British Developer Pleads Guilty in Turks and Caicos Islands Corruption Case

British developer pleads guilty in Turks and Caicos corruption case
Published on June 3, 2013

PROVIDENCIALES, Turks and Caicos Islands — British developer Richard Padgett pleaded guilty in the Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI) on Friday to charges of bribery and conspiracy to pervert the course of public justice by agreeing to present false or forged documents to a Commission of Inquiry.

At a plea and directions hearing on April 15, Mr Justice Harrison agreed that Padgett should be allowed to enter his pleas at the first reasonable opportunity. His case was adjourned to May 31, this being the next most convenient date for the judge to return to the TCI.

Padgett is currently suffering from ill health and in the opinion of his doctor is not fit to travel to the TCI, it was therefore agreed by the court that his pleas be entered from England, by a video link to the Supreme Court.

Padgett and the Crown were represented in both jurisdictions by counsel.

After his pleas of guilty were entered, the case was adjourned to September16 for mention as to the appropriate date of sentence.

Padgett, who has been on bail throughout the proceedings, remains on bail.

The TCI government also announced on Friday that it has settled all civil claims and proceedings against Padgett and his companies. That includes civil claims arising from the Third Turtle Development referred to in the report of the Commission of Inquiry, and a separate civil claim arising in relation to Crown land on East Caicos acquired by a company controlled by Padgett.

Under the settlement, Padgett has transferred to the government land valued at approximately US$7 million, and has made a cash contribution of $75,000 to the costs of investigating the claims.

This takes total land recoveries made by the civil recovery team to 3,058 acres, in addition to $19.6 million in cash paid or to be paid to the government.

Attorney General Huw Shepheard commented: “We are pleased that these disputes have now been settled with the transfer to TCIG of a substantial amount of further land of significant value. This settlement brings to a successful conclusion the civil claims brought in relation to the major developments referred to in the report of the Commission of Inquiry. As reported, other claims and investigations continue to be progressed by the Edwards Wildman civil recovery team.”

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New Governor for Turks and Caicos Islands:Peter Beckingham

He will succeed Mr Ric Todd, who will be transferring to another Diplomatic Service appointment. Mr Beckingham will take up his appointment during October 2013.

Mr Beckingham is currently Deputy High Commissioner in India, heading the Mumbai –Western Indian offices. His previous appointments overseas include Ambassador to the Philippines (and non-resident Ambassador to Palau, Micronesia and the Marshall Islands), Consul-General and Director-General of Trade and Investment Sydney, and Director British Information Services New York. He was a Director of the Joint FCO/DTI Export Promotion Directorate in London, ran the commercial section of the Embassy in Stockholm, and had a short-term secondment to Cadbury-Schweppes.

On his appointment as Governor of Turks and Caicos Islands, Mr Beckingham has said:

I am honoured and delighted to have been appointed Governor of the Turks and Caicos Islands. I look forward to working with the elected government there to strengthen the Islands’ prosperity, and helping to support, with my wife, their rich culture, world-class environment and important relationship with the UK.

Curriculum vitae
Personal details
Full name: Peter Beckingham
Married to: Jill Mary Beckingham
Children: Two daughters

2010 – present Mumbai, Deputy High Commissioner
2005 – 2009 Manila, Ambassador
1999 – 2004 Sydney, Director-General of Trade & Investment, and Consul-General
1996 – 1999 FCO/DTI, Director, Joint Export Promotion Directorate
1992 – 1996 Canberra, Head of Political Section
1988 – 1992 Stockholm, Head of Commercial Section
1986 – 1988 FCO, Head, Horn of Africa Section, East African Department
1984 – 1986 FCO, Energy, Science and Space Department
1984 FCO, News Department (G7 Summit)
1979 – 1983 New York, Director, British Information Services
1974 – 1979 DTI, British Overseas Trade Board
1970 – 1974 Decca Record Company, Argo Division

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PREMIER SUPPORTS DOLPHINARIUM IN TURKS AND CAICOS ISLANDS

Premier now supports dolphinarium
Published on May 17, 2013

At Wednesday’s House of Assembly meeting, Premier Rufus Ewing was asked about his position on the approval of captured dolphin sites for Providenciales and Grand Turk. Ewing responded that he would support whatever the people decided.

During recent consultations in Grand Turk, which were well attended, the possibility of a “swim with the dolphins” site in a fenced off area of North Creek met with general approval by residents.

However, it was revealed during the House session that there is no existing application for Grand Turk, only for Provo. To this Ewing said that, since it appeared Grand Turk would approve the captured dolphin site, the approval would apply to all islands. This then could put a site in Provo against the wishes of the people and environmentalists who previously rejected the idea.

