Caribbean Business And Finance Report

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Accused Guyana Ponzi schemers, Yuri Garcia Dominguez, r., and his wife Ateeka Ishmael are accused of running a major ponzi scheme in Guyana.
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Compiled By NAN Business Editor

News Americas, NEW YORK, NY, Fri. Aug. 28, 2020: Here are some of the top business and finance news making headlines across the Caribbean this week.

Regional

Now you have the option of working from the beaches of four Caribbean countries.

Anguilla has joined Barbados, Antigua & Barbuda and Bermuda in offering the remote work option from its shores. Anguilla, which has no new COVID-19 cases and no deaths, is now accepting online applications for visitors to stay on Anguilla for up to a year and work remotely from there. The application is designed for visitors who want to arrive on the island no later than October 31. Prospective tourists hoping to plan a trip to Anguilla for November 1 or later will be invited to apply at the end of September. Once prospective travelers’ applications are accepted, they’ll have to pay a fee to the Anguillan government, which will cover two COVID-19 tests per person which they’ll be required to take upon arrival and during their stay, and a digital work permit for travelers who are staying for up to a year.

Barbados and Bermuda have already introduced this option.

Antigua and Barbuda’s says its long-stay visa program which will allow persons and their dependents to reside in Antigua and Barbuda for up to two years will be launched on a dedicated government website shortly. All applicants would be subject to due diligence and COVID-19 pretesting.

Billionaire’s Caribbean Links

Austin billionaire Robert F. Smith, the founder of Vista Equity Partners, is under investigation by the U.S. Justice Department and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) regarding possible tax crimes, according to a report from Bloomberg with the news service claiming that the alleged investigation “hinges largely on whether he was actually the beneficial owner of Caribbean entities that received proceeds from his company’s first private equity fund.” One of those offshore entities was St. Kitts- and Nevis-based Flash Holdings LLC, tax filings show.

The Bloomberg report claims that a portion of the proceeds flowed through offshore entities into a U.S. charitable foundation where Smith is president and founding director.Smith is reportedly attempting to avoid criminal charges from the Justice Department and resolve the case with a civil settlement, according to three of Bloomberg’s four anonymous sources.

The case is focusing on whether Smith failed to pay U.S. taxes on about $200 million in assets that moved through offshore structures, according to Bloomberg sources. Smith’s net worth, according to Forbes, is $5.2 billion. Smith founded Vista Equity Partners in 2000. Smith is trying to persuade the Justice Department to forgo criminal charges and resolve his case with a civil settlement, according to three of the people. A conviction could send him to prison and force him out of Vista Equity Partners, a money management firm with $65 billion in assets that has brought him fame and a luxe lifestyle.

Guyana

As the new Guyana government reviews the Payara Field Development Plan (FDP), ExxonMobil’s Country Manager Alistair Routledge has said the company can take its investment money elsewhere, if it does not get the deal it wants.

Exxon’s Country Manager in Guyana, Alistair Routledge, made the comment on a conference call with members of the media, wherein he stressed the need for maintaining the sanctity of the much-criticised contract that ExxonMobil signed with Guyana’s former A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) Government back in 2016.

“If we enter into contracts with a country and they are changed down the road, then it’s very difficult for us to make commitments on projects that typically have 20-, 30-year investment lives. So how can we make those investments if we’re unsure whether the terms will change?” Routledge added during the conference. His comments come as  the current Dr Irfaan Ali-led government tapped into an existing Canadian grant to recruit independent experts who would review the work done on Exxon’s Payara project FDP, before granting final approval for the new project.

Meanwhile, Guyana’s new government is dealing with a major ponzi scheme involving  Cuban-born, naturalized citizen, Yuri Garcia-Dominguez.Garcia-Dominguez of Accelerated Capital Firm Incorporated (ACFI), was arrested last week after the ponzi scheme came crashing down that reportedly fleeced thousands of Guyanese by promising major returns. He had told investigators that the money was abroad in accounts in the United States, Switzerland, Belize, Germany and Greece.

But the Bank of Guyana, the Guyana Securities Council and the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU), three of Guyana’s major financial regulators and investigative agencies, have so far been unable to track down the millions of dollars hidden by the principals.

Dominguez and his wife Ateeka Ishmael ran the company and enrolled some 17,000 Guyanese citizens in the Ponzi scheme where ACFI claims that it uses a foreign exchange platform to trade. Reports indicate that all aspects of the scheme operate online via training webinars, WhatsApp and emails.

The pair was arrested last Thursday as social media has been flooded by complaints from persons who invested money with the couple and never got back their capital, much less the profits. Many say they invested varying sums ranging from G$100,000 to over G$1 million, but now they do not know if they will ever recover their hard-earned money. There are reports that some businessmen have invested well over G$50 million and in one case as much as G$150 million.

