The year 2018 was an eventful one for the Cayman Islands.
A new governor appointed to take over from Helen Kilpatrick lasted in the position a mere 11 weeks before being withdrawn from the post and replaced; the British parliament voted to force the Cayman Islands and its other overseas territories to make the names of company owners public; and the Cayman government launched an ambitious islandwide green iguana cull aimed at killing a million of the invasive species.
It was also the year in which Grand Cayman’s airport, Owen Roberts International, underwent a major multimillion-dollar face-lift; the islands saw record tourism numbers; and developers announced plans to bring big hotel names, like the Hyatt and Mandarin Oriental, to the territory.
In the Cayman Islands courts, after nearly two years and an estimated US$100 million, the biggest case in Cayman’s history came to an end in June when Chief Justice Anthony Smellie dismissed rival claims made by the Saudi Arabian Algosaibi family and Kuwaiti-born businessman Maan Al-Sanea, finding both to have defrauded scores of banks out of about US$126 billion over more than two decades.
Also, since May, Cayman has been preparing itself for its biggest ever music festival after organizers of San Diego’s popular KAABOO event announced they would be bringing the festival here in February 2019, with Duran Duran, Blondie and Bryan Adams headlining.
The Dart group applied to extend the underpass on West Bay Road by 171 feet, and included a future plan to build a five-star hotel on Seven Mile Beach on the current site of the Royal Palms bar. That hotel will require a separate application but was included to illustrate Dart’s long-term goals for the site.
Cayman’s emergency alert capability was called into question by a 7.6 magnitude earthquake that occurred off the coast of Honduras and briefly sparked fears of a potential tsunami. The quake hit at 9:52 p.m. on a Tuesday night and registered as a minor tremor 190 miles away in Grand Cayman.
Dexter Bodden, a local musician known as the Calypso Cowboy, was shot outside his George Town home on Jan. 15. Mr. Bodden was shot while sitting in his car after arriving home. He suffered a wound to his lower abdomen and was taken to Cayman Islands Hospital to recuperate.
Omar Bailey, a 28-year-old father of two, was shot multiple times in a car park outside a barber shop on Eastern Avenue on Jan. 20. Mr. Bailey, who worked in the construction trade, was standing by his car when he was shot. The RCIPS made an arrest two days after the shooting occurred.
The new arrivals hall, a key development in the $55 million upgrade of Owen Roberts International Airport, opened in January. The hall included new customs, baggage and immigration areas. The new facility features five baggage carousels and gives Cayman’s visitors more space and convenience.
Hyatt Hotels Group revealed that a Hyatt affiliate had entered into a franchise agreement with Pageant Beach Hotel Ltd. to operate a 351-room hotel planned to open on Seven Mile Beach in late 2020. The hotel is expected to feature six cafes and restaurants, three pools, shops and a private screening room.
The government significantly scaled back its plan to release genetically modified mosquitoes amid concerns that the technology is still unproven. The government was close to agreement on a two-year deal worth US$8 million, but settled instead for a smaller program costing CI$940,000 in 2018.
Two men – Kirkland Henry and Larry Prinston Ricketts – were sentenced to 40 years in prison for the 2008 murder of rights activist Estella Scott-Roberts. Ms. Roberts was abducted from a car park on West Bay Road on Oct. 10 of 2008. Mr. Henry and Mr. Ricketts will have to serve at least 40 years before they can apply to the conditional release board for release on license.
KAABOO, a major arts festival that drew more than 100,000 people to San Diego in September 2017, committed to bringing a major event to Cayman in February 2019. Organizers said the inaugural two-day KAABOO Cayman festival, to be held near the Kimpton Seafire resort, would bring musicians, artists, chefs and comedians to Cayman.
It is expected to attract 11,000 people on each of its two days and could bring $13.9 million to the island.
Dougmore Wright, 44, was shot and killed as he walked along Prospect Drive on March 6. It was the second major incident in the same Red Bay neighborhood in the space of a few days. Earlier, a pair of armed robbers exchanged gunfire with police following a car chase through the back streets of Prospect in the aftermath of an armed robbery at the Czech Inn in Bodden Town.
Cayman’s tourism boom caused logistical problems at the airport in March. Congestion at the terminal, including lines snaking outside the building, was reflected in the skies. Several planes were diverted or held on the tarmac in Florida because the airport was too busy for them to land. Airport officials attributed the logjam to an unprecedented number of private planes arriving at peak times on a busy Saturday.
