quarrels, no misunderstandings, no sin and no cares.” The preacher even speculated about golf courses and beloved pets — whatever it took to make folks happy. The journalist David Frost asked the mature Graham what he would want the first line of his obituary to say. “That he was faithful and that he had integrity,” he replied. “And that I was faithful to my calling, and that I loved God with all mind, heart and soul.” Frost wondered if Graham had questions he hoped to ask God in heaven. “Yes, thousands. Many things in Bible mysteries.” He then added, “Some things in my life I would be embarrassed if anyone else saw. I would like God to edit the film.” If God needed to edit the film of Billy Graham’s life, some readers undoubtedly thought, the rest of us were in big trouble."
February 22. A shark tagged off the coast of Massachusetts has spent several days in Bermudian waters. Merlin, a 196lb male blue shark, was tagged by researchers at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in November. Since then, the 7ft 10in shark has been tracked swimming farther from the US coast. According to Ocearch’s online global shark tracker, the shark turned towards the island last month. For the past few days, the shark has been swimming south of the island, surfacing within 50 miles of Bermuda. Merlin was named after the mythological Welsh wizard by students at the Birches School in Lincoln, Massachusetts. The shark is the latest of several sharks tracked to Bermudian waters by Ocearch. In 2013, Mary Lee, a 16ft, 3,456lb Great White, was tracked to within just ten miles of the island. She was followed months later by another Great White, Lydia, who came within 150 miles of Bermuda.
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February 22. A former prison officer convicted of smuggling drugs into Westgate Correctional Facility has won a Supreme Court appeal. Chief Justice Ian Kawaley ruled that three convictions against Art Simons should be quashed. The judge did not dismiss the charges and ordered Simons to face a retrial in front of a different magistrate. Simons was found guilty by magistrate Archibald Warner of possessing cannabis and cannabis resin with intent to supply, along with attempting to bring items into Westgate in contravention of prison rules. Prosecutors alleged Simons brought the drugs into the prison in a bag of toiletries and left it in the shower area. The drugs were found hidden in a shower gel container during a search on January 12, 2015. Simons’s prison service partner testified that Simons told him he had brought the package in for a prisoner at the request of a girl on Parsons Road and he hoped there was nothing in it. The partner, who was not named in the judgment, added it was not unusual for prison officers to obtain permission to bring in items such as toiletries for prisoners. The witness said another prisoner had asked him about toiletries which another officer said he would bring. He also testified he saw the second prison guard bring a brown bag on the evening of January 11. That guard testified that he brought his lunch to the prison in a brown bag. Mr Warner said in his judgment that it was “improbable” that there were two packages, or that someone switched the containers. Mr Justice Kawaley said the magistrate made no express finding about the second guard’s credibility or his possible involvement. Mr Justice Kawaley added: “A suggestion raised by the defendant in a criminal case which, if true, would establish his innocence cannot be rejected merely because it is improbable. It can only be rejected if, properly analyzed, it fails to raise any reasonable doubt about the defendant’s guilt. This ground of appeal succeeds. This is not because of a mere mistake in terminology. Rather it is because it is impossible to ascertain from the judgment on what basis the magistrate rejected the central tenets of the defence case.” Mr Justice Kawaley issued a similar ruling on a second ground of appeal, which argued Mr Warner had not explained what was relied on to establish “guilty knowledge” of the drugs.
February 22. Disabled people will need more protection in the workplace in the wake of a Budget sweetener to boost their employment prospects, a leading campaigner warned yesterday. LaKiesha Wolffe welcomed the Budget announcement that the employer portion of payroll tax for disabled employees would be cut. Ms Wolffe, who lost a leg four years ago, said the incentive had to be backed up with tougher rules and enforcement of existing laws to stop disabled employees being exploited. She said: “It’s definitely a great idea and it’s an incentive for the actual company. I just think something else has to go behind it in order to support it in the right way and for it to work.” Ms Wolffe said the move did not go far enough to help a part of the population that needs more assistance. She added: “I think there has to be a little more put into it so that companies are fair. If we do get hired, are we going to be treated fairly? If I’m supposed to make $17 an hour as a customer service representative, am I going to make $17 an hour or is the company going to try to exploit that?” Ms Wolffe said disabled people had enough problems finding work and that discrimination against the disabled was rife in Bermuda. She added: “I’ve been handicapped for four years and in four years, I’ve had two discrimination cases.” Ms Wolffe also called for employers to make sure there were proper facilities and appropriate health insurance policies in place. She said: “All handicapped workers have to be treated fairly, you have to go by the book, your company has to have the proper handicapped facilities or you need to meet the needs of a handicapped person. If I come to work, yes, I can stand up but I can’t stand up for eight hours straight like most people. So if you’re going to hire me so you can get this free payroll tax, if I have to sit down for 20 minutes every two hours then that has to be allowed.” Ms Wolffe warned there was a risk that “people are just going to use this to save money” and not to offer opportunities to Bermuda’s disabled population. She was speaking after David Burt, the Premier and finance minister, announced that payroll tax would be eliminated for employers who hire disabled people. He said: “This Government recognizes the challenges that persons with disability in Bermuda face and as a society we have a long way to go in ensuring that they can enjoy a decent quality of life. To assist persons with disability in gaining access to employment and to reward those employers who have already hired disabled Bermudians, we will eliminate the employer portion of payroll tax for any disabled employee.” The move was welcomed by Keith Jensen, president and chairman of the Bermuda Employers Council, who predicted it would help people with disabilities find jobs. He said: “I believe it is the first time employers will experience a tax reduction for having hired disabled Bermudians and it will be welcomed as a tangible recognition of the firm’s social commitment.” Mr Jensen said some employers may need time to provide adequate training and supervision for disabled people, as well as suitable positions. He added that employers would also have to look at the Human Rights Act provisions on employment and probationary periods. A spokeswoman for Bermuda Hospitals Board said: “In a recent independent survey, Bermuda employers chose ‘reduction in government taxes’ as the preferred incentive to hiring persons with disabilities. BHB hopes this move results in a significant increase in the numbers of job opportunities for this segment of the community.” The spokeswoman said the benefits of work were the same for people with and without disabilities and included financial security and the development of a wide range of relationships. Chrissie Kempe, executive director at charity WindReach, said she was “thrilled” to see the Government recognize “the valuable contributions that individuals of all abilities bring to the table”. She said: “Individuals with a disability should be supported, encouraged and have the same opportunities in the workplace as everybody else. Ms Kempe added: “Individuals living with a disability should also be afforded the positive benefits of employment, which extend beyond the financial reward to include independence, self-confidence, social engagement and improved overall wellness. This item on the Budget marks a significant step forward for Bermuda.”
February 22. An about-turn on same-sex marriage is “the last straw” for Bermudian Joe Gibbons and his Canadian partner, Christopher Vee. The couple are in the process of buying a business in Canada, where they aim to settle later this year. Mr Gibbons said: “We’ve been in a relationship for 15 years and married in Canada for three. We want to get on with our lives." He does not think “too many people will leave” as a result of the legislation to end same-sex marriage, but predicted that “more and more people won’t go back to Bermuda” as a result of the change. Mr Gibbons added: “I turn 65 this year. I’ve done my bit for Bermuda, but Bermuda does not have the decency to do its bit back, not just me but for hundreds of people. I never thought I would have said that.” The couple’s story was carried by Reuters news agency yesterday in a report by Bermudian journalist Emma Farge. The report came as it was revealed that the Geoscience & Society Summit planned for Bermuda in September is to go elsewhere as a result of the domestic partnership legislation. Organisers pulled out of Bermuda over the Act, which will end same-sex marriages made possible by a Supreme Court ruling in May last year. Mr Gibbons said the online backlash against the island’s move, including the hashtag #BoycottBermuda, was “unfortunate”. He added: “I don’t encourage it, but it’s out there on social media.” Mr Gibbons said he remembered the 1994 controversy over the Stubbs Bill, which decriminalised buggery. Churches overseas threatened to boycott the island if the legislation passed. The Stubbs Bill drew fierce opposition from Bermuda’s religious community, which banded together as the Christian Coalition. The Bill was approved by the legislature in May of that year. Mr Gibbons said that attitudes towards gay people had not changed much since then. He added: “It’s the same underlying prejudice. It’s so much more deeply rooted than just anti-gay.” Mr Gibbons said that Bermuda may end up “learning the hard way” because of the social-media revolution since the 1990s. He added: “We don’t make money. Money comes to us. That’s how it’s been from Day 1. If you put up barriers and tell people they are not welcome, then you have to accept changes in your own lifestyle.” Mr Gibbons said Bermuda was still “a great place” and that Canada had “people who don’t approve of same-sex couples, but that’s neither here nor there”. The couple were part of the 2015 legal action brought by a group called Bermuda Bred, which won same-sex partners the rights to live and work on the same basis as spouses of Bermudians. Mr Gibbons said: “After ten years of getting work permits for Chris, we decided that either this is going to change, or we are leaving”. He added: “I had spoken to fairly senior people in the One Bermuda Alliance government who absolutely didn’t care. It was not a vote getter. We won in the Supreme Court, but it didn’t give him further rights.” Mr Gibbons said that after the Domestic Partnership Act, the couple had decided “to live where we can be treated as equals and do business as equals, without people looking at us askance”. The Act was passed by the legislature in December, and granted Royal Assent by John Rankin, the Governor, this month. The Ministry of Home Affairs said the Act will come into operation “on such day as the minister may appoint by notice published in the Gazette”.
February 22. All of Bermuda deserves a say on controversial plans to run commercial quad bike tours in sensitive areas of the West End, one of the men behind the proposal said yesterday. Rudolph “Buddy” Hollis said: “It’s a venture that is designed specifically to cater to a new tourist market and input from people from all over the island is significant.” All-terrain vehicles, or ATVs, are under consideration to conduct tours along the Railway Trail and protected areas in Sandys. The plan came under fire from residents, farmers and environmental groups last year. Lieutenant-Colonel David Burch, Minister of Public Works, said this month: “If you live east of White Hill, you don’t get a say in this.” Mr Hollis, the former director of planning, said that he thought Colonel Burch’s comment had been “misinterpreted”. He said he was told by the minister that there had been 600 objections received to the scheme, with about two thirds from people outside the West End. Mr Hollis said he was advised that the concerns of residents outside Sandys were the same as people who lived in the parish. He added: “I believe that part of what he was saying is that if you are writing to say that these vehicles are going to be noisy and they’re going to disturb my amenity and you live in St George’s, for example, how it is going to disturb you?” Mr Hollis, 63, who lives in Sandys, said: “There have been some people who have spearheaded a lot of the objections.” He added that the idea that the tour proposal is shrouded in secrecy was wrong. He said: “We went through every legislative process that was needed.” Mr Hollis showed The Royal Gazette a list that detailed a dozen presentations that he said were provided on the proposal dating back to June 2015. The presentations were made to representatives from organisations including the Bermuda Tourism Authority, Transport Control Department and the Parks Commission. Mr Hollis said: “There’s something about Bermudians that they feel there is an entitlement to be able to know everything that is going on. My response to that is that we don’t have to come to you to ask your permission when I have to go to the Government to seek permission. When you go through the government system, they have a proper structure in place which solicits objections.” Mr Hollis added the ATVs would be regulated to keep speeds below 10mph. He said a maximum of eight vehicles would be in use at any time — six tour participants and two guides. Mr Hollis said his son, Shane, 34, who is also involved with the business, had measured the noise created by an ATV at 10mph at about 80 decibels. He said that his bike was louder. We’re not going on any trails that are not currently being used by motorized traffic.” He added that some people believed legislative changes were being sought to allow ATVs to operate on the Railway Trail. “That’s not what we’re looking to do.” Mr Hollis added that a presentation made to the Ministry of Public Works explained that the business would be prepared to make sure certain areas of the Railway Trail were maintained. “We told them we weren’t going to maintain the whole trail, but we would work in conjunction with them to ensure that they are kept maintained. That commitment still exists today. The ATVs were about exciting young visitors. Now you’ve got their interest, you take them to Fort Scaur, and then you start explaining how Fort Scaur was built and why it was built. You take them to the Heydon Trust property, for example. You can now tell them this is an example of traditional Bermuda architecture.” Mr Hollis said that generations of his family had shown tourists around the island — from his grandfather using a horse and buggy, to his father using a taxi. Mr Hollis, who also has a taxi licence, said that he took a family of four, including an 18-year-old, out for a tour in his cab last September. “The 18-year-old just sat in the back completely bored. It dawned on me that an 18-year-old on vacation with his parents is not going to want to sit in a taxi all day. The minute I told him what we were trying to do, and I showed him one of these pictures, he said, ‘Yeah, I would do that’.”
February 22. An American woman raped in Bermuda 40 years ago has penned a letter to a schoolgirl sexually assaulted and killed only weeks after her own ordeal. Keri Ebright wrote a Letter to the Editor to mark the anniversary of the death of 11-year-old Connie Furtado, who was raped and strangled with her school tie in 1978 in a crime that shocked Bermuda. Ms Ebright, who completed the Bermuda Marathon Weekend Triangle Challenge of mile, 10K and marathon last month in memory of Connie, wrote: “Dear Connie, I didn’t know you personally, but I wish I could have protected you. I was shocked, sick and saddened when I heard what happened to you — at the unfairness and randomness. Why was I spared and you were not? I buried my pain and moved away.” Ms Ebright added she also wanted to send a message of support to victims of sex abuse and rape, and to encourage them to speak out without shame. Ms Ebright, who lives in North Carolina, was aged 17 when she was raped on the Railway Trail in Hamilton Parish between Flatts and Shelly Bay on New Year’s Day, 1978. She reported the crime to police but her attacker was never traced. Connie, who was a pupil at Paget Primary, died on February 22, 1978. Her body was found on wasteland near the Railway Trail on Ord Road, Paget, a few hundred yards from her home. Chesterfield Johnson was later convicted of murder and rape and sentenced to death, but his murder conviction was reduced on appeal to manslaughter. He was given the maximum sentence at the time of 20 years and released in 1998. Ms Ebright, who lived in Bermuda between 1974 and 1980, told The Royal Gazette she met two Bermudian women in the United States while working for a counselling service for the families of military veterans lost to suicide. She said: “It brought Bermuda back on to my radar. It got me thinking that maybe if I came back I could run in memory of Connie — I wanted to do that for Connie and for my own healing. I printed her picture and I ran the races for the Bermuda Triangle Challenge in January.” Ms Ebright added: “It has been a long time but people can still be affected by trauma. The marathon was difficult. I wondered if I would run into my attacker, but I was able to finish it. My friend Lisa was with me. She was the one whose house I was walking to the day I was raped.” Ms Ebright also visited child abuse charity Scars and the Centre Against Abuse while in Bermuda, with an idea to help other victims of sex attacks. She said: “I would like to share my story to help other people. If I can come back in May and do the End-To-End and join with other victims — I don’t like to say victims because we are kind of ‘overcomers’ because we survived — we could get together a team of people who have been through this trauma. We can walk together, join and walk for our own feelings and be there to encourage each other and support each other. That would be one of my goals.” Ms Ebright told other victims traumatized by sex attacks not to bottle up their pain. She said: “Don’t keep it buried inside you. Reach out to a trusted friend or a professional. When it happened to me, everybody told me not to tell anybody because of the shame. Don’t let shame enter your mind; there is no shame. They did it to you — it is not your fault.” Ms Ebright added: “My help was reaching out to the Lord and taking a Bible verse when I get really scared and just reading it. That has been a help to me. Connecting with others who have been through something similar is always a help, someone who can validate your pain because they understand it, They can’t take it away, but they can share it with you.”
February 21. Overseas options are being explored to potentially handle Bermuda’s casino transactions, the new head of the gaming commission has revealed. Cheryl-Ann Mapp told The Royal Gazette that the Bermuda Casino Gaming Commission is seeking advice from its counterparts abroad on alternatives to the island’s three local banks, none of which has yet agreed to any involvement in the fledgling industry. Commission chairwoman Ms Mapp said there was “very positive and encouraging dialogue” ongoing with the local banks and she was “confident” they would be able to work with the casinos. But Richard Schuetz, former executive director of the regulatory body, claimed it was highly unlikely that local banks would get permission to be involved from their correspondent banks in the United States. Mr Schuetz, who quit the commission in July last year, claimed negative global publicity surrounding recent amendments to the Casino Gaming Act would deter the correspondent banks — and their approval was necessary for local banks processing US dollar transactions. “Any correspondent bank would do due diligence on Bermuda and I doubt that the newspaper and magazine articles over the last year would help the cause,” he said. “One only needs to look at my resignation letter to understand that a US correspondent bank may have concerns about doing business in Bermuda.” Ms Mapp’s predecessor, Alan Dunch, who quit the commission in protest at legislative amendments, warned in November 2016 that there would not be a casino industry without buy-in from local banks. At that stage, Mr Dunch said the local banks had told the Government they “won’t bank the casinos” and correspondent banks for Butterfield and Clarien had indicated they would need to be satisfied the island had tough anti-money-laundering controls in place. The commission’s plan was to introduce a stringent regulatory framework for the casino industry to persuade the US banks to get on board. But the bulk of the necessary regulations have yet to be tabled in Parliament, despite being drafted by the commission and delivered to the Attorney-General’s Chambers for approval in May last year. Tourism minister Jamahl Simmons said in November that delivering a “full set of casino gaming regulations necessary to set the highest level of standards for the industry” was a priority, but has said little on the topic since. Last week’s Budget made no specific mention of casinos, other than a pledge to give Bermuda College additional funds to provide gaming industry training. David Burt, the Premier and Minister of Finance, said: “The Ministry of Finance will soon commence consultations on expanding the types of banks that can operate in Bermuda.” The Royal Gazette asked the island’s local banks if they had decided whether to conduct financial transactions for any casinos that open here. A HSBC Bermuda spokeswoman said: “Following a thorough review some years ago, the HSBC Group took the decision to limit its involvement with the gambling sector. This represents further progress in the HSBC Group strategy since May 2011.” That decision was part of improvements HSBC made to its compliance systems after having to pay a $1.9 billion settlement in the United States in 2012 for helping Mexican drug cartels launder money and breaching international sanctions by doing business with Iran. A Clarien spokesman said: “Clarien continues to gain further understanding of the casino gaming legislation and regulation. Upon completion of this analysis, Clarien management will make a risk-based decision to progress further discussions with various stakeholders including our board and shareholders and, most importantly, our correspondent banks. “While we wish to support Bermuda, we also have to ensure that such business is in alignment with our regulatory obligations, our banking licence and our risk appetite.” Butterfield declined to comment. Ms Mapp said: “The commission continues to have very positive and encouraging dialogue with the local banks, regarding the banking of casino funds. [I am] confident that the local banks will be able to work with the casinos. However, the commission is seeking the advice of our overseas counterparts as to any other options which might be available to a casino operator.” Mr Schuetz and Mr Dunch met with Wells Fargo, a correspondent bank for Clarien, and Bank of New York Mellon, Butterfield’s correspondent bank, in 2015. “Both stated to me they would feel most comfortable with a US model of regulation,” said Mr Schuetz, adding that was because “the US had been addressing anti-money laundering since the passage of the Bank Secrecy Act in 1971, the US casino regulatory system had a strong culture of compliance and there was a great deal of institutional knowledge in the US about addressing anti-money-laundering issues in casinos”. He added that the amendments tabled in November, giving the tourism minister the power to sack gaming commissioners without cause and compelling them to follow his “general directions” on policy, were hardly in line with the US model. The amendments were described as a “recipe for disaster” by experts in the States. Mr Schuetz said: “While Minister Simmons seems to think he’s involved in best practices, I think the rest of the casino world and the banking system may disagree.” Neither the Ministry of Tourism and Economic Development nor the Attorney-General’s Chambers responded to requests for comment on the gaming regulations by press time. The gaming commission has granted one provisional casino licence so far, to the Hamilton Princess Hotel and Beach Club.
February 21. Opinion, by Vic Ball, a One Bermuda Alliance senator from November 2014 to July 2017. I have said it in a previous opinion (“Strong opposition to PLP is needed”) and I will say it again, that when all is said and done, the Government’s primary role is “to allocate resources”. I will also add “to set the ground rules to determine opportunities to access resources, and who will access those opportunities”. Therefore, as mundane and as boring as the Budget Statement may be to most of us, nothing the Government does is more important than for it to outline how it will earn and spend money. In this year’s Budget, nothing captures the contradiction more than in what the Government says versus what it does. The altering of the “60:40 Rule” to the “40:60 Rule” is that contradiction. It says in essence that new local businesses could now be at least 40 per cent owned by Bermudians instead of 60 per cent Bermudian ownership. The belief is that by allowing foreigners to own up to 60 per cent of a local company, they will be more enticed to invest in Bermuda. This, the Government assumes, is the best hope of growing our economy. It was said in the Premier’s speech that the longstanding, mandatory 60 per cent Bermudian ownership rule was “the ultimate in protectionism”. He also mentioned that “wealth is concentrated in a few hands” in Bermuda and will “never invest in anything that competes with their vested interest”. He also added that the attitude of wealthy Bermudians is: “We’ve got ours; good luck getting yours.” Therefore, the answer is to entice foreign investment by offering greater ownership. It remains to be seen but it is highly questionable that this policy will increase foreign investment at all. But before we even get to that, why would foreign investors have a more favorable attitude than local investors? Who are these foreign investors who are likely to be this way? And why? For starters, in the world of business, the percentage of corporate ownership speaks to control in making decisions about running the business. This control is achieved if a person owns more than 50 per cent. Whether it is 51 per cent or 60 per cent makes little difference, assuming that only one foreign person or entity is going to control the 60 per cent. The truth of the matter is the only thing that will increase foreign investment is how profitable the Bermudian economy is. The prospect of owning 60 per cent of a business in a stagnant economy is not attractive to investors — Bermudian or foreign — so our efforts should be to stimulate the local economy first and foremost by incentivising the people in the local economy. Bermudian business people operate on the same principle of business people everywhere: they will invest their money if they are sufficiently confident that they will get a profitable return on their investment. People will not invest if the risks are too high and profit margins are too low. It has nothing to do with whether you are a Bermudian or a foreign investor. It has to do with rational analysis based on local economic indicators. The Government makes a tragic mistake in not understanding this. Instead of devising ways to incentivise our local business people, we are turning instead to enticing foreign investment as an alternative. This is not only a failing strategy, it runs contrary to the “Bermuda first” slogan. It is placing faith in foreign investors before turning to our own people. Bermuda’s economic heyday was achieved when local money was more dynamically circulated. Of course, our economy today is not as it was and what it takes to incentivise local entrepreneurship may be different, but that is why we should be focusing our attention on devising the means to do so and not look outward. We relaxed the 60:40 Rule in 2000 and 2001 under the Progressive Labour Party government, as it relates to the banking industry. The result was that the Bank of Bermuda became owned by HSBC, which has drastically altered our economy. Lending restrictions have become tighter and local staffing has been significantly reduced. A foreign entity has recently become the majority owner of Clarien Bank. One is hard-pressed to see how this has grown the Bermudian economy or benefited Bermudians. It is important to note that the 60:40 Rule does not apply to the exempt companies and international companies operating in Bermuda. These are wholly-owned foreign entities that dominate our economy with concessions made to significantly increase their incentive for foreign staffing over the years. And while this may be beneficial given Bermuda’s arrangement with these companies, it makes it more important for us to work to energize our local business sector by stimulating local investment. Our government should challenge itself to find ways to stimulate local investment. We should be using local majority ownership as a barometer for how well we are doing as a nation. We are steering away from that course precisely when we need it most. Some protectionism is necessary in an economy such as ours, just as we need to have protectionist immigration policies. We can compete with the world, but we need partnership with our government to do so. To move in the direction of giving up on majority local entrepreneurship and to not stimulate local investment is flawed. When a nation is totally dominated by foreign capital, there is less and less regard for local conditions of life, especially local conditions of labour. So I implore this government to engage Bermudian investment for the sake of the Bermudian people. Find the formula to incentivise them and to collaborate in revitalizing the Bermudian economy. There is no reason why we cannot have an 80:20 Rule — predominantly Bermudian-owned, vibrant local economy benefiting Bermudians. Striving to achieve this should be what it also means to “put Bermudians first”.
February 21. Opinion, by Peter Sanderson, Head of Litigation at Benedek Lewin Ltd, whose practice includes tax liability issues "David Burt, in his recent Budget Statement, has announced plans to crack down on payroll tax abuse. The Premier gave the example of a partner in a law or accounting firm who might declare a notional salary of $200,000 but actually earn $1 million from their business. The Premier said that employers would be required to declare all income paid to employees, whether as wages or as dividends or otherwise. I can anticipate that this will lead to disputes between the Office of the Tax Commissioner and employers as to the correct amount of tax to be paid. For shareholders who provide services to the company, whether as employees or directors, the Payroll Tax Act says that they should be taxed on an amount that represents a fair and equitable valuation of their services to the business. This is not a tax on dividends generally. A shareholder’s dividends might, and often will, exceed the value of the shareholder’s services to the business, especially if the business is doing well. Tax issues will arise, though, if the Tax Commissioner forms the view that an employer has been under-reporting income of shareholders. The Tax Commissioner can normally go back up to two years when investigating an employer, although this may be extended if there has been fraudulent conduct by the employer. An employer who is aggrieved by a decision of the Tax Commissioner can appeal to the Tax Appeal Tribunal, but this does not stop the obligation to pay the tax while the appeal is being considered. Companies might also consider ways to structure their business so as to minimize payroll tax liabilities. Another interesting payroll announcement is that employers will receive a concession for disabled employees. It remains to be seen how this will be applied, but I note that the Human Rights Act includes diabetes as a disability. Given the prevalence of diabetes in Bermuda, there may be a drive by employers to declare employees disabled to reduce payroll tax liability. This could result in a pay increase or greater employment opportunities for disabled employees. If the Tax Commissioner does not accept that an employee is disabled, these cases could end up before the Tax Appeal Tribunal."
February 21. Paget Primary School has been transformed into a museum to honour the achievements of black Bermudians. Classrooms are now exhibits celebrating achievements and contributions during Black History Month. Bermuda’s First Black History Museum recognizes 11 individuals, including former professional footballer Clyde Best, ombudsman Victoria Pearman and Dame Lois Browne-Evans, former leader of the Progressive Labour Party. Bermuda pilots are also highlighted. Several of those honored, including Mr Best and Ms Pearman, attended the event. Zhen Wilson, 8, said it was great to meet Mr Best and share information about him with those who visited the classroom. He added: “It was important for me because we usually always learn about other people and not Bermudians.” Janiya Sealy, 8, said: “When we do social studies, sometimes it’s not Bermudians. I’m proud that we had this.” The P4 classmates served as tour guides for the exhibit devoted to Mr Best. Azai Dyer, 7, said it had been fun to show people around his classroom, which is devoted to Ms Pearman. K’mori Chamberlain, 7, said that it was important that others learnt more about the ombudsman’s accomplishments. The P3 classmates donned black robes and white paper wigs as tour guides for the exhibit on Ms Pearman. Gina Cann, chairwoman of the school’s social studies committee, said the event was about celebrating the contributions and achievements of black Bermudians, many of whom “haven’t received the recognition that they truly deserve”. Ms Cann said: “Many of our black Bermudians have paved the way for most of us, and some are still paving the way now. It’s definitely something that needs to be brought to light. So many of our students are well versed in African-American history. They all know about Martin Luther King Jr, they all know about Rosa Parks and former president Barack Obama, but when we ask them who Clyde Best or Victoria Pearman is, no one knows. This was something to shed light on these individuals.” Ms Cann said that teachers had “jumped right on board” with the project, which had been planned in the past few weeks. She explained: “They recognized that we need to get our students understanding and knowing those black Bermudians who have contributed to our society. The children had also been keen to take part. The students love it, especially those classes in which the actual individual was able to come into the class and speak to them. The majority of the individuals represented had to overcome so many different obstacles such as racism, so it is worthwhile for the students to see and hear an actual account.” Diallo Rabain, Minister of Education, said he was overly impressed with the event. Mr Rabain said: “Just seeing Paget Primary come together and put together this museum of Bermudian black history is something awesome. I’m totally blown away with what I see. I hope to see something like this in every other school in Bermuda.” John Rankin, the Governor, said he was delighted to visit the museum. Mr Rankin added: “This was an imaginative way to celebrate and learn about those black Bermudians, past and present, who have made a hugely positive difference within the community. My thanks to the pupils and teachers whom I met for their enthusiasm in showing me around the displays in each classroom and well done to all involved.” Ms Cann said that David Burt, the Premier, was expected to visit the school today.
February 21. A murder investigation has been launched by Nottinghamshire Police after Lyrico Steede, a 17-year-old college student from Bermuda, was killed in England last week. Media reports said Lyrico succumbed to his injuries after an attack by a group of men. The teen, who lived in the town of Bulwell on the outskirts of Nottingham, was set upon shortly after 7.30pm on February 13 in the region of Stock Well, in what the Nottingham Post described as a “gang attack”. The area was cordoned off after the death and tributes and flowers were left at the scene. Detective Chief Inspector Hayley Williams, of East Midlands Special Operations Unit Major Crime, who is leading the investigation, said via West Brigford Wire: “Sadly, this incident has resulted in a 17-year-old boy, known to his friends as Rico, suffering stab wounds and dying. His mum, dad and the rest of his family are clearly devastated by this senseless murder of their family member, who was a college pupil. We are determined to catch those responsible and we would urge the community of Bulwell and Nottingham to help us get justice for this family. This incident happened over several minutes in the local area, on streets including Lathkill Close, Lillington Road and Stock Well." The Bermuda Police Service said they could not comment on reports at this time.
February 21. The site of a former house owned by the City of Hamilton is to become a nursery for baby trees. Work has started to turn the Par-la-Ville Road site into a mini-forest for young trees that will be transplanted to other sites around the City when they are tall enough. A spokeswoman for the City added that park benches would also be installed to create “a parkette” for public use. The nursery, expected to hold up to 20 saplings, and park are expected to be completed by the middle of April. The site, near the junction with Dundonald Street, became vacant after a City-owned cottage and the rock outcrop it stood on were leveled in October 2016. The crumbling cottage had suffered severe damage by hurricanes Fay and Gonzalo in 2014. Ian Hind, senior engineer for the City, said at the time that there were no plans to develop the site. He added: “It was taken down for safety reasons and because of the condition of the building. What will happen hasn’t been decided but there are plenty of options. We could make it a green space or extra bike parking spaces or car parking.”
February 21. Three suspects have been arrested in Kenya in connection with the murder of former Bermuda Marathon champion Richard Tirop Kessio. The three are believed to be ringleaders of a gang that has terrorized residents of the western city Eldoret, Kenyan news site Citizen Digital reported. Mr Kessio and a friend were killed on the outskirts of the city last month. Mr Kessio, 43, who was Kenyan, won the Bermuda Marathon three times between 2010 and 2014.
February 21. Magistrates’ Court and Hamilton Police Station were evacuated after an alarm this morning. Bermuda Fire and Rescue Service attended the Dame Lois Browne-Evans Building and the police station to investigate at about 10am. Shortly before 10.15am, people were allowed to return to work.
February 20. Premier David Burt told a business audience yesterday that he would consult widely and move slowly on reforming the 60:40 rule. In his maiden Budget statement last Friday, the Premier and finance minister announced his intention to ease restrictions to allow foreigners to own up to 60 per cent of a domestic business, lifting the 40 per cent restriction in place now. In yesterday’s Budget Breakfast event at the Hamilton Princess, presented by PwC Bermuda and the Bermuda Chamber of Commerce and attended by some 350 people, Mr Burt said he did not intend to simply “unleash” the change with the risk of triggering unintended consequences. “We recognize that 60:40 is a very complex issue and this does not mean we’ll just throw it out,” Mr Burt said. “We will take a slow pace to allow for a decent consultation period.” He conceded that he would likely face opposition from political colleagues who may not see the change as being conducive to putting Bermudians first. Among business people, he said those with entrenched interests could feel threatened by the change, as well as businesses struggling to survive who the impact of greater competition. But Mr Burt highlighted the fact that about $3 billion of the money earned in Bermuda over the last ten years had left the island and the change would help to keep some of that money on island by offering opportunities for foreign residents to be majority stakeholders in local businesses. John Wight, president of the Chamber of Commerce, sitting alongside Mr Burt on a discussion panel, said he thought the Premier had done “an excellent job” with the Budget, considering economic and fiscal conditions, as well as in terms of fairness and collaboration. “We were really impressed that the Pre-Budget Report was disseminated in good time for others to express views,” Mr Wight said. “It was obvious that the Government listened, because there were several things in the Pre-Budget Report that did not make it into the Budget.” Mr Wight praised the decision to not go ahead with payroll tax increases for the highest earners that were planned for the coming year by the previous One Bermuda Alliance government and added that the decreases for lower earners were appropriate. “Bermuda is an expensive place to do business,” Mr Wight said. “Previous governments have raised payroll tax and customs, but if you’re serious about promoting investment in Bermuda, you can’t keep raising these taxes.” The payroll tax base will be broadened by Mr Burt’s plan to scrap notional salaries, which has allowed some partners in owner-managed businesses, such as law and accountancy firms, to pay tax on a portion of the income they derive from their employment. Mr Wight backed the proposal. “We know there has been abuse of the system,” he said. “It angers people who pay tax on all their income. That loophole has now been taken away.” Mr Burt said there would be consultation on notional salaries and he expected plenty of feedback. The Chamber of Commerce president also supported Mr Burt’s plans for the 60:40 rule, saying that what may have worked well many years ago will not necessarily work in 2018. Bermudians with promising business ideas would have more access to capital as a result, Mr Wight said. “The reality is that we have to increase the size of the economic pie and the 60:40 rule makes it more difficult to do that,” he added. Mr Wight, however, said that a budget was only as good as the accuracy of its projections, and questioned Mr Burt’s expectations of a 4.6 per cent increase in government revenues in the year after the economic stimulus of the America’s Cup. He added that an expectation of rising interest rates was not reflected in the debt servicing estimates. Arthur Wightman, territory leader of PwC Bermuda, congratulated Mr Burt on “a Budget for all”, which “recognises the challenges but at the same time points to the possibilities of a bright and more equitable future. Our encouragement is that society at large puts its shoulder behind realizing that future,” Mr Wightman added. “The journey is too perilous and the ramification of failure too severe to do anything else.” Robert Stubbs, an economist and former head of research at the Bank of Bermuda, said there was a fundamental misunderstanding of the nature of the Bermuda economy’s problems. Between 2008 and 2016, the Government added $2.1 billion to its debt, he said, while the private sector earned and saved about $19.2 billion — including everything from international reinsurance company earnings to household savings. “There’s a lot of income and savings made in Bermuda, but one of our major problems is that much of this money is leaving the island. Large pension fund portfolios were being invested entirely overseas, for example. Taxation was focused too much on labour and consumption and not enough on capital, he added, and a “rebalancing” of tax policy was needed. The corporate sector is not paying nearly their fair share of taxation — and tax on finance is way too low,” Mr Stubbs added. Mr Wight welcomed the notion of growing the population, saying that Bermuda had net debt of nearly $2.5 billion and unfunded pension liabilities of around $1.5 billion — and unless it had a greater number of people paying into the system, the island could not realistically hope to pay down these debts. Mr Burt responded: “This is not a discussion about more people, this is about the need to create more jobs. As soon as you start talking about bringing in more people, it raises people’s ire. We should be talking about how we create more jobs — that’s where the conversation needs to go. If you put 2,000 people on Front Street right now, where are they going to work? We support the creation of these jobs which will allow more Bermudians to be employed and more Bermudians overseas to be employed here again, and for others to have jobs too.” Scott Pearman, chief operating officer of the Bermuda Hospitals Board, welcomed the restoration of the $25 million annual subsidy for the hospital to fund hospital services for seniors and the indigent. However, he added that the a combination of the demographics and lifestyle-related diseases would put ever greater strain on healthcare resources. About 13 per cent of the population had diabetes, Mr Pearman said. “This has a real impact,” he added. “The BHB has 165 patients on dialysis — for a population of our size, we should have about 65.” The ageing population added to the strain, he said, with 38 per cent of all the BHB’s cases being people over 65. The hospital would need another 75 acute care beds in the coming years, he said. “That’s something the community cannot afford.” People taking better care of themselves was essential for the future of healthcare services, he added.
February 20. Commercial property is to face a land tax increase, but only for a year. David Burt, the Premier and Minister of Finance, said that tax rates on commercial businesses are to go up from 7 per cent to 12 per cent. The increase will mean that owners will pay about 71 per cent more in land tax in 2018-19. Mr Burt said there had been consultation on the change. He added: “When I say it will move to 12 per cent for a one-year period, the Land Tax Bill which we introduce in Parliament will actually state that it is only for one year. The rates will automatically revert at the end of the year. It wasn’t done in isolation, it was done in consultation with industry so that it is not a surprise.” The increase is expected to raise an additional $15.14 million in revenue, with overall land tax revenue expected to increase 24 per cent year-on-year.
February 20. There will be no closures or mergers of Bermuda’s public schools this year, David Burt, the Premier, promised yesterday. He said: “That is not something we are looking into right now. What we are looking at right now is making sure we improve the outcomes of the public education system — that is what has our focus and that is where the Ministry of Education and Department of Workforce Development is keenly focusing its attentions. Closures are not funded in this budget.” Mr Burt, flanked by his ministers, was speaking at his Budget press briefing at Cabinet Office after he unveiled his first blueprint for the next financial year last Friday. The 2016 School Reorganization Report drawn up under the former One Bermuda Alliance government recommended exploring the possibility of merging or closing schools across the island to help cut costs. Mr Burt was quizzed on whether public school pupils were equipped to take advantage of jobs in the financial technology centre when recent Cambridge exam results highlighted poor performance in maths. He said: “Those results give us a baseline to where we have to move to improve. We will be judged on whether or not we can keep our promise to transform the outcomes of the education system. We are committed. It was the first thing mentioned in our budget, it was the first thing mentioned in our platform and it is the place that will have the most focus and most resources.” Mr Burt added he had not faced any resistance from Cabinet colleagues on a Budget promise to relax the 60:40 rule to guarantee Bermudian majority ownership in island businesses. He said: “I would not say there has been any pushback from all the people surrounding me today but this is something we have discussed internally over the last month. What is most critical is that we have to realize that we are in a modern economy, a global economy and we are going to have to do things differently if we want to accomplish our objectives, which are to create jobs and wealth in Bermuda. This government was not elected to make millionaires billionaires, it was elected to make poor people millionaires.” This government will consult in striking the right balance to ensure the revision of this law has the intended consequence of providing more opportunities for Bermudians to become wealth-generating owners and not employees.” Mr Burt said in his Budget statement that cash could be saved in the Ministry of Public Works by moving government departments housed in private properties to government buildings. He added: “Where there are places where government departments are in the private sector and can be moved into government-owned buildings we will look to make sure that we do that. What is also interesting is that when we are talking about efficiencies we are also looking to make the allocation of space inside of government departments more efficient.” Mr Burt said that modernized office buildings meant that in the longer-term space could be shared to “reduce the footprint”.
