Officials sail in unannounced
Officers from the Cayman Islands Immigration Department descended on the Sail Inn restaurant – formerly the Brickhouse – at lunch time Friday, bringing business to a halt and kicking out all the patrons.
The immigration operation was confirmed by Portfolio of Internal and External Affairs Chief Officer Eric Bush on Friday.
“It’s part of an on-going immigration investigation,” Mr. Bush said.
The raid, which was carried out in an apparent attempt to determine whether employees’ work permits were in order, was condemned by Sail Inn owner Mario Rankin, who explained his position as it relates to his employees’ permits.
“[The chief immigration officer] is saying that we need cancellation letters for our employees, but it seems she does not know that each employee in the Cayman Islands on a permit has the right to cancel their own permit,” Mr. Rankin said.
Mr. Rankin added that the Immigration Department is in possession of cancellation letters from respective employees and that the chief immigration officer was essentially denying those employees their right to cancel their own permit.
Mr. Rankin claimed that the restaurant’s previous owner wouldn’t do cancellation letters for employees.
“We have instead had to have them write their own severance letters and then he simply signs a release,” Mr. Rankin said.
Calls to the former owner of the Brickhouse were not immediately returned.
Since Monday, immigration has been processing 26 permits for Sail Inn, which Mr. Rankin said he has paid for.
“We have done everything they have asked of us and everything had been paid in full, yet they run in here in the middle of the afternoon and shut down the business in front of guests,” said Mr. Rankin. He said he was planning to re-open the Sail Inn as soon as possible.
Mr. Rankin was arrested in mid-December on suspicion of immigration-related violations. The department has refused to discuss the case. Mr. Rankin said he has not been charged with any crimes, so far as he was aware.
Mr. Rankin said he was told initially that allegations against him involved the employment of a dump truck driver without a work permit. However, he said that officers obtained a total of seven warrants in December to search his apartment, his wife’s home and several businesses within the former Doghouse/Brickhouse complex in Grand Harbour that Mr. Rankin took ownership of on 1 November.
Mr. Rankin said officers did perform some searches at the Grand Harbour businesses back in mid-December, but that he got the distinct impression the searches of those establishments were a mere pretext.
“Their whole interest sort of shifted after the search warrants [were obtained],” Mr. Rankin said. ”They were no longer interested in whether I violated Immigration Law, they were far more interested in searching my private residence.”