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November 27, 2004

St. Thomas experiencing record cruise arrivals

"When St. Thomas merchants welcomed 12,646 passengers on five cruise ships last Tuesday, they knew their world-renowned harbor was in for a record winter. Like some other ports in the region, St. Thomas saw reduced cruise-passenger traffic during three weeks of storms. Nevertheless, it is set to end the year with a record of more than 1.9 million passengers, announced Edward E. Thomas, CEO of the West Indian Co., which hosts most of them. The majority of the passengers (nearly 1.4 million) arrived during the winter and the remainder during the summer."

Click here for the whole article

Posted by afinta at 11:01 PM

November 19, 2004

Was Saddam Hussein laundering oil in St. Croix?

I haven't believed anything I have read in the NY Post in a long time, but here is an interesting tid-bit:

There's a pleasantly cruel irony in the untold story of Saddam Hussein's oil billions, which were skimmed off during a supposed embargo imposed on Iraq.

The oil that was sneaked out of Iraq probably came back to that country as jet fuel in U.S. fighter planes.

As you may have read, the Senate Committee on Government Affairs earlier this week alleged that the former Iraqi leader got $21.3 billion from assorted kickbacks, surcharges and oil smuggling.

A very well-placed source of mine says that during the embargo Iraqi oil was secreted and sent to a little-known Caribbean island called St. Eustatius in tankers controlled by a company located in Yemen.

I've written briefly about the smuggling through St. Eustatius before, but only now does the U.S. government seem to be learning the extent of this and other similar operations.

On St. Eustatius, nicknamed Statia, the Iraqi oil was put into huge holding tanks with crude from Mexico, Venezuela and elsewhere until "it lost its identity," according to my source.

From there much of the blended oil, including Saddam's, would be sent to St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands to be refined into jet fuel, much of which went to the U.S. Air Force.

While each drop can't be tracked from there, it is highly likely that some of that fuel went into the planes that were used during the bombing of Iraq.

So, in a very real sense, Saddam profited from the bombing of his own country. Now that is what I'd call a payback. And, as they say, it's a bitch.

I was really skeptical about this story when it mentioned Statia - I was thinking how could such a tiny island have a large oil facility, but before I emailed the author to tell him he was full of it, I went poking around the web and what do you know - Statia Terminals...

Posted by afinta at 02:54 PM | Comments (3)

November 13, 2004

Settlement reached in Kapok suit

By JIM McBRIDE
jim.mcbride@amarillo.com
Amarillo Globe-News

Amarillo plaintiffs and a Virgin Islands-based firm reached an out-of-court settlement this week in a federal racketeering lawsuit filed by investors who claimed they were victims of a fraudulent offshore tax-shelter scheme.

In the wake of the Amarillo suit, the U.S. Treasury Department and the Internal Revenue Service warned potential investors in June to avoid questionable Virgin Islands tax shelters.

The suit was filed earlier this year by MDS Holdings LLC, Michael D. Smith, ACF Management and Alvin Fults against Kapok Management, Peter C. Fagaon, James Ferguson CPA, Jonathana David Jackson CPA and the Horne CPA group.

Kapok has been the subject of a federal grand jury investigation in the U.S. Virgin Islands, and one Kapok associate has pleaded guilty to criminal charges of attempting to evade U.S. tax laws.

Parties in the case have not filed settlement documents, but advised the U.S. District Court in Amarillo that the case was settled after a mediation conference Wednesday.

Details of the proposed settlement were unavailable Friday and the agreement is expected to be confidential.

The Globe-News was unable to reach attorneys for the plaintiffs or defendants Friday for comment.

According the suit:

Ferguson, a CPA who had an Amarillo office in the same building as Fults and Smith, told the men they could cut their taxes using Kapok's tax strategy. The tax shelter's premise was to take advantage of Virgin Islands tax laws, which provided a 90-percent tax break in some cases.

In February 2002, Smith and Fults entered into investment agreement with Kapok. Each paid $10,000 to Kapok as an invesment fee, and each paid $40,000 in consulting fees to Horne CPA group.

Acting on advice from Ferguson, Fagan and Jackson, Smith and Fults established Virgin Islands residency, bought a condo there and set up an office. On May 20, 2003, IRS agents executed various search warrants at Kapok. IRS agents later told Smith and Fults the Kapok tax strategy was illegal and said they would go to prison if they filed tax returns based on the strategy.