February 20. The new chairman of the Road Safety Council has said he is committed to the introduction of roadside breath testing and speed cameras. Dennis Lister III said: “We support roadside sobriety testing and speed cameras 100 per cent and we will do all we can to get that acted on and coming into effect this year.” But Mr Lister, an MP for the ruling Progressive Labour Party, did not throw his weight behind a graduated licensing programme designed to better train new road users in Bermuda and suggested the Project Ride scheme already in operation was sufficient. He added that he was unaware of a recommendation for a full programme that had been presented to the Government. Mr Lister said: “We don’t want to become too much of a police state when it comes to addressing the education part of it. We have seen that it has been adequate enough as of now, so we don’t want to over police it where you do Project Ride, you successfully pass and then you have another step which is sort of regressive to what you have just done. If you pass Project Ride and see the results, we don’t want to put more on top of that.” The Royal Gazette’s Drive for Change campaign has called for non-selective roadside breath testing, speed cameras and a graduated licensing programme, including an on-road component for new road users. The objectives are based on research including analysis of 15,000 road crashes between 2009 and 2016 as well as a study that looked at every road crash in Bermuda between 2003 and 2004. The objectives are backed by Drive for Change’s partners at A Piece of the Rock, the Bermuda Police Service, anti-alcohol abuse charity Cada, as well as by emergency doctors and EMTs. Mr Lister said that roadside breath tests were the council’s top priority. He added: “We just had our first official road safety meeting and that was the number-one issue that we talked about and how we can lobby to get it into effect.” Mr Lister said that a camera network would be a valuable tool to crack down on speeding. “We will be advocating for speed technology as there is a culture of speeding. Speed cameras, hopefully in the short term, will be a deterrent and in the long term they will help change our culture. Now you can speed, everyone knows where the police are. They feel that they can get away with it. Speed cameras will help to address that as you don’t know where the cameras are.” Mr Lister said Project Ride — a 12-hour programme designed for Bermudian students that teaches the basics of motorcycle riding and is confined to riding in a car park — helped to boost road safety. According to data provided by the Bermuda Hospitals Board, 16-year-olds are still the most likely to be involved in a road crash in Bermuda. Graduated licensing programmes have helped to reduce road death and injury in other jurisdictions including Britain, the United States and Australia. Ali Bardgett, the former chairwoman of the Bermuda Road Safety Council, recommended to past and present governments a graduated licensing programme that was tailored to Bermuda. Mr Lister said: “It has not been brought to my attention as yet. I would need to follow up on that.” He added that as chairman he was committed to better education in schools to help improve road safety. Mr Lister said the council had other programmes to deal with reckless driving or driving without due care and that there were other problems that needed to be addressed. Mr Lister explained that if people thought the main focus was drink driving, speeding and graduated licences, they might feel that other bad behavior on the roads such as inattentive driving was acceptable.
February 20. The Association of Bermuda Insurers and Reinsurers said it is encouraged by growth priorities spelled out in David Burt’s first Budget. In a statement released today, Abir welcomes the plans to develop fintech, encourage international investment and to not increase payroll taxes. Abir highlighted government’s efforts to stimulate investment by reforming the current laws that limit foreign ownership of businesses to 40 per cent. Kevin O’Donnell, chairman of Abir, said: “Abir is pleased to see that Bermuda’s government is reducing barriers to trade and foreign investment and encouraging employment growth in its world-class international business sector. “Bermuda Government’s commitment to strengthening the Bermuda economy, reducing the government’s debt, and holding the line on payroll taxes will help ensure Bermuda remains a competitive job market in an increasingly connected, international marketplace.” The industry body, which represents a group of the island’s largest international commercial insurers and reinsurers, also flagged up Mr Burt’s plans for development of the world’s first global risk management digital market in Bermuda. “This initiative is proposed to support the Government’s fintech ambitions and the establishment of a smart island innovation lab,” Abir stated. “The lab is expected to attract and support entrepreneurs, innovation, new business ventures, growth opportunities and job creation.” Initiatives in the Budget “signal efforts to enhance Bermuda’s leadership in the global marketplace by broadening and diversifying the economy and ensuring Bermuda’s continued competitiveness”, Abir added. John Huff, Abir’s chief executive officer, said: “The Bermuda insurance market is interested in working with the Bermuda Government to leverage the opportunities in technology and international investment to build upon the growth of Bermuda’s global insurance market.”
February 20. William Spriggs will take on the post of Director of Economic and Cooperative Development with the Bermuda Economic Development Corporation, it was announced today. Jamahl Simmons, the Minister of Economic Development and Tourism, said co-operatives would be one of Mr Spriggs’s first priorities in his role as head of the new Economic and Cooperative Development Unit. Mr Spriggs said: “Over the years we have had discussions with numerous persons interested in member controlled social enterprises, as well as all sort of hybrid business structures. We look forward to engaging with the public to get a real sense of how many people and businesses are interested in the co-operative structure.” Mr Spriggs said public information sessions would be set up in April and May to educate the public on co-operatives and their benefits. “One of our first goals is to create a co-operative economics research library, website, other information and outreach tool to be able to support and leverage our upcoming public forums. As we bring on other economic development tools, we will continue to engage with the public in a very open and responsive way. We have so much to be excited about.” Mr Simmons announced the appointment of Mr Spriggs at a press conference this morning. He revealed that Mr Spriggs would head up the ECDU in his new role, which combines the economic development remit of the former EEZ director post with the co-operative economics remit of the new agenda. Mr Simmons added: “Mr Spriggs is no stranger to the BEDC and to the business and entrepreneurship landscape in Bermuda, having served in various leadership roles within the BEDC. Most recently he was the Director of Micro, Small and Medium-sized Enterprise for the BEDC, responsible for the provision of business development advice, guidance, and financial support to Bermuda’s micro-enterprises, vendors, small and medium-sized business, as well as Economic Empowerment Zones. As a certified management accountant and certified professional accountant with broad experience in all three sectors of Bermuda’s economy — the private sector, the government sector and the non-profit sector — Mr Spriggs’s well roundedness will serve us well in this new role as he leverages existing and new partnerships and collaborations for the success of our island’s local businesses.” Mr Simmons said Mr Spriggs would be “tasked with the development and use of innovative economic development tools to foster local economic development growth in Bermuda. Co-operatives would be one of the first to be implemented. In light of the many and diverse problems facing our community, it is time for us to begin to seriously think about and begin working towards economic development and economic self-determination. A key and necessary part of economic development and self-determination can be found in co-operative economics.” He added that the Government was committed to knocking down “roadblocks” to ensure businesses of all sizes had a chance to succeed. Mr Simmons said co-operatives were “large and viable segment of the community” in other countries and could be found in the private and non-profit sectors, as well as many industries. They are businesses owned and run by and for their members. Whether the members are the customers, employees or residents, they have an equal say in what the business does and a share in the profits.” He pointed to the Friendly Societies formed after Emancipation, the Ireland Island Cooperative Society and the Bermuda Workers Cooperative Society formed under the Bermuda Industrial Union in 1969 as examples of co-operatives that have existed and worked in Bermuda. Mr Simmons added: “Yet for 21st Century co-operative economics to succeed in Bermuda and for Bermudians, we must set in place the framework for re-engagement with this innovative economic development tool. But we must also begin a change of mindset and a change of approach.” Mr Simmons said other economic development tools to be developed include:
February 20. A number of lawyers from Appleby Bermuda and Carey Olsen Bermuda have been recognized in the 2018 Chambers Global Rankings. Keith Robinson, a partner of Carey Olsen Bermuda is recognized for his particular emphasis on Bermudian trust disputes and hailed as “a fine trusts lawyer”, while managing partner Michael Hanson is recognized as “very knowledgeable”. Mr Hanson said: “Carey Olsen Bermuda is a brand new entrant in Bermuda so it’s very encouraging to see prominent recognition from a respected publication like Chambers Global so quickly. It reflects the caliber and strength of our offering in Bermuda even at this very early stage.” Appleby’s Bermuda office maintains its Band 1 rankings in insurance and dispute resolution. Partners Brad Adderley and Alan Bossin are ranked Band 1 in insurance, a distinction they have held for many years. Mr Adderley is noted for his “deep knowledge and great relationship network”, while Mr Bossin is described by clients as “commercial and pragmatic”. Tim Faries, Bermuda managing partner and global head of insurance, is ranked as an Eminent Practitioner for his leadership and influence in the practice area. Partner John Wasty, head of the Bermuda dispute resolution department continues to be ranked Band 1 for his expertise, and John Riihiluoma is ranked as a Senior Statesman for his wealth of knowledge. Appleby’s corporate department is noted as “incredibly responsive, commercial and business-thoughtful”. Clive Langley is described as a highly esteemed practitioner with a particular focus on asset finance transactions, while Steven Rees Davies is said to be “very approachable” and being “commercial and business-driven in his advice”. Mr Faries, said: “We continue to be very pleased with our Chambers rankings, and most importantly, we are delighted with the superb feedback from our esteemed clients, referrers and peers. Our team is comprised of highly skilled and knowledgeable practitioners who are committed to doing first-rate work for our clients and Bermuda.” Last week it was reported that the dispute resolution team at another island firm, MJM Limited, had been Band 1 ranked by Chambers. Chambers and Partners has been ranking the best lawyers since 1990, and now covers 185 jurisdictions.
February 20. An international equal rights group based in the United States has urged its members to ignore a call to boycott Bermuda over its decision to ditch same-sex marriage. Jessica Stern, the executive director of OutRight Action International, said the ruling this month was “a step backwards for equality”, but she added: “However, in response to this decision a misguided reaction is unfolding — a call to #BoycottBermuda. “The online campaign is spearheaded mainly by people in the US and Europe, who believe that a tourism boycott will show the Bermudian Government that repealing same-sex marriage was a mistake. “To be clear, the demand for this boycott is not coming from grassroots organisations in Bermuda. In fact, LGBTIQ Bermudians are coming out against the boycott. This campaign stands to hurt rather than help the LGBTIQ community in Bermuda.” The Domestic Partnership Act, which replaces same-sex marriage with civil unions, was passed by MPs and the Senate in December, and given Royal Assent by John Rankin, the Governor, this month. Social-media users across the world launched a protest against the Act with the Twitter hashtag #BoycottBermuda. Chicago Tribune columnist Eric Zorn wrote on Twitter on February 12: “Can we get #BoycottBermuda trending? Countries that are slow to evolve are one thing. Countries going backward are another altogether.” British photographer Thomas Faull wrote: “Rip up travel plans to homophobic Bermuda #BoycottBermuda.” Bermudian actor Nick Christopher wrote: “@Bermuda this is shameful. I love representing my country all across America doing what I love, but I will not be associated with hate and injustice. I’m deeply saddened. #MarriageEquality #WakeUp #BoycottBermuda.” Former Bermuda Sun journalist Mark Kennedy, now based in Bogota, Colombia, wrote: “#Bermuda, as much a backwards-looking, religious backwater as I remember it.” Ms Stern described the boycott as uninformed and ill-advised. She said: “It could increase discrimination against local LGBTIQ people, who may very well be used as scapegoats for any negative impact on tourism and the economy; not to mention the consequences for LGBTIQ people who themselves work in the tourism industry. People, and the media, in the US and Europe ought not to push their own agendas and instead listen to the priority of LGBTIQ groups on the ground. This simple but important rule is central to the way that OutRight functions and engages in enabling social justice. We consult, listen to, and are guided by local leaders who are best placed to inform strategy and programmes to bring about change. Without listening to voices from the ground, we all stand to do more harm than good. I ask that you #DontBoycottBermuda and instead learn how to empower local organisations and the movement there.”
February 20. A legal challenge to Bermuda’s decision to ditch gay marriage will attempt to raise money through crowd funding. Tony Brannon, who organized the fundraising effort, said that the legal challenge was an important one for human rights. Mr Brannon, a musician and activist, added: “We know that the LGBTQ community are very interested in this, and I know that we can get a lot of support from them globally. I think there’s a lot of support out there that can help this.” Rod Ferguson, 38, filed a lawsuit in the Supreme Court against the Attorney-General last week. Mr Ferguson, who lives in the United States, claims the Domestic Partnership Act, which replaced gay marriage with civil unions, is unconstitutional. The Act was approved in Parliament in December and given Royal Assent by the Governor, John Rankin, this month. Mark Pettingill, a former attorney-general, is representing Mr Ferguson. Mr Pettingill, of Chancery Legal, also represented gay couple Winston Godwin and Greg DeRoche whose Supreme Court victory last May paved the way for same-sex marriage. Mr Pettingill told The Royal Gazette this month that Mr Ferguson’s lawsuit could end up in Europe’s highest courts. Mr Brannon said the cost of the legal challenge could be significant “depending on how far up the chain this goes”. He added that Mr Ferguson’s lawsuit was a fight that was bigger than Bermuda. Mr Brannon explained that other groups around the world had taken the island’s reversal of same-sex marriage as a sign of encouragement. He added that some thought “Bermuda’s done it; we can do it, too. We can overturn these rights”. Mr Brannon also said that misinformation had been circulated in connection with the non-binding referendum held on same-sex marriage in 2016. He said that the idea that 68 per cent of Bermudians had voted against same-sex marriage was a “complete lie”. Mr Brannon explained: “The fact of the matter is of the 44,000 registered voters, only 14,000 voted no. So 14,000 against 44,000 is 32 per cent — less than a third.” About 6,500 voters expressed support for same-sex marriage. Mr Brannon added: “Fifty-four per cent didn’t show up to vote.” He said that he expected the crowd funding website to launch this week.
February 20. A broadcast on the Hamilton waterfront dispute that failed to air on Hott 107.5 was pulled because radio station owner Glenn Blakeney was worried about potential legal issues and a clash with a planned discussion on the Budget. Mr Blakeney, chairman of Inter-Island Communications and a retired former Progressive Labour Party MP, reacted after youth activist Eron Hill posted on Facebook that he had been warned off talking about the overhaul of the Hamilton waterfront. Mr Blakeney said he was concerned at the potential for defamatory comments to make it on to the airwaves. “I said I could not afford to be sued and, based on what I had read, I was a bit concerned,” Mr Blakeney said. “I maintained it would be more appropriate to have focused to some degree on the Budget from the young people’s perspective. It’s a precedent we have set for Sunday evening over the past several years.” He added: “When you supersede the national issue with a private issue, then we have a problem. I would venture to say the entire country was more interested in the Budget and did not want a private matter to distract from a bigger national matter.” Mr Blakeney was also keen to highlight that Hott 107.5 had never steered clear of controversial topics while he has been in charge. He pointed out that controversial content on talk shows had ranged from the Pathways to Status row to the fallout from protests over the airport redevelopment deal in December 2016, when protesters were pepper-sprayed. The scheduled Sunday interview hosted by the youth group Generation Next would have included Michael MacLean, head of Allied Development Partners Ltd, speaking on his would-be overhaul of the Hamilton waterfront. That deal, in which a 262-year lease was settled with the Corporation of Hamilton in December 2012, was scuppered after changes to the Municipalities Act were passed in October 2013. The changes allowed the legislature to overturn any agreements made by the corporation after January 1, 2012. The decision to override the agreement, made by the One Bermuda Alliance government, was criticized by the PLP. Mr Hill said the PLP had changed direction since its return to government and had ignored appeals from Mr MacLean to Walton Brown, the Minister of Home Affairs, as well as to David Burt, the Premier. Mr Blakeney said his company had given more airtime to the waterfront dispute than “any other media entity, bar none” and took exception to calls for listeners to ring during Mr Burt’s appearance on Orders of the Day with Kim Swan to challenge his handling of the waterfront issue. Although Mr Blakeney said he offered to arrange “a future, mutually convenient time to have the discussion”, Generation Next withdrew its show from Hott 107.5. He added: “I wish them well. They’re bright young people with a lot to offer. Mr Hill wrote on Facebook that he had been told that the two-hour show, which would have included former City of Hamilton councillor Keith Davis, was seen to “not be in the interest of the station". He added he was “extremely disappointed by this most unfortunate turn of events”. He wrote that the station was in a “difficult and delicate position”, and that Generation Next did not want to jeopardize “any impending financial opportunities” with the Bermuda Government.
February 19. A commitment to the introduction of roadside breath tests is “a frontline priority”, despite no mention of road safety in the Budget statement. Walter Roban, Minister of Transport and Regulatory Affairs, said that handheld breathalyzers were not highlighted in the Budget statement by David Burt, Premier and Minister of Finance, because it was a legislative measure covered in the Throne Speech. Mr Roban pledged that the measure, designed to combat high levels of drink driving, was on the verge of making it into law. He said: “From a legislative standpoint that is in train. We are about to deploy the process to get the legislation done. All parties, whether it be the Government’s lawyers, the Bermuda Police Service or the ministry, are on the same page as to the direction, so we are full-steam ahead on our legislative priority. The police now are busy getting to grips with the equipment they will be using as we deploy roadside sobriety testing, doing the training so once the legislative measures are passed they can begin using the equipment.” Mr Roban added: “In the changes we make, we have to include the specific equipment that is being used to do the testing. We are committed to getting it in place this legislative year and that is top of my list of legislation. That is what myself and Mr Caines have committed to, and my team here is driving to get it done.” The Royal Gazette’s Drive For Change road safety campaign has called for roadside breath tests as well as improved speed control technology and a graduated licensing programme for new road users. Mr Roban said he could not comment on whether the testing would be non-selective to avoid accusations of profiling or if locations of roadside stops would be announced in advance. Mr Roban added that the budget for the Bermuda Road Safety Council had been doubled to $25,000. He said: “Our next priority is for the Road Safety Council to be even more assertive on public education and begin to impact driver behavior. Their budget has been more than doubled from last year to enable them to carry out their objectives. We feel that we have equipped them well to do what they need to do for this calendar year and you should see more on these issues going forward for the fiscal year.” A $3 million commitment to road works could also be used to improve road safety. Mr Roban said an apparent 34 per cent drop in his cash allocation was explained by a restructure, which resulted in the ministry losing Tourism and Municipalities and gain Regulatory Reform, whose agencies are mostly self-funded. He added: “I have the same amount of money to spend as I did last year. I will be doing a Budget press conference and will give more detail, but in terms of current spending, I have not had any decrease. The ministry was structured very differently in the previous financial year. That money has moved to where those departments have gone.”
February 19. The cost of financial assistance is expected to drop by about $1.5 million in the next fiscal year. The update came as the 2018-19 Budget earmarked $51.68 million for the programme, down from $53.55 million in 2017-18. Financial assistance has been under review by a cost-saving working group since November 2017. Delivering the Budget on Friday, David Burt, the Premier, said the effort would “reduce abuse, discourage dependency, and ensure that work pays”. The Budget garnered high marks from Kelly Hunt, executive director of the Coalition for the Protection of Children, who said the charity “keenly” awaited the strategic plan to cut spending in financial assistance. Ms Hunt said the need to support struggling families and vulnerable persons remained “paramount. As mentioned in the Budget, poverty is a reality. Many able-bodied people are finding it difficult to make ends meet. How we move from dependency to the effective support of self-sufficiency will be fundamental to Bermuda’s overall development as a country.” The charity praised the Budget’s commitment to “economic empowerment, relief for vulnerable persons and a strengthened social safety net”. Ms Hunt said the speech for the coming fiscal year echoed the Coalition’s belief that “root-cause issues must be addressed as a primary concern and long-term investment”. She added: “We await details surrounding preventive education programmes, early intervention and empowerment initiatives as they will be key to addressing many of our social ills. Unequal access to opportunity is a clear underlying theme recognized by the Government in this Budget, and we look forward to learning the specifics of how this will be addressed in order to strengthen the social fabric of Bermuda.” Mr Burt told MPs last Friday that inequality was “systemic” in Bermuda and it was “the regrettable result of a system designed to preserve the economic power of the few”. Ms Hunt said the Budget’s commitment to maintenance of the island’s schools, as well as boosts in funding for the Ministry of Social Development, Youth, Sport and Recreation, Child and Family Services and National Drug Control, were welcomed. “These are encouraging investments in the community and we look forward to supporting plans that help families heal, grow and thrive as a mandate for success.”
February 19. Bermuda is to open an office in Brussels to protect the island’s interests as Britain prepares to leave the European Union. David Burt, Premier and Minister of Finance, said the office would cut the cost of consultants in Europe. He said in his Budget Statement on Friday: “Efforts to protect and strengthen the economy will require increased resources to be allocated to external affairs. With increased pressures from Europe owing to the EU review of non-cooperative tax jurisdictions together with Brexit, it is necessary for Bermuda to increase its engagement with the European Union and member-state governments.” The office would fall under the Cabinet Office’s budget, which was increased by $748,000. The bulk of that rise was listed as going towards the Government’s London and Washington offices. The London Office will see its budget increase by $403,000, a 39 per cent rise. The Washington DC office will have its budget almost doubled with an additional $194,000 — a 94 per cent increase. Mr Burt said the island is not on the recently published list of non-cooperative jurisdictions, but the EU Code of Conduct Group has expressed concerns about the island. He said: “Since December, the Government has been meeting with various local stakeholders and is in the process of formulating a response to address the European Council’s concerns. It is the Government’s view that the mischief that the EU is trying to cure — tax leakage from companies operating in their jurisdictions — has largely been mitigated by advances in international tax transparency and regimes.” Mr Burt added recent tax changes in the US were the “most pressing threat” to the island’s international business sector. He said: “Although the tax changes were not directly targeted at Bermuda, many of Bermuda’s international companies have had to make quick adjustments to their operations to avoid an additional tax burden.” Mr Burt said the Government has continued to work with the Association of Bermuda Insurers and Reinsurers to protect Bermuda’s interests. He added: “Although we feared the worst, the resulting tax changes will not be fatal to our insurance industry and may present some opportunities for growth due to the superior regulatory advantages for companies operating from Bermuda. Recently, the minister responsible for immigration met with the leadership of Abir and made it clear that the Government will facilitate any transfer of jobs to Bermuda that may result from any restructuring caused by the US tax reform. Any transfer of jobs to Bermuda will create additional opportunities for Bermudians, and this government is committed to preparing Bermudians to take advantage of those opportunities.” The Premier said the Government has remained focused on the island’s upcoming assessment by the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force. Mr Burt said the assessment is vital as a poor report card could harm the local economy. He said: “Other countries that have not done well have seen correspondent banking relationships disappear. If this were to happen in Bermuda, it would pose a critical threat to our financial services industry. The full resources of the Government have been marshaled to ensure that Bermuda is prepared for the assessment and we will continue to work with the Bermuda Monetary Authority and our industry partners.”
February 19. The survival of the Progressive Labour Party will depend on unity in its ranks, Christopher Famous told its Founders’ Day lunch yesterday. “As a party, as a people, we must be mature enough to discuss and sort out things between ourselves, both behind closed doors and in the open,” Mr Famous said. “This will require co-operation and collaboration between Cabinet ministers, backbenchers, party executives, party members and Mr and Mrs Smith.” Mr Famous added: “Our very survival depends upon it.” He was speaking as he delivered the keynote speech at the annual Founders’ Day and Drum Major Awards lunch at Willowbank Conference Centre in Sandys. The last surviving founding member of the party, Eugene Woods, was a special guest. Mr Famous said: “As a country, we have major challenges in front of us — providing social services, upgrading our education system, reforming government efficiencies, preparing for technological changes, preparing to be more self-sustainable with our food supplies, balancing our budget, balancing our economy and getting out and cutting cane grass. All of which are steps on a path towards self determination as a people.” Mr Famous, MP for Devonshire East, honored Albert Peter Smith, Wilfred “Mose” Allen, Austin Wilson, Edward DeJean, Dilton Cann, Eugene Woods, Walter Robinson and Hugh “Ryo” Richardson who founded the party in 1963 in Mr Richardson’s garage. Mr Famous said: “We had to be progressive. It is the first word in our party’s name. Progressive enough to know that this party had to fight for universal adult suffrage to destroy the regressive party property vote. We had to work hand in hand with our union partners to ensure workers’ rights. They paint us as the black people’s party but this party has progressed things for everyone in this country.” PLP members Mr Woods, Candice Burrows, Raymond Deshields and Lynell Furbert were honored at the event’s Drum Major Awards. Mr Woods said: “I will accept this honour that you have bestowed on me on behalf of all the founding members of the PLP. I will always be eternally indebted and grateful to them who mentored me socially and politically. I reflect and look at our premier, a young man full of vigor, ideas and a good Budget. The honour today is beyond my expectation and I am extremely grateful." David Burt, the Premier, added: “The faces around this room are the people who mentored me, the people who guided me, the people who supported me and who were always there. It is just very amazing that now I have the honour and distinct privilege to be here leading this group and it is not something that I take very lightly at all — it is something that I recognize and treasure. It is a special day when I get to share the stage with a founder of the PLP.”
February 19. The former One Bermuda Alliance administration was accused in the Budget speech of an attempt to “cut its way out of a recession”. David Burt, Premier and Minister of Finance, blamed the Opposition party’s programme of austerity for “mouldy schools, unreliable public services and crumbling infrastructure” in his first Budget statement. The OBA hit back by saying it had pulled the island back from “economic disaster” after it inherited “a bloated budget, thousands of jobless, and unsafe neighborhoods” from the last Progressive Labour Party government. OBA senator Justin Mathias said the Opposition’s Reply to the Budget would “set out a realistic fiscal plan for Bermuda and not just aspirational dialogue with no specifics or defined pathway of execution”. Mr Burt told Parliament that the option to “simply borrow more money” equated to “living on borrowed time”. Mr Mathias said that was “the situation the Bermudian public were left with in 2012 from the Progressive Labour Party’s mismanagement of our economy and underscores their tenure in government”.
February 19. Proposals to raise the skyline in Hamilton have been backed by mayor Charles Gosling, but he is disappointed that the city was not consulted on the plan. He said: “It had not been raised in any conversations with our minister. I am disappointed the City of Hamilton was not consulted on these matters.” David Burt, the Premier and Minister of Finance, announced several policy changes affecting North Hamilton, including an increase in permitted building height, in his Budget statement on Friday. He said: “For as long as we can remember, the Bermuda Cathedral has restricted the height of buildings in the city. As we look to the future, it is time to consign old restrictions to the history books. To increase the options for development inside the City of Hamilton and to provide economic activity to North Hamilton, the Government will revise height restrictions in the Hamilton Economic Empowerment Zone for residential and mixed-used developments.” The Government will also relax condominium ownership restrictions for approved developments but will not introduce a new tax on commercial rents. Land tax rates on commercial properties will be increased by 5 per cent on a temporary basis instead, which is expected to raise an extra $15 million in revenue. Planning regulations limit the height of buildings in Hamilton to seven storeys, although plans for taller buildings have been approved on appeal if they are not in the “viewing corridor” of the Cathedral. The Department of Planning asked for public views on potential changes to the City of Hamilton Plan 2001, which included changes to maximum building heights. At that time, 33 people told planning staff they would not support buildings taller than the Cathedral, while seven said taller buildings should be allowed. Mr Gosling said the change could help spark development in the city. He said: “The restrictions have affected the development of properties within the city. It’s a well-known fact that if you are able to increase the height of a property by even a single storey, there is a significant impact on the cost efficiency of the development.” Mr Gosling warned: “What we need to keep in mind is we don’t want to develop into a city where you are just overwhelmed by the height of the buildings.” The mayor said that public safety remained a concern for people in North Hamilton and that should be addressed before major development started. He added: “I have looked at a lot of North Hamilton development plans over the last ten years and their main issue has been safety. It’s one thing to have a wonderful, huge building in the centre of that area, but if you don’t address the safety concerns you are not going to get anywhere. I would much rather they address that first so those who already do live in the area can enjoy the benefits. We also have to be conscious of the issue of gentrification. It’s a hugely complex issue.” Despite his disappointment about the lack of consultation with the Corporation, Mr Gosling backed the overall theme of the Budget speech. He said: “I think it was a careful balancing act on the Premier’s part. He is obviously showing great concern about the debt that every Bermudian now has on their shoulders.” The Bermuda National Trust said it would want to know more about the proposals, but it would support sustainable development in North Hamilton. A spokesman said: “Our only immediate concern is there are some buildings of historic and cultural importance in the area. Obviously, we would want to review any applications for those sites very carefully to make sure we are not losing any buildings of national importance.”
February 19. Proposals to merge or close schools should be looked at again before the Government splashes out to repair crumbling buildings, the teachers’ union has said. Mike Charles, secretary-general of the Bermuda Union of Teachers, said it would be too expensive to renovate some schools and questioned if there would be enough pupils to fill them in any case. Mr Charles was speaking after David Burt, the Premier and Minister of Finance, announced the Ministry of Education and Workforce Development would receive $140.6 million in 2018-19, a 4 per cent increase on last year. He added the Score report, prepared in 2016, had looked at school closures and consolidations. Mr Charles said: “Any increase to education is good, but it all depends on how it is used and how the people who get the money will use it. We need to improve our buildings but we have to make a decision on buildings, in particular whether we are going to keep what we have or whether we are going to make changes. The restoration of some buildings would be too costly. They have not talked about possible closures, but it is something we would be willing to talk about. They should go back to the Score report, see what needs to be done and make a decision. We need to take a good look at our entire education system and how we want to move forward with it. You have to have the political will, the individual will and the right people driving it. It needs to be looked at.” Mr Burt said the extra cash in the Budget would be used to support the Plan 2022 blueprint for education, which highlighted the need for modern information technology, better management of buildings and increased teacher training. About $3 million has been earmarked for school maintenance, including mould and infestation removal, electrics and plumbing. Mr Burt told MPs on Friday: “The first topic covered in the PLP’s 2017 platform was education. We laid out a comprehensive plan to transform our public education system and ensure that Bermudians of all ages can learn and upgrade their skills. Our commitment to education and training is demonstrated in the first Budget of this new PLP Administration. This year’s investment in education represents a renewed belief in our young people and the men and women responsible for teaching them. We are investing in the delivery of an education that will equip our citizens with character, critical thinking and a rounded sense of who they are and of their value to this society.” Mr Charles backed increased funds for teacher training. He said: “I am happy to hear that the ministry is mentioning training because for quite a while the ministry has not been doing any professional development. The BUT has been responsible over the last couple of years for most of the professional development — it has come out of our budget. Our maths problems are starting in primary schools and until our teachers are trained to do maths and science, we are going to have problems. There is a new strategic plan that is going to be put in place but it takes money to do that. I am sure teachers will also look forward to getting some supplies because they have been without for some time. Hopefully, it will be used for the improvement of education for our students. It is not a lot of money but hopefully it can be the start of something.” The mother of a middle school pupil who became ill as a result of mould exposure questioned whether $3 million would cover maintenance work. She said: “It’s about time but is $3 million going to be enough for all the schools? Mould removal is very expensive and you are talking about a lot of schools. It’s not just mould, what about other things like plumbing and other issues? My daughter was out of school. She is a lot better than she was, but she did suffer with it for a while. Mould might not have an immediate effect on you but the long-term effect is the problem — when she is older what is going to happen. That is in her lungs now.” Danielle Riviere, parent teachers’ association president at West Pembroke School, said: “I think teacher training is money well spent but there is the question of consistency in terms of what teachers are being asked to do and changing of programmes here and there. I am hoping there is consistency around what they are being taught and that it is a long-term investment. Our IT departments across the island in every school from elementary to high school need work. We are in the 21st century and we need to have children who are educated on computers and systems that mirror what is happening in the rest of the world.” Mr Burt also announced increased funding of $1.9 million to support both senior schools and $300,000 will go towards Bermuda College to help students unable to afford tuition costs.
February 19. Kane LPI has appointed Alain Fournier as head of fund administration services. Based in the firm’s Bermuda head office, Mr Fournier, a 15-year veteran of the industry, will be responsible for all aspects of the management of the life, pension and investment division, which provides an extensive range of customized fund administration services. Mr Fournier was previously managing director and chief operations officer at HH Management. He joined the firm in 2010 as a start-up and played a central role in establishing the Bermudian-based investment management company. Before this, he was group manager at Citi Hedge Fund Services Ltd, responsible for the management of the shareholder services and transfer agency team. He has also worked at Olympia Capital International, Charles Taylor Captive Management Company and KPMG. Mr Fournier is a member of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Canada and a CFA charter holder. John Uprichard, Kane LPI’s chief executive officer, said: “We are delighted to welcome such a highly respected and experienced practitioner in the fund management arena to our team.” Mr Fournier added: “Bermuda offers an extremely efficient and cost-effective location in which to establish a variety of fund structures. By offering the full spectrum of administration capabilities, Kane LPI is ideally positioned to support managers across the investment spectrum, from the initial start-up of the investment vehicle through to providing the flexible and robust infrastructure to facilitate their growth ambitions.”
February 18. Sunday.
February 17. Traditional barriers in Bermuda are to come down as the island opens some doors in a bid to boost the economy with foreign investment. David Burt, the Premier and Minister of Finance, announced an end to the 60:40 rule to guarantee Bermudian majority ownership of island businesses. Now only 40 per cent Bermudian ownership will be required. Mr Burt also signaled that global legal firms could get an easier path to an office in Bermuda, while the Government will examine ways to expand “the types of banks that can operate in Bermuda”. Mr Burt told MPs that many Bermudians were “resistant to the idea of foreign capital as it has never benefited them”. He said: “Foreign investment is not the enemy, it is required to sustain our economy and our way of life. The true enemy of all Bermudians who feel marginalized is an unbalanced and unfair economy that allows the haves to get richer while the have-nots fall farther behind, not foreign investment.” Mr Burt also announced that payroll tax for the island’s lowest earners is to be cut. He said that employee-rate bands will be adjusted to give tax relief to people earning less than $96,000 a year. The lowest employee band will be reduced by 0.75 percentage points to 4 per cent. Mr Burt also pledged that the 2018-19 financial year will be the last in which the net level of debt, expected to stand at $2.42 billion by the end of March, will increase. He said that the Progressive Labour Party government would move away from “austerity” to “stimulus”. Mr Burt admitted a relaxation of the 60:40 rule would “face opposition from both sides of the political spectrum”, but insisted it would increase access to capital for Bermudians. Mr Burt said: “We need more economic activity in Bermuda and that means we must welcome investment from non-traditional quarters and not shy away from the competition it may create.” He added: “This government is determined to create the conditions and opportunities that usher the ‘left behind’ from the stands and sidelines to the playing field. Bermudian entrepreneurs should not have to rely on their inheritance or banks that often refuse to lend to fund their ambitions. In the truly competitive marketplace, the consumer will always be the winner as all Bermudians want and seek lower prices for goods and services.” He also signaled that planning rules will be relaxed to allow higher residential and mixed-use buildings in the Hamilton economic empowerment zone with a view to maximizing space and boosting the economy. Condominium ownership restrictions will be eased in the same area to boost demand, generate wealth and give extra work to the construction industry. The Government will also not implement the second phase of a payroll-tax increase introduced by the former One Bermuda Alliance administration, so tax rates for employers will remain unchanged. Mr Burt said the payroll-tax bands change would mean a couple earning $48,000 a year each, will get a $720 annual increase in their take-home pay. A worker who earns $48,000 a year will be $360 a year better off, those on $36,000 a year will be $270 better off, while those on an income of $60,000 will also take home an extra $270. Mr Burt, delivering his first Budget, told MPs: “Anyone making less than $96,000 will see a reduction in taxes; anyone earning more than $96,000 will not see any change in their payroll taxes. This reduction in taxes will reduce the Government’s payroll-tax yield by approximately $5.1 million.” He added that a loophole to allow business owner-managers who earn their income in whole or in part through a share of profits to declare “notional salaries” — less than they earn — for tax purposes will be closed. Mr Burt said: “To further address this problem ... the notional salaries will be replaced with a requirement to declare all income received on a cash basis. This change will improve transparency, assist enforcement and largely eliminate the risk of under-declaration and underpayment. It is estimated that this change will increase payroll-tax revenues by at least $10 million.” A proposed professional services tax on accounting and law firms will not be imposed. Mr Burt was speaking as he told the House of Assembly that total expenditure for the year will be $1.18 billion, an increase of $2.5 million on the OBA’s budgeted spend for 2017-18. He said: “This was achieved despite the Government’s pay awards to public officers, which cost the Government approximately $9 million.” Capital expenditure — spending on bricks and mortar — will be $62.2 million for the year, $5.2 million lower than the original estimate for last year. Revenues for the year are estimated at $1.09 billion — $47.5 million or 4.6 per cent higher than the original estimate for the last financial year. Mr Burt added: “This level of spending in necessary in order for the Government to implement its growth strategy while ensuring we have the facilities and equipment necessary to deliver public services. Sin taxes are also set to rise, with an increase in tax on tobacco “to reduce the inconsistency between duty rates on cigarettes and tobacco. Finally, the duty on wines will be raised by 30 cents per litre in April 2018 to achieve additional customs revenue.” A proposal to tax commercial rents has been shelved, but land tax rates on commercial properties will go up by 5 per cent as a temporary measure. The move is expected to bring in an extra $15 million a year, although economic empowerment zones will be exempted. Mr Burt said the Tax Reform Committee will continue to examine commercial rents. A new sugar tax on some products, which is to be finalized after next month, will go ahead. Healthy food items would face a reduction in tax or have that tax eliminated altogether. Duty on eggs and many vegetables, including potatoes, carrots and cauliflower, and fruit such as oranges and apples will be reduced to 0 per cent from 5 per cent. Mr Burt added: “To reduce the cost of living, the Government will lower the duty rate on textiles, which include linen and blankets and shoes.” Duty relief will also be given to sports clubs with youth programmes, which will include full duty relief on uniforms and equipment. Mr Burt told the House: “This budget, as should be every budget, is about the people. The results of July 2017’s General Election are concrete proof of the rejection of trickle-down economics. This government accepts the economic realities of Bermuda today, but we are determined to forge a future that defies and shifts those realities and empowers this country’s citizens. Traditional businesses will be respected but must compete for their market share and come to terms with the voices of others at the table who will, in turn, drive this economy.”
February 17. A massive salary of up to $320,000 plus an incentive bonus of up to 30 per cent made the chief sales and marketing officer at the island’s tourism authority its highest-paid earner in 2016, new figures revealed yesterday. The figures were announced as David Burt, the Premier and Minister of Finance, gave the authority a Budget increase of $1 million to $26 million for the new financial year — but with strings attached. Mr Burt told MPs as he unveiled the 2018-19 Budget statement: “It is the Government’s view that the BTA can streamline its management to redirect more resources to the promotion of Bermuda overseas and the development of our local product. Through conditions attached to this year’s grant, the Government will ensure that a greater percentage of the $26 million given to the BTA is spent on marketing and product development, not salaries and bonuses.” Victoria Isley, head of the Bermuda Tourism Authority’s sales drive, was listed as taking home a salary in the $310,000-$320,000 range, She also was eligible for a bonus of between 25 and 30 per cent, in the range of $90,000 to $95,000. Bill Hanbury, chief executive of the BTA at the time, earned between $290,000 and $300,000, bolstered by a 25 to 30 per cent bonus scheme worth between $85,000 and $90,000. The figures, which cover top staff earners at the quango from 2014 to 2016, were posted on the BTA website after a Public Access to Information request. The figures showed that Mr Hanbury was top earner in 2014 with a salary of $290,000 to $300,000 and a 25 to 30 per cent bonus scheme worth between $80,000 and $90,000. The chief sales and marketing officer was paid between $270,000 and $280,000 with a discretionary extra of 25 to 30 per cent, although no bonus was recorded for that year. The BTA was ordered at the start of this month by Information Commissioner Gitanjali Gutierrez to release more information about the salaries of its top officials. Ms Gutierrez acted after ZBM News submitted a Pati request for salary and bonus details in July 2015, which was denied by the BTA, which argued that the request was an unjustified intrusion into personal information on employees. But the Information Commissioner ruled that staff salary bands in increments of no more than $10,000, as well as the names of those who got discretionary bonuses, should be published. Ms Gutierrez said that earlier salary band details released by the BTA, before Pati came into force, were “too wide”. She added that the BTA should also reveal the names of employees who got “discretionary financial benefits” and the amounts involved. Kevin Dallas, who took over as chief executive in January 2017, said yesterday: “Since its inception, the Bermuda Tourism Authority has provided more information to the public than is legislatively required and again this week has proven itself a leader in transparency by sharing more financial data that the Information Commissioner requested in her recent ruling. The Bermuda Tourism Authority is a performance-driven organisation with a clear track record of positive results for the country. Each year, performance objectives are adjusted by the board of directors to set new priorities that are in the strategic best interest of Bermuda’s tourism industry. Our team is meeting these challenges head-on.” A spokesman added: “The $1 million budget increase will support common objectives between the Bermuda Tourism Authority and Government including new tourism marketing initiatives, expanded tourism entrepreneurship opportunities and workforce development. None of the increased budget will be used for salaries or performance incentives. The combination of more funding for frontline initiatives and a more efficient organizational structure will allow the BTA to further improve on an already industry-leading metric. The BTA spends about 20 per cent of its budget on payroll versus an industry norm of 33 per cent for similar-sized destination marketing organisations around the world.” The Bermuda Tourism Authority has also released new financial data on its website. The newly available documents include:
Earlier this month, the Bermuda Tourism Authority acknowledged the Information Commissioner’s ruling that the original 2015 Pati request would have resulted in an “unjustified intrusion into the personal information of employees at the BTA”. The Bermuda Tourism Authority agreed to present the previously released data in a different way. The refined 2014 compensation information was released online together with the information for 2015 and 2016. Additionally, now that the BTA’s audited financial figures from 2016 have been tabled in Parliament, those documents were posted online as well. Legislation governing the Bermuda Tourism Authority requires its audited figures to be tabled in the House of Assembly before they can be shared with the public. In 2016, the Auditor-General gave the BTA its third consecutive unqualified audit. The Bermuda Tourism Authority also releases corporate activity reports, details of vendor contracts and industry performance statistics online. The last of these is released faster than was the case before 2014, putting data and analysis in the hands of tourism-related businesses and the Government sooner.