The Cayman Islands government signed an agreement with Airbnb, the company which started as an informal couch-surfing service and was once considered a threat to traditional tourism business and government revenues. Officials said they hoped the deal would make it easier to allow Caymanians to rent rooms or second homes through the online marketplace without government losing tax revenue.
Derrington “Bo” Miller was honored in a bittersweet ceremony when a public beach in North Side district was dedicated in his name. More than 100 people turned out to the event, which was a celebration of Mr. Miller’s life. At that time, the well-known businessman and community leader was fighting cancer. He died in April.
Anwar Choudhury arrived in the Cayman Islands with his family on March 26 and was sworn in as governor the same day. Mr. Choudhury, who stepped off the plane with his baby daughter Emilia in his arms, said he was humbled to take on the role.
Sprinter Kemar Hyman came within inches of a Commonwealth Games medal, finishing fifth in the 100-meter sprint in Australia. Caymanian Hyman had blitzed through the heats as the second fastest qualifier. He finished the final in 10.21 seconds – two hundredths of a second short of a place on the podium.
Cayman International School revealed plans for a $45 million expansion to meet growing demand for places. The school planned a new purpose-built high school and early childhood center as part of a project to double the capacity of the school.
A 56-year-old woman from the Philippines was killed after she was struck by a vehicle while walking on the Esterley Tibbetts Highway Bridge north of the Kimpton Seafire hotel. Susan Simoy Sumalapao, who died at the scene, was a mother of three who worked in Grand Cayman as a nanny.
Fishermen made the horrific find of hundreds of dead fish and sharks tangled in an abandoned net drifting off Grand Cayman. Researchers said the ghost net may have been drifting for months, trapping and killing everything in its path. It was later relocated close to the island and hauled out the water. The net was processed for recycling.
Two new police cars being outfitted at a George Town auto dealership were set alight in an apparent arson attack.
Severe damage was caused to one of the patrol cars in what police commissioner Derek Byrne labeled an “unacceptable attack on law enforcement.”
The House of Commons passed the U.K. Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Act which includes a clause that demands Britain’s 14 overseas territories, including the Cayman Islands, introduce public registers of beneficial ownership by the end of 2020.
If they do not, the act instructs the U.K. government to issue an order in council to force Cayman and the other territories to do so. The attempt by British lawmakers to impose legislation on matters that are effectively devolved to the Cayman Islands using powers that date back to the colonial era was met with widespread criticism.
The opening of the new departure lounge was another major milestone in the three-year, multimillion-dollar redevelopment project. The completed departure lounge features up to six security lines and 11 gates. The project was expected to run 10 percent over its budget of $55 million. A tender process subsequently filled 18 slots for restaurants, cafes, duty-free and other shops.
On June 12, the U.K. Foreign and Commonwealth Office “temporarily” withdrew Governor Anwar Choudhury from his post pending an investigation into “a number of complaints” against him.
Deputy Governor Franz Manderson took up the post of acting governor in Mr. Choudhury’s absence.
Mr. Choudhury never returned to his post and the FCO did not make any further statement about his removal. The nature of the complaints remains unknown. Mr. Choudhury was replaced in late October by Governor Martyn Roper.
The Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group announced in June that it will manage the long-planned luxury resort and residences at Beach Bay, Grand Cayman.
The Hong Kong-based group agreed on a deal with New York-based Melkonian Capital Management, which has been planning a major project at the site in Bodden Town since 2014.
The Mandarin Oriental, Grand Cayman, is slated to become a 100-room beachfront resort with 89 branded residences, opening in 2021, according to the hotel chain.
After almost two years and at an estimated cost of more than US$100 million, the longest and most expensive trial in Cayman Islands history concluded in June.
In his 1,348-page judgment, Chief Justice Anthony Smellie described the affair, prompted by a complex feud involving one of Saudi Arabia’s biggest business empires, as a “cauldron of fraud.”
He dismissed the claims of Saudi family conglomerate the Ahmad Hamad Algosaibi and Brothers that its collapse in 2009 was the consequence of a spectacular $6 billion fraud perpetrated by Maan Al-Sanea, who had married into the family and managed its financial businesses.
AHAB claimed Mr. Al-Sanea had racked up billions of dollars of unauthorized debt and transferred some of the proceeds to his companies in the Cayman Islands. Chief Justice Smellie said AHAB and Mr. Al-Sanea were partners in the fraud.
Customs scrapped a requirement to fill out bureaucratic forms for the majority of travelers to Cayman. A goods declaration form for inbound travelers is no longer required, if they have not exceeded their duty-free allowances when flying into Cayman.
