On her way out of the country, a Cayman Islands visitor — a “soccer mom,” no less — was arrested at the airport and forced to spend the night in police custody … over a disputed debt of $233.

That’s not exactly the kind of marketing tale that supports our tourism moniker, namely “Caymankind.”

We aren’t privy to all the details of the situation, but based on what we do know, the situation looks bad, and it makes our country appear petty, at best. (It is reminiscent of the public relations disaster that followed the now-famous Customs Department’s seizure of a wedding dress; only potentially worse.)

Here are the facts, as we understand them:

  • Fuambai Ahmadu had an agreement to stay at a guest apartment in West Bay from Monday to Saturday last week, as she watched her son play football in the Cayman Airways Invitational Youth Cup.
  • She either left or was evicted from the apartment on Wednesday, following a dispute with the apartment owner over the method of payment. The owner wanted cash up front; she wanted to pay by credit card or cash at the end of her stay.
  • On Saturday at the airport, after she checked her bags and cleared security, she was approached by police officers.
  • Ms. Ahmadu told police she had not paid for her stay. Officers gave her the option to pay right then and there — but she chose not to.
  • Officers then arrested her. She spent the night in custody. She appeared in Summary Court on a charge of obtaining services by deception, which was dismissed after she handed over an envelope of cash through her lawyer to the prosecutor, who was acting as an intermediary for the apartment owner.

Now, we aren’t siding with Ms. Ahmadu or the apartment owner on the matter of the disputed debt. Our concern, rather, is with the arrest and confinement of Ms. Ahmadu by law enforcement (who, by the way, have a record of allowing people facing far more serious allegations to flee Cayman).

In Cayman, there are numerous bill collectors, law firms, and maybe even street toughs who specialize in collecting unpaid debts. Certainly we have no shortage of debtors on the island. Many, if not most, companies have long lists of aging receivables.

Which raises the question: Why should businesses go to all the trouble and expense of employing attorneys and bill collectors if they can just ring up the police and have the suspected debtors arrested — or, even more elegantly, have police or prosecutors simply demand the cash on the creditor’s behalf, under threat of imprisonment?

According to an official statement from police, “The status or position of a given person, and whether he or she may be a resident or visitor, is irrelevant as to whether circumstances such as these warrant an arrest.”

In that case, police may want to consider arresting every single resident who owes money to the public hospital system. It might put a dent in the estimated $80 million in unpaid bills and be a real boon to our treasury.

As importantly, it could lead to a massive boom in construction because of the sudden demand for thousands of new prison cells.

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  1. On the face of this, the Compass rightly raises concerns, concerns that the RCIPS management should address. Certainly, any suggestion that the police may have acted, de facto, as a debt collection agency, is disturbing.

    However, before we rush to judgement, we do need to understand that we do not have all the facts here and we have to acknowledge a certain lack of understanding on the part of the Editorial Board with regard to the offence of ‘Obtaining Services by Deception’.

    Permit me to address the second part here:

    If my Penal Code is up to date, Section 250 of the Penal Code refers to the obtaining of a service by a DECEPTION and I have highlighted the key word here – this means to be guilty of a criminal offence under this statute there must be evidence that, at the time the obtaining of the service was obtained, the person obtaining it dishonestly deceived the service provider into thinking they would pay for it when, in fact, they had no intention of doing so.

    So, at the time the service was obtained, if the person obtaining it did not have the dishonest intent no NOT pay then the offence is not committed. In this case we would need to know, fully, what had been agreed and my question is how did this arrangement get to Wednesday (when it, presumably, had been arranged in advance of the arrival) before there was any discussion on form of payment. Strange indeed.

    Of course, the police may well have had such sparse information when it was reported to them and with a potential suspect about to board a plane out of the jurisdiction then they would have had to have made decisions based on this incomplete information (rarely are police in possession of all the facts when they make an arrest – indeed, if they were then immediately the arrested person was brought to the police station they should be charged).