February 17. A change to payroll taxes for taxi operators is being praised by the president of an island organisation. Difficulties collecting tax from drivers meant only $350,000 of the expected $1.2 million yield was achieved last year. David Burt, the Premier and Minister of Finance, announced an annual charge of $1,000 will now be implemented, to be paid at the time of registration. Leo Simmons, president of the Bermuda Taxi Owners Association, said that the move created a “win-win situation” for operators and the Government. Mr Simmons said that the change meant that registered operators “are going to pay less than what we have been”. He added: “Now, Government doesn’t have to go around and spend money chasing down delinquent drivers that owe taxes, so that saves the Government money in manpower and time.” Mr Burt said in his Budget Statement: “To increase the yield from this tax and make it easier to collect, we will amend the payroll tax provisions for taxi operators by implementing an annual charge of $1,000, to be paid at the time of registration.” The fee will be paid by taxi owners, and then passed on to the operators. Mr Burt said that under the current system, full-time taxi operators are currently required to pay $2,233 per year in payroll taxes. Part-time operators are required to pay $1,118 annually. He said of the change: “This fee represents a reduction in payroll taxes to taxi operators of at least 50 per cent.” Mr Simmons said that for taxi owners, passing on the cost to drivers worked out at “about $80 a month”. He added: “So when you start breaking it down into days, it’s less than $3 a day.” Mr Simmons said the tax change was something the organisation had been working on for about three years. He added: “We started this negotiation under the old government.” Mr Burt said that while there were more than 550 licensed taxis in Bermuda, there were only 411 active taxi drivers registered with the Office of the Tax Commission. He added: “Even fewer drivers actually file returns.” Mr Burt said: “This Government recognizes the challenges faced by taxi operators. However, it is important that taxes are collected.”
February 17. The Bermuda Government stands to reap millions by tightening payroll tax on notional salaries in owner-managed businesses. Branded an “often-abused part of the payroll-tax system” by David Burt in his Budget speech, notional salaries were estimated to yield $10 million of tax revenues for the coming fiscal year. As a form of income from employment that is not categorized as salary, the Premier and Minister of Finance said “notionals” were applied to “deemed employees” receiving an income “partly or wholly through sharing the profits of the business instead of only through salaried remuneration”. As an example, Mr Burt told Parliament that “partners in local law and accounting firms may declare a notional salary of $200,000, while they may actually earn $1 million from their business”. Such a partner would be taxed on the $200,000, but not their remaining earnings, he said. Notionals came under fire in the pre-Budget report, which signaled that such arrangements for “professions deemed particularly at risk of under-declaration” were being examined by the Office of the Tax Commissioner. The report vowed that the OTC would enforce notionals “more robustly”, with added resources to “cut back on abuse and ensure that all pay their fair share”. The Payroll Tax Act 1995 is to be amended, requiring deemed employees to declare all income received on a cash basis, Mr Burt said. Overall, the yield from payroll tax is estimated at $454 million in 2018-19, or nearly 42 per cent of total government revenues. The suggested professional services tax was axed after industry consultation. With the PST standing to increase the cost of business, and tax reforms in the United States singled out as “the most pressing threat that we face at this time”, the Government has opted to avoid imposing an extra cost on local businesses. Calling payroll tax “the enemy of job creation”, Mr Burt said the second phase of the payroll-tax increase put forward by the former government would not be implemented. Accordingly, all employer rates will remain unchanged — a step that would be “favourably received by many”, according to John Wight, president of the Chamber of Commerce. Tax relief was promised for lower-income workers struggling to make ends meet, with a break for those earning less than $96,000 a year. Other tax initiatives included absolving employers who gave jobs to disabled persons from their portion of payroll tax, and a year’s tax exemption for new entrepreneurs meeting Bermuda Economic Development Corporation standards. The bipartisan Tax Reform Commission, unveiled earlier in the week, is to consult with retailers for potential tax adjustments to their sector. Although taxes on commercial rents were also dropped from the Budget, a temporary increase on rates for commercial properties was projected to add $15 million to the public purse. Telecommunications taxes have also been approved, with hikes to mobile phones fees and the government authorization fee. Fees for most services provided to residents and businesses will be increased by 5 per cent — a biennial increase projected to bring in an extra $5 to $6 million, Mr Burt said.
February 17. Premier David Burt has pledged $3 million to help bolster Bermuda’s battered bus fleet. The Premier and Minister of Finance said during his Budget Statement: “Rebuilding the bus fleet is a priority for this Government as we support public transport.” He said the $3 million would be used to purchase eight new buses. The money formed part of $64.2 million promised to the Ministry of Transport and Regulatory Affairs. Mr Burt said the funds would ensure the island “can have a reliable public transportation system on land and sea”. Transport minister Walter Roban told The Royal Gazette that he would answer questions on the announcement next week. Problems with the ageing bus fleet have led to daily route cancellations amid a shortage of operational vehicles. A fleet of minibuses was hired for school runs in the fall to supplement traditional buses. In December, a government spokesman confirmed that dedicated school buses would not run when the minibus contract concluded at the end of the year. Sandys resident Janice Battersbee began exploring the idea for a carpool scheme for schoolchildren amid the ongoing bus shortage. Ms Battersbee said yesterday the announcement of money for the new buses was “a positive step”. She added: “It would all be a step in the right direction based on what we’ve been experiencing. At face value, it’s a good thing.” Ms Battersbee said the poor state of Bermuda’s buses was not something that happened overnight. She explained: “It was a long time coming to this situation, so it’s going to take a while to get out of it. Nothing’s going to happen at the snap of a finger — and you’re talking about money. We have to be realistic about it.” Ms Battersbee said she had received a few new e-mails from people “who are enthusiastic” about her carpool idea. She said: “It’s good to know that people are interested. You never know when something like this might be needed.” Mr Roban announced last month that the first of four new buses had arrived on the island. At the time, he said that the remaining three vehicles were expected “within the next four months”. Mr Burt also pledged yesterday to upgrade the island’s fleet of trash trucks to “ensure the reliability of trash collection”. Figures provided in the Budget book showed that an average of seven trash trucks have been available for work weekly. The Ministry of Public Works was given a budget of $74 million, down $1 million from last year’s allocation. Mr Burt explained: “Most of the savings will be achieved by moving Government departments from private facilities, thus reducing the Government’s rental expenditure.” Works and Engineering has been allocated $30.5 million. Jonathan Starling, executive director at Greenrock, said he understood there would be a “substantial increase” to the repair and management budget for the Department of Waste Management. Mr Starling added: “If that’s correct, then I think that’s welcome. We won’t see the impact of that right away of course, and thus the switch to once a week collections.” Mr Starling said the group welcomed the “substantially” increased budget for recycling. He said: “I’m hearing it’s a 42 per cent increase, which is certainly welcome.” Originally budgeted at just under $1.3 million, $911,000 has been spent on recycling. Next year’s estimate sets the cash just shy of the $1.3 million mark.
February 17. Seniors will see their pensions rise at the same rate of inflation for the rest of the Progressive Labour Party’s tenure. However, Charles Jeffers, an advocate for the elderly, warned that seniors would continue to struggle because of the soaring costs of medicine and groceries. Delivering the Budget for 2018-19 yesterday, David Burt, the Premier and Minister of Finance, said: “The Ministry of Finance will keep the Progressive Labour Party platform promise by increasing pensions for our seniors by the rate of inflation this year, and every year as long as we are in office.” Responding, Mr Jeffers, the deputy chairman of Age Concern, said: “That’s wonderful, except are they going to tie the cost of prescriptions, groceries and medicine to the cost of living? If insurance goes up by 5 per cent or 10 per cent or even more, what good is that? If there’s no control over prescription drugs, especially for seniors, then what good is that? We are grateful for anything that’s being done in a positive way for seniors, but unless other things are controlled then it might not count for so much.” Mr Burt announced further good news for seniors by directing an extra $1.8 million to the Ministry of Health to fund programmes for long-term care and public health services. He said this would enable the reopening of the fourth floor of the Sylvia Richardson Care Facility, which has been closed since September 2016. Further funds will be made available for community health nurses.
February 17. The Government’s plan to reinstate a $25 million subsidy to the Bermuda Hospitals Board is not enough to bring island’s hospitals back to a healthy financial position, a spokeswoman warned yesterday. She added that the grant would help delay the impact of “unsustainable decline in the BHB’s revenue” but would not halt the decrease on its own. It came after David Burt, the Premier and Minister of Finance, announced that the Government would be bringing back the subsidy, which was cut by the former Government in last year’s Budget. Delivering the 2018-19 Budget, he said: “We have restored the $25 million subsidy for hospital care for children, indigents and seniors, which was cut by the former Government to fund the America’s Cup. By reinstating this funding, we aim to progress the sustainability of the hospital while larger reforms in our health system financing are implemented.” The spokeswoman said the BHB welcomed the Premier’s confirmation that the $25 million would be restored. “This will help delay the impact of the unsustainable decline in the BHB’s revenue. She added: “Unfortunately, it is not enough to halt the decrease in revenue and bring the hospitals back to a healthy financial position.” Speaking in the House of Assembly in March last year, former finance minister Bob Richards said the cuts in last year’s Budget were in part because the BHB had amassed $100 million in cash reserves. BHB chief executive Venetta Symonds told the Public Accounts Committee in May that the $25 million reduction in its 2017-18 budget subsidy had caused serious financial difficulties for the board. Although she said that the cuts would have no impact on clinical services for the year 2017-18, she warned that the situation was unsustainable. The PAC heard that the BHB faced a minimum $40 million deficit for 2017-18. The spokeswoman added yesterday that the subsidy decrease in last year’s Budget “has contributed to a deficit budget position for the current financial year, which ends on 31 March. BHB anticipated that the $25 million subsidy decrease would apply only to the current financial year. BHB was informed at short notice last year of the $25 million decrease in the subsidy for hospital services for seniors, youth and the indigent. The impact of this was compounded by significant decreases in fees for diagnostic imaging, dialysis and laboratory services, and changes to the way fees for continuing and long-term care patients are handled.” She added: “BHB continues to focus on internal efforts to improve value and efficiency, such as defining the scope of clinical services we offer, following a financial recovery plan and focusing on quality improvements.”
February 17. The Bermuda Government will borrow an extra $90 million in 2018-19 and put back the date to balance the budget by another year. David Burt’s maiden Budget yesterday focused on economic stimulation at the expense of austerity. One of the results is that the deficit will not be eliminated in 2019-20, as had been projected by the previous One Bermuda Alliance administration. The Progressive Labour Party had promised in its 2017 election platform to “balance Bermuda’s budget by 2019”. The Government will require extra borrowing of $89.7 million next year and $30.6 million the year after, before posting a budget surplus of $31 million in 2020-21. Mr Burt, the Premier and Minister of Finance, emphasized that the net debt would stop increasing by 2019-20, because some of the borrowed funds in that year will be paid into the Sinking Fund — which contains money set aside to pay down debt in future years. Mr Burt yesterday claimed the previous OBA government had “tried to cut its way out of a recession without investing for the future”. Mr Burt said: “It is clear that our economy is stagnant and therefore unable to provide for those in our country, and so we must ask the question: how are we going to fix the problem? Finance ministers around the world have been faced with the same question: ‘do we cut spending, or do we invest to grow the economy?’” He said voters in last year’s General Election had “voted for an end to austerity”. Fiscal performance for the year ending March 31 is better than the projections made by Bob Richards, Mr Burt’s predecessor, in last year’s Budget. According to the revised estimates for 2017-18, expenditure is $2 million less than projected at $921.5 million, while capital expenditure will be $7 million less than planned at $60.4 million. Meanwhile better-than-expected income from customs duty, payroll tax and stamp duties helped revenue to track about $2 million ahead of budget at $1,044.3 million. Meanwhile interest payments on debt were $4.5 million less than projected at $119.5 million. So the 2017-18 deficit will be about $119.2 million — significantly better than the $134.7 million deficit that was expected — and 35 per cent down from the deficit in 2016-17. As a result, the net debt at March 31, 2018 will be $50 million less than was projected, at $2.42 billion. “As this is the last year in which we are expecting our net debt to increase, the Government will not be raising the country’s debt ceiling,” Mr Burt said. “Our debt ceiling is currently set at $2.5 billion and the Ministry of Finance will exercise prudent management of funds in this year, our final year of net borrowing, to ensure that we remain below the debt ceiling.” During the coming year, Mr Burt has budgeted for a 0.2 per cent increase in public spending and a 4.6 per cent rise in revenues. The biggest single boost to revenue will be the $15 million increase to land taxes from a temporary tax increase on commercial properties, which will swell total land tax revenues by 24 per cent to $78.3 million. Another $10 million boost is seen coming from the payroll tax reform on notional salaries, which will require “deemed employees” who earn much of their income through share of profits rather than salaries, now having to declare all their employment-related income. Debt servicing costs will grow in the coming year to $188.2 million, comprising $124 million in interest payments and a $64.2 million to the Sinking Fund — meaning it will consume about 17 cents of every dollar of revenue coming in. Mr Burt said the Government’s aim was to bring this figure down to ten cents. However debt servicing will no longer cost more than the largest ministry, as it did in 2017-18. The Ministry of Health, whose budget gets a 16 per cent boost for next year after the restoration of the $25 million subsidy for hospital care of indigents and seniors, is now the most endowed ministry with a $190.6 million budget. Mr Burt said: “It is expected that this will be the last year in which our debt service costs will increase; debt servicing is predicted to drop to $181 million in fiscal year 2019-20 and to reduce further to $169 million in the following fiscal year.” The Government’s debt has risen more than eightfold over the last decade on its way from $277 million in 2008 to $2.42 billion by March 31 this year. Net debt is expected to peak at $2.44 billion in a year, before dropping to $2.34 billion in 2021. Bermuda has no debt repayments scheduled for the next fiscal year. However, $215 million of seniors notes fall due in 2019-20 and a further $100 million in 2020-21.
February 17. David Burt conceded he will face opposition from within his own camp as he outlined plans to reform the business ownership 60:40 rule. In yesterday’s Budget Statement it was announced foreigners, who could previously only own 40 per cent of a business, would now be able to own up to 60 per cent. Mr Burt, the Premier and Minister of Finance, said the move would help end a “vestige of our oligarchic past”, and allow Bermudian entrepreneurs to access capital if turned down by banks. He said: “I recognize that this proposal will face opposition from both sides of the political spectrum. There will be those who want to protect their existing interests, and there will be those who feel that allowing entrepreneurs access to foreign capital enabling them to compete is not consistent with putting Bermudians first. However, I want to assure the people of Bermuda that the Government will consult and strike the right balance to ensure that the revision of this rule has the intended consequence of providing more opportunities for Bermudians to become wealth-generating owners and not just employees.” Mr Burt had signaled the plan as a method of stimulating growth last month, when he described the 60:40 rule as a “sacred cow” that may need to be touched. Yesterday, he explained that the origins of policy bear witness to the history of Bermuda and its systemic inequalities. He said: “The rule is the ultimate in protectionism, which runs counter to the claim of Bermudian entrepreneurship. If wealth is concentrated in a few hands, and those hands will never invest in anything that competes with their vested interests, a true entrepreneur is confronted with a policy that essentially tells him or her, ‘We’ve got ours; good luck getting yours. In 2018, this vestige of our oligarchic past must be ended. We need more economic activity in Bermuda, and that means we must welcome investment from nontraditional quarters and not shy away from the competition it may create. In the truly competitive marketplace, the consumer will always be the winner, as all Bermudians want and seek lower prices for goods and services.” Mr Burt noted Bermudians would prefer to own 40 per cent of a million-dollar business than 100 per cent of a $50,000 business. He said: “For too long, the majority of Bermudians have been spectators of the creation of wealth in this country. This government is determined to create the conditions and opportunities that usher the left-behind from the stands and sidelines to the playing field. Bermudian entrepreneurs should not have to rely on their inheritance or banks that often refuse to lend to fund their ambitions.”
February 17. Opinion, by Robert Stewart, economist and retired Shell Company of Bermuda CEO. "David Burt, the Minister of Finance and Premier, has a tough job. Nothing is easier than a critic who carries no responsibility to snipe from the sidelines and say what a rotten job he is doing. I have no intention to do that, and right from the start I would like to say that Mr Burt did a highly commendable job in presenting his first Budget. Why do I say that? First, there are no new significant taxes, except on mobile phones, and on perennial sins such as alcohol and tobacco. No big deal. Cuts will be made to taxes on eggs and cauliflowers — I never knew such taxes existed — and any cut in taxation is to be welcomed. Let’s hope he moves on to bigger things next time. The major tax reduction is that of payroll tax: income tax in a Halloween dress. This is reduced for low-paid employees: a good thing. There is no mention that it will be increased for those in higher paid jobs and that too is a good thing. Taxation is like a slow-working poison to an economy and few people understand that the past success of the Bermuda economy arose from low taxes. There are plans to open up the legal profession and banking. Openness stimulates an economy much more than government expenditure. This too is a good thing and is even more surprising coming from a Progressive Labour Party government whose past views were strongly anti-foreigner. Nothing like tough times to open eyes. One minor criticism on the subject of taxes. The more exemptions and special treatments there are, the more difficult it is for taxes to be administered impartially, and the greater is the temptation for others to lobby for benefits. Sounds like an opportunity for highly taxed lawyers. The other major benefit arising from the Budget is to change the 60:40 ownership rule of companies. This has inhibited development of major corporations and is a throwback to the mercantilism of the 18th and 19th centuries. Capital should be allowed to move to where it will most gainfully be employed and not for the protection of organisations that fail to bring themselves up to date. I would have favored the complete abolition of the restrictions on foreign corporations, but half a loaf is better than none. The biggest disappointment for me is the failure to restrain government expenditure to take decisive steps to reduce our huge debts. If Bermuda has an Achilles’ heel, then foreign debt is the leading candidate. Older Bermudians have placed an unfair burden on the young by running up massive debts and Mr Burt would have gained even more credibility had he made even a token attempt to pay down the millstone around our necks. Another disappointment, in my eyes, is the failure to get rid of government departments whose purpose is lost in the mists of time and for whom there is no rational reason to exist. One of many of such departments would be the Rent Commissioner, whose achievements are probably nil, and whose necessity in a period of surplus housing is impossible to argue. These two disappointments are minor criticisms. Mr Burt has opened the batting with a good Budget. He should be commended for not increasing taxes significantly, and for opening up the Bermuda economy to more competition. I hope his straight bat continues."
February 17. The Bermuda Diabetes Association welcomed the inclusion of a sugar tax and a cut in duty rates for healthy items in the 2018-19 Budget yesterday, but emphasized the need for education on healthy eating habits. Chairwoman Debbie Jones said: “Education is key and education about eating healthy needs to be in the schools, workplace, grocery shops and restaurants. The public needs to be educated about the toxic effects of sugar and why it is important to drink water and eat healthy.” She called for posters with instructions on how to read food labels and recommendations for daily added sugar intake. It came after David Burt, the Premier and Minister of Finance, said: “In line with the Ministry of Health’s consultation paper, it is proposed to introduce the sugar tax as an increase in the rate of duty on a defined group of items. The sugar tax will be finalized after the consultation period ends on March 1, 2018.” He added the Government would reduce or eliminate duty on healthy food items to offset the expected increase in customs duty from the sugar tax. Mr Burt said: “Accordingly, duty will be reduced from 5 per cent to 0 per cent for eggs, potatoes, cauliflower, broccoli, carrots, turnips, oranges and apples. A portion of the revenues from the Sugar Tax will be earmarked for educational programmes to improve health outcomes.” Ms Jones said having the Government on board was key and welcomed the proposed sugar tax while also applauding the Government for reducing the tax on health items. Ms Jones said: “Bermuda, like so many countries around the world, is facing a diabetes epidemic which is threatening the healthcare dollar not to mention the quality of life of so many who have, or are at risk of, type 2 diabetes. Education is key but often it takes a government intervention for the public to realize that this must be important. Some people will say that reducing sugar intake should be personal responsibility. It still will be personal choice but it will cost more to drink sugary non-nutritious drinks than it will to drink water.” Sara McKittrick, BDA diabetes educator, said she was happy to see that a portion of the revenue would be used for educational programmes. She added: “An ideal outcome would be that people began to make improved decisions based on knowledge and understanding in an effort to improve their health.” Bruce Barritt, general manager of John Barritt & Son, pointed to adverts run by the company last week, which stated the sugar tax is a bad idea. The soft drinks distributor said it agreed that Bermuda has a serious problem with obesity and accompanying chronic health issues. It added: “We commend the Government for tackling the matter, but disagree with placing the blame for this situation wholly on the consumption of sugar and particularly on sugar-sweetened beverages. Obesity is a public health issue of serious concern and if we want to get serious about it, we need to start with education to influence people’s behavior and habits, not taxes. Obesity is a complex issue, and no single food or beverage category alone is responsible for the obesity crisis. Consequently, a tax on a single food or beverage type will not solve the obesity crisis.” The company also questioned why imported baked goods and chocolate are not included in the sugar tax. John Wight, Chamber of Commerce president, shared his personal view on the sugar tax because a chamber task force is examining the proposal. He said: “It is not surprising that the proposed sugar tax is catching the attention of many people. In my view, the bigger discussion that needs to take place first is around the health of our community, which statistics show is not good. The obesity issue in Bermuda is alarming, and is manifested in so many health issues such as diabetes and high rates of certain cancers. Good health is a function of exercise and a proper diet. I would like to see us develop a national strategy on getting healthy followed by a plan of action to make this happen. Reduced healthcare costs, reduced absenteeism at work — there are so many positive results that Bermuda can benefit from if we approach it from the top down.”
February 17. An accountant who admitted laundering a fortune stolen from the Bermuda Government has been jailed for seven years and four months by the Welsh courts. Confiscation proceedings are now under way to recover the funds stolen from the island by Jeffrey Bevan during his time in the Bermuda Accountant-General’s office. Bevan, 50, from Cwmbran, Wales, has been convicted of laundering £1.3 million, according to the Bermuda Police Service. In total, $2.4 million in Bermuda currency were laundered through various bank accounts in Bermuda and the UK. The conviction closes four years of joint investigations between the Organized and Economic Crime Department of the Bermuda Police Service and the Welsh authorities. Bevan pleaded guilty to all 13 counts on the first day of his trial at Cardiff Crown Court. Co-defendants Joel Ismail and Paul Charity, both from Leicester, who had also faced joint charges conspiring to launder money stolen from the Bermuda Government, were unanimously acquitted last week. The court heard that Bevan, a qualified accountant, was employed as payments manager for the Bermuda Government between 2011 and 2013 on an annual salary of $112,000. During that time he used his expertise to manipulate payments software system to steal $2.4 million in 52 separate thefts over two years. Detective Superintendent Sean Field-Lament, head of the Crime Division of the Bermuda Police Service, thanked all who took part in the case. He said that there was “no doubt that as a result Bermuda is safer for the combined efforts demonstrated in this investigation”.
February 17. The annual Bermuda Fashion Festival is set to take place in July. Now organizers are calling on models, retailers and salons interested in taking part to sign up. A spokeswoman for the City of Hamilton said: “The Festival is celebrating its 9th year as one of the most highly anticipated events on Bermuda’s social calendar. 2017 saw its departure from a summer show to a fall event. This was largely in part due to the busy summer season afforded to Bermuda by the activities and events associated with the America’s Cup. The Bermuda Fashion Festival is back to its summer roots and is anticipating another exciting week of exceptional fashion and high energy runway shows.” The Festival will kick off with the Evolution Retail Show featuring fashion from local retailers on July 8. The Hair & Beauty Show will take place on July 9 and the International Designer Show will be on July 12, followed by the Local Designer Show on July 13. The Bermuda Fashion Expo, featuring all of the local designers in the Festival as well as other Bermuda designers, will be held on July 14. The spokeswoman added: “The Festival is calling on all retailers and salons interested in participating to sign up no later than March 1, by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and requesting an application package. Submissions by local designers should be delivered to by 5pm on March 2. Successful applicants must be prepared to embark on a four-month mentor programme that will prepare them to introduce their brand at the Local Designer Show. Model auditions will take place on March 10 and March 11 at the lower level of Pier 6 between 11am and 3pm. Children aged six and over will audition on March 10 and adults will audition on March 11. All models are asked to wear a white fitted tee and blue fitted jeans or shorts. Men and children must wear white sneakers or black dress shoes and ladies are asked to wear black heels, four inch minimum, no wedges. All adults are asked to bring a swimsuit.” The festival will run from July 8 to July 14. All runway shows will be held under canvas at No. 1 Car Park. The criteria for the design proposal can be found online at bermudafashionfestival.com. For more information, contact the event project manager on 279-5254 or e-mail email@example.com.
February 17. A number of jobs have been axed at TeleBermuda International. The company has not stated how many staff are affected but it is believed seven posts have been lost. TBi confirmed that jobs had gone and said it did not anticipate any more redundancies in the near future. The company, which provides voice and internet services, and managed information technology services, was bought out by the East End Group in partnership with Celeritas Ltd in December. In a statement, the new management of TBi said: “When the new owners purchased TeleBermuda International, the intent was to avoid redundancies. However, an intensive assessment of the company determined that layoffs were unavoidable. Our analysis revealed that TBi’s current operational requirements did not align with its staffing levels. Regrettably, we were forced to make a difficult decision. Going forward, we do not anticipate any more redundancies in the immediate future.” East End Group owns the wireless internet service provider Bluewave and is a public safety and wireless communications provider, while Celeritas is a Bermudian telecommunications investment firm and a subsidiary of the Mayfair Group.
February 17. Eugene Phillips, a Progressive Labour Party stalwart, has been recalled by Ewart Brown, the former premier, as the “spirit” behind the seniors medical insurance scheme FutureCare. Dr Brown, along with his wife, Wanda, expressed “heartfelt condolences” at the death of Mr Phillips, of St George’s, at the age of 95. Dr Brown said that Mr Phillips, while not a Member of Parliament or of the Senate, nor an officer of the PLP, had supported the party “with every bone in his body”. He added: “Eugene Phillips was the spirit behind FutureCare. It was he who stood up at every Central Committee meeting and made the case for Bermuda’s elderly population who found themselves without health insurance 30 days after ending their employment. Even when his fellow members grew impatient with him, he persisted in his effort, and the PLP subsequently launched FutureCare. We salute him and his family for this memorable contribution. May he rest in peace.”
February 16. Premier & Minister of Finance David Burt today delivered the Budget Statement for 2018-19. Here are the main highlights:
February 16. Payroll tax for the island’s lowest earners is to be cut, the Premier and Minister of Finance said this morning. David Burt said that employee-rate bands will be adjusted to give tax relief to people earning less than $96,000 a year. The lowest employee band will reduced by 0.75 percentage points to 4 per cent. Mr Burt also pledged that the 2018-19 financial year will be last in which the net level of debt, expected to stand at $2.42 billion by the end of March, will increase. He said that the Progressive Labour Party government would move away from “austerity” to “stimulus”. Mr Burt added the 60:40 rule, designed to guarantee majority Bermudian ownership, would be reversed, even though it would “face opposition from both sides of the political spectrum”. He explained: “We will increase access to capital for Bermudians by reforming the 60:40 rule to one that only requires 40 per cent Bermudian ownership to operate in the domestic economy.” Mr Burt said: “We need more economic activity in Bermuda and that means we must welcome investment from non-traditional quarters and not shy away from the competition it may create. This government is determined to create the conditions and opportunities that usher the ‘left behind’ from the stands and sidelines to the playing field. Bermudian entrepreneurs should not have to rely on their inheritance or banks that often refuse to lend to fund their ambitions.” Mr Burt said: “In the truly competitive marketplace, the consumer will always be the winner as all Bermudians want and seek lower prices for goods and services.” He also signaled that planning rules will be relaxed to allow higher residential and mixed-use buildings in the Hamilton economic empowerment zone with a view to maximizing space and boosting the economy. Condominium ownership restrictions will be eased in the same area to boost demand, generate wealth and give extra work to the construction industry. The Government will also not implement the second phase of a payroll-tax increase introduced by the former One Bermuda Alliance administration, so tax rates for employers will remain unchanged. Mr Burt said the payroll-tax bands change would mean a couple earning $48,000 a year each, will get a $720 annual increase in their take-home pay. A worker who earns $48,000 a year will be $360 a year better off, those on $36,000 a year will be $270 better off, while those on an income of $60,000 will also take home an extra $270. Mr Burt, delivering his first Budget, told MPs: “Anyone making less than $96,000 will see a reduction in taxes; anyone earning more than $96,000 will not see any change in their payroll taxes. This reduction in taxes will reduce the Government’s payroll-tax yield by approximately $5.1 million.” But he added that a loophole to allow business owner-managers who earn their income in whole or in part through a share of profits to declare “notional salaries” — less than they earn — for tax purposes will be closed. “To further address this problem ... the notional salaries will be replaced with a requirement to declare all income received on a cash basis. This change will improve transparency, assist enforcement and largely eliminate the risk of under-declaration and underpayment. It is estimated that this change will increase payroll-tax revenues by at least $10 million.” But a proposed professional services tax on accounting and law firms will not be imposed. Mr Burt was speaking as he told the House of Assembly that total expenditure for the year will be $1.18 billion, an increase of $2.5 million on the OBA’s budgeted spend for 2017-18. He said: “This was achieved despite the Government’s pay awards to public officers, which cost the Government approximately $9 million.” Capital expenditure — spending on bricks and mortar — will be $62,2 million for the year, $5.2 million lower than the original estimate for last year. Revenues for the year are estimated at $1.09 billion — $47.5 million or 4.6 per cent higher than the original estimate for the last financial year. Mr Burt added: “This level of spending in necessary in order for the Government to implement its growth strategy while ensuring we have the facilities and equipment necessary to deliver public services. Sin taxes are also set to rise, with an increase in tax on tobacco to reduce the inconsistency between duty rates on cigarettes and tobacco. Finally, the duty on wines will be raised by 30 cents per litre in April 2018 to achieve additional customs revenue.” A proposal to tax commercial rents has been shelved, but land tax rates on commercial properties will go up by 5 per cent as a temporary measure. The move is expected to bring in an extra $15 million a year, although economic empowerment zones will be exempted. Mr Burt said the Tax Reform Committee will continue to examine commercial rents. He said a new sugar tax on some products — to be finalized after next month — will go ahead. But he added that “healthy food items” would face a reduction in tax or have that tax eliminated altogether. Duty on eggs and many vegetables, including potatoes, carrots and cauliflower, and fruit such as oranges and apples will be reduced to 0 per cent from 5 per cent. Mr Burt added: “To reduce the cost of living, the Government will lower the duty rate on textiles, which include linen and blankets and shoes.” Duty relief will also be given to sports clubs with youth programmes, which will include full duty relief on uniforms and equipment. Mr Burt told the House: “This budget, as should be every budget, is about the people. The results of July 2017’s General Election are concrete proof of the rejection of trickle-down economics. This government accepts the economic realities of Bermuda today, but we are determined to forge a future that defies and shifts those realities and empowers this country’s citizens. Traditional businesses will be respected but must compete for their market share and come to terms with the voices of others at the table who will, in turn, drive this economy.”
February 16. The salary bill for David Burt’s two-member personal staff comes in at $227,000. Mr Burt, the Premier, said a total of four people were employed under the Premier and Opposition Leader Personal Staffs Act 1983. The information was revealed in responses to questions posed by Jeanne Atherden, Leader of the Opposition, in Parliament last week. He said Owen Darrell, his Chief of Staff, received $122,064 per year in the post. Mr Burt described Mr Darrell’s responsibilities as “co-ordinating the Premier’s schedule, activities and projects, and managing inquires to the Premier from residents”. He said Mr Darrell has been employed since July 20. Dana Selassie, the Premier’s special adviser, is paid $105,765 annually. Mr Burt said Dr Selassie provided “communication support”. She has been employed since November 6. Mr Burt said Liana Hall held the post until October 31. Sessions House also heard that a housekeeper for Clifton — the Premier’s official residence — was employed at $35 per hour. Judy Benevides, employed part-time as aide to the Opposition leader, is paid $43,769. Mr Burt said Ms Benevides had been employed since August 22. The salaries of Mr Darrell, Dr Selassie and the housekeeper are the same as they were for those holding the same positions under Craig Cannonier, the former Premier. Mr Cannonier’s personal staff salary bill was revealed to be roughly $418,000 in 2013. Michael Dunkley, who succeeded Mr Cannonier after he stepped down in the wake of the Jetgate scandal in 2014, axed Dale Jackson, Mr Cannonier’s chief of staff, and press secretary Charmaine Burgess. Mr Cannonier said Mr Jackson was paid $122,064 annually, while Ms Burgess received $113,480 per year. Mr Dunkley was not immediately able to provide the names, job titles and salaries of his personal staff when he succeeded Mr Cannonier. He said: “Cabinet Office would have that.” A request for the information sent to a ministry representative was not responded to by press time. Mr Dunkley said the personal staff he had hired as Premier was the “lowest in recent history”. Asked to clarify if he meant the salary spend was the lowest or the size of his personal staff, Mr Dunkley said: “I would suggest both, as I had no housekeeper.”
February 16. One Bermuda Alliance MP Craig Cannonier has been described by sources close to the party as angry about a reshuffle that has returned Michael Dunkley, the former premier, to the Opposition’s front ranks. Mr Cannonier’s tenure as premier ended abruptly in May 2014 when he stepped down over the furore about the Jetgate political scandal, and was replaced by Mr Dunkley. Mr Dunkley, in turn, resigned as leader after the OBA’s overwhelming defeat to the Progressive Labour Party in the July 2017 General Election. At that time, Mr Dunkley said he was heading to the OBA back benches while remaining as “a senior statesman in the caucus room to at all times express what is on my mind and support the team”. Mr Cannonier was subsequently given the shadow portfolio of public works after Jeanne Atherden became Opposition leader in November. However, last night an OBA spokesman said that Mr Cannonier had told Ms Atherden in January that he wished to “take a step back and focus on his business”. The spokesman added that Mr Cannonier had indicated that because he did not win the leadership in November, he “had a little concern about the direction of the party” after the resignation of Nick Kempe, who quit as OBA chairman days after his removal from the Senate by Ms Atherden. According to the spokesman, the Opposition remained in an “adjustment period”, and plans to hold a retreat in a couple of weeks’ time. He said: “After that, Mr Cannonier will take a look at the party and see where we are moving forward, and whether he wants to get involved again in a more high-profile way.” A source close to Mr Cannonier said he had spent significant time overseas on business in recent months. With the resumption of Parliament, Mr Cannonier’s shadow portfolio has been taken up by Opposition MP Trevor Moniz, while Mr Dunkley is now the Shadow Minister for Government Reform. Mr Cannonier was not available last night for comment. The OBA spokesman said: “Once Ms Atherden became leader, she had conversations with Mr Dunkley to try and get him more involved.” With the appointment of PLP MP Lovitta Foggo as Minister of Cabinet Office with Responsibility for Government Reform, Ms Atherden sought Mr Dunkley for the shadow role based on his experience as a former premier. Mr Dunkley confirmed that his background made him suitable for the job, telling The Royal Gazette: “The most important thing is that I want to work with my colleagues to be the best Opposition we can, to grow the party, and to make it as strong as possible. I can fill any role.” He called Mr Cannonier “a very important part of our team”. He added: “I have the greatest respect for Craig. For comment, you will have to speak to him directly, but he supports me as well. Anytime you have a change in leadership, you will see that person will want to put people in the places they feel most comfortable. That’s their prerogative.” Another source within the party ranks said the shuffle was “not a seismic shift” and said the OBA would “see more changes as we go forward”. The OBA member added: “It’s a tough time for everyone and we have got to regroup.” Mr Moniz, who has previously served as public works minister, was said to have agreed readily to serve as shadow, in addition to his role as Shadow Attorney-General.
February 16. Bermuda’s lack of speed-limit signs and speed cameras and “complete disregard” for hired scooter riders has come under fire from a tourist. Don Jones, a repeat visitor, contacted the Bermuda Tourism Authority to complain and the BTA forwarded it to The Royal Gazette’s Drive for Change campaign. Mr Jones also highlighted a lack of consistency in speed-limit signs, with some still in miles per hour rather than kilometers per hour. The tourist, an experienced scooter rider on Britain’s roads who has hired bikes on visits to Bermuda, said: “Speedometers on possibly all imported two-wheeled vehicles are in km/h making it impossible for any driver to judge the correct speed. I do not recall any guidance on speed limits or how to convert km/h to mph being given by the scooter hire company.” Mr Jones added: “There are virtually no speed limit signs in evidence apart from the approach to Hamilton. There appears to be no use of speed control cameras, apart from possibly outside Hamilton. There is one automatic speed indicator when leaving Hamilton, but it appeared to suffer from a random fault.” Mr Jones said he experienced at least four instances of “extremely dangerous driving” by riders and drivers on a recent three-day visit to the island. These included overtaking at high speed on blind bends — and one where a company van overtook him as he prepared to turn right with his indicator on. Mr Jones said: “As many visitors depend upon being able to hire scooters to make their visit to Bermuda viable in both practical and economic terms, it seems extraordinarily short-sighted of the Bermudian authorities to ignore this blatant disregard for the very visitors the island wishes to attract. It will only take reports of serious accidents to spread on social media for long-term damage to be done to what is, sadly, a declining Bermuda tourist market.” Mr Jones said some tourist problems could be solved by including speed-limit conversion labels on vehicles and an awareness campaign designed to make drivers and riders aware of safe clearance distances to overtake two-wheeled riders, including pedal cyclists. Mr Jones added that there appeared to be no visible enforcement of road safety laws. Inspector Robert Cardwell, head of the police roads policing unit, said: “The BPS has a very active presence on Bermuda’s roads and they work together with the services’ resources from other operational departments aiming to be strategically deployed island-wide to progress the intents of the BPS roads safety strategy. The intent is ultimately to calm the roads and save lives. We also work with our partners in the Bermuda Road Safety Council, Piece of the Rock and Cada to increase awareness of road safety. From time to time, we partner in an enforcement capacity with the Transport Control Department traffic enforcement unit.” Mr Cardwell said the public could keep updated on the work of the RPU by following its Twitter account on @bps_rpu.