The regime will not apply to cruise passengers but passengers arriving by air can pass straight through the “green channel” in the customs arrivals hall, if they are bringing in less than $350 of dutiable goods ($700 for families) and they do not exceed established allowances for alcohol and tobacco products. Later in the year, the allowance was raised to $500.
A Cayman Islands company announced the launch of green iguana meat exports to consumers in the United States. After a lengthy vetting process, Spinion Ltd. obtained the necessary permits to process both lionfish and iguana at its George Town processing plant for export to the U.S. The business established an online store in the U.S. and aims to export an average of 500 pounds of iguana meat a month.
Nine Cuban migrants at the Immigration Detention Centre launched a hunger strike on July 1 in response to what they called human rights abuses by government. The migrants, who were seeking asylum here, said they considered themselves “political prisoners” due to their prolonged detainment.
Government declined to release the contents of staff complaints made against withdrawn Governor Anwar Choudhury, stating that all such records belong to the United Kingdom government. Then-Acting Governor Franz Manderson said the territory’s Freedom of Information Law “does not apply” in this instance because “the requested records belong to the government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.”
The U.K. Foreign and Commonwealth Office also declined a Compass open records request seeking information about staff complaints made against Mr. Choudhury. The foreign office confirmed that it does hold information relevant to the request, but declined to provide it because it would breach “personal data” related to third parties.
The telecommunications company C3 stopped airing World Cup games after receiving legal threats from Logic, the company that owned the exclusive rights to broadcast the tournament in Cayman. C3 had alleged anti-competitive behavior by Logic and Flow because the former company leased its exclusive rights to the latter, leaving C3 in the dark.
OfReg advertises for new CEO
The Utility Regulation and Competition Office (OfReg) said it would hire a new CEO to replace outgoing chief J. Paul Morgan, whose contract was set to expire on Aug. 6. OfReg was plagued with budgetary deficits since being formed in January 2017, stemming in large part to multi-million-dollar expenses on traveling, conferences and professional and legal fees.
All of the 13 asylum-seeking Cubans housed at the Immigration Detention Centre were released after being detained for more than a year. The migrants were to live in the community while their asylum applications were processed. Some have since been granted asylum, while others are challenging their application rejections in the Grand Court.
Local bank Cayman National Corporation Ltd. announced that it had received a “possible partial offer” from the Republic Bank Trinidad and Tobago (Barbados) Ltd. to buy between 51 percent and 74.99 percent of its shares. Republic Bank’s offer for Cayman National stockholders was US$6.25 per share, which was a US$3.25 premium over what the stock was trading at at the time.
The government-subsidized Cayman Airways announced that it will begin flying direct to Denver in March.
Tourism and airline bosses said the new route was part of a strategy to target increased tourism from cities on the West Coast.
A group of residents announced that they would begin collecting signatures in the hope of triggering a referendum on government’s proposed cruise pier development project. Cayman’s constitution allows for a “people initiated referendum” on any topic of national importance if a petition signed by 25 percent of the electorate is presented to Cabinet.
The Cayman cycling community was stunned when Geoff Cornwall, 56, was killed Sept. 11 during an early morning ride on the Esterley Tibbetts Highway. Mr. Cornwall, who was training for an Ironman event in Mexico, struck a car that was stopped on the side of the road.
The U.K. Foreign and Commonwealth Office announced that Anwar Choudhury was being officially removed as governor of the Cayman Islands after a stint of less than three months. Mr. Choudhury had been suddenly summoned back to England in June, with no explanation. No reason was given for his official removal.
The Royal Cayman Islands Police Service started an initiative aimed at reducing trespassing, thefts, burglaries and other crimes, particularly along the Seven Mile Beach corridor. Officers were issued uniforms of Bermuda shorts and yellow and black shirts to patrol along the beach.
Both the government and the opposition hosted meetings at various locations during the month to promote their views on the contentious cruise port issue. Petitioners continued to gather voter signatures to force a referendum on the project.
Officials approved a 10-story condominium project, to be built by the Butler Group, for Seven Mile Beach at a site between Margaritaville and the Marriott Beach Resort. Hemingways, a favorite dining spot for many, closed its doors, facing an uncertain future. Dart announced it would revamp the Beach Suites, the site for Hemingways, and reopen it as a boutique hotel before year’s end.
Teacher salary increases detailed
Increased salary figures for government school teachers were announced on Sept. 3. While there had been some cost-of-living and incremental adjustments, it was the first salary increase for teachers in more than a decade.