    Remember, the police need on ‘reasonable suspicion’ that an offence has taken place in order to arrest here. It is, as always, very difficult to second guess the inner thoughts of the officer at the precise moment they make the decision to arrest and the courts have, traditionally, sought not to second guess this unless there are clear grounds for it to decide the arrest decision was flawed.

    Lastly, in this case, not only are we looking at the actions of the arresting officer but the custody officer has a role to play at the police station and the prosecutor is in a position of power to proceed or not with any charge.

    Therefore, linking this case to non payment of health bills is a nonsense unless you can find me someone who dishonestly has a heart attack in order to get treatment for the heart attack without paying!

    While I acknowledge the right, indeed the duty of the Compass to raise concerns, perhaps some better understanding of the law would be appropriate before they enter into print. The inference that the police have been negligent in terms of allowing offenders to flee the Islands, is one where i would want to see some evidence.

    Here, having one side of a story is never a good idea.

    • While you made some good points here, your ” they would have had to have made decisions based on this incomplete information ” and “Remember, the police need on ‘reasonable suspicion’ that an offence has taken place in order to arrest here.” have made my blood boil because it brought to mind a case when RCIPS had complete information and an offense took place not once ,but many times, YET not arrests were ever made and a young woman’ life was lost to a murder. What a hypocrisy. $233 vs. a human life. This screams selective application and enforcement of the Law. It seems that nobody cares about that young woman from Jamaica that was murdered because of the Police inaction. Is it because she was from Jamaica where domestic violence is normal? But it happened in a civilized country of the Cayman Islands with its army of departments and people and members of the Police who had a duty to protect her, to arrest and charge the perpetrator. Everybody got away with it. No one is investigating it.
      The strings were pulled in this $233 case. Absolutely no doubt about it.

        • My comment is not about the disputed bill or the domestic violence cases. It is about why in the first case Ms. Ahmadu was arrested and spent a night in jail and a person who physically and regularly abused and later killed a woman was never arrested,prosecuted and deported. There got to be a Penal code for inflicting a physical harm to a person.

          Ms. Ahmadu and Compass rightfully question how police would be involved in debt collection. A co-worker had an outstanding traffic ticket which she did not pay due to busy work schedule during very busy tax season. She would have paid it right away if she could do it online, or was able to find parking downtown during her lunch hour. 2, yes TWO police officers came to the office and escorted her to the court house to pay the ticket. Bizzare! And you are asking where is the police when you need them.

  2. Well, well, well. Here is another “hot story” for the travel media to pick up and pass along to the world. Come to Cayman, stay in unacceptable accomadations and get arrested for it! How welcoming that makes our island sound. I guess this would be a great “hook” for attracting adventure tourists. Think of the excitement relating to being arrested right there at the Airport! Think of the excitement of spending a night (or more) in Jail. Think of all the friendly Cuban illegals you will get to meet!! Hurry, hurry, accomodations are limited! By the way, be sure to contact your friendly travel agent Ms. Scott for a good price on tickets!

    Seriously, this story raises more questions than it answers. Who was the apartment owner? Was this housing arrangement advertized on a travel website? Is this aparment registered to provide such hotel services? Who is the owner of this apartment and what is his/her relation to the Police or other Government agency?

    Questions, questions, questions. Perhaps the foreign press will have some answers. I certainly hope someone does.

  3. Thank you Compass for stepping in. A good one!
    You have raised a very good question I did not think of: can “the police or prosecutors simply demand the cash on the creditor’s behalf, under threat of imprisonment?”.

    Can you please find out if there is a Law in existence that a landlord must follow to legally evict a tenant from a rental property.
    In the US, when a landlord retakes possession of a property without using the eviction process, courts not only award a tenant damages for an illegal removal, but the tenant may sue the landlord for trespass, wrongful eviction, assault, battery, slander, libel and the intentional infliction of emotional distress. In some states a Landlord may be arrested and there could be criminal penalties. Only the Marshal or the Sheriff can legally perform the eviction.