Kapok and the other defendants filed court documents denying claims in the Amarillo suit.

In a nationwide alert issued in June, the Treasury Department urged potential investors to avoid some Virgin Islands tax shelters.

Promoters of the schemes told investors they could establish Virgin Islands residency by spending less than a year in the Virgin Islands and cut their U.S. income tax liability, according to the alert. The alert said taxpayers who knowingly use such shelters could be guilty of evading U.S. tax laws.

Posted by afinta at 12:08 PM

November 08, 2004

JAZZ IN THE MOONLIGHT - NOVEMBER 20, 2004

jazz.jpg

UBS PRESENTS
JAZZ IN THE MOONLIGHT - NOVEMBER 20, 2004

On Saturday evening, November 20th at 8:00 pm, UBS in conjunction with Steve Simon Productions, proudly presents JAZZ IN THE MOONLIGHT’S 4th season opening concert under the stars at The Westin Resort St. John.

The world renowned JAZZ IN THE MOONLIGHT concert series’ opening night stars the exciting and legendary Jazz trumpeter Eddie Russell and his band.

Known throughout the world as “the heart and soul of Caribbean Jazz”, Eddie Russell, a native Crucian, is one of the most well known and talented Jazz artists in the entire Caribbean. Eddie has played with such music legends as Wynton Marsalis, James Moody, Jimmy Garrison, Sam and Dave, and the Mighty Sparrow.

Eddie Russell, who hails from a very musical family, began playing trumpet professionally at the age of 15 when he formed his first group, Eddie and the Playboys in 1964. Eddie’s daughter Diane Russell is a well known flautist and attorney on St. Croix and his brother Ronald Russell is one of the top Jazz guitarists in the Caribbean in addition to being a lawyer and a Virgin Island's Senator.

Also Appearing is Jazz singing sensation Cat Bratton and her band.

Admission is $20 at the door, dress is island fancy and full beverage service and a light menu will be available all evening.

Round trip ferry service from Red Hook to the Westin depart Red Hook at 7:15 pm, returning to Red Hook at approximately 11:00 pm and will be $5 each way.

For further information please contact Steve Simon at stevesimon@jazzinthemoonlight.com or at 693-8120.

JAZZ IN THE MOONLIGHT would like to thank UBS, Grand Marnier, the USVI Department of Tourism and Cape Air, the official airline of JAZZ IN THE MOONLIGHT, for their continued support.

Posted by afinta at 02:45 PM

EDC can be fixed, former U.S. attorney Nissman says

Interesting story - I am always curious when guys switch teams likes this:

By TIM FIELDS
Saturday, November 6th 2004

ST. THOMAS - It is not too late to repair the Economic Development Commission tax benefits program, former U.S. attorney David Nissman said Friday night as he outlined a plan of action to the V.I. Republican Party's St. Thomas-St. John-Water Island branch.

"While the Virgin Islands government presents its own series of problems, it is clear that without the EDC tax revenues it will collapse," Nissman said. "Facing huge deficits and no internal spending controls the withdrawal of this new tax base would leave it in a precarious position."

Nissman, who investigated abuses of the tax-incentive program before he retired from his federal post in August, now is the chief executive officer of Bridge Capital LLC, a company located in Frederiksted that receives EDC tax benefits.

Click here for the full story

Posted by afinta at 12:41 PM

November 04, 2004

More GM Watch

John Peck is in Louisville:

New Marriott ahead of schedule
Hotel may help Louisville as 'convention destination'
By Sheldon S. Shafer

With construction several weeks ahead of schedule, the $110million, 617-room Louisville Marriott Downtown is set to open in April.

Local convention and Marriott officials say the 17-story hotel will bring tens of millions of dollars in new business to the city.

The project "will help reposition Louisville as a new, emerging convention destination," said Jon Peck, the hotel's general manager.

Click here for the whole article

Posted by afinta at 10:35 AM

November 01, 2004

Where in the world is Jamie Holmes?