February 16. There is a global insurance gap, and it’s a big one. Natural catastrophes caused $350 billion of economic losses last year, and of that only $134 billion, or 38 per cent, was covered by insurance. A bigger number has been calculated by Swiss Re, which in 2016 said the world faces a protection gap of more than $1.3 trillion, based on the difference between current levels of insurance coverage and the value of assets at risk from disasters. For the past three years a number of Bermudian-linked individuals and companies have been involved in an initiative to close that gap, including Stephen Catlin and Fielding Norton. Mr Catlin, former executive deputy chairman of XL Catlin, is chairman of the Insurance Development Forum. Mr Norton, chief enterprise risk officer at XL Catlin, is on the Forum’s management committee and is chairman of its insurance communications working group. The IDF is a partnership among the insurance industry, the World Bank and the United Nations. “The premise is that the protection gap against mostly climate-related natural disasters is growing, especially in developing markets,” said Mr Norton, explaining that “despite best efforts nobody on their own was doing a good job of solving the issue”. The protection gap has increased during the past 25 years, Mr Catlin stated in an interview in October with AM Best. He said 10,000 pro-bono hours had been donated by the insurance industry to the IDF to develop “new products, improving risk management and risk analysis to help emerging nations have a better idea of what their risks really are, because you can’t insure a risk you don’t understand”. The IDF is making progress, according to Mr Norton. He said the Forum is establishing a more formal secretariat and has received support from development ministries of the British and German Governments. This has led to the setting up the Centre for Global Disaster Protection in London. He said the centre was a place where solutions were created to address the protection gap in developing markets. “We have a steering committee that includes World Bank, UN and insurance leaders, and that has met twice a year for two years and agreed that this is an area we really want to invest resources in,” said Mr Norton. "Some of the sponsors will have an opportunity to put a resource in the centre in London, for example. It is a complex problem, it takes time to solve, it has taken time for these people to get together — part-time as it is not even most people’s day job — and agree that there is something there, and get some funding and traction.” A number of pilot projects are planned for this year. Mr Norton, who lives in Bermuda, said: “The idea is to bring the expertise and skills of the insurance industry to this problem, so it is not just bringing our capital.” He noted that catastrophe models are often scarce for areas of the world that are most impacted by the protection gap. “They tend not to exist. The modeling companies have not created them for the developing markets because there is not a big market or demand there. So the idea would be that the industry, because we have some expertise in that area, we can help develop some simple models so those countries can understand the risk and help them understand the cost benefit of transferring the risk by buying something ahead of time, or not. As long as they know from the outset, eyes open, what risk they have and then they can make an informed decision about them. It is hoped many developing countries will benefit from being shown how to be better prepared before a disaster occurs. It’s like insurance basically, understand the risk and then fund the risk ahead of time rather than rely on aid after the fact.” Other members of the IDF committee with Bermuda connections include Brian Duperreault, CEO of American International Group, and Albert Benchimol, president of Axis Capital.
February 16. Bermudian teacher and musician Kevin Maybury is drawing on all his talents for his new role as cartoonist for The Royal Gazette. Mr Maybury is excited about the new post, but will take a different approach to the late Peter Woolcock. He said: “I really liked his work, but I don’t look at it like I am trying to fill his footsteps. We have different styles. Everyone has their different style and approaches. Peter Woolcock was more trained than I am. I have only recently resurrected my style, and it can only improve over time.” Mr Maybury first delved into drawing cartoons in the 1970s. He said: “My first article was in the Bermuda Recorder when I was 14, based on my artwork, which was on display at City Hall. I was self-taught — I got my O levels, but I didn’t go for higher training. I used to do portraits of the various singers or whoever else. “I kept on doodling. I don’t recall exactly how I got into cartoons, but I think it was through the usual route of comic books. I would sketch Archie and stuff like that.” Eventually, he moved on to the style of syndicated comic strips. He said: “It was simpler; less colour with shorter panels and it progressed from there. As time went on, when The Royal Gazette moved from Reid Street, I tried to get back into it. I produced a month-worth of a strip — I liked how the stories continued in the syndicated comics and I thought I could do that with my own characters.” He said the strip never found its way into the paper and he turned his focus to his teaching career and his family. Mr Maybury recently began to consider what he wanted to do next and his mind turned back to his interest in drawing cartoons. He said: “I am a musician, I love to teach. I thought it would be great if I could also spend time working on my drawings. Music, cartoons and teaching. It sounds like a good combination to me. I don’t know if I want to call it a bucket list — more like a retirement plan.” Mr Maybury said readers can expect comics about local politics alongside the day-to-day issues of Bermuda life, but he has no interest in taking sides. He said: “It is going to be political, and there will be political characters portrayed. Hopefully, nobody will get insulted. There’s no intention of siding with the OBA or the PLP. It’s not about that. I have no intention of giving any perception of bias. I think it’s needed, it’s timely.”
February 16. A Hamilton car park and sections of the parking lanes on Front Street will be closed today because of road resurfacing work. A City of Hamilton spokeswoman said asphalting of the westbound parking lane between Parliament Street and Burnaby Street would start early in the morning. She said: “This necessary work is part of the upgrades around the city that must take place as per the required course conditions for the MS Amlin World Triathlon in April.” The spokeswoman added that No 5 Car Park, the westbound parking lane and the eastbound parking lane opposite the asphalting works would all be closed to parking. She said: “The City advises that there may be a short time period when the westbound driving lane may be closed during the work. There will be diversion signage in place when this happens and for the duration of the asphalting. The City apologizes for any inconvenience caused during this time and urges all motorists to use caution when traveling in the affected area.” The spokeswoman added that the work was expected to be done before the evening rush hour.
February 16. A Devonshire man appeared in Magistrates’ Court this morning to face child porn-related charges. The man, who cannot be identified, was charged with eight counts of accessing child pornography. Court heard that the charges related to hundreds of pictures and videos, some displaying sexual content involving animals and bondage. The materials were alleged to have been accessed by the accused between April 2010 and March 2015. An arraignment on the matter was set for April 2. The accused was released on $20,000 bail with two like sureties.
February 16. A St George’s man was fined $2,500 this morning after admitting fishing in a protected area. Arnold Pitcher, 34, pleaded guilty to attempting to take fish from a protected area last summer. Magistrates’ Court heard that Pitcher and another man were spotted aboard the vessel Cha Ching inside the Eastern Extended Grouper Protection area on September 2. Baited lines were seen in the water. Pitcher told court that he had fished part time for the last few year. He said that the chart he was using did not indicate the area was protected. He told court: “It was an honest mistake.” Senior magistrate Juan Wolffe said: “This is still a serious offence.” Mr Wolffe fined Pitcher $2,500.
February 15. David Burt faces a crucial balancing act tomorrow with his first Budget as Premier, former premier Sir John Swan warned. Sir John called Mr Burt “the best of the best that we could have to lead the Progressive Labour Party. Not only does he have the intelligence. He is also a visionary committed to stepping outside the box when he recognizes the need to do so.” The former leader of the United Bermuda Party, who was Premier from 1982 to 1995, said that Mr Burt “knows he has, in his own party, some of the adversaries and naysayers and people who would like to maintain the status quo, whatever that is in their minds. There are those who still feel there are scores to be settled, and that you need to take from one and give to the other. It seems to me, and I have every faith in the Premier, that he has to take bold steps. He can’t be caught in the rhetoric of Court Street, unions or pressure groups, and he has to encourage his colleagues in supporting him.” The Premier has vowed that the 2018-19 Budget will be “entirely” directed at building growth. Mr Burt has already declared his intention to relax the 60:40 rule on foreign ownership of local businesses, arguing that it would boost competition. Balancing business interests against appeasing the party base would be “a leap of faith”, Sir John said. “I’m happy to support him. I think he can do it,” he added. He noted that Mr Burt was also in the rare hot seat of being Minister of Finance as well as Premier — a role last held by Paula Cox of the PLP. Sir John said: “A Premier puts himself on the line by being Minister of Finance. You’re saying we have massive economic problems, and you can’t ask someone else to do it while you sit back and be the nice guy.” Mr Burt’s most urgent priority was wrestling Bermuda’s debt to the ground, Sir John said. “He also has to take on the commercial side of Bermuda, not just the working man. Nothing has changed in the nomenclature of how Bermuda does business, other than the America’s Cup, which was a one-off. We’re still as protectionist as we’ve been for the last 40 to 50 years.” While he praised the One Bermuda Alliance finance minister Bob Richards for doing “a hell of a job” arresting the island’s decline, Sir John said: “We still never stimulated the economy. I don’t want to hear anything about term limits or foreigners taking our jobs. What we need is more foreigners with capital, and with products and intelligence to produce income for Bermuda. The Premier says he’s going to change it. I hope he does. If he tries to pay dollar debt with penny income, we will just sit here. International business has had a wonderful 30 years, but it’s had its high, and we need to accept that.” Sir John also acknowledged the need for “buses, ferries, schools and garbage trucks — we have to catch up, and that’s going to cost money”. His remarks came as the Bermuda Union of Teachers called for help in the Budget as teachers were forced to buy basic supplies from their own pockets. Meanwhile, the urgency was underscored by Arthur Wightman, leader of PwC Bermuda, who said it was “important not to underestimate the significance of the next few years to the island’s sustainability”. Mr Wightman said the Government could “lay the groundwork for public sector reform, eliminate the fiscal deficit and begin to pay down the debt, create incentives to grow and diversify the economy, boost employment and reduce income inequality. The challenge is that a number of these opportunities vie for the thin resources available in the short term. Such is the nature of the Budget,” he added. A successful government would have to do “more with less and grow the tax base while at the same time making it more progressive and equitable”, Mr Wightman said. “We applaud the critical focus on wholesale tax reform (through the Tax Reform Commission) and on economic growth (through Bermuda First). These and public-sector reform will be key to placing Bermuda on a sustainable path that should facilitate greater income equality. The electorate and the business community will be keeping a keen eye on any signs of fiscal indiscipline.” Mr Burt named the Tax Reform Commission’s membership yesterday, which he said would “go a long way in dealing with some of the biggest challenges which we have”. The Premier added: “Our system of taxation creates inequality by its very nature and structure, and our over reliance on payroll tax at the same time discourages job creation in Bermuda. “We have to balance those two aspects and I’m quite certain that this diverse team will be able to look at the issues that we have and will be able to arrive at recommendations that will help Bermuda as we try to get past that impasse and have broad-based tax reform that encompasses all sections of Bermuda society.” Asked what will be done to address the issue before the commission’s report is done in six months, Mr Burt said: “You will have to come on Friday morning.”
February 15. The Tax Reform Commission is facing a difficult but achievable challenge, according to new chairman Ronald Simmons. Mr Simmons, a former director of the Bermuda Monetary Authority, said he was honored by the opportunity to serve as chairman. He said: “The Premier has selected a great team of distinguished individuals. Given the numerous risks, uncertainties and challenges facing our economy, we have a lot of work to accomplish. However, I am confident we will be able to provide the Premier and the Government recommendations for comprehensive tax reform that is equitable, efficient, effective, transparent and fair, while enhancing Bermuda’s global competitiveness.” David Burt, the Premier and Minister of Finance, unveiled the members of the bipartisan commission yesterday. The commission, designed to make Bermuda’s tax system fairer, stimulate economic activity and create jobs for Bermudians, was one of the Progressive Labour Party’s General Election pledges. Mr Burt said: “I think the work of the Tax Reform Commission will go a long way in dealing with some of the biggest challenges which we have. Our system of taxation creates inequality by its very nature and structure and our over reliance on payroll tax at the same time discourages job creation in Bermuda. We have to balance those aspects and I’m quite certain that this diverse team will be able to look at the issues that we have and will be able to arrive at recommendations that will help Bermuda.” In addition to Mr Simmons, the commission will include Jeanne Atherden, the Opposition leader, and Wayne Furbert, the Junior Minister of Finance. Other commissioners include Donald Scott, a former Cabinet Secretary, Mitch Blaser, chief operating officer of Ironshore Inc, Craig Simmons, Bermuda College economics lecturer, and Brian Holdipp, senior corporate lawyer at MJM Ltd. Mr Burt said: “These commissioners have a mammoth task ahead of them, but I am confident they are up to the challenge. As promised, this commission has representation from both political parties and a cross-section of expertise in Bermuda’s economy.” He said he believed the commission would be fair, and that he looked forward to receiving its report in six months.
February 15. A new international entertainment hub is to be created at the West End’s Cross Island and Moresby House, the Minister of Public Works revealed today. Lieutenant-Colonel David Burch said that Savvy Entertainment Bermuda had taken over management of the former America’s Cup home in the short-term and would use it to host events that do not require permanent structures. Danilee Trott, Savvy Entertainment Bermuda COO, added the Bermuda branch of the global entertainment company also planned to convert Dockyard’s historic Moresby House into an “A-class” recording studio. She explained that Cross Island “would host a broad range of events including corporate functions, themed parties, live music concerts, skating rinks, team resorts and so much more”. Ms Trott said: “The space will also be available for rent for local promoters and producers, as well as organisations to host their own private events. Our plans for Moresby House include converting it into an A-class recording studio as a destination event for international recording artists as well as for the use of local artists.” Colonel Burch, who said that Dockyard managers Wedco had teamed up with Savvy Entertainment Bermuda, explained that the previous Wedco board had commissioned a sub-committee to look into Cross Island, which was purpose-built to host the America’s Cup Village. He said the executive summary was still being reviewed by the new board. But he added that the board had decided “in the short-term, to make this area available for events that do not require any permanent structures”. Colonel Burch said: “While this is not a decision that should be rushed into, we must also keep in mind that these facilities are Bermuda assets which should not continue to sit vacant while a decision is made. An application has been made to the Department of Planning and we expect to see activity on Cross Island in the very near future.” Colonel Burch said events would have a pre-negotiated fee and any revenue would go to Government and help defer the $39 million construction cost. He added: “Wedco will be releasing further detailed information on their website and other social media on the procedures and contact for booking the island. Colonel Burch also explained that the company, founded by Anthony Blakey, a songwriter for record label Sony, would be “looking to use their expertise and worldwide contacts to help develop local talent”. He added that the charity branch of the company, Savvy Foundation Bermuda, had already applied for charity status on the island. Colonel Burch said former Progressive Labour Party premier Dame Jennifer Smith had been invited to join the board of the international foundation and to be resident director in Bermuda. Tim Blakey, Savvy Foundation president, said the charity’s “four pillars are art, music, health and wellness, and creative entrepreneurship”. He explained that its exchange programme would give local youth the chance to travel and get international exposure. Mr Blakey added: “Our goal here is, of course, to inspire, to educate and to empower them. The main thing in education is that with knowledge comes power. The youth definitely needs that.” Michael Scott, MP for Sandys North, said the programme presented “immense opportunities” for the island’s youth, particularly those feared to be at-risk or involved in gang activity. Singer Olivia Hamilton, who performed at a showcase and industry networking event hosted by the company last month, said she had personally benefited from the company’s work. She added: “Not only are they providing a platform for Bermudian talents but a springboard and an avenue for us to be on the world stage. If you are Bermudian and you have talent — there is so much talent here — come out and get with the team.”
February 15. One of the most severe years for catastrophe losses has proven to be a “stress test” for Lancashire Holdings. The Bermuda-based company suffered a pre-tax loss of $3.2 million, or three cents per share, in the fourth quarter. For the year, the pre-tax loss was $72.9 million, or 36 cents per share. There were declines across key indicators, including gross and net premiums written, and return on equity, which was 0.9 per cent lower for the quarter and 5.9 per cent down for the year, when compared with 2016. Catastrophe losses weighted heavily, particularly in the second half of the year, with net losses of $147.3 million attributable to hurricanes Harvey, Irma, Maria and earthquakes in Mexico, during the third quarter, followed by $34.5 million of losses in the fourth quarter as a result of wildfires in California. Alex Mahony, group chief executive officer, said the losses had provided “a real-time ‘stress test for Lancashire’s enterprise risk management function, so it is pleasing that we have passed another important test of our model. Overall we feel that we had the right underwriting strategy, risk levels and capital headroom to absorb these events when balanced against the underwriting opportunity that presented itself during 2017.” Mr Mahony said that as a result of the impairment of capital among insurers and reinsurers following more than $100 billion of catastrophe losses, he felt “the market has finally turned a corner and we are witnessing rate increases, or at least stability, across most of the classes of business we underwrite”. However, he believes this year to be challenging, but he expects Lancashire Group to maximize underwriting opportunities. Elaine Whelan, group chief financial officer, said: “With improved rates at the January 1 renewals, and our current outlook, we continue to expect to put all of our current capital to work this year.” Lancashire’s net operating loss for the fourth quarter was $3.1 million, compared to a profit of $45.9 million for the same period in 2016. The group’s operating loss for the year was $86 million, compared to a profit of $144 million in 2016. The combined ratio rose to 119.5 per cent in the fourth quarter, and 124.9 per cent for the year, up from 76.5 per cent. Lancashire’s fully converted book value per share fell 50 cents to $5.48 at the end of December, compared to $5.98 at the end of 2016. Gross premiums written for the fourth quarter were $67.4 million, down from $95.1 million year-on-year. Separately, Lancashire announced that Tom Milligan, a non-executive director, is retiring from the board. He will stand down on March 31 and will not stand for re-election at the company’s annual meeting. Peter Clarke, Lancashire’s chairman, said: “I would like to thank Tom for his valuable contribution as a member of our Board. In particular, Tom’s executive knowledge in the insurance industry has helped inform our strategic planning in recent years and contributed to the success of our business. Tom has served as a director on the Lancashire board for over three years and he has decided to step down in order to pursue other opportunities. We wish Tom well for the future.”
February 15. Butterfield Bank has agreed to buy Deutsche Bank’s banking businesses in the Cayman Islands, Jersey and Guernsey — a deal that could increase its deposit base by about one fifth. The news came as the Bermudian-based bank declared net income of $40.3 million for the fourth quarter of last year, which completed a year of record profits of $153.3 million for the bank, up from $115.9 million in 2016. Further good news for shareholders came with a 19 per cent hike in the quarterly dividend payment to 38 cents per share and the announcement of Butterfield’s plans to buy back up to one million of its own shares. “I am pleased to report that Butterfield achieved record profits in 2017,” said Michael Collins, Butterfield’s chairman and chief executive officer. “These strong results were driven by our specialized banking and wealth management businesses that generate consistent fee income and an expanding net interest margin that benefited from our efficient deposit franchise and a rising rate environment. We delivered core net income of $158.9 million, up $20.3 million or 14.6 per cent year-on-year, and a core return on average common equity of 19.7 per cent, driven by strong performances in our core banking markets, as well as strong growth in our UK mortgage business.” The deal with Deutsche Bank is the second acquisition Butterfield has made from the German financial-services giant after it agreed last October to buy the company’s Global Trust Solutions business. “The GTS integration process is well under way and anticipated to close early in the second quarter of 2018, ahead of plan,” Mr Collins said. “We are pleased that over 90 per cent of the staff have now accepted employment agreements with Butterfield. This morning we announced that we have reached a second agreement with Deutsche Bank to acquire their banking businesses in the Cayman Islands, Guernsey and Jersey. We are very excited about this acquisition as it could increase our deposit base by about 20 per cent once integrated. It will help us establish a foothold in Jersey, an attractive banking market, as well as increasing our scale and market share in Cayman and Guernsey. The customer base has a very similar profile to our existing banking business and we look forward to welcoming the new relationship teams and their clients to the Butterfield Group.” Results for the fourth quarter of 2017 included lower credit costs with a release of provision for credit losses of $5.4 million compared with a release of provision for credit losses of $0.9 million in the fourth quarter of 2016. In the fourth quarter of 2017 the provision release was partially offset by $2.5 million of valuation loss adjustment on a foreclosed property included in other real estate owned.
February 15. Three Bermudians have been added to the Bermuda Tourism Authority sales and marketing team in New York City. Bermudian Lindsay Butterfield is the new executive assistant/office manager in New York, replacing a Bermudian team member who moved to the Bermuda office to fill a vacancy there. Bermudian Shanaye Smith has taken over as front line ambassador in New York, replacing a Bermudian team member who was promoted within the organisation. Bermudian Ciara Eve was hired as marketing production manager in New York, replacing a non-Bermudian team member who moved on to new career opportunities. Ms Butterfield has 11 years of hospitality and customer service experience, of which six of those years are within a managerial capacity. Her seasoned business mind set and knowledge, combined with her self-confidence and passion for tourism, drives guest satisfaction, which will be relevant in her new position. “I am honored to be a part of such a forward thinking group of individuals. Great things are happening at the BTA and I am delighted to join the team,” she said. Ms Butterfield holds a Bachelor’s of Commerce Degree from Ryerson University and has previously managed the Fairmont Gold Lounge at the Hamilton Princess & Beach Club. Meantime, Shanaye Smith holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Advertising, Public Relations and Media from Middlesex University and a Master’s Degree in Marketing Communications from University of Westminster in London. She will be responsible for providing warm and engaging service to promote the Bermuda brand through positive customer service interaction and social media, as well as general office responsibilities. “I have always wanted to work for the Bermuda Tourism Authority and I am excited for this new opportunity,” Ms Smith said. “I look forward to representing the Bermuda brand from New York, doing my part to help shine a light on our amazing country in an effort to showcase it to the world.” Ciara Eve comes to the Bermuda Tourism Authority from an exciting opportunity with the America’s Cup. She was branding coordinator for the 35th America’s Cup in Bermuda and now will be marketing production manager for the BTA. Ms Eve holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Design for Visual Communication from the University Centre Croydon in the United Kingdom. “I am grateful to be able to assist my country as an employee of the Bermuda Tourism Authority,” Ms Eve said. “After a revitalized career path and investing in academic growth, I am blessed to be a part of some wonderful initiatives. I am proof positive that through hard work, support and shared belief, the sky is the limit. “Ms Eve begins with the Bermuda Tourism Authority next month. Meantime, Ms Smith and Ms Butterfield have already begun in their new roles. All of us at the BTA are committed to creating jobs and entrepreneurial opportunities for Bermudians in a resurgent tourism industry,” said Chief Executive Kevin Dallas. “As we continue that mission we are delighted to be able to provide the opportunity for these three talented, young Bermudians to gain valuable international experience that will grow their skills and further their careers. They went through a thorough and competitive recruitment process and we are so proud to have them on our performance-driven team.”
February 15. Two Hamilton office buildings have found buyers in recent weeks amid increasing activity in the commercial property market. Sales have closed on Hemisphere House and Dorchester House, both on Church Street, said Penny MacIntyre, a partner with Rego Sotheby’s International Realty. Ms MacIntyre attributed the pick-up in the market to prices coming down to levels that match today’s economic realities. “We’ve seen a lot of interest from serious buyers,” Ms MacIntyre said. “Some properties have garnered a lot of attention over the last three months and we’ve been receiving offers or have closed on some of them. It’s partly because the prices of these properties are being adjusted to market conditions, as owners have been getting serious about disposing of their assets. It does not do any good for these properties to be vacant for a long time, because when they’re not in use, they tend to deteriorate. We have seen a good number of these buildings re-priced in line with the market and whenever you have sensible pricing, it stimulates activity.” Many buyers were owner-occupiers to some degree, who saw advantages in owning and controlling their own properties, as opposed to paying rent and funding upgrades of a landlord-owned building, she added. Hemisphere House was on the market for at least five years before its sale closed last month. Ms MacIntyre said she was not at liberty to state the sale price or the identity of the buyer. A five-storey 1960s office building standing on 0.15 of an acre, with about 25,000 square feet of space, complete with a penthouse added in the 1990s, it was listed for sale at $8.5 million in January 2013. The price has come down several times over the years and it was last listed at $3.75 million. Hemisphere House looks over Par-la-Ville Park and Ms MacIntyre said one of its advantages was the potential for mixed use, for example residential and retail components as well as offices. The Progressive Labour Party government, which took power last year, has signaled its support for residential development in Hamilton. In its manifesto for last July’s election, the PLP said it would incentivise the development of studio and one-bedroom apartments in the city, to create affordable homes for young Bermudians, create jobs and “bring new life to the city”. Ms MacIntyre said city living appealed to many people, particularly those who wanted to downsize and spend less time on the road. However, potential challenges for residential developers included competition from the condominium segment of the market, which has seen valuations fall amid an abundance of inventory. The lack of parking space in the city was another challenge to address, although there was potential for underground parking at some sites, she added. Dorchester House, a five-floor building at the corner of Church Street and Trott Road, with a total rentable area of 42,000 square feet, was put on the market in September, ahead of the departure of its anchor tenant PwC Bermuda to a newer space in Washington House. The sale of the 1980s structure has just closed, Ms MacIntyre said. It was originally listed for sale at $3.75 million. Another building that has attracted much interest is 87 Reid Street, the former home of Tribe Road Kitchen, which is on the market for $925,000. The property, at the junction with King Street, comprises a 1,280-square-foot cottage and a spacious lawn area that was utilized by guests of the former restaurant. A “handful of prospective buyers” and some rental interest had emerged for the property, Ms MacIntyre said. Nearby 91 Reid Street, a two-storey, 11,538-square-foot building, is also on the market for $1.85 million. It comes with established tenants, including Sunnyroad Designs and Abacus, an accounting services firm.
February 15. More than 600 lionfish were speared last month as hunters dived into the fourth annual Winter Lionfish Derby. Organizer Corey Eddy, who published a PhD thesis on lionfish in Bermuda, said that while the number of hunters doubled since last year, the number of fish caught tripled. He said: “It’s amazing and scary. It really emphasizes that lionfish are very abundant in shallow water during the winter. The average depth of capture was less than 20ft and many were caught in less than 10ft. We also saw far more small lionfish than ever before, which is also alarming as it may indicate a more successful reproductive period in 2017. The smallest lionfish was 3.75in, the smallest I’d seen before.” Sixty hunters signed up for the derby, catching a total of 624 lionfish during January. Lionfish, which are native to the Pacific Ocean and Indian Ocean, were introduced to the Atlantic in the 1990s. The fast-breeding species spread rapidly through the Caribbean and reached Bermudian waters by 2000. Lionfish have no natural predators in the Atlantic and are not recognized as a threat by local fish. Dr Eddy said culling events like the Winter Derby had been shown to help address lionfish in other areas. Research by the Reef Environmental Education Foundation found that derbies can reduce the number of lionfish in an area by up to 52 per cent. Dr Eddy said: “That is not to say the population will not experience a period of explosive growth, common in the majority of invasive species, which is exactly what we worry about with the record number of lionfish captured in this year’s winter derby. Our culling programme may give us an advantage in staying one step ahead of the invasion. We have an army of lionfish hunters and we need to keep them in the water. Tournaments such as the Winter Lionfish Derby and Groundswell’s annual summer tournament, are great opportunities to do that. In fact, we have tournaments of some sort every season and the spring tournament is right around the corner.” Dr Eddy and his fellow lionfish hunters celebrated the close of the Winter Derby with a party and awards ceremony at the Bermuda Underwater Exploration Institute. Free-diving team “We Dive at Five” caught the most lionfish, bringing ashore 133 of the invasive predators. Meanwhile, team “LionSquish” took the prize for the Scuba-diving category, landing 49 lionfish. Kweshon Hollis speared the largest fish, measuring 18in, while Chris Cabral caught the smallest. Dr Eddy said: “Even though we had more people than ever before, we were fortunate to provide everyone who registered with some sort of prize thanks to Gorham’s, Makin Waves, BUEI, La Garza jewelers, Blue Hole Watersports, Dive Bermuda, Blue Water Divers, and Jessica Reiderer. The Bermuda Lionfish Task Force donated all the money for cash prizes, and BUEI provided the room free of charge.”
February 14. The Government of Bermuda is standing by claims that Ewart Brown conducted excessive and medically unnecessary scans on patients and paid “kickbacks” to scores of doctors on the island. Lawyers representing the Progressive Labour Party government described how “one person was scanned 20-plus times” and the number of CT and MRI scans overall “skyrocketed” during Dr Brown’s term of office, as they reiterated allegations against the former premier at a court hearing in Boston. The submissions made to Judge Indira Talwani at the United States District Court of Massachusetts on January 31 confirm that the new PLP administration is actively pursuing a civil claim against the Lahey Clinic launched by the former One Bermuda Alliance government. That complaint, filed a year ago by Trevor Moniz, who was then Attorney-General, detailed an alleged “wildly successful” and “unlawful” conspiracy between Dr Brown and the hospital that profited both “at the expense of the Bermudian government and people”. Dr Brown and Lahey deny the allegations. The lawsuit was denounced in Parliament by PLP MPs, including David Burt, then the Opposition leader and now the Premier. Mr Burt, Walter Roban, the Deputy Premier, and health minister Kim Wilson signed a legal brief in May last year in support of Lahey’s attempt to get the case thrown out. Ms Justice Talwani heard arguments on January 31 from Lahey’s counsel on why the case should be dismissed — and counter-arguments from the Government’s lawyers as to why it should proceed. A transcript of the hearing, which became available on Monday, shows the Government’s position is the same as a year ago, despite a change in the island’s political leadership. It confirms that the PLP government is continuing with a legal complaint that names Dr Brown — PLP leader and Premier between 2006 and 2010 — as a co-conspirator and accuses him of corruption and bribe-taking during his premiership. The court heard on January 31 that Lahey was paid to read scans by Dr Brown’s clinics in Bermuda during a period of time when he was receiving consulting fees from the clinic. Lahey’s lawyer, Terence Lynam, said the scan-reading was entirely separate to the consulting agreements. But Luke Cadigan, for the Government, said the “illicit” relationship in regard to the scans “doesn’t really come into focus until you have a true understanding of Dr Brown’s relationship with Lahey”. Mr Cadigan said: “What you see here is Dr Brown, who has a financial incentive; he’s tied to Lahey. He’s working to increase reimbursement rates for him and benefit Lahey. He’s working against pre-certification or other things that would limit the amount of scanning. He is using all of this as a vehicle to get more revenue for himself and for Lahey.” Mr Cadigan claimed correspondence between Dr Brown and doctors who referred patients to his two clinics for diagnostic scanning showed he was “inducing” the physicians to order the scans. “Some people were scanned repeatedly,” he alleged. “One person was scanned 20-plus times. You’re going to see, I’m sure, some situations where it was simply not necessary for the treatment. So, you know, those are the types of things I think we’re going to see based upon the kickbacks that Dr Brown was paying to his doctors in order to get these scans done.” Mr Cadigan said the rate of CT scans tripled over a two-year period and MRI scans doubled in little more than four years. He claimed the hospital was guilty of fraud for reading scans that were medically unnecessary — an allegation rebutted by Mr Lynam, who said any fraud would have been committed by the person ordering the medically unnecessary scan. Ms Justice Talwani reserved judgment on Lahey’s motion to dismiss. Dr Brown told The Royal Gazette in September 2016 that every study ordered at Bermuda Healthcare Services and his other clinic, Brown-Darrell, was screened by experts at Lahey in Massachusetts to ensure it was necessary. The Royal Gazette asked the Bermuda Medical Council in March last year if it was investigating the allegations made against Dr Brown and other unnamed local physicians in the Government’s lawsuit. Chief Medical Officer Cheryl Peek-Ball said no complaint had been made to the regulatory body. Dr Brown declined to comment on the case when contacted last night.
February 14. The Progressive Labour Party may have enjoyed a landslide victory only seven months ago, but according to Christopher Famous, it should still aim to broaden its base. Mr Famous called on his party to reach out to white people who have traditionally not voted for the PLP, telling The Royal Gazette: “The onus is on us to knock on every door.” The Devonshire East MP, who cited tireless canvassing as the reason for his shock victory over Bob Richards at last July’s General Election, noted the importance of making all Bermudians feel welcome in the PLP. Mr Famous said: “We need to broaden our reach — our base is black Bermudians but this election proved that there are white Bermudians who will support the PLP. You are bringing forth proposals and legislation that are better for all. If our messaging is to all Bermudians, then all Bermudians start to feel included. The average white person will say the PLP doesn’t come knocking on their door. Berkeley was the top academic school and white people didn’t send their children there. St Paul’s is a black church that white people don’t attend. The fact that whites aren’t in the party in numbers is a reflection of what’s going on in the community. We as a party have to knock on every door. We have a racial issue in this country — we are going to do our part to reach out to all Bermudians, but it is up to them to come through the door. The initial onus is on us to knock on every door.” Mr Famous was talking ahead of the PLP’s 54th Founders’ Day Banquet, at which he will be the keynote speaker on Sunday. That event will honour the formation of the party by Albert Peter Smith, Wilfred “Mose” Allen, Austin Wilson, Edward DeJean, Dilton Cann, Walter Robinson and Hugh Roy Richardson, out of Mr Richardson’s garage. Mr Famous said the PLP would stay relevant by diversifying, while staying true to its founding principles. He said the PLP must also communicate and engage with the electorate. “As a party and as a government, we need to have proactive communications with the people. Part of that is having a healthy relationship with the media. The media is the fourth estate — part and parcel of their responsibility is for them to hold the government to account. Don’t view the media as the enemy. A lot of times we put forward legislation on a Friday without explaining to the people prior why we are doing it to ask, how does this benefit you? We live in the information age.” He said the party must also consider how the message gets out to the next generation. “Be imaginative — go to a PechaKucha Night and inform people on policy. You are dealing with a new generation of people who are not going to sit down and read the newspaper — they want it in seconds. We have to reform how we communicate and increase our communication.” Mr Famous said he was “stunned” when he was invited to be this year’s keynote speaker. He said he wished to honour the party’s foundations focusing on “where we have been, where we are and where we need to go”. He said: “The foundation of the PLP was not built on it being a black party or being an elitist party — the foundation was about moving forward persons who were deemed the underclass hence the word progressive. We need to be not simply a party looking to get re-elected but to actually progress Bermuda. Another part of it would be to emphasize that we are a labour party and that doesn’t mean just blue-collar labour — it means all workers. We have to remember that we didn’t win this election simply because we all showed up to Parliament every Friday — we won it because we knocked on the door and we met with people who expressed their concerns to us. No matter if we are in Opposition or in Government, we have to remember we have to keep knocking.” The 54th Founders’ Day Banquet takes place on Sunday at the Willowbank Conference Centre, in Sandys, from 2pm to 5pm.
February 14. Michael Dunkley is to speak at a conference on a panel alongside the head of the group that released the Paradise Papers last year, as well as one of the journalists who reported on it. The former Premier of Bermuda will feature in a session at OffshoreAlert’s Financial Intelligence and Investigations Conference in Miami Beach, which runs from April 15 to 17. Millions of documents stolen from offshore law firm Appleby became known as the Paradise Papers and were mined for stories of tax avoidance by global media last year. Mr Dunkley’s three years as Premier of Bermuda ended in July last year, three months before the first Paradise Papers stories surfaced. Alongside him on the panel will be Gerard Ryle, head of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, and Frederik Obermaier, one of the German reporters to receive the Appleby documents. The session, to take place on the morning of April 16, will be entitled: “The ICIJ versus OFCs: Witch Hunt or Public Service?” Appleby has sued the British Broadcasting Corporation and the owners of The Guardian newspaper at the High Court in London seeking damages and a permanent injunction for breach of confidence. The key legal issues and potential outcome will be discussed in another session at the conference on April 17. The ICIJ’s methods for managing and organising enormous batches of data like the Paradise Papers and the Panama Papers will be discussed in another session, featuring Pierre Roma, the ICIJ’s chief technology officer, and Cecile Schilis-Gallego, a data journalist and researcher for the ICIJ. Other sessions will feature viable growth opportunities for offshore financial centres in the modern era, changing requirements for transparency, offshore compliance and enforcement efforts by US tax authorities, and making sense of cryptocurrencies. OffshoreAlert is a website and newsletter, featuring news stories and commentary on offshore financial centres. Its owner and editor is David Marchant, a former business reporter at The Royal Gazette.
February 14. Two environmental groups have expressed concern after complaints about a controversial plan for commercial quad bike tours were dismissed by the Minister of Public Works. The Bermuda National Trust said it was disappointed with Lieutenant-Colonel David Burch’s comment that anyone living east of White Hill will have no say on the issue. Jonathan Starling, executive director with Greenrock, added that it was “unfortunate” that Colonel Burch “seems to be coming out in a combative manner” and taking the issue personally. However, support for Colonel Burch came from former One Bermuda Alliance minister Sylvan Richards, who was in favour of the proposal while in Cabinet. More than 600 people, including 500 from east of White Hill, have registered concerns over the proposal for all-terrain vehicles on the Railway Trail and protected reserves in Sandys. However, on Monday, Colonel Burch said he was sick of Bermuda being the “country of no” and that only the views of those living near the area would be considered. Reacting yesterday, a National Trust spokesman said people from across the island deserved a say in how the Railway Trail and protected areas in the West End were used. The spokesman explained: “These are national parks and it would not be natural justice to exclude any members of the public from answering the request for consultation on this important matter.” Mr Starling said Mr Burch’s comments were “not conducive to discourse around this matter. It seems more likely to polarize than to encourage constructive dialogue.” Mr Starling said that residents who could be directly impacted by the plan “have unique concerns due to their proximity, and these should be weighted accordingly. However, the impact of this decision is not limited just to those concerns. The Railway Trail and our national parks are collective, national treasures and what happens with them affects us all. We all use and benefit from them, and decisions affecting them affect us all.” Mr Richards, MP for Hamilton South, said he shared Colonel Burch’s sentiments. He explained: “All too often, some Bermudians tend to automatically default to a ‘no’ position without contemplating or considering possible compromises that may be available that all parties can agree to and live with. Bermuda is competing with other tourist destinations in the Caribbean that offer similar tour excursions. We, as Bermudians, have to decide whether we want to continue to be competitive in the tourism business or not by offering amenities that appeal to this younger visitor demographic.” Mr Richards, the former environment and planning minister, said the quad bike proposal had been “subject to a campaign of misinformation and unnecessary hysteria by those opposed. A misrepresentation had been perpetuated through pictures posted on social media showing persons abroad operating high-powered 600cc ATVs in a reckless manner, as if this is what is being proposed for Bermuda. It is not.” Mr Richards said he met last year with Rudolph “Buddy” Hollis and his son, the pair behind the quad bike tour proposal. He said he looked at the plan to promote Bermuda tourism “from an eco-tourism, cultural and historical perspective”. Mr Richards said the proposal also fit with the Bermuda Tourism Authority’s desire to offer activities targeted at younger visitors. He described of the plan: “The pitch was for a two-hour, low-speed, guided tour occurring twice a day, except Sundays along designated portions of the Railway Trail.” Mr Richards said that he was told that the proposal had been given the support of the Parks Commission “to operate on parts of the Railway Trail which were not considered environmentally sensitive in nature” in October of 2015. He added: “I gave my conditional approval for the proposal, subject to certain conditions being met.” Mr Richards said the conditions were that meetings be held to get feedback from the public in the West End, and that the operators get all necessary permissions to legally operate the tours, including licensing from TCD. A spokeswoman for the Bermuda Environmental Sustainability Taskforce said that it was “unfortunate” that facts related to the proposal were not previously available to the public. She added that Mr Richards’s assertion that there had been a ‘campaign of misinformation and unnecessary hysteria’ by those against the plan was a “self-serving exaggeration”. The spokeswoman added: “There are legislative requirements that appear to have been intentionally bypassed and should not have been.” Mr Starling said it was unfair to suggest that the public was falling for misinformation. He explained: “The Government has had the ability to provide that information all along and help make sure the public can make an informed decision of support or opposition.” Mr Richards said he stood by the decision he made about the proposal while minister. He added: “I wish the operators success in their future endeavors.”
February 14. Utilico Emerging Markets Limited, a closed-ended investment company, is to re-domicile to the United Kingdom from Bermuda. In a statement, the company said the proposed move was in its “best interests” but did not elaborate. The news follows an announcement in November when the company, which has investments in infrastructure, utility and related sectors, said it was considering options for a possible change in its domicile. The company is listed on the London Stock Exchange, and has a market capitalization of £461 million ($642 million), with assets of £570 million ($788 million). In today’s statement the company said: “Following a review, the board has concluded that it would be in the company’s best interests to re--domicile to the United Kingdom.” The proposed change will be conditional to the approval of shareholders and being sanctioned by the Supreme Court of Bermuda. The re-domiciliation is to be effected under the Companies Act 1981 of Bermuda. The move will result in the creation of a closed-ended investment trust in the UK, which will be known as Utilico Emerging Markets Trust plc. The company’s statement said the board will not be proposing any changes to the investment management arrangements as a result of the re-domicile and, “other than JP Morgan Chase Bank NA, London Branch who will act as administrator, it is planned that the principal service providers to Utilico Emerging Markets Trust plc will remain the same”.