This as Chinese mining company Zijin Mining Group Co. is taking over Canadian Mining company Guyana Goldfields. Guyana Goldfields announced that its shares, which were trading at approximately C$1.84 a share price as of Tuesday, are expected to be de-listed from the Toronto Stock Exchange within one to three business days. Zijin Mining Group Co, which specializes in gold, copper, zinc, and other mineral resource exploration and development.

Jamaica

The total value of trade between Jamaica’s cannabis industry license holders was approximately $1.34 million from May 2019 through July 2020, according to recent figures provided  by the Cannabis Licensing Authority (CLA) to Marijuana Business Daily.

The figure excludes retail herb house sales and covers trading among license holders only, the CLA said. July’s total of about $74,500 is an increase from June’s $51,500, demonstrating steady industry growth despite persistent banking challenges. The CLA – an agency of the Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries – has issued 11 first-tier licenses for cultivation up to 1 acre (0.4 hectares), 10 second-tier licenses for cultivation between 1 and 5 acres, and seven third-tier licenses for cultivation over 5 acres. By category, Jamaica has issued:

11 licenses to processors.

Four for research and development.

One for transport.

Trinidad And Tobago

Trinidad and Tobago (T&T) continues to face unprecedented challenges stemming from the closure of its borders and a suppressed business environment due to the global outbreak of Covid-19 and the economy is projected to contract by 4.5 per cent in real GDP terms in 2020 according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Health-related expenditure increased substantially to enhance infrastructure and capacity to deal with the pandemic, while the loss in revenue throughout fiscal 2020 is estimated at TT $9.2 billion. A breakdown of the total revenue loss shows that TT$3.8 billion stems from losses in taxes on Income and Profits, $750 million in Business Levy and Green Fund Levy, TT $600 million in taxes on goods and services and international trade, TT $2.5 billion in royalties and production sharing and $1.2 billion in profits from State enterprises. As a result of increased expenditure and the revenue shortfall the fiscal deficit for 2020 will increase to an estimated TT $15.5 billion up from the budgeted deficit of TT $5.3 billion.

Lending to businesses declined by 5.70 per cent year-on-year in March despite monetary policy easing by the Central Bank of Trinidad and Tobago (CBTT), which lowered policy interest rate, the repo rate, by 150 basis points from 5.00 per cent to 3.50 per cent as well as the reserve requirement ratio for commercial banks from 17 per cent to 14 per cent on 17 March.

However, the financial system remains very liquid as commercial banks average excess reserves rose to TT $5.736 billion in April from TT $4.583 billion in March, further rising to TT $9.713 billion by July.

Antigua And Barbuda

Fugitive Indian businessman Mehul Choksi, who is living in Antigua, on Wednesday filed a lawsuit in the Delhi high court against streaming platform Netflix’s upcoming web series ‘Bad Boy Billionaires.. Choksi’s lawyer Vijay Aggarwal says that he is seeking that his client be shown the preview.

Senior advocate Neeraj Kishan Kaul, who appeared for Netflix, said that the documentary has a two-minute piece on Nirav Modi where Choksi has been mentioned. He also said that that there is no regulation of content on the OTT platform.The court then adjourned the matter to today, August 28, 2020.

BVI

Visitors to the British Virgin Islands could soon have the opportunity to engage in entertainment activities, which fall under that Territory’s recently approved Gaming and Betting Virgin Islands Control Act of 2020, which legalises gambling.

An Associate member of the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States, (OECS), the BVI, an Overseas Territory of the United Kingdom, is seeking to diversify its economy, which is known for its financial services and tourism sectors. In February 2020, the European Union removed the BVI from the list of “Non-cooperative Jurisdictions” for tax purposes. This was achieved after various amendments were done to legislation regulating and monitoring that sector, which is responsible for millions in revenue.

As countries and Territories across the Caribbean region struggle to revitalize their once thriving tourism economies in the face of the COVID-19 global health pandemic, diversification of the economy has become a priority for many Governments, including the Administration of the 2019-elected Premier, Andrew A. Fahie.

According to the Premier: “The development of a regulated gaming and betting industry in the BVI will provide economic opportunities that will supplement and complement those of our existing sectors. It will, of course, provide income for the Territory. It will also create jobs and direct business opportunities for participants in the sector. Additionally, other businesses such as supermarkets, restaurants and accommodations will benefit as more people experience economic empowerment.”

The Fahie Administration has expressed the vision of transforming the BVI into a leading regional economy by 2025, through entrepreneurship, innovation and local and foreign investment, with the creation of new industries as a driver for economic diversification. As regional countries embark on various initiatives to rebuild economies in this unprecedented health pandemic, called COVID-19, it is anticipated that the regulated gambling sector will become a priority revenue earner for the BVI.

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