  4. I have to stay reading the article doesn’t surprise me. This is a shinning example of the over-reach being exhibited by the police. Where are the arrests for the missing drugs from the police station? But we can arrest someone over a $233 debt, no matter the situation this is misdemeanor at best. I am glad the writer of the editorial made the jab about the hospital because it is true.

    The message is clear, come to Cayman if you don’t pay your bill you get arrested at the airport. I am sure the police aren’t going to pay for her Airline ticket after making her miss her flight.. Mr. Ashley your comment was nicely composed, but we are talking about $233 debt even if there’s more to this story how can an officer be justified in collecting this sum. If this is the new standard then I have a list of Landlords that need to be arrested for non-payment of deposits. Further to his point, the reality is that YOU CAN commit a crime and depart the next day. If there’s no evidence linking the person to the crime how can you detain them. If you want evidence sir you only need to look at the daylight robbery of the Camana bay store..(still no arrests) and the Kirk Freeport suspect was arrested in Jamaica. Sooooo Have a Great Weekend!

    • Good point about landlords Mr.Hadome. An army of expats can provide information on the landlord’s despotism in this country, because they feel that they can do whatever they are pleased. The Landlord&Tenants Law in this country belongs to 17th century. They evict, keep deposits knowing only few will take them to court and even then the archaic law is ambiguous and it is the defendant’s connections to the judge that will determine the outcome.

  5. This really is a tricky one.

    First the lady wasn’t a tenant. She was a hotel guest. I believe in most countries there are different laws concerning them. The article didn’t mention the booking conditions of this hotel room.

    For example when I book hotels online, sometimes the deal is that I pay 100% upfront at time of booking. Sometimes the credit card is taken as a deposit at time of booking. Other times no credit card information is taken.

    But in every case before I actually take occupancy of the room I have signed a credit card charging agreement. Typically a hold is made against that card to guarantee payment.

    What happened here?

    It doesn’t quite seem the same as non-payment of a debt.

    What would happen if you went out to dinner at one of our many fine restaurants, had a lovely meal but walked out without paying? Is that civil non-payment of a debt or criminal?

    Should that diner be able to defraud the restaurant and then leave the island?
    We need to know the property owners side of this story. What actually happened to cause him to demand payment in cash.

    • Mr Linton, with regards to your last two paragraphs:

      If your dishonest intention before or on consuming the meal was to leave without paying then you commit a criminal offence. I take it, referring to a ‘lovely meal’ that is what you mean. When we go out for a meal at a restaurant there is an expectation that the meal has to be paid for at the conclusion. If, at anytime up to the time payment is due, you decide NOT to pay for the ‘lovely meal’ then that is deception. It would only be a civil debt if the meal was of dubious quality in which case the diner is obliged to pay what they think the meal was worth or for those elements that were satisfactory. They must, of course, leave their details so that the matter can be followed up.

      In terms of fleeing the island – if there is reasonable suspicion a person has committed a crime then they should be prevented from leaving the islands. If the suspicion does not reach that which is reasonable then they cannot be detained but could, subsequently, be brought back to the Islands by virtue of an international arrest warrant. Clearly the latter is quite expensive!

    • It is appears that some comments are based on the presumed dishonesty of this particular visitor and may be people in general. People who suspect baseness in others usually judge by their own moral standards, thinking everyone is like them. Not very Cayman kind to suspect visitors in bad intentions.
      This particular incident took place in a guest apartment,not a hotel. The owner, in essence was a Landlord.
      Compass has brought many issues to surface with this editorial.

      • Let’s ask the question: Do we have a situation here where a Caymanian used contacts / called in a favour to have their money obtained?
        I would certainly want to see, clearly, what was agreed when this woman booked the accommodation. At the moment, I agree with L Bell – this is all so much conjecture with an assumption that the woman did something unlawful.
        I also take issue with the RCIPS response as reported a couple of days ago which claims that the actions were subsequently justified because of the ‘legal ruling’ – wasn’t the case dismissed?