February 14. Teachers are buying basic school necessities out of their own pockets, according to the Bermuda Union of Teachers. President Shannon James called for more help in the Progressive Labour Party’s first Budget since it returned to power, which will be delivered by David Burt, the Premier and finance minister, this Friday. Mr James said: “There are many teachers using their own money to buy things like reading books, science supplies, and many other basics, from the preschool level right through to high school. This, by any standard, cannot be deemed acceptable and has gone on for too long. Many teachers will come out of pocket to add extras, and that is their choice, but they should not be cornered to feel that the basic supplies needed to deliver the curriculum should come out of pocket.” Mr James said the BUT was also gravely concerned about the lack of investment in providing the manpower needed to deliver, maintain and support proper instruction as dictated by the needs of the system. “There are too many empty positions, key positions which are needed to support the various initiatives set out by the Ministry and the Department. We do not have the required compliment of education officers, content specialists, attendance officers, mentors and Para educators needed to support optimal learning at all levels. We are still concerned about the state of our buildings. Three schools had to close last year for urgent maintenance and that causes major disruption for the students. That cannot be allowed to happen again, and adequate resources must be directed to the timely maintenance of our schools.” In addition, the BUT believes that Government must position students to compete globally and that access to modern technology and systems of thinking are imperative to the success of a 21st century learner. Mr James said: “The Premier and finance minister, David Burt, is a self-confessed ‘techie’ who has been pushing the use of technologies like blockchain and the establishment of a tech hub in Bermuda, but what use are these if our students don’t have access to the necessary technology tools that will enable them to take advantages of future opportunities? Money must be made available to ensure: an adequate ratio of students to working technology devices; a termly assessment and repair of all interactive devices; a sufficient number of trained technology leaders in each school, and an adequate number of technicians to service the upkeep of equipment and software. We have been promised Wi-Fi access in every public school which is a start, but it is pointless if we do not have the proper hardware to access this Wi-Fi. More needs to be done to make sure that our students are not disadvantaged when they enter the workforce and find themselves behind their peers in terms of their exposure to technology. Technology has the potential to completely disrupt industries. This will have a massive impact on the types and numbers of jobs available and we must have the resources available to make sure our students are properly equipped with the necessary tools that allow them to succeed. The BUT is fully aware that everyone wants a larger share of the pie and people are competing for money for different projects they all believe will benefit Bermuda in some way, but there is no greater benefit to Bermuda than well-educated children. Education is the building block for any successful country.”
February 14. A man accused of smuggling the controlled drug fentanyl to Bermuda was found not guilty last night. Craig Lawrence was also cleared by a Supreme Court jury of possessing the synthetic opiate with intent to supply. The Canadian national from Markham, Ontario, had always denied importing the drugs sometime between an unknown date and December 15, 2016, and possessing the drug on December 20, 2016. The jury sent a series of notes to the court during several hours of deliberations. In response, Judge Charles-Etta Simmons told the jury that Mr Lawrence could be found guilty of the charges before them only if he knew the drug imported was fentanyl. During the trial, the court heard evidence from Jacqueline Robinson that Mr Lawrence had invited her on an all-expenses-paid holiday shortly after they had started a relationship in Canada. The jury heard that the couple spent the night before they were due to fly to Bermuda with friends of Mr Lawrence in a hotel. Ms Robinson said that the next morning Mr Lawrence and another woman showed her a stash of drug pellets in the hotel bathroom and told her to swallow them. She testified that Mr Lawrence told her the pellets contained cannabis, and that if she did not swallow them, she would never go home again. Mr Lawrence and Robinson arrived in Bermuda on December 15, 2016, and the pair went to the Hamilton Princess Hotel and Beach Club, where she threw up 44 of the 45 pellets. She then gave the pellets to Mr Lawrence, who put them in the hotel safe. Robinson then fell ill, and was rushed to hospital. According to prosecutors, the pellets contained fentanyl rather than cannabis, and a ruptured pellet caused her illness. Robinson admitted her involvement in the plot to smuggle drugs into Bermuda at Supreme Court and had been jailed for seven years.
February 13. The Chinese takeover of Aecon — the company overseeing the construction of Bermuda’s new airport terminal — is being delayed after the Canadian Government ordered a full national security review of the deal. State-owned CCCC International Holding Ltd wants to buy Toronto-based Aecon for $1.5 billion in a deal approved by the Canadian construction company’s shareholders in December last year. Aecon said last October on the announcement of the deal that the takeover would make no difference to the airport project, nor the guarantee in place from the Canadian Commercial Corporation, and that the new terminal will be completed in 2020, as planned. Yesterday Aecon’s shares fell 1.8 per cent on the Toronto Stock Exchange after the extended national security review was revealed. Aecon said the planned date for completing the takeover plan with CCCCI had been pushed back to March 30 from the original date of February 23. “Both companies remain committed to working with the Investment Review Division to obtain approval of the transaction,” Aecon said. Aecon said it had received notice from the Canadian Government that the federal cabinet had ordered a continuation of the national security review under section 25.3 of the Investment Canada Act. That section allows the Government to order a review if the minister “considers that the investment could be injurious to national security”. CCCI has attracted controversy before. The World Bank banned the firm from bidding on construction projects for eight years until January 2017 due to a bid-rigging scandal in the Philippines. Chris Murray, of AltaCorp Capital, believes Ottawa’s primary concern may be Aecon’s telecom infrastructure group, which builds significant core communications networks for several major Canadian carriers. “While we remain positive about the closure of the transaction, we are cognizant that at this juncture, this is now a political process, which adds layers of complexity and uncertainty,” Mr Murray wrote in a report. And he added that he believes the transaction may be a “bargaining chip in Canada-China” trade discussions. Federal Innovation Minister Navdeep Bains ordered the review on the recommendation of Canadian security agencies. Mr Bains’ press secretary, Karl Sasseville, told the Globe and Mail newspaper: “We follow the advice of those who actually have the information and intelligence necessary to make these determinations: our national-security agencies. We will continue to do our diligence to review the potential national-security ?implications, as we have been doing since day one. We never have and we never will compromise on national security.”
February 13. Garbage will be collected once a week starting next Monday, the Minister of Public Works said yesterday — and the piles of uncollected trash will be off the streets and sidewalks by tomorrow. Lieutenant-Colonel David Burch made the announcements during a press conference at Global House. Colonel Burch said that, effective from next week, trash collection would be done once a week for a ten-week period. He explained: “This time will allow us to conduct a full assessment of the trucks that are serviceable, conduct extensive repairs, complete the TCD relicensing process and return a larger number into the operational fleet.” He said information on the new collection days would be forthcoming. Colonel Burch said that an “island-wide blitz” tomorrow would “clear all the garbage from every neighborhood”. He added that every truck in the ministry would be used, with assistance provided by the Hustle Truck workers. Colonel Burch said that a work-to-rule taken by garbage collectors had ended last week and that employees were back to working overtime to try and keep pace with pick-ups. He added: “The net result of that is still an unsatisfactory state of affairs as we are unable to fully complete designated collection in any one day.” Chris Furbert, the president of the Bermuda Industrial Union, previously said the industrial action was taken amid worker concerns about the lack of staffing and trash trucks. Colonel Burch dismissed the suggestion that the action was taken by workers over the failure to be paid for overtime. He said: “There’s no truth to that at all, as far as I am aware. If they are not being paid for overtime I’d like to know where the money’s going, because I sign on a regular basis to via money from unfilled posts to overtime.” Colonel Burch described the garbage collectors as “dedicated and committed workers” who took pride in their jobs under some “very trying circumstances”. He added: “They do a good job and I will not tolerate any abuse directed at them.” Colonel Burch added that interviews were being conducted today for five additional waste collectors — hires that were approved last year but never made. He expected the positions to be filled before February 23. He said that knuckles had been “rapped” over the failure to fill the posts. He added: “Internally, within the ministry, I have voiced my displeasure to those people who did not bring it to my attention that three months in, they’re still waiting from approval from somewhere else. I think it’s fair to say that I don’t think that will be happening again.” Colonel Burch announced that five new trash vehicles would also be bought. He said that a team including a truck driver and a trash collector would travel overseas before the end of the month to select the next batch of trucks. To be clear, though, there is a lengthy lead time involved, so it will likely be November before they arrive on island.” He said the trucks would cost about $90,000 each. Colonel Burch also used the press conference to highlight steps that members of the public could take to make trash collection easier, including not overfilling bags and cutting back trees along private roads. He also asked residents to be respectful of their neighbors and workers by not putting out garbage before collection day. Colonel Burch said: “If that does not work then we shall resort to enforcement and prosecution of those who refuse to follow the law.”
February 13. The views of residents outside Sandys will have no bearing on the Government’s decision on a controversial plan for quad bike commercial tours. More than 600 people registered concerns over the proposal, including hundreds from outside the West End parish. However, Lieutenant-Colonel David Burch, Minister of Public Works, said that these views would not be considered. Colonel Burch told a press conference: “If you live east of White Hill, you don’t get a say in this.” The public were canvassed for their views on the use of all-terrain vehicles, also known as ATVs, on the Railway Trail and protected reserves in Sandys last year. The proposal came under fire from residents, farmers and environmental groups. Colonel Burch said that the objections of the “500 people” east of White Hill were the same as the “160-odd” people who lived to the west. He added: “So their objections will be considered. They just won’t have the weight of having objected to it having any bearing on the decision that is going to be made.” He said that he was sick of Bermuda being the “country of no”. Colonel Burch explained: “We say ‘no’ to everything, and then we ask ‘Now what’s the question?’” He said that those not living in the neighborhood would not be affected by the proposed business. Colonel Burch added: “You don’t live in the west, so you’re not going to hear the bikes. It’s astounding to me how all these people who live nowhere near the issue object to it.” He said that a final decision on whether the tours would be permitted had not been made. He added of the decision: “I did announce publicly that it would be by the 15th of February, but that’s likely to be delayed.” Concerned residents posted comments on Facebook last week after quad bikes were spotted in the old bus terminal on Beacon Hill Road and on the Railway Trail. Colonel Burch said he took “some particular offence” to people that “see things and jump right to the conclusion that they have been misled or lied to”. He said the ATVs were brought out last week at his request as part of his “due diligence” to see the bikes and how they operate first-hand. Colonel Burch said he and transport minister Walter Roban viewed and rode the vehicles last Thursday. He added: “Just to be clear, I was quite impressed that the proprietors actually went to TCD and got a one-day licence.” Colonel Burch said he also took offence to a letter he had received over the weekend from a group that said it hoped he would consider their objections to the proposal for commercial tours. He explained: “If I said I’m going to do it, I’m actually going to do it. And so when you say you hope, what you’re saying is that you don’t believe me.”
February 13. The Loren has put up for sale four villas that are under construction with asking prices starting from $3.8 million. Two of the four-bedroom, 4½-bathroom units will be completed by the second quarter of this year, while the other two are scheduled to be ready by the first quarter of 2019. They range in price from $3.8 million to $3.975 million. The move comes as three smaller villas at the hotel and residences complex have been taken off the market and incorporated into the hotel’s inventory. Penny MacIntyre, a partner with realtor Rego Sotheby’s International Realty and exclusive agent for the residences at The Loren, said strong demand for the three-bedroom, 3½-bathroom units from hotel guests, meant they were no longer available to buyers. The Loren, the island’s first new hotel in 45 years, is coming off a strong first year in business and has attracted positive press in publications such as Condé Nast Traveler, The Telegraph, New York Post, Forbes, CNN Travel and Vogue. Ms MacIntyre said the four-bedroom units offered a bit extra for buyers than the three-bedroom villas that were previously up for sale with a$4.2 million price tag. “These are the last four available and I think the price point is more compelling, because they have an additional bedroom and bathroom, and 238 square feet extra, or 3,793 square feet in total,” she said. The villas come with a “lock-off” option that allows owners to put part or all of the property into the hotel inventory to generate income from hotel guests staying in one the en suite rooms. Each villa has a balcony, a private pool, an outdoor dining area on the pool deck, a garage, and a kitchen as well as resort amenities including restaurants, spa, gym and private beach.
February 13. An intrepid traveler has hitchhiked on a sailboat to the island from Britain in an attempt to promote a more sustainable lifestyle. Charlotte Jones had already changed most aspects in her life to be more environmentally friendly, from giving up her car and growing her own food to campaigning on green issues. She decided to take things a step further while planning a visit to see her Bermudian grandparents, Pamela Darrell and Owen Darrell. Ms Jones considered the potential impact of environmentally damaging air travel. After a little research online, she discovered the world of sailboat hitchhiking, where people travel with voyaging ships as volunteers or crew members. Ms Jones will be sharing her experiences from two transatlantic crossings to the island at the upcoming PechaKucha Bermuda night at the Spinning Wheel. She told The Royal Gazette: “During my first trip in 2008, I managed to travel all the way from the UK by sail to visit my grandparents. My mother is Bermudian but she moved to the UK to go to university and stayed there. I ended up on five different boats to get there and it took seven months. This time I set off in mid-September. We stopped in Portugal and the Canary Islands before a four-week crossing down the coast of Africa and ‘hung a right’ to travel up to the BVI. The plan was to get off and look for another boat but this time I had to fly the last bit because of the damage from the hurricanes. There wasn’t much sailing going on. I had learnt a lot about climate change, I was doing a lot of campaigning and education about sustainable living.” On her decision to avoid flying, Ms Jones said: “I was trying to live as sustainably as possible in every other way — I wasn’t driving and was growing my own food it was a pleasure. But not being able to fly was difficult because of my grandparents living in a completely inaccessible place. I was feeling bad about not visiting them and so I decided to look into how else you can get there. I heard about a few people who hitched their way across the Atlantic so I did it.” Ms Jones has worked and volunteered in education for sustainable development, farming, community development, street design and political campaigning. She advised there are more convenient options for sustainable travel on the horizon. “Hitching is not for everyone but if you want the adventure, you don’t need much experience. Once you get to know some of the routes that the yachts go, you find boats going to wherever you want to go. There are tricky sides — you don’t always necessarily get on with everyone but you learn a lot along the way. It sounds a bit cheesy but it does give you lots of faith in humanity — the number of people I put my life into their hands. The whole reason I sailed is to choose a more sustainable way to travel and so I want to promote that. There are some organisations that are looking at how sailing could replace flying — there is one project called VoyageVert.org which is looking into providing passenger travel on a larger boats.” PechaKucha Bermuda Vol 22 takes place at The Spinning Wheel, Court Street, Hamilton, on February 22. Other speakers include hypnotherapist Maryellen Jackson and wordsmith Matthew Arnold. Doors open at 6pm and presentations begin at 7pm.
February 13. A man accused of a plot to import fentanyl was cleared of charges yesterday. A jury found Maurice Martin not guilty of conspiring to import a controlled drug on the instructions of Puisne Judge Charles-Etta Simmons. She told the jury: “As a result of one application that was made and a ruling I made on the law, I’m going to direct you to deliver a verdict of not guilty in respect of Mr Martin.” Mr Martin’s co-defendant, Craig Lawrence, remains on trial. He has denied charges of conspiring to import a controlled drug and conspiracy to supply a controlled drug. Earlier in the trial, the court heard evidence from Jacqueline Robinson that Mr Lawrence ordered her to swallow dozens of pellets before traveling to Bermuda. She testified she was told the pellets contained cannabis. But the court heard they contained fentanyl, a synthetic opiate related to heroin. Ms Robinson arrived in Bermuda on December 15, 2016, and threw up 44 of the 45 pellets. Prosecutors said the remaining pellet ruptured, causing Ms Robinson to fall ill. Ms Robinson confirmed that she had earlier admitted her involvement in the plot to smuggle drugs into Bermuda at Supreme Court and had been jailed for seven years. The trial is expected to conclude this week.
February 13. The Bermuda Government may roll back steep cuts made to medical imaging fees which were blamed last month for the closure of a private scanning clinic. However, last night the Opposition hit back at claims that the One Bermuda Alliance administration had “ignored” technical advice and singled out diagnostic imaging for sharper fee cuts than those suggested. The reductions, recommended by the Bermuda Health Council, were decried last month by Ewart Brown, the former premier, who runs two private clinics offering medical scans. The CT scan unit at his Brown-Darrell clinic in Smith’s, which provided computer-processed X-ray imaging, was shut on January 31 after Dr Brown said the cuts left the business unsustainable. The possibility of fee cuts being partially reversed emerged in Friday’s House of Assembly, when OBA MP Trevor Moniz asked Kim Wilson, the Minister of Health, whether there was “any intention of changing the fees going forward”. In response, Ms Wilson said that three independent reviews before June 2017 had suggested relative value methodology as a technique for calculating medical fees. She added: “That’s the internally accepted methodology used in the US, Canada, Europe, the UK. It places a logical, rational and transparent fee structure on healthcare to assist in containing the cost.” She said the OBA administration had disregarded recommendations from the Bermuda Health Council, telling the House: “The former government ignored that technical advice and decided to apply fees that were much lower than what was being provided for, with respect to the relative value units provided by the technical officers of the Bermuda Health Council. I can say that this government is committed to reducing healthcare costs. We will be applying the relative values going forward, starting with the Bermuda Hospitals Board.” MPs also heard that the BHB, along with Dr Brown’s clinics, have each received payments directly from Ministry of Health funds, to compensate them for their lost earnings. Ms Wilson said that after an agreement was reached on December 8, 2017, a payment of $120,000 had been settled for Brown-Darrell Clinic, and $480,000 for Dr Brown’s other business, Bermuda Healthcare Services. The BHB’s payment is still being calculated based on levels of use, and Ms Wilson said she would not know that amount until the end of March. Opposition leader Jeanne Atherden responded last night: “Ms Wilson’s statement is misleading. The previous administration did not ignore technical advice from the Bermuda Health Council. The council’s diagnostic imaging fee schedule used the relative value methodology with a conversion factor of 83.8.” Every type of diagnostic imaging service comes with a specific code, with a conversion factor used to calculate the dollar value of a fee. The same conversion factor was applied to all diagnostic imaging services, Ms Atherden said. The former health minister added: “It was that fee schedule that was suggested to the minister, accepted, and passed by the legislature.” Ms Wilson was unavailable for comment yesterday — but Mr Moniz said he had asked the question in Parliament because “I just want these things to be out in the open”. He said he had asked the minister whether the Progressive Labour Party administration had been threatened with legal action. Ms Wilson responded: “Prior to this agreement being settled on December 8, 2017, there were discussions taking place between the Government and the Attorney-General.” Speaking to The Royal Gazette, Mr Moniz said: “The public is entitled to more information about what discussions took place, and how these numbers were arrived at, and why they’re paying this amount of money. Either they negotiated and arrived at an agreement or they didn’t. What I would like to know is, did [Dr Brown] have leverage on them?” Contacted last night for comment, Dr Brown responded: “There were absolutely no negotiations between myself and the Government concerning the fees. The Government told us exactly what the minister told the House.” Asked if he had been informed of any potential raising of imaging fees, and whether that might salvage his CT unit, Dr Brown said: “No, I have not.”
February 12. An amendment to legislation governing development at Rosewood Tucker’s Point was approved by MPs on Friday. The special development order related to the construction of homes at the resort and was tabled by Walton Brown, the Minister of Home Affairs. Mr Brown said: “This is one of, I hope, the least contentious matters that I have to be presenting to this Parliament. This order seeks to provide more flexibility to persons purchasing lots at Tucker’s Point, intending to develop their properties, by removing restrictions that were both rigid and prescriptive, without compromising the very important environmental controls necessary.” Changes include a clause to ensure native species of plants are used in landscaping rather than invasive species. Other clauses require conservation management plans for some lots which must be included with planning applications. Mr Brown said that environmental groups the Bermuda Environmental Sustainability Taskforce, the Bermuda National Trust, and the Bermuda Audubon Society were consulted on the amendments. He added that the Department of Planning had worked closely with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources on finalizing the amendments. The legislation was tabled by Mr Brown last December and it was the only item up for debate as Parliament resumed after the Christmas break. Cole Simons, One Bermuda Alliance MP, said the item had the support of the Opposition. Mr Simons said: “Any investment in the resort will also improve Bermuda’s product.” But he added that he had some concerns about how the removal of the word “applicant” from the legislation would affect the ability to hold developers accountable. !To leave it out, as far as I am concerned, is irresponsible.” Jamahl Simmons, Minister of Economic Development and Tourism, said Rosewood was in safe hands with developer Gencom. He added: “We are very impressed with the vision that they have. I think Bermuda’s going to be very pleased with the contribution to the property and the work that will be done on the property.” Jeanne Atherden, Leader of the Opposition, said the inclusion of clauses about environmental protection in the legislation was “really significant. The mere fact that there is what I call the prevention idea rather than the cure idea is very important. We obviously support the concept, and are very pleased that it is putting in place the type of protection Bermuda needs.”
February 12. MP Derrick Burgess has claimed the “evidence was quite clear” that cuts to fees paid for medical services had targeted Dr Ewart Brown, the former premier. Mr Burgess said: “Their intent was to shut down Dr Brown.” The comment came during the motion to adjourn in the House of Assembly on Friday. Lawrence Scott, Progressive Labour Party MP for Warwick South East, raised the subject in his speech made prior to Mr Burgess’s address. Mr Burgess, a PLP MP and Deputy Speaker of the House, said that changes made to the fees paid for some medical services were “certainly targeted at Dr Brown and Bermuda Healthcare Services”. He pointed to notification of the impending cut sent by the Bermuda Health Council last February to a number of insurance providers and the Bermuda Hospitals Board. He said: “The only person, the only organisation, that these rates affected so much was Dr Brown.” Mr Burgess said Dr Brown was not notified at the same time. He added: “In fact, he was notified two weeks before this went into place.” The comments drew a point of order from Jeanne Atherden, Leader of the Opposition, who said that Mr Burgess was misleading the House. Ms Atherden said: “The normal practice for the health council would be to notify anybody that is affected by their change.” Mr Burgess said that the only two services that were “really affected” by the fee cuts were dialyses and diagnostic imaging. He added: “It was only the hospital and Dr Brown that does both of these services. So it was targeted at him.” The statements drew another point of order from Ms Atherden who again accused Mr Burgess of misleading the House. She said: “At the same time the diagnostic imaging fees were adjusted, so were the lab fees. And there are many other providers out there who have lab services. So it wasn’t a target for the individual that he is referring to.” Mr Burgess said plans for a new private medical centre in Hamilton were scrapped after the fee changes were announced. He explained: “They cannot afford to operate at that price.” Mr Burgess said that Dr Brown had been at the “forefront” in a campaign to cut healthcare costs in Bermuda. The Brown-Darrell clinic in Smith’s closed the doors on its CT scanning services last month. Dr Brown blamed the closure on “severe reductions in payments”.
February 12. American International Group says it expects its new Bermuda-based run-off company to bring jobs to the island. The new entity, known as DSA Reinsurance Company, will manage four-fifths of AIG’s legacy business and will be backed by $40 billion of invested assets. DSA Re will manage the group’s life, as well as property and casualty run-off business, with total reserves of about $37 billion. Asked about the potential for new jobs, an AIG spokesman told The Royal Gazette: “As the functional build-out of DSA Re continues, there will be an increase in the number of employees based in Bermuda.” New York-based AIG has had a presence in Bermuda for 70 years and is based in the American International Building on Richmond Road. Last month, the company announced it agreed a $5.6 billion all-cash deal to buy Bermudian reinsurer Validus Holdings, which operates out of the neighboring building, and will further increase the group’s Bermudian interests. AIG has been led since May last year by Bermudian-born chief executive officer Brian Duperreault, who has spent a large part of his career in the Bermuda insurance market, with Ace Group and later with Hamilton Insurance Group, a company he founded and led. After AIG spent most of the past decade shedding assets and paying off a massive US government bailout that saved it from collapse after the 2008 global financial crisis, Mr Duperreault has vowed to bring back growth. An AIG spokesman said DSA Re would be managed in line with the Bermuda head office requirements. He added: “The Bermuda-based insurance businesses of AIG each have distinct business models, and AIG believes it will derive better value from those businesses by allowing them to operate largely independently of each other, to compete with their respective peers and focus on their respective markets. Over time, there may be some sharing of back-office resources and facilities in Bermuda where it makes economic and strategic sense.” He added that AIG’s Legacy Team, established in 2016, and their support functions would be responsible for managing DSA Re. Selection of Bermuda as the domicile for DSA Re came after AIG had reviewed various potential jurisdictions and structures, the spokesman said. Bermuda, he added, had emerged as a logical choice for several reasons:
The news of DSA Re’s formation came in AIG’s earnings statement for the fourth quarter of last year, which showed a loss of $6.7 billion. However, the net loss was roughly equivalent to a one-off charge related to US tax changes, while the underwriting loss at AIG’s North American business narrowed 94 per cent to $316 million. AIG reported $762 million in catastrophe losses during the fourth quarter and a record $4.2 billion for the whole of 2017. Sid Sankaran, AIG’s chief financial officer, said in a conference call with analysts last Friday: “We formed a Bermuda-domiciled legal entity, named DSA Reinsurance Company Ltd, to reinsure our legacy life and non-life run-off lines. By combining these run-off lines into a single well-capitalized legal entity, we were able to achieve operating synergies and strong diversification in assets. Legacy remains non-core and will be managed by a team with extensive run-off expertise.”
February 12. Arch Capital Group beat forecasts and finished the year strongly with net income of $203.5 million, or $1.46 per share, for the fourth quarter. That compares to a profit of $63.4 million for the same period in 2016. While it suffered pre-tax catastrophe losses of $68.5 million from the California wildfires, and $1.5 million from other events, it benefited from $69.1 million of reductions from the third-quarter hurricane events. This resulted in pre-tax catastrophe losses, net of reinsurance and reinstatement premiums, of $800,000. Arch Capital’s profit for the fourth quarter, adjusted for non-recurring gains, was $1.34 per share, which beat the expectations of analysts who had forecast $1.13 per share. Its combined ratio, excluding catastrophic activity and related adjustments was 87 per cent, down from 90.7 per cent, while the underwriting combined ratio for the quarter was 86.3 per cent, and for the year was 82.5 per cent. There was a $50.9 million favorable development in prior year loss reserves. During the quarter, Arch took a $21.5 million charge related to the re-evaluation of its net deferred tax assets as a result of the lower US corporate income tax rate that began this year. After-tax operating income for the period was $187.4 million, or $1.34 per share, compared to $141.5 million, or $1.13 per share a year ago. Gross premiums written for the quarter were up 25.7 per cent to $1.452 billion. For the full year the Bermudian-based company’s net income was $556.5 million, down from $664.6 million.
February 12. A helium balloon targeted at tourists has been cleared for take-off. Planning officials have approved View Bermuda Ltd’s project to install a tethered balloon in Southampton, which will take visitors hundreds of feet into the air for a bird’s-eye view of Bermuda. The planning assessment for the project said: “The proposed tethered HiFlyer balloon will be a unique opportunity for the island and has been designed to make use of existing infrastructure with minimal work required to install It will affect people of the area and be marketed as another experience for tourists to enjoy during their stay in Bermuda.” According to planning documents, the balloon would be installed on a property on Sea Express Lane, next to the Rockaway Ferry stop. The balloon will have a diameter of 128ft and carry passengers in a 25ft basket. The altitude of the balloon will be controlled by a large winch on the landing platform. The application states that the balloon would go no higher than 400ft above sea level, carrying as many as 30 passengers. In order to build a landing pad, a retaining wall will have to be constructed, but the plans say the retaining wall will be hidden by hibiscus. The application also includes a snack shop and ticket office made out of a modified shipping container and an outdoor seating area. The site would include parking for six cars and 16 bikes, but the application suggested that any overflow could use the nearby Rockaway ferry stop for parking.
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February 12. Retail sales volume fell for a third successive month in November — a key month for the industry with Black Friday sales and the run-up to Christmas. Retailers took $95.7 million at the till, 0.7 per cent less than the same month in 2016. After inflation was taken into account, volume fell 3.1 per cent. All sectors saw decreases and motor vehicle dealers saw the largest decrease in sales volume, with a 14.2 per cent dip, according to data released by the Department of Statistics today. Apparel stores suffered a 7.2 per cent decline, while building materials stores saw a 4.1 per cent fall, while food stores’ sales volume slipped 1.8 per cent, liquor stores 3.1 per cent and fuel sales volume at services stations was down 2.2 per cent. Returning residents declared overseas purchases valued at $6.4 million, 3.2 per cent higher than November 2016. This contributed to a combined local and overseas spending of $102.3 million. Excluding Sundays, there were 25 shopping days during the month, the same as in November 2016.
February 12. The mysteries of the Bermuda Triangle are to be explained at a new Bermuda Underwater Exploration Institute exhibition. Bermuda Triangle: Unlock the Secrets is to open at the BUEI’s Ocean Discovery Centre on Thursday. Mel Ferson, BUEI director, said: “In the past, there wasn’t a single point where one could find out more about the infamous Bermuda Triangle, not even in Bermuda. That is not the case anymore. Now people can find answers to one of the biggest mysteries of all time. In the perfect myth, facts are always mixed with fiction. BUEI has done historical and scientific research to separate the two.” Lana Leksina, the exhibit project manager, said: “The exhibit offers something for all audiences — from skeptics to true enthusiasts of the paranormal. It is the ultimate destination for all things Triangle-related. Regardless of the reasons behind the Bermuda Triangle phenomenon, this hugely popular myth is strongly embedded in international folklore. What better place to discover the secrets of the Bermuda Triangle than in the country that shares its name?” The exhibit includes:
A ribbon-cutting ceremony will include John Rankin, the Governor, Walter Roban, the Deputy Premier, and Nancy Gosling, of main sponsor Gosling’s. BUEI’s education department will offer free guided tours of the exhibit to schools. Pupils will be invited to investigate disappearances and phenomena. The exhibit was designed by Ms Leksina and Canadian exhibit design firm 3DS/Three Dimensional Services, who also built the exhibit and oversaw its installation with local company Allset. It was also sponsored by Butterfield & Vallis, Elisabeth and Anne Kast Charitable Trust, Kurt and Jennifer Eve and Edmund Gibbons Ltd.
February 11, Sunday.
February 10. Bermuda’s population is ageing with those aged 65 and over now representing the third most populated group in Bermuda, according to the 2016 Census of Population and Housing. Highlights from the report were presented in Parliament yesterday by Lovitta Foggo, the Minister of Cabinet Office with Responsibility of Government Reform. It showed the age group now represents 17 per cent of the population, shifting from the least populated group in 2010 to the third, while the median age increased from 41 to 44. Preliminary report analysis excludes 711 persons in institutions, 138 non-sheltered or homeless persons and 4,637 overseas visitors. According to the figures, the island’s non-institutional population is 63,779 — 30,690 male and 33,389 female. In terms of racial make-up 33,339 of those are black, 19,466 white, 5,780 mixed racial groups, 2,592 Asians and the remainder were not stated. The number of black people in the community dropped by 2 per cent from 2010 when the last report was published. According to the report, there was an increase in the population’s highest level of academic qualifications attained since 2010. The proportion of those 16 years or older with no formal certificates declined to 14 per cent, while the proportion of degree holders increased to 29 per cent. The unemployment rate remained unchanged at 7 per cent. The number of dwelling units increased to 28,192 units and the average household size was 2.26 persons per household. Out of the 27,418 private households, 48 per cent were owner-occupied. As of March 31, 2017, about $575,000 of the $1.7 million budgeted for the 2016 Census had been spent. Ms Foggo said it equated to 34 per cent of the budget. “The budget accounted for a higher percentage of data collection being completed by more costly field interviewing than actually materialized,” she explained. Ms Foggo said the report had presented a “plethora of challenges”. Some 827 households were not completed and data was imputed for these households as well as those partially completed. The 2016 Census results will be released in two publications. The first was released on January 29, focusing on a summary analyses of the most basic characteristics of Bermuda’s population and housing. The second report is expected to be completed by the end of next month. This final report will cover detailed analyses on the Census topics.
February 10. Nearly 1,000 people are registered to gain national certification in a variety of trades, the Minister of Education and Workforce Development told the House of Assembly yesterday morning. Diallo Rabain said a total of 964 tradespeople, 576 Bermudians and 388 work-permit holders, fall under the “designated occupations” covered by the certification scheme. Occupations included are landscape gardener, vehicle mechanic, electrician and welder. Mr Rabain said: “National certification is directly aligned with workforce development initiatives and is meant to create a level playing field and build a competitive advantage for all Bermudian trades professionals. This process is instrumental to providing enhanced work opportunities for Bermudians and was designed to ensure an outcome of potential growth, increased confidence and improved quality and efficiency of our workforce.” Mr Rabain added that welders had completed a practical training assessment and electricians had undergone training courses over the past few months. He added that seven vehicle mechanics and two electricians won national certification last month. Mr Rabain said the National Training Board had also approved apprenticeship contracts for four young Bermudians entering the workforce, with three to train as electricians and one as a landscape gardener. In addition, the Department of Workforce Development has teamed up with the Department of Financial Assistance and the Bermuda Hospitality Institute to train people as housemen and chambermaids for the hotel industry. The Fairmont Southampton has agreed to carry out the practical training for the candidates and the first group of 25 will start a two-week course this month. Another 25 are expected to take the course in March.
February 10. The owner of an upmarket specialist gay travel firm has called on cruise lines to haul down the Bermuda flag on their ships and register their vessels elsewhere. Darren Burn, founder of UK-based LGBTQ travel firm OutOfOffice.com, said: “We had customers interested in marrying at sea and now they won’t be able to. We’ll be sending them to other, more welcoming destinations.” He added: “We’ve also encouraged cruise ships to remove their business from Bermuda. We are calling on cruise lines to make a stand and re-register their ships. Mr Burn said: “It will send a very powerful message that equality cannot be repealed.” Mr Burn was speaking only days after John Rankin, the Governor, gave Royal Assent to the Domestic Partnership Act 2017, which repealed gay marriage and replaced it with civil unions. But Mr Burn warned that the decision would damage the island’s economy. “This a massive step back in the fight for equality. Bermuda had been seen as progressive, but by withdrawing the recognition and protection for same-sex couples, the country will be vilified as one of the most backward. As more and more countries enact legislation to ensure equality, this decision will have a significant impact. Not only will cruise lines like P&O and Cunard no longer be able to conduct same-sex weddings at sea because they are registered in Bermuda, but it sets a very dangerous precedent and is likely to see other similarly homophobic nations follow.” Mr Burn said Bermuda had seen a growth in popularity as a holiday destination since a landmark decision by the Supreme Court in May last year, when Puisne Judge Charles-Etta Simmons ruled that the island’s Registrar-General could not reject a gay couple’s application to marry in Bermuda. The decision paved the way for same-sex marriage on the island and the first gay couple exchanged vows at the Registrar-General’s office less than a month later. But Mr Burn added that customers would likely rethink their travel plans because of the decision to reverse same-sex marriages. Mr Burn added: “LGBT travelers have 23 per cent more disposable income than heterosexual travelers on average and so it’s a shame Bermuda has done this as it will undoubtedly suffer and lose revenue. The Government of Bermuda must realize that they benefit hugely from having ships registered here and that their economy depends on such trade. We will be making our views known to the Bermuda tourist board and to our colleagues at affected cruise lines.” Paul Scope, chairman of the Bermuda Shipping and Maritime Authority, said yesterday that it was “too early to properly gauge how the new law may affect our shipping sector, but Bermuda remains one of the world’s most attractive and welcoming ports. Our registry is a Class 1 member of the prestigious Red Ensign Group, and our ships and yachts therefore will continue to enjoy the benefits of that top-tier membership. For now, we’re assessing the legislative situation, and will provide more information when we have it.” A spokesman for the Ministry of Transport and Regulatory Affairs added: “The reasons for registering ships on the Bermuda Shipping Registry extend far beyond the ability to perform marriages at sea. While there may be other Flags which allow marriages at sea, ship owners have typically chosen Bermuda for a number of professional reasons, not the least of which is its high-quality reputation. Currently, the UK does not allow marriages to be performed on their ships.”
February 9. Legislators will return to Parliament today with a single item up for debate. MPs will discuss a special development order for homes at the Rosewood Tucker’s Point resort, which was tabled last December by Walton Brown, the Minister of Home Affairs. Mr Brown will also table a draft agreement between the Corporation of Hamilton and HSBC Bank Bermuda Ltd. Walter Roban, the Deputy Premier, will bring the 2015-16 audited financial report for the Regulatory Authority. Ministerial statements include the 2016 Census preliminary report, brought by government reform minister Lovitta Foggo, and an update on the cost of living commission, which will be given by David Burt, the Premier. Parliamentary questions include requests for details on personal staff hired by Mr Burt since taking office, and the final cost for the Census, as well as the numbers and costs for the government employees from 2012 to 2017. The controversy over new fees for medical diagnostic imaging may come up for discussion in responses from health minister Kim Wilson to Susan Jackson, the shadow minister, on supplementary payments to service providers affected by reduced fees. Jamahl Simmons, the Minister of Economic Development and Tourism, is scheduled to address media reports on the Casino Gaming Commission. Today’s session will open with a moment of silence for Ernest DeCouto, former Speaker of the House of Assembly, and former minister Quinton Edness.
February 9. A pressure group that campaigned against the controversial airport redevelopment deal said it would remain opposed to the plan — irrespective of the findings of a new review. A spokesman for Move Bermuda said that “for so many reasons our position could not change about this deal. But that’s another conversation.” Move said the deal with the Canadian Commercial Corporation and construction firm Aecon to redevelop LF Wade International Airport had provoked “great angst, civil unrest and many restless nights”. The spokesman added: “We believe that the Government that negotiated the deal gave away much to our detriment and could have gotten a better deal elsewhere through the bargaining process.” Move was asked what the impact would be if the review was to find the deal a benefit to Bermuda. He said: “There are many variables associated with whether the full review would be deemed beneficial to Bermuda and the only one we can think of is that a modern terminal would be built. However, if it were found to be beneficial through the report then the idea would have to be accepted.” The spokesman said that the group was confident that the review ordered by the Government, conducted by the Bermuda Airport Authority and American-based consultant firm LeighFisher, would be made public. He added that Move expected the findings of the BAA review would “have a different conclusion” to the review completed by the Blue Ribbon Panel under the former One Bermuda Alliance government “based upon the knowledge of the contract and the financial information now available”. The spokesman said: “The review by the Blue Ribbon Panel was viewed as an expected outcome as there was nothing to compare the negotiated deal with.” A spokesman for the transport ministry confirmed this week that the final draft of a report on the review had been received, but that it would “undergo Cabinet consideration before it is made public”. Denis Pitcher, an independent political commentator, said both the report and the review itself should be made available to the public. Move and the People’s Campaign opposed the redevelopment deal in the lead-up to last July’s General Election. A protest against the redevelopment in December 2016 turned violent when police officers clashed with demonstrators who blocked entry to the House of Assembly. Officers used pepper spray on the crowd outside Sessions House. David Burt, the Premier who was then Opposition leader, Derrick Burgess, Lovitta Foggo and Michael Scott were among the Progressive Labour Party MPs who showed up to picket Parliament. At least 26 complaints were made to the Police Complaints Authority by members of the public in the wake of the demonstration. The Bermuda Police Service said 14 of their officers were assaulted.
February 9. A pressure group set up to fight same-sex marriage has welcomed news that the Governor had signed an Act to outlaw gay weddings. But OutBermuda, a gay rights group, said that it was only a matter of time before same-sex marriages were reintroduced. Melvyn Bassett, chairman of Preserve Marriage Bermuda, said the group was “thankful” that Bermuda had backtracked on a legal decision last May that paved the way for same-sex marriages and introduce civil partnerships instead, which will also be open to straight couples. Dr Bassett said: “Although Preserve Marriage does not condone any legal union which may provide legal footing for same-sex marriage, we do wish to commend the Government on being the first and only government in the world to reverse the laws on same-sex marriage.’ Preserve Marriage broke its silence on the row two days after John Rankin gave Royal Assent to the controversial Act, which sparked an international backlash and calls for a boycott of Bermuda. Dr Bassett said that the European Court of Human Rights did not impose obligations on countries to introduce equal access to marriage, but did expect states to recognize same-sex relationships — which was fulfilled by the Domestic Partnership Act signed by Mr Rankin. Dr Bassett added: Preserve Marriage will continue to educate the public as to the importance and benefits of traditional marriage to the society. “We are also committed to ensuring that the definition of marriage between a man and a woman remains in this country. Our aim is to continue to support families by working with other community groups that support healthy marriages and healthy families. To that end, Preserve Marriage has begun efforts to change its legal name to Preserve Marriage and Family.” A spokesman for OutBermuda said: “OutBermuda recognizes that our country is on a journey towards greater acceptance of LGBTQ people and families. This is not the first time a legislature has intervened to overturn a court ruling which supports marriage equality. It happened previously in Hawaii and in California. We believe lasting change on the issue of marriage equality requires us to work within the broader community to change hearts and minds, to reverse the perception that marriage equality is somehow detrimental to our island. This can and will be done.” The spokesman added: “We are encouraged by expressions of support both locally and internationally for Bermuda’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and queer people, and extend our tremendous gratitude on behalf of the community here. Marriage equality is a goal, but it is not the only goal. We encourage our allies to reach out as we continue to promote and support the well-being, health, dignity, security, safety and protection of the LGBTQ community in Bermuda. While we are disappointed, we are not powerless.”