When asked about dredging of the Leeward Channel, Ewing deflected this to the Planning Department, which has already rejected the dredging. However, just 48 hours earlier, Ewing said in a public statement that he will make sure that all decisions made by civil servants must be approved by government ministers before action is taken.

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TURKS AND CAICOS GOVERNANCE PRINCIPLES ISSUED

TCI governance principles issued
Published on May 9, 2013

In accordance with the Turks and Caicos Islands Constitution Order 2011 section 28 the Secretary of State has issued a Statement of Governance Principles. This will be published in the Gazette on Friday 10 May.

The text of the statement is below:

TCI: Statement of Governance Principles – April 2013

In the exercise of their functions, all organs of government in the Turks and Caicos Islands have a duty to give effect to the following principles.

1. All Government action shall be taken in a manner designed to safeguard the fundamental rights and freedoms of every person in the Islands, as set out in the Constitution.

2. The government of the Islands should involve the participation of the people. The Government shall serve and take account of the interests of all the people in the Islands. In particular, where consultation is mandated by law, the Governor is required to be assured that the consultation process undertaken by Government was accessible and meaningful before assenting to any outcome following consultation.

3. All ordinances, regulations, policies and actions must be fair, proportionate, and capable of being implemented impartially. In particular, decision making required by law shall be objective, and the granting of discretionary powers shall be limited to those that are necessary for good government.

4. All decisions of government, whether by Ministers, elected representatives or public officials, shall be lawful, rational, proportionate and procedurally fair.

5. The Government shall maintain and publish a broad and long-term perspective on the sustainable development of the Islands, and shall encourage lawful business and economic activity. The Governor may require the Cabinet to produce a development plan for the islands at regular intervals, not longer than every four years.

6. The Government shall take steps to protect the environment in accordance with the Constitution and shall promote the protection thereof.

7. The implementation of government policy by the TCI public service shall be in accordance with the rule of law and internationally accepted standards. The Government shall respect the integrity and impartiality of the Public Service, shall engage with officials only through appropriate channels, and the Public Service shall be protected from partisan interference.

8. All public appointments shall be based on merit, and all public officials shall be treated fairly. All Government and public service officers shall comply with the Code of Conduct for Persons in Public Life.

9. All government bodies shall, in order to build confidence in their operations and effectiveness, be accountable and transparent to the public.

10. Government processes, institutions and information shall be directly accessible and transparent to those concerned with them as provided by law, and enough information provided to understand and monitor them. The Government shall keep and use information in line with applicable law. Decision-makers shall provide written reasons for decisions and advise applicants of their procedural rights.

11. The Government shall cooperate with and support the effective operation and independence of the institutions protecting good governance established by the Constitution and other oversight, regulatory and investigatory institutions.

12. Subject to the Constitutional provisions permitting the preferential treatment of TC Islanders the Government shall act in good faith and a fair manner that is non-discriminatory, for the benefit of all people in the Islands irrespective of race, national or social origin, political or other opinion, colour, religion, language, creed, association with a national minority, property, sex, sexual orientation, birth or other status. Services shall be made available on an equal basis, free of preference based on family ties, political allegiance, friendship or personal gain.

13. The Government shall at all times respect the rule of law, the independence of the judiciary and the impartial administration of justice.

14. The Government shall comply with international obligations applicable to the Turks and Caicos Islands.

15. The Government shall administer Crown Land and other Government assets in a lawful, transparent and equitable manner.

16. The Government shall manage public finances according to established principles of value for money, affordability, propriety and regularity, and in the interests of securing the sustained long term prosperity of the people of the Islands. In doing so, the Government shall also observe the principles set out in any framework document on public financial management made in accordance with the Constitution.

17. The Government shall ensure that financial decisions are made within the context of a medium-term plan which aims to achieve and sustain an annual budget surplus. The Government shall take action to mitigate fiscal risks, and ensure that liabilities, including debts, are sustainable and fully taken into account when setting and implementing budgets.

18. The Government shall ensure that a budget is approved which secures the effective operation of Government and which is in accordance with all relevant laws and standards.

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TREAT TOURISTS LIKE GOLD,SAYS OPPOSITION LEADER IN TURKS AND CAICOS

Treat tourists like gold, says opposition leader
Published on May 10, 2013

“We need to realize what we are doing and look at our visitors as very important, they need to be welcomed and when they encounter a problem we need to treat them like gold,” said opposition leader Sharlene Cartwright Robinson, when she was asked at a recent Peoples Democratic Movement (PDM) press conference on how she felt about the treatment of two departing American tourists, who just one day apart were each found with a single unfired bullet in their luggage.

