(BVI News) The standoff between the government of the British Virgin Islands (BVI) and the cash-strapped BVI Airways appears far from over, despite both parties earlier declaring that they were trying to settle the impasse.

The dispute follows an agreement through which the BVI government contributed $7 million towards the private airline’s efforts to start direct flights between the BVI and Miami in the United States.

But the airline is now maintaining that it does not have enough money to start flying, adding that its financial challenges were compounded by delays experienced in attaining the necessary regulatory approvals.

There is uncertainty as to whether the BVI government will pump more funds into the carrier. Premier Smith did not make a declaration one way or the other when he yesterday issued his second press statement since the dispute became public.

But the premier yesterday reminded BVI Airways that the government and people of the BVI are waiting for it to fulfil its end of the deal and commence service.

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(Jamaica Observer) GraceKennedy Money Services (GKMS), which operates Western Union agents throughout Jamaica, has temporarily closed six of the remittance outlets as it seeks to combat fraud across its network.

Three of the outlets impacted are in Montego Bay, while the others are in Falmouth, Trelawny; Brown's Town, St Ann; and Spanish Town, St Catherine.

In a report yesterday, GraceKennedy Money Services says it has decided to close these locations because of an unusually high number of suspected fraudulent transactions being reported.

It's not the first time that GraceKennedy has found itself having to halt operations due to suspected fraudulent activities. In 2011 an employee of the remittance company was charged with stealing millions from the company.

Following that incident, a number of Western Union international offices were also believed to have played a role in the illegal transfer of millions of dollars across other branches.

In responding to the claims, GraceKennedy reportedly said that the fraudulent transactions have occurred despite enhancement of its anti-fraud programmes and continued investment in technology.

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(BVI News) The following is a statement just received from BVI Airways:

BVI Airways regretfully announces that it is immediately laying off its entire flight crew (pilots and flight attendants) as a result of ongoing delays.  Hopefully this will be a very short-term situation as we continue to work through remaining issues with the Government and will be able to commence flights shortly.  We have the planes, the organization and have secured all the difficult regulatory approvals.

However, improvements to the airport required under our contract to meet basic commercially acceptable standards for processing passenger volume of this size have not been completed.  Passengers cannot be expected to wait in line for 2 hours to get though the security and immigration; this would be disastrous.

The current system is antiquated and barely works for low density flights. There was a clear understanding from the onset that this needed to be corrected and better training of personnel provided prior to our launch of service.

BVI Airways conceived and developed a business plan to solve the BVI’s air access problem.  Building an airline is a complex process. There are significant regulatory processes involved beginning with our UK based regulator followed by the US DOT, FAA and DHS.

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(VI Consortium) While the Mapp administration has not revealed to the public early results of its five-year economic revitalization plan, which included a number of “sin” taxes on rum, sugary drinks and tobacco products, as well as new property taxes, one of the three major U.S. ratings firms — Fitch — on Monday said it was maintaining its negative watch on the territory’s Issuer Default Rating (IDR), as well as the ratings of the territory’s dedicated tax bonds issued by the Public Finance Authority.

Fitch says the negative watch reflects additional disclaimers and qualified opinions on material components of the USVI’s recently released comprehensive annual financial report (CAFR) for fiscal 2016, including the Governmental Activities and General Funds.

According to Fitch, BDO, an auditing company responsible for the V.I. government’s annual external audits, “noted a significant lack of requisite documentation to support key financial items” such as: tax revenues, payments in lieu of taxes, income tax receivables, and federal grants.

Because of the significance of the matters leading to the disclaimer opinions, BDO refrained from expressing an opinion on the financial statements of these and other key funds, according the Fitch release, seen here.

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(Antigua Observer) Prime Minister Gaston Browne has bluntly stated that the announced fivemonth temporary closure of the Sandals Grande Antiguan Resort & Spa is “an act of hostility” and a play for concessions.

In an invited comment from the Dominican Republic, the prime minster last night told the state media, “It it is what I think it is; it is clearly an act of sabotage and I am saying that no investor should be able to treat our people in that way”.

Over 700 employees of the top flight Dickenson Bay resort will be affected when it closes for the first time in 25 years. Many of them expressed “shock” at the temporary closure notice.

“Caught with our pants down” said one worker, who has been employed with the company for over 18 years.

“It’s a blow, we did not expect anything like this to happen, it will have a chain reaction on every household because we have a situation in that both breadwinners are working for the same company,” the woman said.

Another female employee agreed that the closure would have a devastating impact on her colleagues. “When I think about my colleagues, for example, who have car loans; mortgages and so on, how is that going to work out?”the woman asked.

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