Deputy governor gives evidence in status scam trial

Franz Manderson, deputy governor of the Cayman Islands, gave evidence Tuesday in the trial of Paul Anthony Hume Ebanks, who is accused of being involved in an immigration scam.

Mr. Manderson was questioned by Crown counsel Toyin Salako and most of his answers began with the words no, never, or absolutely not.

He said he and Ebanks are not friends; he is not godfather to Ebanks’s son; and Ebanks is absolutely not godfather to any of his children.

He said he was aware that Ebanks previously went to prison for purportedly selling status to members of the public.

Mr. Manderson said he was in Cabinet when an application came for special permission for Ebanks to remain in Cayman after his release from prison. Mr. Manderson explained that he sits in both Cabinet and the Legislative Assembly, but does not vote in either.

Ebanks has pleaded not guilty to 27 charges of obtaining property by deception. The property was cash in sums totaling over $164,000; the deception was that the money was payment for legitimate grants of status or permanent residence.

Justice Michael Wood asked how long Mr. Manderson had known Ebanks. “Since high school,” the witness replied. He did not remember if they went to school together, but he would have known him from around that time.

Earlier Mr. Manderson said he had not spoken to Ebanks in years. Asked about that by the judge, he explained, “I investigated him for immigration offenses.”

Deputy governor since February 2012, Mr. Manderson was chief officer in the Portfolio of Internal and External Affairs before that. He was previously chief immigration officer.

Asked what post he held in 2003, he said he was an articled clerk at a local law firm.

Asked about the government-sponsored scheme for grants of status in 2003, Mr. Manderson said it was part of the Quincentennial Celebrations. It had been decided to give status to 500 outstanding citizens. He described public interest as significant.

After the initial 500 were granted, he said, a number of people came forward and said they were deserving also. At the end, 2,000 people were granted status by the Cabinet of the day. There was a fee of $400 for each.

Asked if there was a change in the Immigration Law after 2003, Mr. Manderson said yes – in 2005, the new government put in the law a change called “Right to be Caymanian” to ensure there was transparency in the grants of status.

Since that change in the legislation, all applications for status must go through a status and permanent residence board. If someone wants status approved by Cabinet, it still must go through the board, which will review the application and make recommendations, Mr. Manderson said. If the application is approved by Cabinet, it must then be tabled in parliament, where it would be open for debate, he explained. To his recollection, there had been only four or five Cabinet grants.

Cabinet no longer receives applications directly and is able to grant only four per calendar year, he said.

Responding to questions from Ms. Salako, Mr. Manderson said Ebanks was never employed on his behalf. He never had any conversation with Ebanks about grants of status or permanent residence. He never asked Ebanks to conceal his (Manderson’s) identity. He never received cash from Ebanks.

Ms. Salako asked if Mr. Manderson had awaited the departure of Governor Duncan Taylor before giving status to Ebanks or anyone else.

“Never,” he replied. “The thought never came into my mind.”

He said he did not sign certificates for status. The only letter he recalled ever signing was last year when someone who was granted status by Cabinet in 2003 wanted a replacement letter.

Asked if he was present at a meeting with McKeeva Bush and his attorney to discuss granting of status, Mr. Manderson said he never had such a meeting.

He said he never entered into any arrangement with Mr. Bush for grant of status, nor with Ellio Solomon, a former member of parliament.

He identified Peter Gough, who was mentioned by an earlier witness in the trial, as his strategic adviser, who had worked with him for about five years. He said he never directed Mr. Gough to call members of the public to tell them they had received status. He never asked Ebanks to collect people’s passports.

Ms. Salako asked if he were aware that his name had been used to “validate the grant of status.” Mr. Manderson said yes. He also agreed that members of the public had come to him directly to make complaints. On every occasion, he had advised them to go to the police, he said. He himself had made complaints to the police, he told the court.

He was asked if there has ever been a government “lotto.” Mr. Manderson said he had never heard of it, “and I think I would know.”

Questioned by Justice Wood, Mr. Manderson detailed the process by which people may apply for permanent residence and then status.

Defense attorney Laurence Aiolfi did not ask any questions.

 

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