Caribbean News Round-up

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Antigua talks with Canadian company about e-passports

antigua-passportsST JOHN’S, Antigua (CMC) – The Antiguan Government has started talks with a Canadian company concerning the production of new e-passports for the next 10 years.

The new passport that will have several security features in keeping with the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) standards, will eventually replace the current document.

Chief of Staff Lionel “Max” Hurst said the Government has confidence in the work done by the company Canadian Bank Note (CBN).

“These officials made a presentation to Cabinet to provide passports to Antigua & Barbuda over the next 10 years and these are what’s called e-passports because they contain a security chip. CBN already provides border security systems for us, the system utilised by the immigration department and also the electoral system,” he said.

 

Jamaican accountant jailed in US$3.6M tax refund fraud in Florida

Pamela Watson
Pamela Watson

FORT LAUDERDALE, USA, (CMC) — A popular Jamaican community activist and accountant in South Florida has been jailed in a US$3.6 million tax refund scheme.

Pamella Watson, 61, had hoped that her charitable work and “extraordinary” efforts to pay restitution for her crimes would persuade the judge to give her a light sentence, but US District Judge James Cohn rejected that argument, sentencing her Thursday to 6.5 years in a US federal prison.

Judge Cohn also ordered Watson to pay more than US$3.68 million in restitution.

“Quite honestly, I don’t believe it’s deserved in this case; so I’m going to decline the invitation,” Cohn said.

Watson of Davie, Florida, had pulled together more than US$1.2 million in restitution to turn over to the Internal Revenue Service in the seven months she was jailed for fraud, which targeted members of the Jamaican community she claimed she was helping.

Her lawyers suggested a prison term of 3.5 years, and the prosecution recommended that she serve a little more than five years in prison, saying she deserved credit for repaying so much of her debt so quickly, the paper said.

Watson admitted she falsified hundreds of tax returns and refund amounts on IRS forms without her clients’ knowledge.

The court was told that she diverted money to her own accounts and to her spouse, who told the judge he never suspected her criminality until she was arrested in May.

Cohn said that three victims’ letters read aloud in court were among the most powerful he’d ever heard, saying that Watson abused the trust of people who relied on her and used her professional CPA licence to steal from her clients and the Government.

Watson, a prominent activist who was known for hosting lavish fund-raisers and contributing time and money to less fortunate people in South Florida, her native Jamaica and elsewhere, pleaded guilty to a wire fraud charge in September.

Cohn said he had privately watched a 13-minute sentencing video submitted by the defence that featured family and friends praising Watson’s many charitable endeavours.

A US citizen who migrated from Jamaica in the 1970s, Watson ran her own CPA business in Miami for many years and volunteered for many South Florida charities and organisations.

Watson’s lawyers Bruce Rogow and Tara Campion said their client hopes to turn over another US$350,000 to the IRS when her Davie home is sold.

She has also turned over money that was being held in Jamaica and transferred properties that were purchased before the fraud began to try to repay the Government.

 

Kamla to Jack: Tell me sorry

Kamla Persad-Bissessar
Kamla Persad-Bissessar

[Trinidad and Tobago Newsday] – OPPOSITION Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar has initiated legal action against former FIFA vice-president Jack Warner for a publication in his Sunshine newspaper which alleged she received US$20 million from former Concacaf president Jeff Webb. She is demanding an immediate apology from Warner by no later than 4 pm next Monday.

The allegation was contained in a letter purportedly sent by US presidential candidate and Democratic Senator Bernard “Bernie” Sanders to former US Attorney General Eric Holder calling for an investigation. On Thursday last, Sanders’ deputy communications director Josh Miller-Lewis confirmed to Newsday that the letter was a fake.

Persad-Bissessar who maintained she knew the letter was fake, but was happy that it had been confirmed, yesterday had one of her lawyers issue Warner a pre-action protocol letter calling for an immediate and unqualified apology via a press release to all media houses apologising and withdrawing the allegations made against her.

Persad-Bissessar’s list of demands also called on Warner to, ‘publish a similar front page exclusive with equal prominence indicating that the said letter is fake and apologise for the outrageous defamatory remarks made; agree not to publish any such further defamatory material and statements; admit liability for defamation of character and agree to allow the High Court of Justice to assess and quantify compensation payable to her; and agree to indemnify her for all legal costs incurred as a result of the defamatory publication.

‘Issuing the pre-action letter was attorney Wayne Sturge, who told Warner that it was evidence that the Sunshine’s front page story headlined ‘US Senator wants probe into Kamla’s alleged TT$125 Million Bank Account’, written by reporter Azad Ali – was ‘baseless and incorrect.’

Jack Warner
Jack Warner

“Your newspaper and reporter have published defamatory and malicious falsehoods which suggest that my client has committed a serious crime in respect of which she is wanted by the authorities in the United States of America and is therefore facing extradition to the US,’ Sturge wrote. ‘That such a story could be written without any attempt to ascertain whether the letter was in fact true, underscores the lack of investigative journalism and reveals the sinister intention for which it was published, namely to assassinate and tarnish my client’s character and reputation on the eve of internal elections in the UNC, where she is seeking to retain her position as political leader,” Persad-Bissessar’s lawyer said in the pre-action protocol letter.

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