February 9. American International Group’s takeover of Bermudian reinsurer Validus Holdings could be a sign of further deals in the industry this year. That is the view of Fitch Ratings, which says the effects of US tax reform and catastrophe losses last year is leading to speculation of more mergers and acquisitions among re/insurers in 2018 — especially in the Bermuda market. Increasing scale and diversification resulting from mergers could increase the resilience of firms to market challenges, including intense price competition and low investment yields, Fitch said. However, merger execution and integration risks could pose risks to profitability. “AIG’s $5.6 billion acquisition of Validus, announced in January, could foreshadow additional re/insurer acquisitions for 2018,” Fitch stated. Bloomberg News’s reported this week that German insurer Allianz had interest in acquiring Bermudian firm XL Group, while Swiss Re confirmed that it was discussing a potential deal for SoftBank to invest a minority stake in the company. Fitch added: “Notably, several recent deals have involved international firms buying into Bermuda or London, providing the benefit of growth outside home markets. The AIG-Validus acquisition is a case in point, with AIG gaining access to a Bermuda re/insurance operation and London platform. The sale of several typically smaller and less diversified re/insurers in recent years has largely been in response to a prolonged highly competitive market that has inhibited profitable capital deployment.” Last year’s catastrophe losses has exposed weakening reinsurance earnings fundamentals, while the growth of alternative capital in the reinsurance market helped limit price increases at the January 2018 renewals. Fitch’s global reinsurance sector outlook remains negative due to pricing concerns and constraining effects of low investment yields on profitability. “In addition, recently enacted US tax reforms reduced the tax advantage that Bermuda and some other international re/insurers have over their US counterparts,” Fitch said. “This may encourage firms to move more business to the US or enhance their geographic scope and competitive position through M&A. Conversely, opportunities for better revenue growth and rate adequacy could reduce sellers’ interest in finding a merger partner. A near-term shift towards property re/insurance rate increases in response to 2017 catastrophe losses and pricing stabilization in some other market segments will likely enable premium growth and modest underlying profit improvement in 2018. “Stronger global economic growth is also leading to expansion in insured exposures and demand for coverage.”
February 9. Bermuda-domiciled mortgage insurer Essent Group Ltd’s profits for the fourth quarter of last year received an $85.1 million boost from US tax reform. Essent said today it made net income of $162.6 million, or $1.65 per share, during the last three months of last year. The one-time impact of the reduced US corporate income tax rate on the company’s net deferred tax liability position contributed 86 cents per share to the results. Essent said net income for the full year 2017 was $379.7 million, or $3.99 per share. The company reported that two of last year’s hurricanes had contributed to an increase in defaults among the mortgages it insures. Mark Casale, chairman and chief executive officer, said Essent had continued to a high credit quality and profitable mortgage insurance portfolio during 2017. “During the year, we continued growing our earnings and generating strong returns,” Mr Casale said. “As we head into our ninth year of writing mortgage insurance, our outlook for 2018 on our business and housing remains positive.” Loans in default at December 31, 2017 were 4,783 compared to 2,153 as of September 30, 2017 and 1,757 as of December 31, 2016. Total loans in default increased by 2,630 in the quarter, including 2,288 defaults that we have identified as related to hurricanes Harvey and Irma. The percentage of loans in default as of December 31, 2017 was 0.96 per cent, compared to 0.46 per cent as of September 30, 2017 and 0.47 per cent as of December 31, 2016. Essent said its insurance in force as of December 31, 2017 was $110.5 billion, up from $103.9 billion three months earlier and $83.3 billion from a year earlier. New insurance written for the fourth quarter was $11.2 billion and $43.9 billion for the full year. Net premiums earned for the fourth quarter were $148 million, compared to $116.8 million in 2016. For the full year 2017, net premiums earned were $530.1 million, compared to $422.7 million for 2016. The expense ratio for the fourth quarter was 24.7 per cent, compared to 29.8 per cent a year earlier. For the full year 2017, the expense ratio was 27.5 per cent, down from 30.9 per cent in 2016. Essent’s combined ratio for the fourth quarter, reflecting the proportion of premium dollars paid out on claims and expenses, was 36.4 per cent, compared to 33.1 per cent in the fourth quarter of 2016.
February 9. A scholarship for university students has been renamed to honour the late CEO of one of Bermuda’s largest domestic insurance companies. Alan Peacock, the chief executive officer of Colonial Group International, died suddenly last year after suffering a suspected heart attack while traveling on business. The firm has decided to pay tribute to Mr Peacock by changing the name of an annual $25,000 scholarship it funds to the BFIS Alan Peacock Colonial Group Scholarship. It is awarded to a junior- or senior-year university student pursuing an undergraduate degree at an accredited university who intends to pursue a career in insurance. Grant Gibbons, CGI chairman, said: “Alan shunned publicity but he did a lot for Bermuda’s young people, primarily through sport. He also gave many young people their first jobs and helped to nurture their careers. We felt it was only fitting to rename the scholarship as a tribute to Alan’s legacy.” Last June, CGI announced that Mr Peacock, who joined the company in the 1970s, was due to retire this year and that Naz Farrow, the firm’s chief operating officer — health, had been appointed as CEO designate. “We lost a good boss, colleague and friend when Alan passed,” Ms Farrow said. “We are all still struggling to come to terms with the loss. He was a big part of Colonial and had a strong influence on the values and ethics of the company and employees. We hope the scholarship will continue to help young people embark on a career in insurance, and contribute to adding value to an industry that is a strong part of the Bermudian business world. I am sure that would please Alan immensely.” The scholarship is administered for Colonial by the Bermuda Foundation for Insurance Studies and a spokesperson said: “Renaming a scholarship that has helped several young people since its inception in 2006 is a very fitting and lasting tribute to Alan. There is no doubt that students will continue to take advantage of it and benefit from it in future years.”
February 9. A new health business that studies heavy metal concentration in people’s bodies to help gauge their health has started in Bermuda. Clare Pemberton has set up Life and Thrive after studying for two years at the Institute of Integrative Nutrition, which she says, is “at the forefront of a new movement of health optimization rather than simply working on disease prevention”. Mrs Pemberton said: “Life and Thrive will help people to strengthen the health of their cells deep within their body. This is done through vitamin, mineral and heavy metal testing, guided heavy metal cellular-level detoxes and knowledge and guidance on how to live in such a way for both optimal health and a great, thriving, life.” She added that her business worked with a laboratory and a specialist nutritionist in the UK for its tests. "This is not about deprivation, but is about positive, permanent changes. People will not fail this programme.” Originally an accountant, Mrs Pemberton said she first got interested in health deep within the cells of the body before she conceived her first child. “The driving force for me was maximizing the health of my child before he was even conceived,” she said. “The health of the individual starts before they are even conceived with the healthiest egg and sperm possible. Through this I have learnt the importance of health deep within your cells for all conditions and diseases and for the optimization of your health.” She retrained in 2016 and 2017 with the Institute of Integrative Nutrition. “The new science and research is showing that better nutrition, improved sleep, reduced levels of stress and the detoxification of heavy metals and toxicity are dramatically improving people’s health deep within their bodies. This, in turn, can lead to less fatigue, brain fog and autoimmune conditions and better health and happiness now. This can have a profound reduction on the likelihood of getting some of the common, scary diseases as well as reducing the severity of ADHD [attention deficit hyperactivity disorder] and autism.” Life and Thrive is based on the second floor of The Colonial Building, Gorham Road, Hamilton.
February 9. Repairs to a seawall in Hamilton Harbour will start on Monday. Work on the east-facing wall by the Hamilton Ferry Terminal and at the Flagpole area on Front Street is expected to be completed by April 20. A spokeswoman for the City of Hamilton said: “The repair work is not expected to have an impact on the public ferries, and alternate docking for the Dockyard-to-Hamilton cruise passenger tenders will be secured.” The spokeswoman said tour-boat operators and the boating public that use these areas must make other docking arrangements. She added: “Alternate locations may include Albuoy’s Point, Barr’s Bay Park and No 1 Dock. Boat operators using the alternate docking locations are reminded that there is a one-hour maximum time limit for loading and unloading vessels.” The spokeswoman said repairs would be carried out from a barge as well as on land. She added: “The City thanks the public for their patience and advises to exercise caution in this high-traffic area while the repairs are carried out. Signage will be in place.”
February 9. A pair of Bermudian performers will treat residents to an exclusive insight into their Hollywood experience on Monday. Hannah Eggen and Gianluca Gibbons, both part of the Heritage band and based in Los Angeles, will showcase some of their unreleased work and share their inside scoop on show business. The Bermudians in Hollywood event will also feature a sneak peek at upcoming film Romancery, starring Mr Gibbons, as well as comedian Nadanja Bailey. Mr Gibbons said: “It will be an intimate setting giving an exclusive insight into our journey in Hollywood, unreleased content, music, comedy and more.” He added: “We are very excited to use this event as a platform to continue to inspire other Bermudian creatives to strive for their dreams. We are even shooting videos while on the island to showcase how amazing Bermuda is for creating art.” Ms Eggen, who will perform at the South by Southwest music festival in Texas next month, said: “I can’t express how excited I am to share all we’ve been working on with our beautiful Bermudian family.” There will also be special screenings of unreleased music videos at the event at Speciality Cinema in Hamilton. The duo will also perform live with Ms Eggen on guitar and vocals, and Mr Gibbons on saxophone. Both Bermudians have spent the last few years in Los Angeles, but have performed around the world. They have shared the stage with acts including Carlos Santana, Wyclef Jean, The Madden Brothers, Wayne Wonder, Nico & Vinz, and Natasha Bedingfield. They have also made leaps into film, dance and motivational speaking. Tickets cost $15. The event will run from 6.30pm to 8pm.
February 9. A footbridge over Flatts Inlet has won approval from planners. The project, championed by the Friends of the Bermuda Railway Trail, is one of three designed to link long-separated sections of the historic former rail track. The plan will include one bridge over the inlet, one over North Shore Road and a third over a private driveway. A planning assessment said: “The bridges will allow for further connecting of the historic Bermuda Railway Trail to be achieved, which will benefit members of the public and visitors alike. “It will enhance the existing experience for users of the trail and encourage further use while also allowing visitors another glimpse into the historic railway and beautiful vistas which would have been afforded to users of the railway at the time.” The FBRT earlier worked to install new bridges at Store Hill and Bailey’s Bay as well as providing a raft of upgrades to the trail across the island. The planning application said the bridge over Flatts Inlet would use the same pillars as the original railway, although additional piers will be added. The bridge would stretch 730ft and stand 22ft above the low-tide mark. The planning documents said the bridge would be high enough to allow tour boats and all but one of the boats moored in the inlet to pass underneath. The owner of the remaining boat said she would move the boat to another mooring before work started. A second bridge section would stretch 220ft, and pass 16.5ft above North Shore Road. The final section of bridge would cross 16ft over a nearby private driveway. All of the bridges will be designed to withstand hurricane conditions. A public meeting about the proposal was held last May, and a computer-generated video was released online showing what the proposed bridge would look like. The proposal attracted four objections, including one from the Bermuda Environmental Sustainability Taskforce. The environmental charity said: “The proposal encompasses numerous conservation or protection areas and as such we believe that it’s essential that an environmental impact assessment be required to identify and avoid any as-yet unknown threats.” The three other objections came from residents who voiced concerns about the visual impact of the bridge over the inlet. The project also received a letter of support from another area resident. The planning assessment says that all of the objectors received letters of response and were notified when the final plans were submitted, but no further comments were received.
February. 9. The introduction of roadside breath tests could face legal and constitutional hurdles. Senior magistrate Juan Wolffe said the use of a breathalyzer programme would need to be regulated. He said: “If there is going to be roadside testing, there have got to be very strict criteria under which cars are going to be randomly selected. There will also have to be a very fair campaign. You have to have the records to say it is truly a random selection. The devil is in the details, and it’s all about the implementation, but at the front end there has to be a very clear educational piece to say what it is and a constant monitoring of the process, procedures and police operations to make sure it is fair.” Mr Wolffe explained police need to have reasonable grounds to stop a motorist. Introducing random stops could raise questions about discrimination unless they were handled with care. He said: “It’s similar to the arguments that were made over stop and search. A lot of provisional arguments were made that it was being used to profile and being used to predominantly stop one demographic. The question would be, would this legislation do the exact same thing?” Mr Wolffe added police would need to be able to prove stops are random, and the location of checkpoints would also have to be selected with care to avoid the appearance of discrimination. He said: “Setting up on East Broadway, stopping every tenth car, might be fine, but if you go and set up on Court Street, where you have a large percentage of people of a certain racial background, people are going to start wondering why you are there and when you were last set up in Tucker’s Town.” Mr Wolffe added that speed cameras could also cause legal problems as prosecutors would have to prove who was driving the vehicle at the time of the offence. You may have the car, but in Bermuda people borrow cars all the time. How do you say, from a legal standpoint, that a certain person was driving the car? Legislative changes could be introduced to make the owner of the car responsible for the person driving the vehicle, but that could also cause problems. If your car was stolen, you can say it was stolen, but the burden now falls on you to say you were not driving. The law, under the Constitution, says you are innocent until proven guilty and it is the prosecution that has to prove the case against you. You should not at any time have to prove your innocence. It could happen. It has happened in other jurisdictions, but the legislation would have to be in place, and I would expect you would rightfully get some opposition from the Defence Bar, who might say their clients are being denied due process and are having to prove their innocence.” Mr Wolffe said enforcing the 35km/h speed limit might also cause problems. He added: “The difficulty I have, from a legal standpoint, is that although the speed limit is 35, people have a legitimate expectation that they won’t be stopped for 36. To some degree it would be unfair to the public to say we have been allowing you for all these years to go to 50, but now we are going to backtrack you almost 20km/h. It would be kind of unfair, and may even seem to be an injustice for us to do a complete reduction. I don’t think that’s something we should visit on the people.” Mr Wolffe said that an increase in the legal speed limit to 50km/h would need strict enforcement to prevent drivers and riders traveling at even higher speeds. We have to make sure if you raise it that the police and the courts are very clear that if you exceed the speed limit you will be ticketed and appropriately sentenced. We have to be very careful. Traffic enforcement is key and that police could deter crime through high visibility. If you see police parked outside of the bars on Front Street in the early morning, that’s a deterrent. That’s sending a very clear message, but you don’t see that as much any more. Just the presence of police officers can go a long way. Driving along Kindley Field Road in the morning, I know when a police officer is stopped there because no one is overtaking me. The mere presence of a police officer may deter some of the incidents.”
February 9. Royal Gazette Editorial. "It is not unreasonable to conclude that had Parliament not reconvened until February 9, 2019 rather than this morning, John Rankin would still be giving “careful consideration” to the Domestic Partnership Act 2017. Since the Senate gave its approval by a conclusive 8-3 margin, with all three independents siding with the “ayes”, the issue of same-sex marriage in Bermuda has been the topic of debate from as far away as Britain. There the House of Commons set aside a half-hour at adjournment time last week so that two openly gay men could debate whether Britain’s oldest overseas territory needed to have its knuckles rapped by Big Brother. Chris Bryant, a Labour MP living in a civil partnership, making the case to intervene; Sir Alan Duncan, a government minister living in a civil partnership, arguing that Britain leaves Bermuda to its own devices. Some irony, that. We may never know if Sir Alan, the Minister of State, or Boris Johnson, the Foreign Secretary, had any influence on the Governor’s decision or if, with a resigned shrug of the shoulders given the United Kingdom’s inability to get Northern Ireland onside, they basically said: “We’re screwed. Over to you, John.” Having waited for the best part of two months for Royal Assent, the pithy, 22-word statement that came out of Government House told of a man who was backed into a corner, forced into signing off on something that goes against his sense of right and human dignity. There are many others who feel that way in Bermuda after the roundabout way in which we have dealt with an issue that has such meaning to an albeit very small LGBTQ community but swelling support base. The inability of both political parties to negotiate their way through uncomfortable waters means an Act that would have been seen nine months ago as a fantastic step forward, and setting the example for our Caribbean neighbors, is now viewed as backward. Which is a shame and particularly hard on someone such as home affairs minister Walton Brown, who has devoted so much of his life to fighting for human rights to the extent of being seen as an outlier within his own party. Brown’s Act has elicited a sensational reaction, with many incensed Bermudians falling into line behind movements to boycott the island — the hashtag #BoycottBermuda making enough of an inglorious return in Twittersphere to give Kevin Dallas and the Bermuda Tourism Authority heart palpitations so soon after the announcement of a record visitor intake in 2017. And in pincer-like movement, the international media have pounced, Royal Assent confirming that we have indeed become the first country to allow same-sex marriage — if not in parliamentary-approved legislation — and then repeal it. Albeit that domestic partnerships are everything but marriage in name — and we mean everything — any hindrance to progression can be argued as regression. While it is too soon to know if the island will take an economic hit, how long Bermuda remains in the international news spotlight in alignment with same-sex marriage could be a factor. With David Burt, the Premier, set to deliver his first Budget Statement as finance minister a week today, when he is expected to plot a path towards continued economic revival, the timing could hardly be worse. Operating at glacial pace where it pertains to social change is part of the “Bermudian culture”. This culture, which includes the infamous double-negative that is treated like the Queen’s English and which remains on a homicidal pace on our roads despite the horrendous results revealed by A Piece of the Rock, is resistant to criticism of any form — constructive or otherwise — if it is coming from the wrong side of the fence. So seeing gays as people, too, in every sense, will take time. At the crux of this country coming to terms with the need to treat its brothers and sisters in the LGBTQ community as brothers and sisters is education. And if in 2018 we still cannot appreciate the illiteracy of “I ain’t going nowhere”, brazenly passing it down to our children, generation after generation, the chances of a truly collective epiphany attended dually by empathy and grace are remote. Without wanting to reprise the worst of Patricia Gordon-Pamplin’s “You Will Die” speech, we will get there. We are just waiting for the right generation to come for that penny to finally drop. It was only in 2013 that sexual orientation was added to the Human Rights Act. And it was only 19 years earlier that the Stubbs Bill led to the removal of buggery from our books as a crime. Poor Walton Brown. A year ago, this assent could have led to him being draped in the rainbow colors and paraded around the City of Hamilton. Now, for those who might have anointed, it is a crown of thorns and a cross the weight of the world on his back that are better suited. Alas, Easter and the Resurrection are just around the corner.
February 8. Michael Weeks has been appointed as the new Minister of Social Development and Sport. Mr Weeks, Government Whip since the Progressive Labour Party won the General Election in July 2017, assumes the role which was made vacant by the resignation of Zane DeSilva. Premier David Burt, who made the announcement at Government House, said Mr Weeks is “no stranger to Cabinet and no stranger to the very important ministry of social development and sports”. The Premier added that Mr Weeks has a “deep passion” for the community and for sport. Mr Burt said: “As someone who has worked in community service for a very long time, I have every confidence that he will be able to demonstrate the passion for the job, executing the Government’s wishes on the very important matters of financial assistance reform, community club regeneration and the very important matters of making sure our social fabric and our culture continues to be highlighted.” Mr Weeks pledged to continue Mr DeSilva’s work to help community and sports clubs. He added: “The time has long been overdue for us to acknowledge and bring our community and sporting clubs into the 21st century. I have always said that if we get social development and sports right, that is the glue of our community. I firmly believe that if we get social development and sports right, we will address a lot of the issues.” Mr Weeks said he also aimed to help with financial assistance reform but said he wanted to meet the permanent secretary at the ministry and others before he made any further statements. He added: “As the Premier said, I come with a list of accomplishments that I have done in that ministry. But as we know, it not just on what you’ve done, so I pledge to work hard. I pledge to be the best that I can be. I tell the people of Bermuda that my decisions as minister may not always be what you want to hear, but trust that Michael Weeks will always make a decision that is fair and honest.” Mr Weeks, who became a Cabinet minister without portfolio in 2010 under the former PLP government, was announced as the Minister of Community Development in June 2011. He became Minister of Public Works later that year, a post he held until the One Bermuda Alliance won the General Election in 2012. He became the Shadow Minister of Community and Cultural Development in 2012 and later held the position of Shadow Minister of Social Development and Sport. Mr DeSilva, who became the Minister of Social Development and Sport in July last year, quit his post last month because of a “conflict” over changes to fees for MRI and CT medical scans. He earlier stood by Ewart Brown, a former PLP premier, at a press conference in which Dr Brown blamed government fee cuts for the closure of the CT scan service at his Brown-Darrell Clinic in Smith’s. Government reform minister Lovitta Foggo filled in as acting minister until a replacement was identified. Owen Darrell, the PLP chairman, said yesterday that a new Government Whip would be voted on at a caucus meeting last night.
February 8. The battle for same-sex marriage could end up in Europe’s highest courts, lawyer Mark Pettingill said last night. Mr Pettingill said that Royal Assent for a law designed to replace same-sex marriage with domestic partnerships meant that any further legal action would need to be heard in higher courts. The former attorney-general, who fought the May 2017 Supreme Court case that paved the way for same-sex marriage, added: “This is now something that would necessarily invite consideration beyond our shores. There is potential for a challenge going all the way to the European courts.” Mr Pettingill was speaking after John Rankin, the Governor, rubber-stamped the Domestic Partnership Act, which was drawn up to replace same-sex marriage with domestic partnerships for both gay and straight couples. Mr Pettingill and his team represented Bermudian Winston Godwin and his Canadian fiancé, Greg DeRoche, in their successful landmark case against the Bermuda Government after the Registrar-General refused to publish their marriage banns. He said: “I take the view, as do a number of other lawyers, that there is a case to be heard on the basis of the rights enshrined in our Constitution. The question becomes, are there any relevant parties that are prepared to take up that fight? I feel that potential is there. Unfortunately, there are the risks of losing, which would probably incur substantial legal costs. These things are not cheap to run. Anybody who decided to take up that challenge as a litigant would have to think very carefully about the possibility that they could lose, and the risks involved.” Mr Pettingill explained that a challenge to the Domestic Partnership Act would represent “a very different case, although of course it related to the same legal issues”. He said: “It is a fundamentally different position to argue in law. We are dealing with same-sex marriage, with something that became legal on the basis of human rights issues and is now being effectively taken away by an Act of Parliament. To challenge that clearly is embarking on new legal ground as it relates to the issues and facts associated. It presents a far tougher case and a far longer and potentially more drawn-out battle.” Mr Pettingill said would-be challengers had already approached him to weigh up the merits of further legal action in an international arena. He added: “We will have to see. I am obviously deeply disappointed, as is a whole segment of right-minded people who feel the same way on human rights issues. I cannot say I am startled or surprised. It was given full consideration by the Governor. The question now becomes, is there a constitutional legal issue that can bring a challenge in relation to this assent?” Walton Brown, the Minister of Home Affairs, said the Act represented “a compromise piece of legislation which does not bring any high level of satisfaction to any side” in the island’s long-running row over same-sex marriage. Mr Brown, speaking from London, added the provisions of the Act were “the only position that could be taken at this point. This difficult piece of legislation was developed in such a way as to ensure that it fully complies with our Constitution. Clearly anyone has the right to challenge anything they want, but it must be a challenge with merit.” Mr Brown questioned the delay between the Act’s backing by Parliament and Mr Rankin’s decision to give it Royal Assent. He said that the constitutional implications of the Domestic Partnership Act had already been “assessed in great detail” by the Attorney-General’s chambers. Mr Brown added: “All I will say is that I have never seen any piece of legislation attract this much attention in terms of the timing of the Governor’s signature. It has been duly passed by both Houses of Parliament. It passed with a large majority in the House of Assembly, and it was passed by five government and three independent senators, representing the will of the people. After this very important piece of legislation, we will move to develop others to help put Bermuda into a better place.” Mr Godwin said he and his husband were “deeply saddened. “It’s a sad day for Bermuda. It’s a sad day for human rights. The Governor was placed between a rock and a hard place with this poorly planned and rushed Bill.” But he told the island’s LGBTQ people: “While Greg and I were the face of this case, we represented every single one of you and helped to give a voice to those that didn’t have one. Because of you, we were able to make a difference in the lives of eight couples and that’s something that shouldn’t be understated or forgotten. You are all loved and are worthy of love.” The Governor’s decision attracted fast condemnation from overseas. Chris Bryant, the Opposition Labour MP who called for the House of Commons debate, tweeted last night: “So Boris Johnson has granted permission to Bermuda to abolish same-sex marriage. This totally undermines UK efforts to advance LGBT rights.” Ty Cobb, director at Washington-based Human Rights Campaign Global, called the move a “deplorable action. Governor Rankin and the Bermuda Parliament have shamefully made Bermuda the first territory in the world to repeal marriage equality. This decision strips loving same-sex couples of the right to marry and jeopardizes Bermuda’s international reputation and economy. Despite this deplorable action, the fight for marriage equality in Bermuda will continue until the day when every Bermudian is afforded the right to marry the person they love.” Sarah Kate Ellis, president and chief executive of New York’s Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, added: “LGBTQ couples and their children in Bermuda should know that the global community of LGBTQ people and allies will stand with them in rectifying this unjust and hurtful news. Love can never be rolled back.” Clare O’Connor, a Bermudian journalist living overseas, promised not to send any business towards her homeland. “I will be encouraging my LGBTQ friends to spend their money elsewhere,” said Ms O’Connor, formerly of Forbes magazine, who has almost 22,000 followers on Twitter. “This is despicable and I hope the Progressive Labour Party and Governor understand the damage they’ve done.” Rainbow Alliance Bermuda and OutBermuda did not respond to requests for comment by press time. Preserve Marriage Bermuda, which campaigned against same-sex marriage, also did not respond to a request for comment.
February 8. The ratings of some insurance and reinsurance groups could be affected by the impact of the reform of US tax law. AM Best said that anticipated structural changes to certain reinsurance arrangements between affiliated insurance or reinsurance companies, particularly those domiciled in the US, could impact the rating agency’s assessment of group rating affiliations. The agency said its “rating unit” concept in evaluating insurance group members recognizes that the financial fortunes of certain members may be so intertwined that they are most appropriately analyzed with their group as a whole. Several Bermuda insurance groups have American-based insurance subsidiaries and cede a proportion of that business to a Bermudian-based affiliate in the form of quota share reinsurance. According to a new Best’s Briefing, titled Impact of US Tax Reform on Group Rating Affiliations, AM Best expects its rated American-domiciled insurers and reinsurers to make significant changes to material financial arrangements, such as quota share, excess of loss or stop-loss reinsurance agreements with foreign affiliates, in response to the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act’s base erosion and anti-abuse tax measure. The agency said material changes to a reinsurance agreement, or outright non-renewal, for any reason, could affect AM Best’s assessment of whether a parent is willing and able to provide explicit support to an affiliate. However, it also said explicit support is one of ten qualitative and quantitative factors used to assess group rating affiliation eligibility, and it will consider all of these, “including all forms of explicit support, on a situational basis”. AM Best expects tax reform to be a net positive for the financial position of US property/casualty insurance companies and American-parented global insurers and reinsurers. The agency said the largest benefit will be the reduction in the corporate tax rate; however, other tax reform provisions may limit the benefit of the reduction. AM Best noted that foreign-parented global re/insurers have publicly stated that the impact of tax reform will not be material, presumably as a result of the multiple platforms in which they can transact business.
February 8. Axis Capital Holdings made a loss of $38 million, or 46 cents per share, in the fourth quarter, down from a profit of $131 million, or $1.48 per share, a year ago. The combined ratio for the quarter rose to 100.7 per cent, compared to 96.7 per cent, for the same period in 2016. Pre-tax catastrophe and weather-related losses, net of reinsurance and reinstatement premiums, were $133 million. Albert Benchimol, president and CEO of Axis Capital, said the fourth quarter brought “significant catastrophe activity, higher attritional property losses, the ongoing effects of the Ogden rate change in the UK, and the cumulative impact of several years of intense competition”. For the full year, Axis made a loss of $416 million, or $4.94 per share, compared to a profit of $465 million in 2016. Mr Benchimol said: “Although our loss for the year is clearly disappointing, we operate in an industry that experiences occasional high-severity events. To balance against this, we manage our risks to ensure we remain strong and able to provide the seamless, high-quality protection our clients and partners in distribution have come to expect of us. The actions we have taken over recent quarters to reduce earnings volatility have helped to temper the impact to our financial results in a period where industry catastrophe losses were in excess of $100 billion.” Noting the 7.5 per cent decrease in diluted book value per share of $53.88 at the end of the year, he said that was not unreasonable when compared to the scale of market losses observed during the period. “Notwithstanding the industry backdrop, it was a very successful quarter and year from an organizational development perspective, as we closed on the acquisition of Novae and made further progress on strategic initiatives, all of which have contributed to the delivery of a much stronger platform with differentiated positioning and leadership positions in key markets. This was the first quarter in which we included Novae in our financial reporting and, as such, there are a number of moving parts in our results. We remain pleased with the progress we have made thus far in integrating this business into Axis and laying the groundwork to realize significant value from the transaction. Our experience to date indicates the strategic and financial benefits from the acquisition of Novae will exceed our initial expectations.” Mr Benchimol added: “As we look ahead, our stronger industry positioning and increased relevance in our core markets have allowed us to take advantage of improving market conditions at recent renewals, and establish positive momentum as we move past the 1/1 renewals and deeper into 2018, to deliver enhanced profitability.” During the fourth quarter, Axis’s net premiums written increased to $729 million, up 57 per cent, while for the full year net premiums were $4 billion, a rise of 7 per cent. For the year, the company’s combined ratio rose from 95.9 per cent to 113.1 per cent.
February 8. Two men accused of laundering nearly $1.8 million stolen from the Bermuda Government have been cleared by a jury in Wales. Paul Charity, 52 and Joel Ismail, 42, both from Leicester, were found not guilty following a trial at Cardiff Crown Court. Charity, a financial adviser, was convicted of hiding information from police investigating the theft. He admitted to police that he had deleted e-mails that sounded incriminating. The court heard that one deleted e-mail included the phrase: “No more money-laundering department.” Charity will be sentenced with Jeffrey Bevan, 50, from Cwmbran, who earlier admitted his involvement in the case. Bevan, an accountant, pleaded guilty to three counts of transferring criminal property and ten counts of converting criminal property. Charity and Mr Ismail were charged with assisting in the money laundering, but claimed they did not know the money was stolen. Mr Ismail testified that he had known Bevan for a long time and had invested in homes in Swansea with him. He also said Bevan had sent him e-mails from Bermuda with the false claim that he had won a promotion and a pay raise. Bevan worked in the Accountant-General’s Office for nearly three years before he returned to Wales. He made 52 payments totaling $2.45 million into his and his wife’s personal accounts over that time. An investigation launched after Bevan left Bermuda revealed the series of bogus payments. These included a $71,000 transfer that appeared to have gone to a care home and another of $89,000 in the name of management services consultancy Chevron International. Investigators found Bevan had spent more than $400,000 of the stolen funds in Bermuda. He then laundered almost $1.8 million of the money. He used the cash to buy several homes, a Mercedes car and to fund his gambling habit. Sentencing will take place on February 16.
February 8. Tougher penalties and more sentencing options are needed to tackle traffic offences. Senior magistrate Juan Wolffe said legislation to give the bench more powers would help the courts to do their part in the battle against dangerous driving. “Magistrates’ hands are tied in the sense that we can only do what the law tells us we can do. The law says one thing, and we have to stick by it,” Mr Wolffe said. “For us to do anything more, there has to be legislative change and changes to the sentencing tariffs of certain offences. There may need to be some revision to make sentences harsher not just for speeding offences but for driving under the influence, dangerous driving and careless driving.” Mr Wolffe was speaking during the second week of The Royal Gazette’s Drive for Change campaign, which is designed to cut the grim toll of death and injury on the island’s roads. He said that the demerit point system, introduced in 2005 to discourage repeat offences, has not worked. Under the scheme, people convicted of traffic offences are given demerit points in addition to other penalties. Mr Wolffe said: “If you have more than 12 points, the magistrate has the discretion to take you off the road for six months, but people can speed two or three times before they reach that 12 points, so our hands are tied. We need to wait until they reach 12 points. There was a time when you could be disqualified for driving any vehicles at a speed of 65km/h. Now, with the demerit point system, persons can go as high as 85km/h, receive demerit points and not be disqualified from driving. The speeds seem to be going up.” Mr Wolffe said that in addition to bigger penalties, he would like to see magistrates get sentencing options beyond fines, points and driving bans. “Stopping someone from getting their car licensed if they commit these types of offences might be effective, or perhaps stopping them from traveling by saying that we will not take them off the road, but we will take their passport. I think for most Bermudians taking their passport away will be more devastating than taking away their licence.” The senior magistrate said education was vital to improve road safety, and the Magistrates’ Court wanted to help. “We are embarking on a public educational outreach programme. We have done it here and there over the past few years but what we would like to do is get children who are reaching riding age and bring them into the courtroom so they can see some of the offences that are being committed, what the penalties are for it and the devastation some of these offences are causing. Maybe in some way that will help dictate their riding behavior. We do it every now and then but I don’t think we do enough of it. This year we are going to be reaching out to various schools to see if we can have a more structured programme.” Mr Wolffe added the Bermuda Police Service, the courts and schools all had the same road safety goals, but that they could work together better. “We operate, particularly government departments, in our own little silos. We are here trying to do our thing, police are trying to do their thing, the schools are doing their thing, but never do the three meet. We need to get together and decide how we are going to tackle this problem, because it’s not getting any better. In fact it’s probably getting worse. If we don’t address this problem, we will have a huge swath of people who are committing these offences, killing others and injuring themselves and who have no future. It’s really difficult not to sound melodramatic, but it really is that serious.”
February 8. A golf club that removed the colour bar in the sport has been honored by the Governor. John Rankin presented the Ocean View Golf Club with the memoirs of former governor Sir Julian Gascoigne, who presented the club with the Governor’s Cup in 1964 to help in its battle to overturn the island’s racial segregation. Cheryl-Lynne Thompson, president of Ocean View, said it was “the first golf club on the island that allowed black Bermudians and those of Portuguese descent to play”. She said: “At a time of need, it was supported by Sir Julian, as Governor of Bermuda, including through the holding of a meeting at Government House, to which members of the House of Assembly were invited. Ocean View then played a key role in bringing about the desegregation of golf in Bermuda.” Ms Thompson added that the club will celebrate its 64th anniversary on Sunday and mark the journey in which black members worked hard to create a golf course from overgrown farmland. She added club members had “a lot of financial worries hanging over their heads” during its history and it had been twice hit by arson. The Government bought the land in Devonshire in 1961, but two surviving members of Ocean View’s original executive board can trace its roots back decades beyond that. The Reverend Vernon Lowe, Ocean View’s first president, joined past executive member Harrison Simons to talk about the club’s past. Mr Lowe said A.B. Place, editor of the Bermuda Recorder, asked the land-rich Gibbons family for help to create a proper golf course. Mr Lowe said: “They developed a nine-hole golf course named Ocean View. Mr Place was the first president in the organisation of the golf course, and I was the first president in the operation. My brothers, and others who were interested in golf, used to get down on their hands and knees and pull up the sage bushes so we would have a fairway to play golf until it was constructed and then we, with pride, decided to formulate a golf organisation and here we are.” Mr Lowe added the drive to develop Ocean View went back to “the late 1930s, early 1940s. It’s because of the capability of golfers that we had as colored people. We were complaining at not being able to play the other courses without going down there first thing in the morning, 5am, to play. After we got organized and started playing here, I wrote a column for the Recorder called ‘Up and Down the Fairway’.” The column caught the attention of Sir Alexander Hood, Governor from 1949 to 1955, who invited Mr Lowe, now 91, to have tea at Government House, where they discussed the issue of “bringing together the races”. Mr Lowe said: “I informed him that Bermuda was too small to have such a division of the races.” The cause was taken up by Sir Julian, Governor from 1959 to 1964, who gave the club “a huge cup, still being played for”, to help unite a racially fragmented community. Mr Lowe added: “It did help in some aspects. Ocean View played Mid Ocean on this course, and they went also to play at Mid Ocean. It did bring about some change in the environment of the Bermuda Golf Association.” Mr Simons, 80, looked back on getting involved in the mid-1960s when Ocean View was “really not a golf course, it was run by the British garrison until they left”. He said a group of 25 men formed Ocean View’s first executive group. Mr Simons added: “When the former president approached the Governor about us having this golf course, Bermuda was in a very segregated place.” He said the Government allowed the land to be used on condition it would be “for all people, meaning brown, yellow, black and white”. Mr Simons added: “The response was yes. Hence this golf course, known as the garrison golf course, was given to Ocean View.” Farm animals still roamed the Devonshire land overlooking North Shore when the club took over. The course was nicknamed “the cow pasture” as a result. Mr Simons said: “But since that time, we stood with it, we worked hard, and when the Governor agreed to give us this golf course, we all came in many times on a Thursday afternoon or Saturday morning and prepared greens so that anybody could play. We have produced some of the best golfers in Bermuda. We stand by our record 100 per cent.” Mr Simons said he hoped to erect a plaque to the three founders of Ocean View, the Reverend Erskine Simons, Bill Pitt Sr, and George Lowe. The memorial would mark the site of the first club house, which was built of wood. Mr Simons said: “One day the wind was in the right place, and somebody set fire to it. We lost all the golf clubs, the pounds, shillings and pence. It all went up in a blaze. We stood with it, and were able to bounce back, and come up with this facility.” Brian Morris, head golf professional at Ocean View, said it was important to keep the memory of the club’s past alive: “It’s important for me. It’s my obligation, not just for my job, but to the club. I started golfing here when I was 7 or 8. I’m from Devonshire and my first tournament was here. These days there is a lot of excitement around the club, and a lot of the old traits are coming back. It’s always been social. We just need to get the great golfers back. These guys were sharp in their day.”
February 8. A former teacher on the island appeared in Magistrates’ Court yesterday charged with sexual assault on a teenager after he was extradited from the United States. The 47-year-old, who cannot be named for legal reasons, pleaded not guilty to sexually assaulting a 17-year-old girl in May 2007. Magistrate Khamisi Tokunbo remanded the man in custody. He is next due to appear in court on Monday.