One, an 80-year-old retired neurosurgeon from Florida, was held in jail with a man accused of murder, where he was fed spicy grits and hot dogs.

“I will never look at a hot dog the same,” Horace Norrell told an American reporter interviewing him.

After spending the weekend in jail, because no judge would stay late on a Friday to hear his bail application, the senior citizen was reunited with his wife, who waited on him in the TCI. He was released on $4,000 bail and returned to the US.

Just one day earlier, a 60-year-old Texas woman, accompanied by her husband, was also found to have a single bullet in her luggage. In the woman’s case, the court remained open and granted her $4,000 dollars.

Meanwhile, neither the premier nor the minister for border control has addressed the issue, which is threatening the territory’s tourism industry. Americans are up in arms and are contacting their government about the incident. Many are reportedly cancelling planned visits to the TCI, some through fear that a similar fate could befall them and others in protest over the treatment of the two US visitors.

TCI Governor Ric Todd has said only that the law must be followed.

It is widely accepted locally that the bullets were planted in the visitors’ bags, but the identity of the perpetrators and their motive remains a mystery. There is, however, some speculation that this is yet another attempt to hold the TCI’s fragile tourism industry hostage to promote a political agenda.

The local tourism industry was directly attacked on two previous occasions by members of the ruling Progressive National Party (PNP) when they shut down the Providenciales international airport, once by a public demonstration that closed down access to the airport and the second by a strike of airport firefighters orchestrated by current Premier Rufus Ewing.

Meanwhile, the fragility of the territory’s principal source of revenue is illustrated by continuing media reports and commentary in the US – especially in the Herald Tribune in Sarasota, Horace Norrell’s home town in Florida.

On Wednesday, columnist Tom Lyons warned potential Turks and Caicos visitors to beware: “Your stay could be much longer than planned, with accommodations well below par.”

“Who knows what police were thinking as they hauled a 60-year-old Texas woman to jail for alleged possession of a bullet that she said she knew nothing about, but even the dimmest police administrator surely could have smelled a rat the next day when a second tourist was found to have exactly one bullet in his luggage, too. Sherlock Holmes has not even a distant relative in the Royal Turks and Caicos Island Police, it seems,” he continued.

“It is hard to imagine the degree of incompetence required when a police administrator or prosecutor is unable to deduce these must be false charges based on planted items designed to appear like evidence of what would be an absurd crime,” he said.

In accurately describing Governor Todd as an appointed career British diplomat, Lyons wrote, “There is no mention of him being a total twit, so it seemed reasonable at first to expect him to be as outraged as the average reader who encounters this story. After all, publicity over this visitor-targeted scam could seriously harm tourism, which is the Turks and Caicos only major industry if you don’t count the enabling of drug smuggling and money laundering.”

Lyons said that Todd has responded to an onslaught of public questions mainly by expressing his determination not to get involved.

“I don’t normally do travel advisories, but in my places-to-go ranking, Turks and Caicos just took a spot not far above North Korea,” Lyons concluded.

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UK CHANCELLOR WELCOMES COMMITMENTS FROM CARIBBEAN TERRITORIES

UK Chancellor welcomes commitments from Caribbean territories to enhance transparency
Published on May 3, 2013

LONDON, England — Britain’s Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne has welcomed news that all those British Overseas Territories with significant financial centres have signed up to the UK government’s strategy on global tax transparency – marking a turning point in the fight against tax evasion and illicit finance.

Following the recent leadership shown by the Cayman Islands, the other Overseas Territories — Anguilla, Bermuda, the British Virgin Islands, Montserrat and the Turks and Caicos Islands — have agreed to much greater levels of transparency of accounts held in those jurisdictions.

They have agreed to automatically share information bilaterally with the UK and multilaterally with the G5 — the UK, France, Germany, Italy and Spain. Under this agreement, much greater levels of information about bank accounts will be exchanged on a multilateral basis as part of a move to a new global standard.

The agreement will mean that the UK, along with other countries involved in the pilot, will be automatically provided with much greater levels of information about bank accounts held by their taxpayers in these jurisdictions, including names, addresses, dates of birth, account numbers, account balances and details of payments made into those accounts. This also includes information on certain accounts held by entities, such as trusts.

The Isle of Man – the first non-US jurisdiction to agree to greater exchange of information with the UK – has also agreed to join the multilateral initiative. Guernsey too has also expressed a clear interest.

