My Top Caribbean news stories from January 11-17, 2015

By Tashi Grant

Canadian banks say Caribbean operations stand to benefit from cheaper oil

TORONTO, Canada, Tuesday January 20, 2015, CMC – Canadian banks with operations in the Caribbean say a combination of lower oil prices and cost-cutting is poised to help improve their operations. While the banks brace for loan losses and lower revenues in Western Canada due to the plunge in oil prices, the big Canadian banks say the Caribbean is set to benefit from the decline. “They’re one of the biggest beneficiaries of cheaper oil, so there are some positives finally starting to creep in to the economic outlook of the region from that perspective,” said Royal Bank of Canada(RBC) chief executive David McKay. “We’re operating in a very challenging economy but, with that cost takeout, we feel strongly that we will have a strong rebound in the Caribbean performance in fiscal 2015,” said McKay, who noted that RBC has trimmed its staff in the region from more than 6,500 to under 5,000 in the past two years.

“We’ve done the hard work necessary to turn that franchise around and I am confident that in 2015 you’ll see the fruits of all that work,” he told a banking conference here. Caribbean economies have been in a slump since the global financial crisis caused a slowdown in the region’s vital tourism industry. RBC announced last year it is exiting its Caribbean wealth management business, after selling its Jamaican operations at a loss. At the same time, another Canadian bank, CIBC, took a CAN$420 million (One Canadian dollar =US$) charge on its Caribbean operations in the second quarter of last year, plus an additional CAN$123 million in loan losses. The Bank of Nova Scotia, which has also been operating in the Caribbean for more than a century, plans to close some of its 370 branches in order “to be congruent with the economic reality,” Scotiabank’s chief executive Brian Porter told the banking conference. But with oil prices declining, Porter said Scotiabank’s Caribbean operations are about to turn a corner.

Read more: www.caribbean360.com

Cuba & EU agree to new talks following historic breakthrough with US

BRUSSELS, Belgium, Friday January 16, 2015, CMC – The European Union (EU) says it has agreed with Cuba to meet in early March for a third round of negotiations aimed at normalizing ties. The agreement comes less than a month after a historic breakthrough between Havana and Washington. The EU and Cuba, which began normalization talks last year after ties were suspended in 2003, had initially planned to hold a third round in December before they were called off twice. “Now there is a new date for a round of negotiations on March 4 and 5,” an EU diplomat said. “The EU condition is that Cuba does not ask for restrictions on the subjects discussed, particularly on human rights issues and the role of civil society.” Two rounds of talks were held last year; but, in December, Cuba suspended a planned third round, “which would have tackled the sensitive rights dossier,” according to EU News.

The EU said the two sides agreed in principle to meet again in early March in the Cuban capital, Havana. EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini welcomed a breakthrough US-Cuba accord last month to re-establish diplomatic relations after more than 50 years as a “historical turning point.” Mogherini said, at the same time, that the EU also hoped ultimately to be able to “expand relations with all parts of Cuban society.” The EU said ties with Cuba were suspended in 2003 when Havana launched a crackdown and jailed 75 dissidents in a direct response to calls for liberalization and greater respect for human rights.

The EU said Cuba is the Americas’ only one-party, communist-ruled state “and is alone in Latin America in not having a political dialogue with the EU.” The EU said it bases its approach to Cuba on a 1996 “common position” document, which states that “economic cooperation must go hand in hand with advances towards a pluralistic democracy and respect of human rights.”

Read more: www.caribbean360.com

David Smith released from prison in Turks and Caicos


KINGSTON, Jamaica — David Smith, who was convicted in the Turks and Caicos Islands over the fraudulent activities of his ponzi scheme Olint, was released from prison on Thursday, the Turks and Caicos Sun is reporting. He was released from “over the last 12 hours”, the news organisation reports. His early release from jail was reportedly due to good behaviour. Smith was sentenced in August 2011 to six years in TCI prison, after which he must serve a minimum of 30 years in the United States.

OBSERVER ONLINE was unable to reach attorney Oliver Smith for a comment as his phone went to voicemail. The 47-year-old Smith, who was accused of defrauding thousands of investors of more than US$220 million, was sentenced after pleading guilty to 18 counts of money laundering, four counts of wire fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering. The Turks and Caicos Sun quoted “well-placed sources” as saying that Smith, who appeared before Chief Magistrate Clifton Warner in Grand Turk on Thursday, was seen at Margaritaville in Grand Turk earlier on Thursday with his wife Tracey and lawyer Oliver Smith, who is of no relation. It is likely that when Smith returns to the island of Providenciales later today, law enforcement officials will commence proceedings to have him extradited to the USA, Turks and Caicos Sun reported. The 30-year sentence will run concurrent to the prison time in the Turks and Caicos Islands, which means he will spend 24 years in a US prison.

Read more: www.jamaicaobserver.com

Rihanna Invited Leonardo DiCaprio To Barbados To Meet Her Family

Rihanna and Leonardo DiCaprio seem to be taking their alleged relationship to the next level! The ‘Stay’ singer wants the actor to go with her to Barbados to meet her family, a new report claims. Is an engagement right around the corner?

Read more: www.buzzebly.com

Jamaican singer Buju Banton loses appeal for new trial

The US Court of Appeal has dismissed Buju Banton’s request for a new trial.

Banton, whose real name is Mark Myrie is serving a 10-year sentence on drug-related charges after he was arrested at his South Florida home in December 2009 and charged with conspiracy to distribute five or more kilogrammes of cocaine

Read more: www.buzzebly.com

Rihanna wins 5 Million in image battle against UK’s Top Shop

Singer Rihanna has won a legal battle against high street store Topshop over a T-shirt bearing her image. The Court of Appeal in London upheld a ban on the store selling a sleeveless T-shirt featuring a photo of the star without obtaining her permission.

Read more: www.buzzebly.com

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