The arrest and charging of a number of well-known Caymanians and foreign residents – both abroad and at home – in connection with various alleged criminal activities dominated the news headlines during 2014.
In this article, the Cayman Compass takes a look back at a number of newsmakers who found their names in the paper for the wrong reasons over the last 12 months.
The former president of the University College of the Cayman Islands was arrested in Switzerland during November 2013, but his arrest and pending extradition didn’t become public knowledge until January 2014, when the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service announced extradition proceedings from Europe were under way.
Syed suddenly left the Cayman Islands in 2008 claiming to be suffering from a severe illness. It was revealed later in the year that Syed left after the release of a financial audit to the UCCI board in April 2008 that found “unsubstantiated financial transactions for the office of the president.”
For years the RCIPS sought Syed’s arrest in connection with a number of offenses, including theft, obtaining money transfer by deception, and obtaining a pecuniary advantage by deception. International arrest warrants were issued through Interpol years ago. Syed was charged in absentia in April 2012.
Syed returned to the islands in late May for a Grand Court appearance and was released on $400,000 bail in relation to charges of theft, obtaining a pecuniary advantage and obtaining money orders by deception. He is expected to face trial on those offenses in the new year.
The Cayman Islands was stunned by the arrest in Puerto Rico in March 2014 of local businessman Bryce Merren.
Merren was arrested by U.S. Homeland Security agents in the American territory in connection with allegations that he had attempted to set up a money laundering scheme to cover up proposed cocaine transshipment activities. There was no evidence presented in the case that any illegal drugs were ever shipped as a result of the scheme, largely because some of the people involved in the discussions were undercover U.S. federal agents.
After a protracted plea negotiation, Merren pleaded guilty in December 2014 to one of the three charges against him, that of conspiracy to transport cocaine.
Two other charges against him, including the money laundering allegation, will be dropped once he is sentenced. That is expected to happen in early 2015.
The former founder and managing director of Cayman Islands-based Clover Asset Management, Eric St-Cyr, pleaded guilty in late June to charges that he conspired to launder the proceeds of a purported bank fraud.
St-Cyr was arrested in Miami in March with Clover investment adviser Joshua VanDyk and Turks and Caicos-based attorney Patrick Poulin following an undercover sting operation by U.S. Internal Revenue Service investigators. In meetings with St-Cyr and VanDyk, the investigators claimed they were seeking to invest funds with Clover to evade taxes and launder criminal proceeds.
St-Cyr admitted to charges that he and his co-conspirators created layers of transactions involving Turks and Caicos corporations and foundations through which funds were transferred from the U.S. to Clover in the Cayman Islands and back to the U.S. to launder money from a purported bank fraud and hide assets from the Internal Revenue Service.
According to the indictment, St-Cyr and VanDyk told undercover agents posing as a wealthy U.S. citizen, a financial planner and a bank fraudster that their asset management firm would not take any funds from U.S. investors directly. Instead, the money would have to be channeled through entities in the Turks and Caicos Islands before they would be transferred to Clover in Cayman. Poulin, a Canadian attorney with Turks and Caicos law firm Bishop’s Legal, served as an intermediary in these transactions by setting up the entities and functioning as a director on behalf of the U.S. investors.
Cayman Islands businessman Canover Watson was charged in November 2014 with five separate corruption, fraud and money laundering offenses.
The charges stem from an ongoing investigation into the 2010 award of a public hospital contract for a swipe card payment system, known as CarePay, for Cayman Islands National Insurance Company customers. Watson, a former recipient of the Young Caymanian Leadership Award, was chairman of the Health Services Authority board of directors at the time the contract was awarded.
Watson was arrested during the investigation on Aug. 28, 2014.
In a court appearance in late November, five additional charges of money laundering were added to the initial list of five charges against Watson. The money laundering charges, relating to a total of US$169,000 and covering the period from Dec. 30, 2010, to June 2012, are brought under the Proceeds of Crime Law. He is also charged with failing to disclose a pecuniary interest, breach of trust, fraud on the government, and conflict of interest.
A court hearing scheduled in the case on Dec. 22, 2014 was put off until the new year.
The longtime host of Rooster FM’s “Crosstalk” radio program, Austin Harris, says he will accept whatever the local courts decide in regard to criminal charges pending against him.
Mr. Harris, 41, was charged in June 2014 with criminal offenses in connection with a domestic dispute that occurred in March 2014. He case is set to proceed to trial in the new year. According to a statement from the RCIPS, “A 41-year-old male from George Town was formally charged … with offenses of common assault and damage to property. The offenses occurred at an address at Governors Harbour on March 9.”
“Obviously I am disappointed the matter continues to drag on, but I am a firm believer in the importance of process and therefore I must continue to be patient,” Mr. Harris said of the charges. “I have asked my God to judge my heart, and I now await the courts to judge my actions and I will accept whatever may come.”
Premier Alden McLaughlin’s political assistant Kenneth Bryan was charged in early December in connection with an incident in October 2014 in the parking lot of a local nightclub.
According to a police statement: “A George Town male was charged by officers at George Town Police Station for assaulting police and using threatening and abusive language. The arrest relates to an incident on Saturday, Oct. 11, in the parking lot of a West Bay Road nightclub.”
Mr. Bryan, a former TV news reporter and candidate of the Progressives party, declined to comment when contacted by the Compass. He was released on bail to appear in Summary Court on Jan. 12, 2015