  6. Every body will have their own opinion on this. Some right and some not right. I feel that the Lady in question could have avoided taking this all the way to the airport by just paying the small bill.
    I am not going to assume anything concerning the police investigations, because I am sure they got a report which took them to the airport. Ok, next question, “How should they have handled it?” They should handle it the way a police officer should handle any case reported to them that a person “did not want to pay for services rendered, monies due and owing”
    The drama could have been avoided, and I believe that if the case had been tried before the court, is the only way we as the reading public would have known what exactly took place. Other wise we all are only assuming, because the bill was quickly paid at the airport and NO ONE got the opportunity to know the truth about what took place. If the police collected the bill in cash payment they were wrong, and I really do not believe that the police collected the money. They know better than that. The lawyer collected as far as I am made to understand.
    Having a lawyer to collect the money says nothing about the fact that it gave us no evidence as to what took place. CAYMANA BAY ROBBERY Uhm, Think anyone has learned a lesson. Of course not. Just a matter of time and “Bing” there goes the Bell. Another one ?
    My final comments are please let us not bite the hand that feed you.

  7. On her way out of the country, a Cayman Islands visitor — a “soccer mom,” no less — was arrested at the airport and forced to spend the night in police custody … over a disputed debt of $233.

    Ms. Ahmadu told police she had not paid for her stay. Officers gave her the option to pay right then and there — but she chose not to.

    Officers then arrested her. She spent the night in custody. She appeared in Summary Court on a charge of obtaining services by deception, which was dismissed after she handed over an envelope of cash through her lawyer to the prosecutor, who was acting as an intermediary for the apartment owner.

    Now, we aren’t siding with Ms. Ahmadu or the apartment owner on the matter of the disputed debt.

    All the relevant facts are published here regarding this lady’s arrest, the reason for it and the outcome. but yet….’we aren’t taking sides’ in this matter ?

    Sorry, but IMO, you are.

    If the tone of this editorial is to be taken at face-value, because this lady is a foreign tourist visitor, she should have just been allowed to fly off and skip out on paying what is a self-admitted debt.

    Obviously, the debt was in dispute but, ultimately, was not paid.

    How would this debt have been collected, had she been allowed to leave the country without paying it ?

    A more balanced and researched article would have done much more good than what has been published here.

    Maybe some follow-up can be done to provide readers with more facts on the situation ?

  8. When I first arrived in Grand Cayman 34 years ago I checked into the now demolished Seaview Hotel about 10pm.

    Just before getting into bed on that first night I noticed cockroaches coming out of the bathroom sink. I immediately got dressed, packed and returned to reception. I explained what had happened and said I would not be staying. I was not charged for that night’s stay nor should I have been.

    What if they had demanded payment and called the police? Totally different situation in my opinion. I think I had a reasonable expectation that my hotel bedroom would not be inhabited by roaches.

    In the current case we just don’t know the other side of the story.

    And yes, even if this was an apartment the lady was only staying for a few days. It should be treated just like a hotel stay and incidentally tourism tax should have been collected.

  9. I agree…we don’t know the landlord’s side of the story.

    We don’t know what the terms of the agreement were, we don’t know what they argued about, we don’t know why payment was demanded up-front or why she left or was asked to leave.

    What we do know is that she was leaving the island without settling her debt and was arrested and charged for it.

    What we do know is that she had the money to pay her bill and was given every opportunity to do so.

    If this had been a local, would this story have made the news, with all this holabaloo about it ?

    I hardly think so.

    • Oh come on – are you really suggesting having some debt mans you can’t leave the Islands?

      Mind you, means every Caymanian with a mortgage or a credit card bill outstanding will be confined to the Islands!

  10. This is just a replay of all the past incidents where well connected employers have used RCIPS to settle employment disputes. In these the employee quits and tells his boss to shove the job then when they try to fly out the employer files a complaint that he’s missing goods or cash so they get arrested. I’ve lost track of how many stunts like that have been pulled over the years but none of them got this much publicity.