February 7. Same-sex marriage in Bermuda was outlawed yesterday after the Governor gave Royal Assent to an Act designed to replace it with civil partnerships. John Rankin signed the legislation 61 days after it was backed in the House of Assembly and 56 days in the wake of its approval by Senate. Mr Rankin said the Domestic Partnership Act was signed into law “after careful consideration in line with my responsibilities under the Constitution”. The move ended weeks of speculation over whether Britain would allow the legislation, and dashed the hopes of activists in Bermuda and overseas who had asked Mr Rankin to reject the new law. Walton Brown, the Minister of Home Affairs, speaking from London last night said that he was pleased the green light had been given to domestic partnerships, which will be available to both gay and heterosexual couples. He added: “The Act is intended to strike a fair balance between two currently irreconcilable groups in Bermuda, by restating that marriage must be between a male and a female, while recognizing and protecting the rights of same-sex couples.” Mr Brown said that same-sex couples already married under Bermuda law will continue to be recognized as married. He added that “any overseas same-sex marriages taking place before and during the transitional period will also be capable of recognition as marriages in Bermuda”. The island came under the international spotlight over the controversy and it was branded the first country to outlaw same-sex marriage after it was backed by the courts. But Mr Brown said the introduction of the legislation made Bermuda, an associate member of the Caribbean organisation Caricom, “among the first English-speaking Caribbean islands to introduce and pass a law that provides legal recognition to same-sex couples”. He added the partnerships will give same-sex couples rights “equivalent to those enjoyed by heterosexual married couples — rights that were not guaranteed before the passage of this Act”. Mr Brown said guaranteed rights include “the right to inherit in the case of no will, the right to a partner’s pensions, access to property rights, the right to make medical decisions on behalf of one’s partner and the right to live and work in Bermuda as the domestic partner of a Bermudian”. Bermuda’s same-sex marriage row went as far as the UK House of Commons. Sir Alan Duncan, Minister of State at the Foreign Office, said during a debate on the subject last month that Britain was “disappointed” by Bermuda’s decision to reverse marriage equality. The controversial legislation was introduced in November 2017 by Mr Brown in the wake of a bitter national debate over allowing same-sex couples to wed. It followed a landmark decision by the Supreme Court in May 2017, when Puisne Judge Charles-Etta Simmons ruled that the island’s Registrar-General could not reject a gay couple’s application to marry in Bermuda. The decision paved the way for same-sex marriage on the island and the first gay couple exchanged vows at the Registrar-General’s office less than a month later. A spokeswoman for the Ministry of Home Affairs said the Act gives rights and benefits to domestic partnerships that were “almost exactly the same as the rights and benefits of marriage”. She said: “Clause 50 states that where the words specified in the table, which include marriage, spouse, husband, wife, widow and widower, are mentioned throughout Bermuda legislation, these are to be read in the case of a person in a domestic partnership as the corresponding word specified, that is domestic partnership, domestic partner or surviving domestic partner. Clause 50 also provides that references to next of kin and relative include a domestic partner.” Same-sex marriage and civil unions were voted on in a non-binding referendum in June 2016. The referendum failed to attract the 50 per cent minimum of registered voters needed to rule that questions were “answered”. But those who did vote rejected both same-sex marriage and civil unions by a margin of more than two to one. Mr Brown said last night the referendum showed that the majority of Bermudians did not support same-sex marriage. He added it was the Government’s belief that “this Act addresses this position while also complying with the European courts by ensuring that recognition and protection for same-sex couples are put in place. “Bermuda will continue to live up to its well-earned reputation as a friendly and welcoming place, where all visitors, including LGBT visitors, will continue to enjoy our beauty, our warm hospitality and inclusive culture.”
February 7. Former Premier Michael Dunkley questioned last night if a parliamentary committee established to inquire into a clash between protesters and police outside the House of Assembly had been properly set up. The Parliamentary Joint Select Committee was designed to investigate a clash between police and demonstrators who blocked Parliament in December 2016. Protesters were pepper-sprayed, and several officers reported they were assaulted after the demonstrators stopped MPs from entering the House of Assembly for a key debate over legislation for the controversial redevelopment of LF Wade International Airport. The seven-member group, chaired by Progressive Labour Party MP Kim Swan, began meeting last month. In a letter sent on Monday to Dennis Lister, the Speaker of the House, Mr Dunkley wrote that “it is my understanding that a resolution to establish this Joint Select Committee has not yet been passed by each House of the Legislature” in accordance with the Parliament Act. Mr Dunkley said he would be “more than willing” to appear before the committee, and that a January 30 letter from Mr Swan had requested a statement of his actions at the time of the protest, when he was premier. He added that standing orders of the House allowed for a Joint Select Committee to be appointed at the request of either Parliament or the Senate with the approval of the other House. Mr Dunkley said that “to the best of my knowledge this has not been done. Thus, in my view, it is not properly constituted and, until it is, it has no jurisdiction or authority to commence any proceedings with the result that no work should be done”. The One Bermuda Alliance MP added in the letter that he was “most concerned that certain members of the PJSC will not be able to conduct themselves in an unbiased way having regard to the comments made by them during this debate”. Along with Mr Swan, the committee members selected by Mr Lister were Joan Dillas-Wright, Senate president, PLP MPs Tinée Furbert, Michael Scott and Neville Tyrrell, OBA MP Ben Smith and OBA senator Andrew Simons. Mr Swan declined to comment on Mr Dunkley’s letter yesterday and said the committee’s work was a matter for the Speaker. Mr Lister said he had not yet seen Mr Dunkley’s letter. He added: “We are on the eve of starting the next parliamentary session. This whole country knows that my approach is to be fair to every member, no matter which side of the political spectrum they sit upon.” Mr Lister added: “If Mr Dunkley wants to address this properly, I will arrange for us to sit and have this discussion.” Mr Dunkley said that he had “the greatest respect for the Speaker”, and that Mr Swan’s letter had asked him to reply by this Friday, when MPs return to the House. He added: “December 2 was a very serious matter and I want to make sure I do everything I can to comply with a duly constituted PJSC.”
February 7. Bermuda was home to 739 active captive insurance companies as of the end of last year, according to financial-services regulator, the Bermuda Monetary Authority. The BMA said 17 new captives were registered in 2017, up from 13 in 2016. Jeremy Cox, the BMA’s chief executive officer, said: “The majority of the new captives originated in the US but they also came from Europe, Canada, Australia and Latin America. “Both Latin America and Canada have benefited from the business development efforts of the Bermuda Business Development Agency (BDA) and we have accordingly seen heightened interest from those regions.” New 2017 captives covered a diverse range of risks, particularly among the Class 1 captives — those underwriting only the risks of their own parent companies and affiliates — which saw significant growth — 12 new Class 1s were registered in 2017 compared to four in 2016. The new Class 1s covered a diverse range of risks, from Canadian conglomerates writing general liability and workers’ compensation, to US healthcare captives insuring nursing homes and medical stop loss cover for employees. “The BMA takes the role of gatekeeper to Bermuda’s re/insurance market very seriously and every application undergoes intense scrutiny,” Mr Cox said. “As supervisor, it is our job to ensure that Bermuda’s outstanding reputation as a financial services centre remains intact. Bermuda remains the world’s leader for captive formations, it’s not about the number of captives on the Bermuda register; it’s about the quality of the business being conducted here. That’s the Bermuda brand and the BMA will continue to apply the regulation needed to protect it.” Net premiums written by Bermuda’s captives amounted to $54.7 billion, down from $55.3 billion in 2016. Bermuda’s captive register as at December 31, 2017, included:
February 7. Malcolm Butterfield is the new chief executive officer of the Bermuda Insurance Institute. The institute has also relocated to new offices within O’Hara House, home of XL Catlin, on Bermudiana Road. Mr Butterfield has insurance and reinsurance experience to the BII, having held the office of Registrar of Companies for five years, and serving 19 years as managing partner leading the Advisory Practice at KPMG. He has expressed his gratitude to BII members and volunteers for their support and commitment to Bermuda’s insurance and reinsurance industry. “The board, advisory council, various working committees and the leadership team of the BII have all made considerable contributions to this organisation,” said Mr Butterfield. “Today we wish to thank these various individuals and groups for directing and developing the BII to become an integral part of the Bermuda insurance and reinsurance industry.” Regarding the move to its new offices on the ground floor in Tower 2 at O’Hara House, Mr Butterfield said: “The BII is proud of its new office and we are grateful to be welcomed into this prestigious location by the leadership team of XL Catlin. Various XL Catlin staff have worked diligently with us over the past month to ensure an efficient and seamless transition from our previous location.” The BII also has a new site for its accredited testing and examination centre, which is now located on the ground floor of the Chubb building. “The BII is equally grateful to the leadership team of Chubb for their efforts in making our move to our new testing and examination centre a reality. Many support staff of Chubb worked with us to achieve this move and provided us invaluable support with the installation of our new computer equipment. We have been administering tests and exams from this centre for the past few weeks, and the response to our new location has been positive on all fronts,” said Mr Butterfield. For this year and beyond, the BII is focused on developing a forward-thinking vision and plan that will address and place emphasis on the following areas:
“Clearly, I have high aspirations and expectations for the BII,” said Mr Butterfield. “Our vision and plan for the organisation will evolve, and I am confident that our success will be based on our location, experience and strategic use of our many volunteers who have supported us over the years.”
February 7. Senior magistrate Juan Wolffe has warned that the endless stream of roads offences is clogging up the court system. Mr Wolffe said that the courts deal with at least 650 traffic offences every month. He added: “That’s not a small number. In some cases, it is more than 800. We dealt with more than 7,700 cases in 2017. The year before that was in the region of 8,000. That’s not an insignificant amount. In 2016, there were a few months in which we were dealing with more than 1,000 cases per month. That’s a large number for a population of 64,000 people. It keeps us busy every week. Every Tuesday and Thursday at traffic court, we are there for the full two hours. Every time we are filled with people. There is something wrong with that.” Mr Wolffe was speaking during the second week of The Royal Gazette’s Drive for Change campaign, which is designed to highlight the carnage on the island’s roads and cut the grim toll of death and injury. Mr Wolffe said offences once committed mostly by people on motorcycles are now also committed by people in cars. These included overtaking long lines of traffic and dangerous driving. He added: “It’s an issue because a car is a 3,000lb bullet. It can do a whole lot more damage to an individual, and that’s rather scary. Another trend is that there was a time when most defendants coming before the courts were male. Now we have more females who are engaged in bad driving.” Mr Wolffe said that there was a perception that teenagers caused problems on the roads, but he added that statistics showed that adults were involved in the majority of cases that come before the courts. He said: “One would think teenagers would be the ones with the lack of discernment and lack of responsibility, but we see primarily adults. When you look at the fatalities, a lot are people over 25. It seems to me that the young children are probably abiding by the rules. It’s older persons who find themselves coming into contact with the law and one would think they would know a bit better.” Mr Wolffe added that the impact of traffic crashes went beyond the tragedy of fatalities as serious injuries often damaged entire families. “What we don’t talk about are the people who are injured and can’t work. That has a knock-on effect on their family. There is a lot of carnage on the roads and there are some very real social consequences to it. Bermuda is an expensive place. People have to work. In the family courts, we see people coming in saying they can’t pay their child support because they were involved in an accident months ago and have been unable to work. The effect of that is the child is not being cared for financially and not being fed or clothed appropriately because of the bad behavior of someone else.” Mr Wolffe said there was a large number of road users driving or riding without insurance. He added: “People don’t recognize how serious an offence that is. People will literally get a ticket for not having insurance and get in the same car and drive it the next day without getting it insured. It’s obvious why it’s important. A lot of people getting involved in these accidents, the victims, are not getting compensated. They have to pay their own hospital costs. I have people who come to my civil court who owe hospital bills. They tell me they were involved in an accident and either they were not insured at the time or the person that hit them was not insured. So now they are faced with $10,000, $15,000, $20,000 of hospital bills that they cannot pay. Not only can they not work, they can’t pay their hospital bills. This is something we need to have no tolerance for. If there’s any offence that should lead to someone being taken off the road, it’s that. The consequences of doing that is serious, and I see it all the time.”
February 7. Opinion, by Khalid Wasi. "I don’t think there is much glamour in having the job of Premier of Bermuda any more; even if we were to take into account the transitional years of Sir Henry Tucker, who was climbing through the wall of segregation. At least for him, there was the old guard, internationally respected, albeit during a dark era. There was, like always, a shortage of money, but the country was far from being broke. The big issue for leaders such as him and many subsequent leaders was largely social and how to weave inclusion into the fabric of the economy. History will show that only partial success was made; we did have an economic boom, but that came with an increasing disparity of wealth. As for the society, well, it fell apart. David Burt has inherited a broken economy, a society in turmoil and a political apparatus whose root design was meant to perpetuate a structural division. If you are trying to calm down the chickens, you don’t use a fox, but that is precisely what our political construct does. It never started from the premise of what is best for governance or how we effectively engage everyone in a process that invites all to respect each other’s right to participate and further a design that fosters openness, equality and a motivation towards reason. The principle modus operandi is denigrating the opponent by any means possible to gain power. Try that when you need unity and all hands on deck to save the ship. Instead, the Premier has to work with not only a divided country polarized by race, but also divided factions within the political processes from where he would hope to gain support. Some will argue this is the very nature of politics and we need only to look a few hundred miles to our west to see today’s greatest example of factionalism and a process divided against itself. One big difference between us and the United States is they can print dollars up against all their mistakes and hide them for a generation as they kick the ball down the road. Our premier cannot mint money. Instead, he has to manufacture any likelihood of prosperity. In so doing, he must at times rely on the very instruments and personalities that will bury him when given half a chance. Yet the art is not merely about survival; it’s more about causing a diverse array of people to see their own self-interest and goals wrapped in a tapestry, rather than a “dog eat dog” or “survival of the fittest” scheme. The old rifts need to continue to melt away and, having Wayne Furbert — the author of the 2018-19 Budget as the Junior Minister of Finance — handling perhaps the most important ministry after that of the Premier is a great indicator. The Progressive Labour Party and its leader should see nothing else except that he is a chartered accountant holding a master’s degree in physics, was from Bermuda’s prestigious Bermuda Technical Institute and is known to the business world. That form of assimilation, which unites Bermuda’s black middle class, is healthy. It is not healthy simply on the basis of black unity, but is partly the road to total unity of the whole of Bermuda, which has been for too long predicated on black disunity. We will become as one Bermudian people only when our divisions are based solely on ideas and not the colour of one’s skin or socioeconomic background. It is to be hoped one day soon that our elections will be based on the different roads towards an ideal. The unenviable task of this premier is to see beyond the limitations and constructs before him. He must reach for a new horizon or be pulled by the quicksand that surrounds him. Being young has its advantages and, in this case, it may be fortuitous where the circumstances lead the Premier to cut a new path — in fact, his own path — and redefine the role based on the imperatives of our times."
February 7. Review, by Mike Jones. " Lisa Fischer has a huge vocal range and she did a great job of showcasing it in her performance at the Fairmont Southampton last week. The Grammy Award winner and her band Grand Baton, took to the stage at the Mid-Ocean Amphitheatre on Friday for the Bermuda Festival of the Performing Arts. Fischer’s voice, in all its astonishing range — from male bass to female operatic soprano — sometimes blended into or punctuated the music and then soared over the other instruments, generating its own atmospherics. Backed by guitarist and bouzouki player Jean-Christophe Maillard, percussionist Thierry Arpino and Aidan Carroll on bass, Fischer was most at home in the gospel and jazz tradition. At the same time, her voice was reminiscent of Yma Sumac, Miriam Makeba or Cleo Laine in its range and technical pyrotechnics. The Amy Grant song Breath of Heaven combined deep faith and optimism in extreme adversity and included an urgent drum accompaniment by Arpino, full of rapid rim shots and snare sounds. The song must hold special meaning for Fischer, because it speaks to the story of her birth and upbringing in Brooklyn. In Cooley and Blackwell’s Fever, Fischer gave full rein to her technical skills while Maillard’s guitar solo masterfully combined flamenco and Spanish classical with Caribbean phrasing and Hendrix-like blues riffs to make a brilliant accompaniment. Fischer’s main song of the evening, her 1991 Grammy Award-winning song How Can I Ease the Pain, was delivered with huge tenderness and almost inexpressibly deep feeling, reaching nearly beyond the range of the human voice. Fischer appeared most comfortable while jamming with her trio — sometimes doubling with Maillard on vocals while he played the bouzouki, which has a slightly jangly, Middle Eastern sound. The overall effect of Fischer and Maillard was that of a modern jazz duo, each musician building on the other’s musical phrases to extend a unique dialogue. The evening finished with a brilliant tribute to Bermuda, a Gombey snare solo by Arpino with Maillard expertly dancing. The night was opened by the 14-strong Wall Street Band under the direction of Robert Edwards. On keyboards, he played a high-energy set, which included Lil’ Mo’s Superwoman, Prince’s Purple Rain and Lionel Richie’s Endless Love. The selection enabled the entire band to show off their considerable instrumental skills, tight discipline and teamwork. This was a terrific concert by world-class talent. My only criticism is that the echo could have been used less."
February 6. A report on a review into the controversial deal to rebuild Bermuda’s airport is complete, but the Government has declined to say when it will be made public. A spokesman for the transport ministry confirmed the final draft of the report by the Bermuda Airport Authority and the American-based consultant LeighFisher had been received, but he added: “It will undergo Cabinet consideration before it is made public.” Denis Pitcher, an independent political commentator, said the review and the report should be released, while the delay suggested “that the results of the review are not compelling enough to rush to complete and publicize it. The airport deal served as a major wedge of division among our people. We were assured that the One Bermuda Alliance had sold us out while the OBA lined up a significant number of its own reviews at considerable cost due to public opposition. To pay for yet another review and not publicize the results would seem like a terrible waste of money we don’t have the luxury of wasting. The review as well as the report absolutely should be published.” Walter Roban, the Minister of Transport and Regulatory Affairs, said a month ago that the review of the public-private partnership deal to rebuild LF Wade International Airport had been “concluded at the end of the year in accordance with our commitment”. At the time he said the report on the review was “nearing completion”. The review was one of the Progressive Labour Party’s election platform pledges for its first 100 days in power. Mr Roban refused last week to answer a series of questions on the review and the Government’s report on its findings. These included when the BAA report was received by the Government and if he thought it was too late to change the contract if it was found to be a bad deal for Bermuda. Mr Roban said in a ministerial statement last October: “As Opposition, we expressed our dissatisfaction with this arrangement and as government that dissatisfaction remains.” He added: “Despite the public opposition, shameful events which saw Members of Parliament sneaking into the House of Assembly under darkness, police officers surrounding the Sessions House and the pepper spraying of peaceful citizens, the former government did not pause to reflect on the wisdom of entering into this agreement. Government believed that the country cannot afford what the former government signed us up for and that it remained confident” it could achieve a better deal for Bermuda”. Mr Pitcher said that if the review was to back the deal struck with the Canadian Commercial Corporation and developers Aecon, it would damage the Government. He explained: “It would reflect poorly and raise the question for many swing voters whether perhaps the party were willing to put themselves first rather than Bermudians.” Mr Pitcher added that if the PLP Government had left it too late to renegotiate the deal, it would also dent its image. "We were promised that there was a better deal to be had and that it would be a top priority for the new government from day one. It would suggest they squandered the time they had to ensure they got us the better deal we were promised.” Bob Richards, former OBA Minister of Finance, said: “I remain confident that the deal my team negotiated was the best deal available to us at the time, given our financial circumstances, and I am very pleased with the conduct of Bermuda Skyport Corp Ltd and the progress of the project.” He added he had a “very keen interest” in the progress of the airport redevelopment. He said: “But the matter is now in the hands of the new government. It is up to them to decide what options there may or may not be available to them.” The airport redevelopment deal was opposed by pressure groups the People’s Campaign and Move in the lead up to last July’s General Election. Chris Furbert, president of the Bermuda Industrial Union, and Reverend Nicholas Tweed, leaders of the People’s Campaign, did not respond to questions on the airport review. Move also failed to reply to questions. A protest against the redevelopment in December 2016 turned violent when police officers clashed with demonstrators who blocked entry to the House of Assembly. Officers used pepper spray on the crowd outside Sessions House. David Burt, the Premier and then Opposition leader, Derrick Burgess, Lovitta Foggo and Michael Scott were among the PLP MPs who showed up to picket Parliament. At least 26 complaints were made to the Police Complaints Authority by members of the public in the wake of the demonstration. The Bermuda Police Service said 14 of its officers were assaulted.
February 6. Opinion, by Michael Fahy, former Minister of Home Affairs, Minister of Tourism, Transport and Municipalities, and Junior Minister of Finance under the previous One Bermuda Alliance government. "A few weeks ago I undertook to proffer an opinion on the place the One Bermuda Alliance inhabits on the political spectrum. You will recall I remarked that the Progressive Labour Party leadership is definitely not a strict labor political personality and is more of a populist party with ideas cobbled together based on the loudest voice; the loudest voice, which changes with the direction of the wind. I also argued that its social stances are far closer to a political party on the side farther to the Right than a centre-right party — perhaps closer to the nationalistic Republican Tea Party? Meanwhile, its economic stances have many times amounted to economic liberalism rather than typical labor economic policy. So, what of the OBA? Like the PLP, the OBA also lacks an absolute, political, ideological conviction. But at least the name “Alliance” gives an excuse for such lack of clarity. The OBA’s overall political ideology is similar to conservatives in a liberal style, perhaps like conservative US Democrats or the liberal-conservative Christian Democratic Union of Germany led by Angela Merkel. I say this since the OBA generally espouses a limited intervention in the economy, a smaller central government, business-friendly policies through immigration liberalization, encouragement of direct foreign-capital investment and increased entrepreneurship through reduced government expenditure, which ultimately aims to balance the budget. It is difficult to call the OBA a strict conservative party because of immigration-friendly desires, support for publicly funded education, relatively centralized healthcare — see the latest blame on the OBA for lowering healthcare costs — and public services generally; albeit not in as dogmatic a fashion as the PLP. A true conservative party is typically far less interested in centralized healthcare, is generally anti-immigration, and a central tenant of its economic policy would be to slash the civil and public service. Despite PLP howls that the OBA did the latter while in government, the record shows that Civil Service reductions occurred because of hiring freezes and attrition. Not layoffs. For example, how can a supposedly conservative party offer massive incentives for tourism projects by way of the Tourism Investment Act, a conservative economic policy ultimately endorsed and passed by the PLP, while at the same time pass legislation to reduce entrepreneurship in the medical sector, thereby centralizing certain medical services at the hospital — a typical labor-type economic policy? How can a conservative party encourage liberalization of immigration while investing heavily in a regulatory authority to regulate consumer prices in certain sectors? As a matter of strict political philosophy, these policies are diametrically opposed in that some are certainly far more left of centre and some are more right of centre. In other words, it would be difficult genuinely to say that the OBA is just a “business party”. Rather, it is closer to a true centrist party without being tied to a specific political ideology at all times. Perhaps the central tenet of the OBA is that it avoids extremist points of view. The downside, however, of lacking a specific and identifiable ideology at all times is that it leads to governing by consensus, trying to please the Left and the Right, which ultimately pleases no one. This has always been part of the OBA’s problem. The OBA does not suffer from multiple political personality disorder like the PLP; rather, the OBA suffers from political inertia disorder caused by the need to please all and sundry — an inability to make the toughest of decisions at all times because of the necessity to build a consensus on absolutely everything. So where does that leave Bermuda in respect of being served politically? Ultimately, it leaves us in a very bleak place. Of the two political parties, the PLP is a populist party with protectionist ideals borne out of socialist roots and the OBA is a centrist party with a number of underlying conservative ideals. Nevertheless, both entities are still relatively close together on the political ideological spectrum. Since there is often little between each party — demonstrated by most legislation being agreed to — the OBA and PLP are forced to differentiate between each other by playing to the most basic emotions, including fear, and this is where the PLP is without a doubt superior. While the OBA as an entity is a party that governs and leads by consensus, the PLP does nothing of the sort. It leads by demonizing anyone who dares to speak up or stand up against its policies. It leads using Trump-like methodologies. Facts are ignored and hypocrisy is rife. The base of the PLP, many of whom actually are from the Left side of the political spectrum, are deployed to shout down the naysayers — online, on the radio, and at rallies and marches. The left-wing loyalists are given just enough of a carrot to keep them on board, despite many of the PLP initiatives not being in their ultimate best interest. It is a masterful bit of political magic — a case of look at my left hand while my right hand does the very things we spoke so vehemently against while in Opposition. The OBA is incapable of this political zeal. It is incapable of holding mass rallies. OBA supporters are in many instances afraid of being identified and are frightened of commenting online. Many are terrified of being vilified by friends and family. Many are closet supporters and would not dream of being seen to openly support the OBA. Overall, the OBA does have a more positive political philosophy and certainly should, at least on paper, appeal to socially progressive but economically conservative Bermudian voters. The PLP should, on paper, appeal to working-class, socially conservative Bermudians with a more left-of-centre economic mindset. Let’s face it, if we engaged in politics on a typically ideological level, it is patently absurd that any successful business person should support the PLP and it is equally absurd that a working-class person should support the OBA. In other words, true conservative versus true labor. The only way to change this unhappy situation is to remove the “fear”-based racial prejudices from the political equation. Only then will real political progress be made in Bermuda. Easier said than done, I’m afraid. But one can dream."
February 6. Blue Capital Reinsurance Holdings Ltd said it saw double-digit percentage rate increases during January renewals. Mike McGuire, the Bermuda-based company’s chairman and chief executive officer, said: “Following the significant industry losses experienced in 2017, we are pleased to report improved market conditions during the January renewal period. On average, loss affected business benefited from renewing rate increases of 15 per cent to 20 per cent while non-loss affected agreements benefited from rate increases of 3 per cent to 5 per cent, in each case compared to 2017 and net of expenses. The company anticipates generating an 8 per cent increase of fully converted book value per common share on a mean loss basis and 13 per cent on a median loss basis, inclusive of dividends paid in 2018.” As of January 2018, Blue Capital bound indemnity reinsurance contracts with expected total annual premiums of $27.8 million. Blue Capital offers collateralized reinsurance in the property-catastrophe market and invests in various insurance-linked securities.
February 6. Doctors from a top US hospital have helped island practitioners to keep up with the latest developments in heart and kidney treatment. The team from New York-Presbyterian Hospital held a seminar organized by the Bermuda Heart Foundation and sponsored by Colonial Insurance. Christopher Irobunda, a cardiologist at the New York hospital, said: “It’s about bringing up to date their awareness of cardiovascular disease and its impact on society. “That is one of the main reasons why we are here to support the Bermuda Heart Foundation and the Core Health Centre.” Dr Irobunda said one of the main reasons for the event was to highlight advances in the identification of cardiovascular disease. He said: “It’s about identifying these risks and educating the public. With advances in identification of risks comes the opportunity to treat. We have a lot of things that can be offered at New York-Presbyterian for the management of cardiovascular disease. In all those areas, there have been a lot of advances, both in the classic way to do it and the more recent, more minimally invasive ways to do it.” Dr Irobunda added that his hospital was happy to work with the BHF and the Core Health Centre. He said: “What’s exciting about us being here with Core is that it is a place that has the opportunity to identify these patients, offer them a way to follow up, and from there identify patients that have had cardiovascular disease and serve as a rehab place for them.” Simone Barton, executive director of the BHF, said it was important to highlight heart disease prevention. She said: “The world is affected by many diseases that are incurable, that you can’t do anything about. Heart disease is not one of them. One of the greatest benefits you can have in managing heart disease is getting out in front of it. If we can get out of disease before it happens, and we have partnerships with insurers like Colonial and experts like NYP at our side, we can prevent so many diseases from happening. We can stop heart attacks from happening.” Devid Serur, a US kidney specialist, said his focus for the seminar was on treatment options for end-stage renal failure. Dr Serur said: “Kidney disease often goes along with cardiovascular disease, often goes with diabetes and high blood pressure and kidney disease is on the rise. Because diabetes is more rampant than it used to be, hypertension is more rampant, and the population is ageing, these things combine to give you a higher rate of kidney disease. Some kidney patients don’t know that there are good treatments for the end stage of renal disease.” He said advances have been made in live-donor kidney transplants to make donor recovery easier and make transplants more available. “When you want to donate a kidney but are not compatible, we now have a kidney-pairing system where we can criss-cross pairs. We recently started another advance where people can donate a kidney to a loved one in advance of the loved one requiring it. We had a case of a grandfather who wanted to donate a kidney to his grandchild — the grandson does not require a kidney yet but he will in the future based on their kidney disease. The grandfather, feeling he might be too old to donate a kidney in ten years, donates a kidney now to someone else and ten years from now a voucher will be redeemed on behalf of that kid.”
February 6. Bermuda-based technology start-up Trunomi has raised $3.5 million from investors to fund its expansion. CloudScale Capital Partners, a venture capital firm based in California’s Silicon Valley, said today that it participated in Trunomi’s latest round of financing. Trunomi, a provider of customer consent and data rights and privacy software solutions, will use the financing to help manage the rapid increase in demand for its technologies and to continue its global expansion. “Customer data rights and privacy are quickly becoming major issues of concern for companies, especially financial institutions, due to new regulations such as EU GDPR, UK Open Banking and marketing opportunities,” said Kim Perdikou, CloudScale partner. Trunomi enables businesses to comply with these new regulations by demonstrating compliance and accountability in customer data use and immutably proving the legal basis of processing. With Trunomi, businesses can empower their customers with control and transparency in how their data is used and turn regulation from a burden into a competitive advantage.” Stuart Lacey, Trunomi’s CEO, said: “We are thrilled that CloudScale Capital Partners are part of this financing. CloudScale brings significant strength to our investor base, and its partners bring with them a wealth of industry connections with the largest players in the global customer and data markets.” Trunomi was one of the winners at the Global Fintech Hackcelerator event in Singapore last November.
February 6. A Bermudian man and woman have been arrested at LF Wade International Airport on suspicion of drugs importation. An investigation is under way by specialist police officers with help from Customs officers. The two, aged 54 and 47 respectively, were arrested on Sunday. They remain in custody.
February 5. A speciality court could be introduced to focus on drink drivers. Senior magistrate Juan Wolffe said he wants to tackle Bermuda’s crippling culture of drink driving and break the cycle of repeat offending. It would mean offenders go through intense counselling to supplement the fines and bans that Mr Wolffe believes are not working as a deterrent on their own. Impaired driving is the most significant cause of death and injury on Bermuda’s roads, with 75 per cent of crashes involving alcohol or drugs. Mr Wolffe told The Royal Gazette: “A Driving Under the Influence Court would go a long way in addressing a deep-seated culture of not just drinking, but drinking and driving. “It would be a way of allowing people to keep their licences, but at the same time go through a rigorous counselling programme to make sure it doesn’t happen again. We have got to stop the cycle. Clearly, taking them off the road and fining them isn’t doing enough. The cycle is continuing.” The Royal Gazette’s Drive for Change campaign, launched last week, aims to improve safety after 118 people have lost their lives on Bermuda’s roads in the past ten years. For each death, another 200 people were injured. Drive for Change is calling for the introduction of non-selective roadside sobriety testing among a string of road-safety measures. Mr Wolffe said the courts regularly ban drivers from the road and issue heavy fines, but new cases come before the court every week. He said: “It doesn’t seem as if there is the desired deterrent effect. People know they can be taken off the road for 18 months. People know that they can still be fined heavily. People know the penalties, but they still go out and commit these rather serious offences. We are seeing people with multiple driving-while-impaired offences. They are coming in for their second, third or even fourth offence.” Mr Wolffe said a DUI Court, structured similarly to the Drug Treatment Court and Mental Health Court programmes, would also greater empower magistrates. He said the offence of driving while under the influence carries a mandatory period of disqualification from the road. However, in some cases such a penalty can have undesired consequences according to Mr Wolffe. He said: “The difficulty we have is disqualifying someone from driving many times has a knock-on effect. If a taxi driver comes into the courtroom, taking their licence is something that can reduce their income substantially. If they don’t have any income, how are they going to pay their bills? How are they going to care for their children? There is a balancing act we have to play.” The DUI Court programme could also ensure those who need help receive it. Mr Wolffe said there is already a programme that allows those disqualified from driving to return to the road sooner if they pass a course. He added: “Not many people are taking us up on that offer. People would rather do their entire time than go through a programme. Some of them don’t feel they have a problem with drinking and driving, or they think if they go through a programme it’s an acknowledgement that they are an alcoholic or they have a problem.” As well as roadside sobriety testing, Drive for Change is calling for the effective use of speed camera technology and the introduction of a mandatory graduated licensing programme for all of Bermuda’s road users. It is also aiming to raise awareness of road safety and encourage a grassroots, community-wide effort to effect change.
February 5. Barbican Insurance Group has launched a new underwriting unit in Bermuda. The company will focus on the US property market and will write exclusively on behalf of Barbican Syndicate 1955. Barbican Bermuda will underwrite a direct and facultative portfolio of business on an excess and surplus lines basis. Barbican said today the new Hamilton-based company would seek to build a balanced book that spans both commercial and industrial risks, and that the team would concentrate on Fortune 1000 corporations as well as middle-market organisations. All business written will be US-domiciled and will include nationwide, regional and single state/location accounts. Nik Lucking will lead the operation as head of direct and facultative. He will report to David Slade, divisional head of property at Barbican. Mr Lucking has experience in the Bermuda re/insurance market, having previously headed the US direct and facultative property at Axis/Novae. Before that, Mr Lucking was senior vice-president and head of individual risks at Montpelier Re Bermuda, having joined Montpelier Re in 2007. He was also an executive director at Willis, heading-up the firm’s US property team in Bermuda and middle-market team in London. Mr Lucking said: “Through Barbican Bermuda, we are able to extend the reach of Barbican’s property division in London and strengthen our US direct and facultative market proposition. From Bermuda, we are able to bring the security of the Lloyd’s market to an even broader spectrum of organisations, introduce greater diversity into our property portfolio and benefit from the stability that this brings.” Mr Slade added: “We see this as an opportune time to establish ourselves in Bermuda. We believe that Bermuda offers significant opportunities for profitable, sustainable growth in the US direct and facultative arena and Nik brings an exceptional level of underwriting insight and leadership to the operation.”
Sunday, February 4. A plane carrying more than 200 people — including supermodel Joan Smalls — was forced to make an emergency landing in Bermuda early this morning. The American Airlines flight from John F. Kennedy Airport in New York to Brazil was suspected to have a fire in the cargo hole, and touched down at L.F. Wade International Airport shortly after 12.40am. Bermuda Fire and Rescue Service helped carry out an evacuation and a search of the plane, but confirmed tonight that no fire had actually taken place. Skyport has confirmed nobody was injured. Ms Smalls, of Puerto Rico, who was the eighth highest paid model in the world in 2013 according to Forbes magazine, documented her experience in a series of posts on Instagram last night and this morning. She told her 2.6 million Instagram followers: “Just emergency landed in Bermuda.” This afternoon, a family of four from Rio de Janeiro shared their experience aboard the flight with The Royal Gazette. Isabela Elizabeth, 23, said that she began to hear “weird noises” less than two hours into the nine-hour flight. She added: “The plane started to shake a little bit.” Shortly after, the pilot came over the intercom to advise that there was a problem with a sensor and that an emergency landing was needed. Ms Elizabeth said the pilot was “calm”. She added: “He emphasized many times it would be a safe landing.” Ms Elizabeth said that a slight burning smell was evident in the aircraft shortly after the announcement was made. She said the flight staff had “worried expressions” but that they “were dealing with situation calmly” as they inspected the plane’s emergency exits. Ms Elizabeth described the landing as “very calm”. She said the burning smell was much stronger as her family and the other passengers descended onto the tarmac through the rear cargo hole. Ms Elizabeth, who was speaking to the Gazette at the airport, was aboard the flight with her parents Murilo and Maria, and her brother Lucas. They were greeted on the ground by ten fire vehicles and 12 firefighters from the Bermuda Fire and Rescue Service. The plane had 156,000lb of fuel on board. Ms Elizabeth said there was lots of confusion inside the airport, and that there was only one American Airlines employee on scene. She said that it was not until a few hours later — at about 4am — that they learnt another plane would not be coming. Most passengers remained at the airport overnight and were rebooked on American Airlines scheduled flights to JFK and Miami this morning, although some chose to book into hotels and remain on the island while alternative flight arrangements were made. Ms Elizabeth said they were given the option of going to a hotel for a couple of hours or waiting at the airport. The family opted to stay put. As of 1pm, they were preparing to take a Delta Air Lines flight to Atlanta. Despite the delays, both mother and daughter were able to find some positives about their unexpected stopover in Bermuda. Isabela said: “At least we have a wonderful beach here — because if we didn’t I would probably freak out. The water is so blue.” Maria added: “We know where we are coming for the next vacation.”
February 3. Public works permanent secretary Francis Richardson is to be the new chief executive of the Bermuda Shipping and Maritime Authority. The Government said an acting permanent secretary will take over Mr Richardson’s duties until an appointment is made. Mr Richardson, a former Merchant Navy marine engineer, said: “Having previously worked in the maritime industry for many years, I’m thrilled and excited to be coming back to an area I am passionate about. “I look forward to joining the team and working collectively to grow the Bermuda shipping registry and fulfil the objectives of the group.” Mr Richardson has served in a number of high-ranking government roles over 25 years. He will start his new job in April and will also sit on the new authority’s board of directors. BSMA chairman Paul Scope said: “Mr Richardson has all the credentials for the position and we’re delighted to have hired a Bermudian after an extensive search, both locally and overseas. Succession-planning was one of our top priorities, and we have now fulfilled this important goal.” The news means a further shake-up for the Civil Service. Derrick Binns is to step down as Secretary to the Cabinet and Head of the Civil Service as the job is to be split. Dr Binns will be Head of the Civil Service. A new Secretary to the Cabinet has yet to been named. A public works spokeswoman said yesterday: “The standard public service recruitment process will apply regarding the appointment of a permanent secretary for the Ministry of Public Works. It is expected that once Mr Richardson officially starts his post at the BSMA, an acting permanent secretary will assume the PS duties at the ministry until an official appointment is made.” BSMA was launched in 2016 as a semi-autonomous unit to replace the government Department of Maritime Administration. It employs a team of 15 professionals in London and Bermuda. Mr Richardson has held the posts of Dockyard superintendent, Director of Marine and Ports, and permanent secretary of the Ministry of Tourism Development and Transport, as well as permanent secretary at public works. He earlier spent more than eight years traveling the world as a marine engineer in the Merchant Navy. BSMA’s Captain Pat Nawaratne was acting CEO for the past 15 months since the unit’s launch. He will continue as BSMA’s chief maritime surveyor. Mr Scope said: “We’d also like to send our appreciation to the Bermuda Business Development Agency, which has worked closely with us during this period of transition to promote Bermuda’s shipping industry and our world-class shipping registry. The BDA has been representing Bermuda shipping with industry stakeholders throughout this period, and we look forward to now developing that presence overseas under the BSMA banner. Since coming out of government, and forming the authority, we’ve had numerous tasks to address, such as finding appropriate office premises, changing accounting systems, and handling other operational issues as we converted from a government department to a public-private entity. With the new leadership in place, we’re looking forward to moving forward and growing Bermuda’s all-important registry, as well as complying with all the regulatory standards and conventions that are required.”
February 3. Six new jobs will be created through a restructure at the island’s tourism authority. Kevin Dallas, chief executive at the Bermuda Tourism Authority, said he hoped all the roles will be filled by Bermudians. He said a director role as well as a couple of assistant manager positions are available, while some specialist appointments will also be made. Mr Dallas said those specialist roles were “great opportunities” for people with a few years of experience who are interested in Bermuda tourism. He added: “Our aspiration is that 100 per cent of those jobs should be filled by Bermudians.” Mr Dallas said that two business development executive positions and two sports tourism posts were axed as part of last week’s restructure, but that “only three were permanent BTA employees”. A source told The Royal Gazette this week that the BTA would get a human resources audit after the restructure. Mr Dallas said that announcement was not a surprise. He added: “It’s not news. It was announced on September 24 last year.” Mr Dallas said: “The minister announced that Corey Butterfield had been retained as a special consultant by the ministry and that he would work with the Bermuda Economic Development Corporation and BTA on, among other things, making sure that our approach to hiring, development and promotion and advancement for Bermudians was as good as it possibly could be.” He declined to comment on whether Jamahl Simmons, the Minister of Economic Development and Tourism, knew about the restructuring exercise in advance. Mr Dallas said: “You would have to ask the minister”. He added Mr Simmons had been kept “abreast” of progress at the BTA since the changes. He said Mr Simmons and David Burt, the Premier and Minister of Finance, had been “abundantly clear” that results were expected of the quango and the BTA’s relationship with Mr Simmons and his ministry was strong. He said: “I think it’s encouraging that our new government clearly recognizes tourism is an important pillar of the economy and an opportunity for growth — particularly for entrepreneurial growth. One way that Bermudians will have a bigger share of the pie is by becoming entrepreneurs in tourism.” News reports last week claimed a source at the Ministry of Economic Development and Tourism said Mr Simmons was opposed to the BTA changes. Mr Simmons warned last November that legislation governing the BTA could be amended if a “mutually respectful relationship based on trust” between the agency and the Government was lost. Mr Dallas said that he was not worried about possible changes to the law. He explained: “I think it would be kind of strange if an independent authority, like ours, that receives government support didn’t strive for a productive and mutually respectful relationship with the ministry we’re attached to.” Mr Dallas said the restructure was "about efficiency, not about individuals. It’s about having a modern structure focused on the highest return on investment and to be talking about more jobs, and more Bermudian jobs feels like a good outcome to me and one which is very aligned with what we hear from both the Premier and the minister.”
