Senior Cayman Islands Immigration officials confirmed Thursday that work permits had been granted that “masked” the illegal activities of some individuals employed in the Cayman Islands and indicated the department had investigated certain instances of that occurring.
“They have been out there selling numbers,” East End MLA Arden McLean said during a meeting of the Legislative Assembly’s Finance Committee. “There are many people in this country now on work permits and they sell numbers all day long. That’s a breach of many laws.”
Acting Chief Immigration Officer Bruce Smith told the committee that the Immigration Department was aware of certain of these activities being undertaken from time to time, though he did not reference any specific cases.
“Of course, it’s done in a way to mask what is happening,” Mr. Smith said.
The situation involving a work permit holder who arrives on island and simply does not take up the job he or she was hired to do can become somewhat complicated, since it is essentially up to the employer to cancel the work permit.
“It’s not an offense because no one is working,” Mr. Smith said. “The employer, from an economic standpoint, would be best to cancel that.”
However, if someone was found to be selling numbers for gambling purposes, Mr. Smith said it would certainly fall outside work permit terms since all gambling is officially illegal in the Cayman Islands.
“In that case … that is where the offense of working outside the terms of the permit will occur,” Mr. Smith said. “Engaging in criminal activity, such as gambling … is a Penal Code matter.”
Mr. McLean asked whether the person who hired the numbers seller would also have committed an offense. Mr. Smith said that would be the case in most instances, as long as the evidence was there to support such a claim.
With regard to immigration-related offenses, Mr. Smith indicated that the department was more often leaning the way of administratively issued fines, rather than taking suspects to court – although the latter option can and does still happen, he said.
He said immigration would also work with other local law enforcement on issues of lawbreaking that fell into the realm of the criminal courts.
Premier Alden McLaughlin said the administrative fines, which are settled in a less formal manner, derive additional revenue for the Immigration Department as well.
“Therefore the cost of operating the department … is correspondingly reduced,” Mr. McLaughlin said.
Since July 1, 2015, Mr. Smith said, immigration officials brought in 537 people for questioning on various immigration offenses. A total of 354 people, about 65 percent of those, were administratively fined without having to appear in court.
The Immigration Department imposed about $372,000 in fines during the year, he said.