Caribbean RoundUp

Antigua

Two Antiguans, Omarie Banjamin, 27, and Sheba Charles, 27 were arrested on arrival at London’s Gatwick International Airport with cocaine concealed in their luggage.

The couple was held by Border Force Officers as they were proceeding through Immigration Control to retrieve their suitcases on Oct. 28, police said.

They arrived in London on a Virgin Atlantic flight from St. Lucia.

Prior to their arrival to the UK, the couple left Antigua to holiday in St. Lucia.

Reports are the security officers examined each one of the suitcases they were carrying and found cocaine amounting to two kilograms in each luggage.

They were later arrested by UK authorities.

Reports are that Benjamin is a taxi driver in Antigua, while Charles is employed with a local restaurant in the capital.

On Aug. 26, an Antiguan police officer was caught with four kilograms of cocaine strapped to her body while attempting to board a British flight.

Sceneta Nanton, 36, was convicted and sentenced to four years in prison for drug trafficking.

British High Commissioner to Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean Victoria dean said she is very concerned with the number of people who have been held attempting to take illegal drugs into the UK in recent times.

Bahamas

The murder count in The Bahamas ties the record set in 2011 with the recent killing of two men in separate incidents recently.

This year’s murder count stands at 127, a record set in 2011.

Despite the rising murder count, Chief Superintendent Paul Rolle, head of the Central Detective Unit, said Bahamians should not feel threatened in their daily routines.

“We have our police force in full force,” he said.

Rolle said gang violence is a major concern for police, especially turf wars where people fight over territories to sell drugs.

Minister of State for National Security Keith Bell recently said that the former Ingraham administration is to blame for the high level of crime occurring today.

He said more criminal gangs were formed between 2007 and 2012 than other point in Bahamian history.

Barbados

A financing company based in Curacao, FactorPlus is exploring avenues to expand its services to the wider Caribbean, including Suriname and Guyana by offering rice farmers a new opportunity to finance their business rather than to wait for delayed payment by millers and exporters.

Speaking to reporters at the recent Caribbean Pacific Agri-food Forum in Barbados, Paul Dijkhoffz, business development manager, said Factor Plus has a vast experience in trade financing. It is currently offering services to farmers in the region since most of them have difficulties to access traditional financing.

He said that, after farmers or producers sold and delivered their produce to buyers like supermarkets or hotels, his company buys the invoices, paying the sellers 80 percent of the amount due of the amount due upfront within 48 hours. The remaining 20 percent minus factoring fee is paid after that is collected by FactorPlus.

This type of financing, he explained, takes away the hassle for farmers to go after their monies while the financing company takes all the risks.

Dijkhoffz further noted that while traditional financing companies may offer loans for 30 and 40 percent interest to farmers, FactorPlus is very competitive with fees ranging from four to seven percent.

FactorPlus provides services in Aruba, Curacao, Bonaire, St. Maarten and Miami and plans to expand services to the agricultural sector in the region.

Grenada

The Grenada government has announced that the debt exchange offer launched on Oct. 5, 2015 has received the overwhelming support of the island’s creditors.

Holders of 94 percent of the country’s US dollar bonds due in 2025 and l00 percent of EC dollar bonds due 2025 have agreed to provide extensive debt relief to Grenada by tendering their bonds exchange for new Grenada US Dollar Bonds in 2030 (2030 Bonds).

Under the terms of the US dollar bonds due 2025 and Grenada’s exchange offer, holders of not less than 75 percent of the US dollar bonds during in 2025 have given instructions to the Trustee for the entirety of the US dollar bonds due 20205 to be tendered in exchange for the 2030 bonds in accordance with the terms of Grenada’s offer.

The results of the tender process which ended recently means that all bonds outstanding on the closing date will be exchanged for 20230 Bonds later this month.

Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell, who is also finance minister said, “Today is a very important day for the people of Grenada, who are currently making sacrifices of their own in order to improve the prospects of our beloved country.”

Guyana

Guyanese rice farmers could soon benefit from the Mexican market as it is moving to fast-track arrangements with Mexico to buy Guyana paddy.

Prime Minister Moses Nagamotoo is seeking new buyers for local rice.

The Office of the Prime Minister said that Mexico’s Agriculture Minister Jose Calzada has given the assurance that he will fast-track arrangements to buy Guyana’s paddy.

He also made a commitment to encourage the private sector to enter contracts with Guyanese millers.

Guyana has prioritized assisting farmers to find alternative international markets, in light of the country’s continued production boom and in the midst of recent loss of a major market — Venezuela.

The Mexico market is one of several explored by the Granger administration.

Earlier this year Venezuela announced that it would stop buying rice from Guyana under the PetroCaribe oil arrangement.

The decision came amid escalating border dispute between the two South American neighbors.

Jamaica

The main opposition Jamaica Labor Party (JLP) is preparing for general elections and is confident of victory.

JLP leader Andrew Holness told supporters recently to be prepared for a general election “very soon,” even as Prime Minister Portia Simpson-Miller has kept the nation guessing as to when she would announce the date.

Simpon-Miller recently addressed supporters of the ruling People’s National Party (PNP) in St. Ann, but she made no mention of an election date even as political observers say she is likely to do so before the end of the year.

The JLP leader said the government is not running the affairs of the country properly.

He said a JLP government would implement several new policies in taking the country forward.

In the last general election held in December 2011, the PNP won 42 seats with the remaining 21 going to the JLP.

St. Vincent

Venezuelan President Nicholas Maduro and a nine-member delegation recently paid a visit to St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves, the governor general’s deputy, Susan Dougan, and other government officials welcomed the delegation at the E.T. Joshua Airport.

Maduro and his delegation later visited the Hugo Chavez Storage facility at Lowman’s Bay, then the Argyle International Airport.

Speaking at a press conference through an interpreter, Maduro outlined his country’s plans for St. Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) and Venezuela.

He said that these investments are for the further development of SVG. He also made the promise of 7,500 tablets for primary school students.

After the two leaders held a bilateral meeting at the Office of the Prime Minister, Dr. Gonsalves said the discussions covered several issues in the hemisphere.

Included in Maduro’s delegation were First Combatant Cilis Flores, Vice President and Minister of Finance, Rodolfo Marco Torres and Foreign Affairs Minister Delcy Rodriguez.

St. Lucia

The St. Lucia government says it is waiving all import duties on barrels imported into the island as part of the annual Christmas celebrations.

It said the removal of the import duty under the “Christmas Barrel Trade’ from Dec. 1 to Feb. 15 next year will be for personal items, food, clothing toys, and other household consumables contained in barrels. Electronic items are explicitly excluded.

The Ministry of Finance said the number of barrels for the concessions is limited to two per household and there is an upper limit of EC$2,500 per barrel on the value of the items qualifying for the concessions.

The ministry warned that the items contained in the barrels must be for personal use only and not for commercial use, adding that the “usual penalties” and fines would apply if the goods are used for commercial purposes.

Trinidad

The program to assist children in need of urgent medical attention which was the brainchild by former T&T Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar who is now the Opposition Leader has been sent to the director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) by the police for action to be taken for alleged fraud in the fund.

Former ministers of her government used to donate l0 percent of their salaries to the fund.

The Children’s Life Fund, is a charitable fund that was established by the PP government in 2010 by an act of Parliament.

The Fraud Squad was called in to probe 14 cases during the period September 2013 and April 2014 in which thousands of US dollars were allegedly embezzled.

— compiled by Azad Ali

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