Okay - many of you probably don't even know who Jamie Holmes is. I first met him 3 or 4 years ago at a hotel association meeting. Jamie is the recently departed GM of the Ritz Carlton, St. Thomas. His leaving was abrupt (it happened this summer while I was in NJ) and I don't really know the full story behind it. I do know that he seemed like and asset to the Virgin Islands and was a great guy to work with. Well - looked what turned up today in my email (you'll have to scroll near the end of the article):

Luxury Western Resort to Open in Montana Wilderness in June
Monday November 1, 11:37 am ET

The Resort at Paws Up Is Montana's First Member of Small Luxury Hotels of the World

GREENOUGH, Mont., Nov. 1 /PRNewswire/ -- The Resort at Paws Up will bring a new level of five-star service and amenities to Montana when it opens in June 2005, combining luxury with unforgettable adventure on 37,000 acres of untamed western wilderness.

Paws Up will offer special opening rates starting at $248, available June 5 - Sept. 6, 2005 (regular rates start at $495 for the same time period). Rates include airport transfers and a guided ATV tour.

The prestigious hotel brand, Small Luxury Hotels of the World, recently named Paws Up as its first member in Montana.

"The Resort at Paws Up represents the very best offering in its destination. With the property's amenities, size and services available to guests, it was the ideal fit with Small Luxury Hotels," said Ed Donaldson, vice president of marketing, the Americas for Small Luxury Hotels of the World.

The Resort at Paws Up is situated along seven winding miles of the Blackfoot River, made famous by Robert Redford's coming-of-age classic, A River Runs Through It. More than 100 miles of trails wind through the immense property for horseback riding, ATVs, hiking and mountain biking. Guests will also enjoy some of the country's best fly-fishing, as well as whitewater rafting, lake activities, kayaking, bird and wildlife watching, and sporting clay shooting with 14-time national champion Andy Duffy.

While the setting may be rugged, Paws Up will offer the kind of amenities and pampering usually reserved for fancy city-slicker hotels. Accommodations for 80 guests range from private, 2,600-square-foot Big Timber Homes to a fully renovated, 100-year-old farmhouse nestled on the bank of Elk Creek, each individually decorated with a rich, yet rustic elegance. After a long day in the saddle, guests can relax among five-star amenities like 300-count linens, heated granite bathroom tiles, private en-suite laundry rooms, flat screen TVs with satellite and DVD players, and DSL connections.

For the true outdoor enthusiasts, guests can also spend a night along the picturesque Blackfoot River in a unique luxury tent, featuring feather beds, fine linens, artwork and all modern conveniences.

Paws Up will also offer a full-service spa with unique signature treatments featuring indigenous plants like sage and alfalfa, a fine-dining restaurant, a lively bar and bistro, live entertainment, an outdoor swimming pool featuring large native stone accents, a children's club, meeting facilities and the largest private equestrian center in Montana.

"With an average of 422 acres and one staff member per guest, Paws Up will be a treasured retreat for those who crave untouched landscapes, a vast blue sky and exciting outdoor adventures, but also want five-star amenities like fine wines and spa treatments," said Jamie Holmes, general manager of Paws Up.

Paws Up is privately owned by businessman Dave Lipson and his wife Nadine, who live in a circa 1915 farmhouse on the property. Their vision for this unique luxury resort has attracted a highly credentialed management team, including Jamie Holmes, the former GM of The Ritz-Carlton, St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands, as well as Biras Creek Resort and Peter Island Resort in the British Virgin Islands. The resort has also named Bryan Kindred as assistant general manager, who joined Paws Up from Robert Redford's Sundance Resort in Utah.

Paws Up is located 35 minutes northeast of Missoula in western Montana. Guests can fly into the Missoula Airport, which can be reached via Delta through Salt Lake City, Northwest Airlines through Minneapolis, United through Denver, and Alaska Air through Seattle.

For more information on The Resort at Paws Up, please visit http://www.pawsup.com or call 800-473-0601.

About Small Luxury Hotels of the World

The Small Luxury Hotels of the World brand is a collection of over 300 independently owned exclusive hotels in more than 50 countries. Carefully selected for their style and sophistication, Small Luxury Hotels feature award-winning properties including spas, country houses, golf resorts, island retreats, city sanctuaries, and game and wilderness lodges. Visit http://www.slh.com for more information.

Posted by afinta at 08:55 PM