Cayman Islands Auditor General Alastair Swarbrick said this week that more than $200,000 in ‘accounts receivable from a former UCCI President’ should be written off.
According to the auditor general’s recent report on the activities of statutory authorities and government-owned companies, an amount of $211,390 carried forward from former University College of the Cayman Islands President Hassan Syed.
“This amount, while not material enough to qualify my opinion [on the university’s financial statements], is uncollectable and should be written off,” Mr. Swarbrick said.
There have always been questions regarding how much was taken from the government in the situation involving Mr. Syed, who left the Cayman Islands in 2008 and is now sought by Interpol.
According to reports from former Auditor General Dan Duguay, Mr. Syed charged more than US$50,000 of jewellery on the credit cards he was issued by UCCI. In addition to the jewellery, Mr. Syed used his UCCI credit cards to pay for thousands of dollars’ worth of goods at department stores in Toronto and London, for furniture, spa treatments and even for a week-long stay at a villa in France that he purchased at a Rotary Club auction in May 2007.
Mr. Duguay’s report stated an estimated US$294,000 of credit card transactions could not be adequately substantiated as UCCI’s expenditure. However, some of the unsubstantiated credit card charges were subsequently identified as personal expenses to Syed and deducted from his salary.
During the 16-month period between December 2006 and March 2008, the UCCI accounts department deducted US$119,390.18 from Syed’s salary due. During the time, Syed’s salary was US$13,412 per month – US$160,944 per year – although is appears he received a $3,466 bonus in December 2006.
When the Auditor General’s Office reviewed the expenditure of UCCI for the financial statements concerning the year ended 30, June 2007, it discovered the unsubstantiated transactions and requested UCCI supply the necessary support records.
During an Offshore Alert conference held earlier this year in Florida, USA, former Auditor General Duguay queried why there “seems to be a lack of will” regarding certain corruption allegations, including the “embezzlement of several hundred thousand dollars” involving Mr. Syed.
“My office uncovered it. We sent it over to [the] Financial Crime [Unit] and they said: ‘Well he’s gone now, we can’t get him back, so we are not going to prosecute,” Mr. Duguay said.
Royal Cayman Islands Police Commissioner David Baines, responding to Mr. Duguay’s statement, said the investigation remains open and efforts continue to bring Mr. Syed to face justice in Cayman. “Evidence in relation to this matter has been put before the courts in Cayman and, as a result, an international arrest warrant has been issued. When he is traced he will be arrested and transported back to Cayman to face justice,” Mr. Baines said.
Other UCCI issues
The auditor general’s office analysed revenue from tuition fees collected at UCCI and found that approximately 85 per cent of the total amount due was more than 90 days in arrears.
The school receives millions of dollars in funding from the Cayman Islands Government each year.
The figure of 85 per cent in arrears was actually higher than the previous year, when 78 per cent of the total tuition fees were more than 90 days overdue.
“While management indicated to us that they have made extra effort to collect on these overdue accounts, it appears their efforts are not having the desired effect,” Mr. Swarbrick said.