Syed trial put off until 2017

Further delay in UCCI theft case

Former University College of the Cayman Islands President Hassan Syed will not face trial until at least January, following an adjournment of his criminal case that was agreed this week.

Hassan Syed
Hassan Syed

Syed’s trial on theft, obtaining a pecuniary advantage by deception and obtaining money order by deception charges was set for next month, but it has now been put off until Jan. 30, 2017, according to Crown prosecutors. Syed is alleged to have taken more than $500,000 from the university.

This was at least the third delay for the trial since early 2015.

Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions Patrick Moran said Thursday that the Crown fully intended for the criminal case to proceed on that date. Syed pleaded not guilty in February 2015 to the alleged dishonesty offenses that all relate to his time as head of UCCI between 2006 and 2008.

Syed was arrested in Switzerland in November 2013 in connection with the alleged thefts. The new trial date will come more than eight years since he left the Cayman Islands in the wake of an audit that found he had spent tens of thousands of dollars in university money on personal items. He was charged in absentia in 2013.

Following his arrest, which was not made public until January 2014, Syed was extradited to Cayman in May 2014. He has been free on $400,000 bail since his first appearance in court in late May 2014.

Trial dates were postponed in March 2015 and from a tentative date in November 2015, for various court scheduling reasons. No reason was given for the latest adjournment, which was decided Tuesday in judge’s chambers.

The Cayman Islands Auditor General’s office advised in 2013 that more than $200,000 listed in government financial statements as “accounts receivable from a former UCCI president” was “uncollectable” and should be written off the public sector ledger.

According to the auditor general’s report on the activities of statutory authorities and government-owned companies, an amount of $211,390 was carried forward from former UCCI President Syed.

Previous reports completed by former Auditor General Dan Duguay stated Syed charged more than US$50,000 of jewelry on the credit cards he was issued by UCCI. In addition to the jewelry, auditors said, Syed used his UCCI credit cards to pay for thousands of dollars’ worth of goods at department stores in Toronto and London, including for furniture, spa treatments and 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 that an estimated US$294,000 in 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. Between December 2006 and March 2008, the UCCI accounts department deducted US$119,390.18 from Syed’s salary. At the time, Syed’s salary was US$13,412 per month – US$160,944 per year – although it 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 for the year ended June 30, 2007, it discovered the unsubstantiated transactions and requested UCCI supply the necessary support records. The matter first became public when Opposition Leader McKeeva Bush raised questions about it in the Legislative Assembly in 2008.