Tropical Storm Michael gained hurricane strength in the Western Caribbean, but tracked away from Cayman, bringing only some rain and high surf on the west coast. It later made landfall in Florida, devastating some beachfront towns in its path.
The high seas kicked up by Hurricane Michael landed Cayman’s pirate-themed ship, the Jolly Roger, on the rocks in George Town. It was the second time in a month that the ship had run aground. It was rescued from its plight and put in dry dock for repairs.
Martyn Roper was named Cayman’s new governor in the wake of the removal of Anwar Choudhury. A career diplomat, Mr. Roper arrived in Cayman on Oct. 29, after serving as minister and deputy head of mission for the U.K. in Beijing, China.=
A massive culling effort to eradicate more than 1 million invasive green iguanas got under way. Launched on Oct. 30, 100 registered cullers brought in nearly 14,000 on the first official day of the culling. By the end of the first week in December, officials reported more than 200,000 of the lizards have been killed. More than 340 cullers had signed up to take part.
After 15 hearings in a case that spanned nearly five years, senior immigration officer Garfield (Gary) Wong was fined $500 and his driver’s license was suspended for two months for careless driving and leaving the scene of an accident.
The incident leading to the charges occurred in the early hours of Dec. 2, 2013, after his truck was in a collision with a car on Shamrock Road.
Paul Parchment, head of the National Roads Authority, was fired six months after being suspended by the authority’s board of directors. Mr. Parchment was placed on leave in April. NRA board chairman Donovan Ebanks said the board had commissioned an investigation into “possible misuse of NRA resources by a senior employee,” later revealed to be Mr. Parchment.
Government settled out of court with the family of 13-year-old Donette Thompson, born with cerebral palsy as a result of what her mother believed was negligent management of her labor. In 2016, the family had been barred from using the courts to claim compensation because section 12 of the Health Services Authority Law amounted to an “immunity clause” that protected medical professionals from legal action. Government later repealed the clause. Lawyers acting for the family had appealed and the case had been scheduled to be heard in September.
The University College of the Cayman Islands announced that Stacy McAfee, 54, had been appointed as the college’s new president. She will take over the reins from Roy Bodden, who will step down as president at the end of December after nine years.
Waste dumped in wetlands by the National Roads Authority was found to contain carcinogens. Tests on the waste were conducted after a Cayman 27 reporter filmed the NRA dumping material it cleans out of storm water wells into the wetlands in June.
Travis Webb, 26, of Bodden Town was charged with the attempted murder of a 3-year-old child after emergency services rescued the child who allegedly had been buried alive. Mr. Webb also faces a charge of cruelty to a child. His case is still before the courts.
Government shelved plans to increase penalties for illegal gambling amid calls for a review of the prohibition on gambling in the Cayman Islands. The bill proposed massive increases in penalties – in some cases 25 times greater than in the current legislation – as a deterrent for people running underground lotteries known as the numbers game, and other forms of gambling.
The proposal caused public outcry, with former Minister Osbourne Bodden and others voicing concerns. Attorney General Samuel Bulgin confirmed the bill had been with drawn to allow government to take a further look at the provisions of the entire law.
Scuba Diving Magazine ranked the Cayman Islands as the Caribbean’s top destination for underwater photography.
The island also ranked as the best spot for advanced diving and among the best overall dive destinations in the region in the magazine’s annual readers poll.
A second helicopter approved for the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service will cost US$11 million. It is expected to be in use by mid- to late 2019.
Officials said the new H145 chopper will boost Cayman’s capability in the areas of search and rescue, law enforcement and border protection operations.
The aircraft will also be used to respond to disasters and other emergency situations in the other U.K. Caribbean Overseas Territories.
The U.K. Government formally agreed to Cayman’s plans of establishing a new Ministry of International Trade, Investment, Aviation and Maritime Affairs, as well as a Cayman Islands Government office in Hong Kong.
The U.K. government had to approve the initiatives because, under the Cayman Islands constitution, foreign policy and external affairs are functions reserved to the governor.
High waves around parts of George Town, West Bay and Seven Mile Beach waterfront created unsafe conditions and impeded travel, forced businesses to close and roads to be blocked on the weekend before Christmas.
Several restaurants and businesses reported damage from the sea surge.
A man was shot dead in the early hours of Christmas morning in West Bay. Darrington Ebanks, a 29-year-old West Bay resident, was killed near Boatswains Bay Road about 1:30 a.m. on Dec. 25.