February 3. Opinion. By Martha Harris Myron CPA CFP JSM: Masters of Law — international tax and financial services. Pondstraddler Life, financial perspectives for Bermuda islanders with multinational families and international connections on the Great Atlantic Pond. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org. The following question has been a familiar recurring topic over the 18 years of Moneywise. A reader wrote: “Many Bermudians have — or are considering buying — homes in the United States even though they are not US citizens nor individuals who are normally required to file a US tax return. The question is: what is the definitive and specific answer to the amount of time a person can spend in the US after which the person must file a US tax return. The answers seem to vary with each person you talk to and their understanding of US Internal Revenue Service tax code. Some think it is the number of days in each year, others say it is a rolling average. Also, the ability to stay in the US (if you are not a citizen) is at the prerogative of US Customs where permission may be granted for longer stays, however, those answers never seem clear cut either.” This reader is correct. There is never a simple answer to these questions, folks. The determination to understand what legal rights an individual has relative to residence in a country, how an individual can be considered subject to taxation, along with immigration/citizenship regulations creates substantive confusion. Who you are, where you are, and what these rights and responsibilities mean must be clearly understood whenever an individual or family is crossing borders on a routine basis. Readers who don’t want to bother wading through the following discourse should consult internationally qualified professionals and/or the US consulate in Bermuda for clarity in order to avoid running into jurisdictional financial, legal, and immigration mishaps. Things to consider include:
US immigration law relative to entrance into the United States. US citizens, no matter where they live outside the US, can return to US soil anytime for as long as wanted without needing a visa. Generally, in most circumstances, this right applies to US green card holders (lawful permanent residents), although time constraints and exceptions can cause a right to residency to be lost or revoked. A topic for another day. Foreign nationals (non-US persons) entering the United States are generally issued a US visa — there are numerous categories — or are eligible for a visa waiver or exception. These documents define the permissible amount of time the individual is legally allowed in the US, ie 90 days, 180 days or possibly longer. For more details see the US Department of State link at https://goo.gl/cXxZob That is the US Homeland Security position on visiting the United States. US Internal Revenue Service’s tax position is very different, nor do the two agencies usually correlate their respective positions.
US residency for tax purposes. In international taxation, a physical presence test is a rule used to determine tax residence of a natural person, an individual, or legal person (meaning a place of business in a jurisdiction). The physical presence for individuals is the main test, where meeting (or not) the 183-day rule (the so-called substantial presence test in the United States).
Determining a fail or pass in the US substantial presence test. According to US IRS direct, a foreign individual will be considered a US resident for tax purposes if they meet the substantial presence test for the calendar year. To meet this test, you must be physically present in the US on at least:
As an example, you were physically present in the US on 120 days in each of the years 2014, 2015, and 2016. To determine if you meet the substantial presence test for 2016, count the full 120 days of presence in 2016, 40 days in 2015 (1/3rd of 120), and 20 days in 2014 (1/6th of 120). Since the total for the three-year period is 180 days, you are not considered a resident under the substantial presence test for 2016.If you pass this test (183 days), you are now considered a US resident for US tax purposes with US income tax reporting and filing responsibilities for that year; I recommend you anticipate your status each year by running additional various day count scenarios. And, of course, there are exceptions to this test. You just knew that! Watch for that magic number of 120 days. Stay tuned for part two next week, which will give more details. Caveat. The recent immigration policy initiatives of the Trump Administration are ever-evolving at date of this publication. This information is not intended to be relied upon as your personal legal, financial, immigration, or tax advice. Bermuda residents (or any foreign person) thinking of visits or temporary residence in the US should seriously consider significant financial planning prior to any such intention in order to effect as smooth a transition to another country as possible. Be forewarned. Tax regime regulation, which Bermuda does not have, are always complicated, complex financial traps for the uninformed. Trust me, I know this fact."
February 3. Record-breaking commercial fisherman David Soares is celebrating another big catch after landing a 471lb tuna. Mr Soares was fishing alone near Challenger Banks at about 10am yesterday when he hooked the massive bluefin tuna. He said: “I knew it was big right away. It took about 400 yards of line off the reel right away. It took about a half an hour to land.” The third-generation fisherman said he was not surprised by the size of the fish when it was pulled in. I have caught bigger fish before. Last year I set the record when I landed one that weighed 1,004lbs. You get these type of fish once a year or once every other year.” The 1,004lb giant bluefin tuna Mr Soares landed last year was the heaviest recorded in the island’s history, beating the previous record — also set by himself. Asked if he had any secrets behind his big catches, he said: “I don’t have any secrets. Just put your time in.” He said the fish was sold to the MEF group of restaurants, although he declined to say how much he made off the tuna.
February 3. Bermuda’s seafarers gathered at the weekend to mark the annual Sea Sunday Service. Fishermen, sailors, commercial operators and Department of Marine and Ports employees attended the memorial service at the Chapel of Ease in St David’s, which commemorates those who have lost their lives at sea. The Right Reverend Nicholas Dill, Bishop of Bermuda, presided over the event and formally introduced the new minister, the Reverend Tom Slawson, to his first Sea Sunday Service. Merle Battersbee and Annette Pitcher laid a wreath at the base of the Lost at Sea Memorial in St David’s after the event. The memorial was created by Bermudian artist Bill Mussy Ming in 2005.
February 3. Bermudian Marvin Ford has joined the touring cast of a musical written by rock star Sting. Mr Ford said he was surprised to have landed his first professional role in The Last Ship. He said: “My first thought was that they were joking. I was shocked.” Mr Ford, a regular on the Bermuda stage, left the island several years ago to pursue a career as a horse trainer. He was lured back on stage by his wife, who signed him up to appear as an “unexpected star” on Michael McIntyre’s Big Show in December, but it was his work in Bermuda that landed him an audition for The Last Ship. Mr Ford said: “The musical director for the show, Richard John, was actually the musical director for The Full Monty when we performed it in Bermuda. They were looking for someone to do the part. Richard suggested that they look for a singer and go from there. I got a call at 8am on a Wednesday and I had my audition on Thursday.” He said having Mr John there made the audition more comfortable, but he didn’t feel he had sung his best. Mr Ford added: “I don’t know what they saw, but I got the call the next day saying I had the part.” The Last Ship tells the story of the return of Gideon Fletcher to the Tyneside shipbuilding town of Wallsend after 15 years to find the community facing an uncertain future. The story is based on the life of Sting, who is from the town, and features some of his popular songs including Island of Souls, All This Time and When We Dance. The show enjoyed a brief run on Broadway and won two Tony Award nominations. The touring production will be the first performances in Britain. Mr Ford said rehearsals for the show begin in London on Monday and the actors will move to Newcastle before the show’s opening on March 12. The production will spend four weeks in Newcastle before embarking on a tour of the British Isles, with performances in Liverpool, Cardiff, Dublin, Edinburgh and York. The show is directed by Lorne Campbell and features set design by the Tony Award-winning 59 Productions, the team behind the video design for the 2012 Olympic Games in London.
February 2. Opinion, by John Wight, president of the Bermuda Chamber of Commerce. " Every Bermuda Government budget is consequential to our fate, but none is as potentially critical as the 2018-19 Budget Statement soon to be presented by the Minister of Finance. Why? Because Bermuda finds itself at a critical fiscal crossroads. And the steps we choose to take this year could have monumental repercussions for the island. The Government’s Pre-Budget Report does a good job of clearly outlining the issues. Let’s start with a brief overview. For seven of the past nine years, Bermuda’s economy has contracted. The debt that Bermuda owes to its creditors stands at about $2.5 billion. An additional $1.3 billion is owed in unfunded medical and pension obligations for government and Civil Service employees. These figures will rise again in 2018-19, as Bermuda continues to pay more in expenses than it earns in revenues. Add into the mix United States tax reform, the risk of Bermuda being put on the European Union blacklist, and any potential adverse consequences of the 2018 Caribbean Financial Action Task Force review, and 2018 looks to be a year unlike any we have ever experienced. The good news? This ship can be turned around, but only with all hands on deck. This requires everyone hearing and understanding the issues and priorities. No one wants to pay more taxes and no business wants more competition. But if we continue to think “me” before “us”, we will not bring about the progress that we need. The key priorities are as follows:
February 2. A former premier reaffirmed his support yesterday for the Bermuda Government’s legal action against Lahey Clinic to be dropped. Alex Scott, Progressive Labour Party premier from 2003 to 2006, said he was “still of the same mind that I was when I put my name to the document”, which he signed with ten other past and present members of the island’s legislature last May. His view was backed by Progressive Labour Party MPs Kim Swan and Zane DeSilva, who also signed the document, as well as by former independent MP Mark Pettingill. They commented after a judge in Boston reserved judgment on an application by Lahey to have the case dismissed. The Government complaint named former PLP premier Ewart Brown as a “co-conspirator” and claimed he conducted “excessive, medically unnecessary and frankly dangerous scans” at his two private clinics in Bermuda for his own “enrichment” and gave Lahey a cut of the fees he collected from insurers. Lahey filed its motion to have the case dismissed in April, supported the next month by a legal brief drawn up by Dr Brown’s lawyers and signed by David Burt, the Premier, when he was Opposition leader. Judge Indira Talwani heard a motion for dismissal filed by the hospital at a hearing in Massachusetts District Court on Wednesday afternoon. A court document provided to The Royal Gazette showed the motion was “argued and taken under advisement”, with no decision yet on whether the proceedings will be allowed to continue. The Government filed its lawsuit against Lahey, a Massachusetts-based teaching hospital, in February last year, when the One Bermuda Alliance was in power. It alleged that Dr Brown and the hospital conspired on a “wildly successful” and “unlawful” enterprise that profited both “at the expense of the Bermudian government and people” — claims that the former PLP leader and Lahey strenuously deny. No date was set on Wednesday for Ms Talwani to issue her ruling on whether the lawsuit would go ahead, but court documents showed that the judge also denied leave for the brief from local supporters to be filed. Mr Scott said: “While I do not have the judge’s decision in front of me, I am not moved by the ruling. I have been a patient of both Lahey and Dr Brown’s Bermuda Healthcare Clinic for probably 20 years. I have absolutely no question or hesitation about the medical attention and care at both facilities.” Mr Scott added he had no idea why the Government had continued with the case. I honestly don’t know; the Attorney-General would be the one to give enlightenment on the status or rationale for it. It may all come back on the Bermudian taxpayer.” Mr Swan said yesterday that his views were unchanged and added: “What I signed, I stand by. It’s self-explanatory.” Mr Pettingill added: “Of course, my position remains the same”. Mr DeSilva also signaled his support and said he “wouldn’t sign something if I didn’t agree with it and didn’t believe it”. Kathy Lynn Simmons, the Attorney-General, is understood to have traveled to Boston with Acting Solicitor-General Shakira Dill-Francois for Wednesday’s civil hearing. A spokeswoman for the Attorney-General’s Chambers referred The Royal Gazette yesterday to a statement from Ms Simmons last week. The Government Senate Leader said then: “In accordance with professional protocol, the Attorney-General’s Chambers will not comment on any active matter that is before the courts. However, where it is appropriate and in the public interest, upon conclusion of any matter, including the ... Lahey case, details of the actions taken will be provided.” The Royal Gazette asked Lahey for comment, but did not receive a response by press time. Giselle Joffre, the attorney who obtained the 11 signatures on behalf of Dr Brown, said that Ms Talwani had indicated that she would make a fast decision on the Lahey application for dismissal. Ms Joffre added that Ms Talwani “plans to decide it fairly quickly — I can’t say what that means in this context, but she did say she would resolve it quickly”. The 11 are known as amici curiae or “friends of the court”. Ms Joffre said the filing of an amici brief at the dismissal stage was “unique and novel — we undertook to do it because we view the case as unique and novel”. She added: “In that way, the denial by the judge is not entirely unexpected. It was a procedural denial because procedurally she didn’t think it appropriate to consider the argument at this stage.” She added that the same points could be brought back to the court with a different brief later in the case. Ms Joffre said: “One reason we took this novel approach is that we thought it was important that some of the Bermudian context was necessary for her to understand the allegations.”
February 2. A reason given by tourism minister Jamahl Simmons for why he had to take control of the island’s independent gaming commission has come in for renewed criticism in the wake of a public access to information disclosure. Mr Simmons told Parliament that the Bermuda Casino Gaming Commission had failed to participate in a national risk analysis carried out by the National Anti-Money-Laundering Committee in the run-up to an assessment this year by the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force. He made the claim on November 10 last year, but information released in response to a Pati request has shown the commission had no statutory duty to complete assignments for the NAMLC or participate in its meetings until November 3. Richard Schuetz, the former executive director of the commission, questioned how the BCGC could be said to have failed in the space of a week. He said the Pati disclosure showed “the minister needed to justify his actions and he grabbed at this”. Mr Schuetz added: “The problem is, the facts just don’t meet the narrative and to use NAMLC in this way — that is, to politicize it — is contrary to the whole point of NAMLC.” Mr Simmons highlighted the commission’s alleged failures in relation to the NAMLC as a key reason why he needed to table an amendment to the Casino Gaming Act to give himself the power to sack commission members without cause. He added that he had been unable to oust Alan Dunch as chairman, despite three requests for him to resign. He criticized Mr Dunch in the House of Assembly on November 10 and suggested to MPs that the commission chairman was unable to accept the Progressive Labour Party’s landslide General Election win in July. The minister said: “That attitude may perhaps be further seen in the recent non-participation by the gaming commission in the National Anti-Money-Laundering Committee’s national risk analysis, failure to provide the requested presentation for the related workshops, and failure to provide the analysis and conclusions of the working group that this commission was chairing.” Mr Simmons discussed the NAMLC “situation” with Bernews.com on November 20. He said: “When you have a body of that magnitude that needs to be able to get responsiveness from parts of government and they were not getting that level of responsiveness, I was not in power to say ‘could you please provide this information’ and so that flagged something that could be a problem down the road and would need to be addressed.” The Royal Gazette asked the Ministry of Finance for records of which agencies attended NAMLC meetings, and which completed assignments for the advisory body and indicated an interest in the gaming commission’s participation. An information official said: “By law, BCGC did not become a member of NAMLC until November 3, 2017, when the Proceeds of Crime Act was amended to include them. Therefore, prior to that date, any attendance of the BCGC at NAMLC meetings was by invitation, not by requirement.” The official added: “Given the fact that BCGC was not a statutory member of NAMLC until last month [November], producing those records prior to that would not by themselves paint a true picture because if the records show them to have been absent at a meeting prior to November 3, this would suggest that they weren’t participating, rather than indicating that they might not have been invited to attend.” Mr Simmons said last night: “We stand by the reasons articulated for seeking change and are moving forward to execute the people’s business.” He added: “The successful completion of the national risk assessment tracking document under the new leadership at the Bermuda Casino Gaming Commission demonstrates their commitment to working with the Government to meet our international obligations and protect our economy. Despite this, much work remains in this area. I am confident, however, that under the current leadership the excellent staff at the BCGC will deliver.” Cheryl-Ann Mapp, appointed by Mr Simmons to replace Mr Dunch as commission chairman after he resigned, said: “Under the previous administration, the commission did not complete the national risk assessment tracking document to meet the NAMLC deadline. Under the new leadership, this work is now complete.” Ms Mapp would not reveal the date on which the tracking document was submitted to the NAMLC or comment on whether the commission’s relationship with the committee was voluntary before November 3. Commission lawyer Deborah Blakeney said: “The commission has no further comment.” Mr Schuetz believes Mr Simmons owed commission staff an apology. He said: “I am upset by the suggestions that we were not actively engaged in the NAMLC process. Myself, Julie Grant, Deborah Blakeney, [commissioner] Derek Ramm and other members of the commission started attending meetings long before they were required and this involved a great many meetings. I had numerous conversations with NAMLC representatives and asked for them to clearly communicate with me if we were ever not holding up our end of things. None ever communicated that there was a problem with the commission.” Mr Schuetz said it was true the commission was late completing the voluntary tracking document from the NAMLC in October 2017. But he added the reasons for the delay — the medical absence of a key executive and a heavy workload related to the Hamilton Princess and Beach Club’s application for a provisional casino licence — were explained to the committee. “If there were issues with the commission’s performance with NAMLC, they were my problems and not that of Alan Dunch,” Mr Schuetz said. "Moreover, for the minister to make this claim is a serious slight to the many hours the commission staff put into this effort. He should apologize.” Mr Schuetz added: “Since July 18, 2017, the Government or the minister never said one word about our anti-money-laundering efforts or our participation in NAMLC. Then, when the minister cannot get away with illegally firing Alan, he suggests that he needs to change the law — becoming a gambling tsar — and in his speech he discusses that the commission has not completed some tasks for NAMLC. This is a totally inappropriate use of NAMLC.” The former executive director, who quit his post last July, said the commission’s involvement in the national risk analysis was not critical as the CFATF assessment will cover a period when the money-laundering risk in Bermuda’s casino industry was zero because it had yet to be launched. Mr Dunch said he never received any communication from the NAMLC or the tourism ministry about a BCGC failure in its duties in relation to the NAMLC or the national risk analysis. He said he did not want to comment on anything else about the commission. Ms Mapp said: “The gaming commission acknowledges the concerns expressed by the Government in relation to participation on these committees. The commission is working diligently to ensure that our legislative framework will also meet the timeline set by NAMLC. We are moving forward in collaboration with NAMLC and other participants. As the new commission chairman, I have met with all of our stakeholders, including the chairman of NAMLC, and have advised her of our commitment to the preparations for the upcoming CFATF assessment. We have agreed to work towards meeting all of the required deadlines.”
February 2. The Bermuda Tourism Authority has been ordered to release more information about the salaries of its top-earning executives. The quango has until February 22 to disclose staff salary bands in increments of no more than $10,000, as well as the names of employees who receive discretionary financial benefits — and the amounts involved. The disclosure order was made by Information Commissioner Gitanjali Gutierrez and is the first of its kind since the Public Access to Information Act came into force in 2015. Karla Lacey, BTA’s chief operations officer, said yesterday: “The BTA is a leader among its peers in the area of transparency, releasing compensation information before it was legislatively mandated and we are happy to comply with this request.” Ms Gutierrez’s decision was made after TV’s ZBM News submitted a Pati request for salary and bonus information to the publicly funded quango in July 2015, which was denied. Bill Hanbury, the authority’s chief executive at the time, earlier revealed — before Pati was in force — that he earned $295,000 a year, plus a $75,000 annual housing allowance. He also disclosed that the BTA’s senior executive team of Pat Phillip-Fairn, Ms Lacey, Victoria Isley and Roland Andy Burrows received annual salaries of between $175,000 and $275,000. Ms Gutierrez said in her decision that the BTA did not have to provide the exact salaries of individuals, as this would be an “unjustified intrusion into the personal information of employees”. She added the salary bands disclosed earlier were “too wide” and needed to be narrower to allow the public to “get a true picture of the effectiveness of its public spending”. Ms Gutierrez ruled that the tourism authority had to reveal the names of employees who receive “discretionary financial benefits” and the amounts of the benefits. She also ordered the release of “actual maximum incentive percentages for chiefs in bands of a maximum of 5 per cent and actual performance incentive payments for chiefs in bands of a maximum of $10,000”. The tourism authority highlighted several exemptions in the Pati Act to avoid detailed disclosure, but the legislation says records should be released if it is in the public interest to do so. The commissioner said in considering the public interest test, she weighed “the substantial privacy interest of individuals who are BTA employees” against the “strong interests in accountability and transparency for public expenditures and the need for better understanding of BTA’s compensation process”. The Pati Act requires the title and salary range of every public official, those employed directly by the Government of Bermuda, to be published in January each year. Employees of quangos do not fall inside the legal definition of public official and the BTA is one of the few quangos to have made salary information public on its employees. Ms Gutierrez’s decision suggests other quangos will now be unable to withhold salary information about their employees. She praised the “extensive public disclosures BTA has already made to facilitate accountability and transparency in its public expenditure”. The commissioner said: “BTA’s openness is commendable and goes far to satisfy these public interests.” Ms Lacey said: “The Bermuda Tourism Authority acknowledges the Information Commissioner’s ruling. We are satisfied on the basis that it upheld our position that the 2015 Pati request would have resulted in an ‘unjustified intrusion into the personal information of employees at BTA. And since the information being sought by the submitter had already been made public, the request required no further action on the part of the BTA. However, the Information Commissioner has asked the BTA to refine the previously released information and present it in a different way. This task is under way and when completed the information will be placed on our website.” Ms Lacey said the BTA appreciated the feedback from Ms Gutierrez about its openness and its “ongoing co-operation, understanding and engagement” during one of the first reviews conducted by the Information Commissioner’s office. The Bermuda Hospitals Board has revealed the $444,230 salary of its chief executive officer, but has given only a salary band of $142,300 to $470,000 a year for its other executives. The hospitals board denied a Pati request from The Royal Gazette for more detailed records and that case is also under review by Ms Gutierrez.
February 2. The Commissioner of Corrections has been seconded to serve as project manager for the National Anti-Money Laundering Committee. The Ministry of National Security said Lieutenant-Colonel Edward Lamb would hold the new post for nine months. Assistant Commissioner of Corrections Keeva Joell-Benjamin will be acting head of the prison service while Colonel Lamb is seconded. A spokeswoman for the committee said that Colonel Lamb would carry out a “critical role” in ensuring that NAMLC’s programmes went “smoothly, efficiently and within the targeted deadlines”. She added that Colonel Lamb’s “enthusiasm for this project, his discipline and boundless desire to serve his country will be great assets for the team”.
February 2. A packed hall of supporters has vowed to stand behind Ewart Brown, the former premier, the day after his Brown-Darrell clinic closed the doors on its CT medical scanning service. The computerized X-ray scanning service at the Smith’s facility was closed on Wednesday, after fee cuts regulated by the Ministry of Health reduced its diagnostic imaging charges by up to 87 per cent. Dr Brown told a crowd last night at St Paul AME Centennial Hall that since 2013 there had been a push to close down his business. “The perfect storm came together under the One Bermuda Alliance government,” he said. The clinic head said he had told the council that the best way to reduce the island’s healthcare costs would be to “cut everybody by 10 per cent, right across the board, one time, and save $70 million”. He added: “But if your objectives are different, then you will do something else.” Dr Brown said that cost reductions were so steep that the CT unit would have been impossible to keep running. Electricity alone for the MRI and CT units at his two clinics topped $20,000 a month, he said. Shutting down the CT unit had been “emotional for us”, he said, but he had vowed to keep the Brown-Darrell clinic, which is named after his parents, open for business. Several of those who spoke at the forum said that the lives of their loved ones had been saved through the high-tech care offered. One man, who said he had developed serious neurological complaints that doctors could not explain, told Dr Brown: “What Bermuda needs to do is believe in you and act.” Another said: “See these shoes? I am ready to march. We have got to do something for Dr Brown, bottom line.” Medical technician Quinton Butterfield, who opened Central Diagnostics Laboratories in the 1980s, said that he had been unfairly treated by insurers when he started his dream business. Mr Butterfield said: “They come for Dr Brown today — who do you think it is tomorrow?” Dr Brown responded: “He represents the target population of black businessmen in Bermuda.” He asked: “What is the limit that a black man can earn in Bermuda? Here is Quinton, who went to school with a vision and a dream, and had to have all kinds of discouraging things happen to him. Only black people have that experience in Bermuda. I believe there is an attempt, and has been for years, that when a black person reaches a certain achievement, a decision is made: take them out.” Dr Brown said he had been asked why he would have been singled out, adding: “First they come for the loud.” He added: “Just know that it’s not just me. This is the message that’s being sent to young black doctors: act up like him, and that’s what’s going to happen to you, too.”
February 2. The United States government has bought the property which has served as the official home for the Consul General. The US had leased Cedarhurst, on Wilkinson Avenue, Hamilton Parish, for the past nine years. Consul General Mary Ellen Koenig said: “I am delighted that this gracious and lovely Bermuda home will serve as the permanent residence for future Consuls General. Cedarhurst has served the US Government well over the past nine years.” The property was built in 1907. One of its early inhabitants was William Wilkinson, a crew member on-board the Eliza Barss that sailed from New York delivering cattle to British soldiers in Bermuda. Mr Wilkinson later became an American citizen and joined the US Coast Guard. Cedarhurst was secured under a trust before its purchase this week by the US. Its features include traditional Bermuda architecture including a cedar staircase in the front hall.
Cedarhurst, see above.
February 2. The Royal Gazette’s Drive for Change campaign is to launch a web page designed to highlight road safety in Bermuda. The site, which will go live on Wednesday, will provide up-to-date information on traffic incidents, developments in roads legislation and reports related to the Drive for Change campaign. The site will also detail the research that has gone into the establishment of the campaign objectives. The goals of Drive for Change include the introduction of non-selective roadside breath testing, speed cameras and a graduated licensing programme. The campaign objectives have been backed by other organisations including road safety pressure group and official partner A Piece of the Rock, as well as the Bermuda Police Service, the Bermuda Road Safety Council, anti-alcohol abuse charity Cada, emergency doctors and Mets at the Bermuda Hospitals Board. The targets have also been supported by Joseph Froncioni, an orthopedic surgeon and road safety expert, who is also a former chairman of the BRSC. The website will act as a way for members of the public to join the movement for change. It will include a series of maps, produced by Drive for Change and A Piece of the Rock, collating all publicly available data involving roads deaths over the past ten years. The site will also have information on deaths in each constituency and details of how to contact MPs. There will also be a memorial map as a reminder of the 118 lives lost on the roads over the past decade. The public are invited to come on board and share their ideas on how to reduce the risk of traffic-related deaths and injuries. People can join the Drive for Change campaign at driveforchange.rg.bm from Wednesday.
February 2. Bermuda could address part of the problem of its high cost of living by creating a new watchdog to identify and clamp down on anti-competitive behavior. That is the view of economist Robert Stubbs, whose latest research suggests that “uncompetitive practices may well be widespread in Bermuda today”. Mr Stubbs believes that a competition authority — with powers to impose fines on offending businesses — could help to bring down costs that make Bermuda one of the world’s most expensive places to live. He cites evidence that Bermuda has suffered from a longstanding issue of uncompetitive pricing, which in turn has an outsize impact on lower earners, in a 20-page article, entitled Toward an understanding of competitive markets: just why is Bermuda the most expensive place on Earth? He points to the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority as an example of an active body that investigates a wide variety of industries for evidence of collusion. Mr Stubbs also highlights Jersey, which as had a competition authority since 2005 and now runs it in conjunction with Guernsey, as a small jurisdiction with a similar watchdog. “The harm inflicted by anti-competitive practices is substantial,” Mr Stubbs wrote. “Estimates of price increases due to collusion typically fall between 20 per cent and 30 per cent. Not only does this have negative consequences for efficiency in harming productivity and growth in the economy as a whole, but income inequality is exacerbated as well as income is unjustly redistributed upwards. This occurs not only as the undue gains from collusion are usurped by owners of capital, but the industries most commonly afflicted by cartels are typically supplying the very goods occupying greater allocations of low-income household budgets.” His research points to four particular sectors — electricity and water, motor vehicles sales and maintenance, retail and transport (including the growing storage industry) — where competition does not appear to be working as it should. In these sectors, he noted that total employment income had fallen between 2009 and 2016, while profits climbed sharply. He suggests that the Bermuda Monetary Authority, the financial-services regulator, has staff with the right skills and qualifications to run a competition watchdog. The benefits of such a body would come not only through enforcement action, but also through deterrence, he argues. However, Mr Stubbs cautions that the island’s pricing problems are structural and go beyond what a competitive markets authority could resolve. He compares household spending data from 1974 to that of 2013, an exercise that shows how life has changed as much as it illustrates what has become more expensive. Housing, healthcare, education have all increased their shares of Bermuda’s household expenditure over that four-decade period, as has entertainment and recreation. Mr Stubbs, who used to work as head of research at Bank of Bermuda, has produced several insights into the local economy in recent months. Among his conclusions are that 23 per cent of the island’s population live in poverty and that Bermuda has suffered from an overemphasis on financial services in recent decades. The Progressive Labour Party government, which has changed the name of the Price Commission to the Cost of Living Commission, has declared its intention to reduce living costs. Mr Stubbs said he had shared his findings with senior government figures. “The work contains a lot of data and is a little longer than I would like as I thought it important to introduce people to the general methodology used in a competitive markets analysis and provide them with enough data from Bermuda’s markets for people to be able to make an independent assessment of my conclusions,” Mr Stubbs said. “I didn’t want to present the tentative conclusions reached in my work without the reader being able to make an independent assessment of their validity.”
February 2. Royal Gazette Editorial. " By his own admission, Lieutenant-Colonel David Burch does not like talking to or being associated in any way with The Royal Gazette. So it had to take something of great significance to get the Colonel to assemble all media, including the “big bad RG” and Bermuda Broadcasting, No 2 on his personal hit list. Trash — and lots of it. “We as a people, all of us, must do better.” That clarion call to the nation on Wednesday served temporarily to get us off the “Naughty” column in his book stored to memory of those who have been naughty and nice. We hope it is a sign of things to come, for a working relationship with all Cabinet ministers is absolutely essential for transparency to be seen to be done and for the Government adequately to get its message of good governance across in the democratic manner it believes to be equitable for all. That’s not to say there cannot be mavericks. And who fits the bill as a maverick more than the “Minister of Bling”, he who tells it like it is and he who suffers no fools gladly? Notwithstanding that Burch’s relationship with 2 Par-la-Ville Road has been fractious at best, dating back to the days of the Progressive Labour Party first gaining and then retaining the government, the early signs six months in have been that he has been among the more effective in David Burt’s first Cabinet. Then someone forgot to collect the trash. The public works minister, whether he wishes to or not, comes across as the rock star of Cabinet, his exclusive interview a fortnight ago with veteran journalist Ceola Wilson of BermudaReal.com and TNN’s Trevor Lindsay — affectionately the media’s Bonnie and Clyde, if you will — catapulting his popularity among the common man and, possibly, a few more up the food chain. It was good watching: straight-talking, plain-talking, believable. And for those who are so inclined, he even got in a sly dig or two at the “big bad RG”. Had we published the latest, albeit unscientific, Royal Gazette poll earlier than today, there is no doubt that Burch’s popularity when measured against his peers might have usurped all but the Premier — it may yet do so still. But, then, someone forgot to collect the trash. Obviously, not as simplistic as that, but a perfect storm of scenarios has presented Burch his first brush with adversity, which has been laid bare for all to see — all over our streets, from east to west. The broken promises last week from one stumbling government brief after another have resulted only in feral cats having their way in an extended and island-wide open house. Then the minister himself manned up and took it on the chin. Beginning with a forthright apology, while not unexpected, was the right thing to do. This has been followed with transparently committed efforts to see the job through — by way of sorting out staffing issues and also expediting an agreement with the union over the work-to-rule with hands-on efficiency. Bermuda may resemble a cesspit for just a few days more, putting the Keep Bermuda Beautiful brigade on all-out alert, but the minister has now made up for a perceived slowness to react. Whatever misgivings some hold of Burch’s past ministerial life before Burt embossed his election success in Warwick North Central with a place in his first Cabinet, this version merits some benefit of the doubt. As long as he continues to wear his heart on his sleeves: straight-talking, plain-talking, believable. In words he can use."
February 2. Bermuda-based Sompo International Holdings Ltd has completed the full transfer of Sompo America’s business operations and staff into the Sompo International Insurance platform. Commercial property, casualty and specialty products for Japanese Interest Accounts will be managed by the Sompo Global Risk Solutions platform, under the oversight of Michael Chang, chief executive officer of Sompo Global Risk Solutions. Jack Kuhn, CEO of Global Insurance, said: “The integration and alignment of Sompo America marks a significant step towards the creation of a truly integrated global insurance platform. The combined organisation has the backing of Sompo’s strong balance sheet, while providing additional flexibility with respect to broad licensing, greater on-the-ground resources and a larger regional footprint in the US. I am extremely pleased that we are now able to offer additional products and services to our clients and trading partners.” Meanwhile, the transfer of Sompo Japan Nipponkoa Insurance Company of Europe Limited and their integration with SIH is planned for the second quarter of this year.
February 2. A Pembroke woman has denied trying to import more than $45,000 worth of cannabis and cannabis resin into the island. Sheneal Harris is accused of trying to smuggle the drugs into Bermuda on May 18 last year. She also faces a further two charges of possessing cannabis and cannabis resin with intent to supply. The 25-year-old, from Pembroke, pleaded not guilty to all the charges at Magistrates’ Court yesterday. She was released on bail for trial at Magistrates’ Court at a later date.
February 1. The Premier launched a new campaign yesterday to combat money laundering. Mr Burt, also the Minister of Finance, said the campaign would recruit the entire island in a bid to fight financial crime. The campaign, called “Just Good Business”, will highlight efforts to ensure Bermuda meets the highest anti-money-laundering standards. Mr Burt said: “It really is all about our ability to continue to be a robust and credible jurisdiction in which to do good business. This means having a strong framework to combat money laundering and terrorist financing and ensuring that we enforce the rules.” The campaign will also emphasize the importance of people and businesses submitting documents required to meet international standards. The Premier said: “We all don’t like filling in forms, but it is essential that we do it.” The campaign is also designed to make sure organisations understand their obligation to report suspicious activity. Mr Burt added: “We all need to do our part to draw attention to this behavior.” The campaign is funded by the Government and the private sector and will continue for rest of the year. A campaign website, goodbusiness.bm, has launched and an advertising campaign is also planned. The island will be reviewed by the Caribbean Financial Action Taskforce this year. Mr Burt said: “Bermuda is focused on strengthening its effectiveness in combating money laundering because it is vital for maintaining our sterling financial reputation. In order to keep that reputation, we must be in compliance.” Mr Burt was joined by representatives of a range of groups, including the National Anti-Money Laundering Committee, Bermuda Monetary Authority and Bermuda Business Development Agency. Cheryl-Ann Lister, chairwoman of the NAMLC, said: “A major part of Bermuda’s success as an international financial centre can be attributed to the strong commitment at all levels in the public and private sectors to ensuring our jurisdiction’s quality reputation is protected.” Meanwhile Ross Webber, BDA chief executive, said: “Bermuda has long been a centre of excellence for compliance and transparency — a positive differentiator. “We will continue to work collaboratively to maintain that world-class reputation.” To file a confidential suspicious activity report, contact the Financial Intelligence Agency at 292-3422.
February 1. Bermuda Tourism Authority has been ordered to release more information about the salaries of its top-earning executives. Information commissioner Gitanjali Gutierrez said in a press release today she had reversed a decision by the publicly-funded quango to withhold the entire record in response to a public access for information request on employee compensation. The commissioner said BTA did not have to provide the exact salary of individuals as this would be an “unjustified intrusion into the personal information of employees”. But she ordered it to disclose staff salaries in bands of no more than $10,000, to allow the public to “get a true picture of the effectiveness of its public spending”. Ms Gutierrez said the tourism authority also had to reveal the names of employees who receive “discretionary financial benefits” and the dollar amounts of those benefits. The tourism authority cited several exemptions within the Public Access to Information Act to avoid disclosure but the legislation says records should be released if it is in the public interest to do so. The commissioner said in considering the public interest test, she weighed “the substantial privacy interest of individuals who are BTA employees” against the “strong interests in accountability and transparency for public expenditures and the need for better understanding of BTA’s compensation process”. In February 2015, former BTA chief executive officer Bill Hanbury revealed he earned $295,000 a year plus a $75,000 annual housing allowance. Mr Hanbury also disclosed that the BTA’s senior executive team of Pat Phillip-Fairn, Karla Lacey, Victoria Isley and Roland Andy Burrows received annual salaries of between $175,000 and $275,000. Ms Gutierrez said in her decision that those salary bands were “too wide” and narrower bands must be disclosed. She also ordered the release of “actual maximum incentive percentages for chiefs in bands of a maximum of five per cent and actual performance incentive payments for chiefs in bands of a maximum of $10,000”. The Pati Act requires the title and salary range of every public officer - those employed directly by the Government of Bermuda - to be published in January each year. Employees of quangos don’t fall within the legal definition of public officer and the BTA is one of the few quangos to have made salary information public on its employees since Pati came into effect in 2015. Ms Gutierrez said in her decision: “In weighing these legitimate public interest considerations in favour of and against disclosure, the information commissioner notes the extensive public disclosures BTA has already made to facilitate accountability and transparency in its public expenditure.” Bermuda Hospitals Board has revealed the $444,230 salary of its chief executive officer but has only given a salary band of $142,300 to $470,000 a year for its other executives. The hospitals board denied a Pati request from The Royal Gazette for more detailed records and that case is under review by Ms Gutierrez.
February 1. MS Amlin was today announced as a title sponsor of the ITU World Triathlon Series in Bermuda.
The reinsurance firm said the move was a natural step as its parent company, MS&AD, is based in Tokyo, where the Olympic Games will be held in 2020. During the Bermuda event in April, athletes will win points on their long road to qualification for the Tokyo Olympics. Rob Wyatt, CEO of MS Amlin AG Bermuda Branch, said: “We are honoured to have been chosen as the title sponsor for the first ITU World Triathlon being held here in Bermuda. “As an active office keen on sport, we are delighted to be lending our support to such a fantastic event — particularly one that resonates with Bermudians thanks to the success of triathletes such as Flora Duffy. We hope the event again showcases Bermuda as a wonderful venue for top level sporting activities, inspiring those of all ages to swim, bike and run.” Phil Schmidt, local organising committee chairman of World Triathlon Bermuda, said: “We are delighted to be partnering with MS Amlin. MS Amlin stands for quality and fairness in the reinsurance industry, which are key values for any athlete.” Pat Phillip-Fairn of the Bermuda Tourism Authority said: “We look forward to welcoming the world’s top athletes and triathlon enthusiasts to experience all that Bermuda has to offer. The MS Amlin World Triathlon Bermuda will become a pinnacle event in the triathlon calendar. We are extremely grateful for the generous support of MS Amlin, and we thank them for their partnership, demonstrating their wider, ongoing support for Bermuda.” The event will be hosted in Hamilton on April 28. The day will comprise of the Elite race and the Age Group amateur race, which will attract hundreds of runners, including locals trying their first triathlon. A team of employees from MS Amlin will participate in the amateur Age Group triathlon race, while others in the MS Amlin family will volunteer at the event. Front Street will be the focus of all racing and MS Amlin’s Bermuda offices, which will also house the event office, is well positioned on the course. Sports enthusiasts of other disciplines are encouraged to register and train for the April event, which does not require a qualifying time.
February 1. A new weekly summer event could be in the works for the West End. The West End Development Corporation and Bermuda Tourism Authority have issued a request for proposal that seeks “an individual or company who specializes in event planning, production and management to provide comprehensive event production services within Royal Naval Dockyard”. The request added: “The successful proposer will be responsible for the production of the Royal Naval Dockyard’s weekly summer event.” Joanna Cranfield, Wedco’s business development manager, said many tenants had asked if Dockyard could host a regular event to attract more people to the area. She said: “We thought it was a good idea, so we have issued the RFP to see if it is possible.” Ms Cranfield added: “I want to stress that this will be complementary to the very popular Harbour Nights and our event will be on Mondays, which is a day when we have thousands of visitors with two cruise ships.” Ms Cranfield said Wedco was open-minded about the type of event, but that ideas submitted should “appeal to cruise ship passengers, air passenger visitors and residents, be family-friendly and incorporate as much of Bermuda’s rich culture as possible”. She added: “We think this will be an excellent addition to the events we have at Dockyard throughout the summer and will make the area a very special and fun place to visit for tourists and locals.” More details are available in the RFP package. For more information e-mail email@example.com. The deadline for inquiries is February 16 and firm proposals should be submitted by 4pm on February 23.
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January 23, 2019
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