These jurisdictions have, as well as this, committed to taking action to ensure they are at the forefront of transparency on company ownership. The British government is working closely with them ahead of the UK’s presidency of the G8. Earlier this year Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron identified tax transparency as a key priority for the summit.

This represents a step change in the level of international transparency and will make it much harder for people to escape paying taxes by hiding their money overseas.

Osborne has urged others to join this growing initiative.

He said, “This represents a significant step forward in tackling illicit finance and sets the global standard in the fight against tax evasion. I now hope others follow these governments’ lead and enter into similar commitments to this new level of transparency, removing the hiding places for those who seek to evade tax and hide their assets.”

These agreements builds on those the UK reached with Isle of Man, Guernsey and Jersey to exchange tax information automatically based on the automatic information exchange agreement with the US to implement the US FATCA law to tackle tax evasion. The British government sees this as setting a new standard in international tax transparency.

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US TARGETS CARIBBEAN BANK ACCOUNTS

US targets Caribbean bank accounts
Published on May 2, 2013

By Caribbean News Now contributor

SAN FRANCISCO, USA — Late Monday, a federal court in San Francisco granted an order authorising the US Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to serve a summons seeking information about US taxpayers who may hold offshore accounts with FirstCaribbean International Bank (FCIB), a subsidiary of Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce.

The IRS summons seeks records of FCIB’s United States correspondent account at Wells Fargo N.A., which will allow the IRS to identify US taxpayers who hold or held interests in financial accounts at FCIB and other financial institutions that used FCIB’s Wells Fargo correspondent account.

Pursuant to a petition filed by the United States, the court granted the IRS permission to serve what is known as a “John Doe” summons on Wells Fargo. The IRS uses John Doe summonses to obtain information about possible violations of internal revenue laws by individuals whose identities are unknown. This John Doe summons directs Wells Fargo to produce records identifying US taxpayers with accounts at FCIB and other banks that used FCIB’s correspondent account.

According to the declaration of IRS revenue agent Cheryl Kiger filed in support of the petition, FCIB is based in Barbados and has branches in 18 Caribbean countries. Although FCIB does not have US branches, it maintains a correspondent account in the United States at Wells Fargo Bank N.A.

As alleged in Kiger’s declaration, the IRS learned that US taxpayers were using FCIB to help them keep their offshore accounts undetected by the IRS and not to pay US federal income tax on money placed in those offshore accounts.

Kiger’s declaration describes her review of the information submitted by more than 120 FCIB customers who participated in the IRS’s Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program.

According to the Kiger declaration, many of the FCIB customers in the John Doe class may have been under-reporting income, evading income taxes, or otherwise violating the internal revenue laws of the United States.

“The Department of Justice and the IRS are committed to global enforcement to stop the use of foreign bank accounts to evade US taxes,” said Kathryn Keneally, assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s Tax Division. “This John Doe summons is a visible indication of how we are using the many tools available to us to pursue this activity wherever it is occurring. Those who are still hiding should get right with their country and their fellow taxpayers before it is too late.”

“This summons marks another milestone in international tax enforcement,” said IRS acting commissioner Steven Miller. “Our work here shows our resolve to pursue these cases in all parts of the world, regardless of whether the person hiding money overseas chooses a bank with no offices on US soil.”

In a similar case, on January 28, 2013, the US District Court for the Southern District of New York entered an order authorizing the IRS to serve a John Doe summons on UBS AG, seeking records of Swiss bank Wegelin & Co.’s United States correspondent account at UBS, which will allow the United States to determine the identity of US taxpayers who hold or held interests in financial accounts at Wegelin and other Swiss financial institutions to evade federal income taxes.

Federal tax law requires US taxpayers to pay taxes on all income earned worldwide. US taxpayers must also report foreign financial accounts if the total value of the accounts exceeds $10,000 at any time during the calendar year. A deliberate failure to report a foreign account can result in a penalty of up to 50 percent of the amount in the account at the time of the violation.

The IRS currently has in place an Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program where US taxpayers can come forward and disclose their offshore accounts and income.

A correspondent account is a bank deposit account maintained by one bank for another bank. Financial transactions involving US dollars flow through US banks. Therefore, foreign banks that do business in US dollars, but have no office in the US, obtain a correspondent account at a US bank in order to engage in such transactions.

These transactions leave a trail in the US that the IRS can access through the records of the correspondent bank accounts. These correspondent bank accounts have records of money deposited, money paid out through checks and money moved through the correspondent account by wire transfers. All of this information the IRS can obtain through a John Doe summons issued to the US bank holding the correspondent account.

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