Paul Anthony Hume Ebanks continued to take money from people by representing that it was for Caymanian status or permanent residence even after he suspected the offer was a scam, he told a court on Tuesday.
Ebanks is on trial for obtaining property by deception – more than $167,000 between July 2012 and December 2014. Justice Michael Wood and the seven-member jury have already heard that Ebanks told people of a scheme to offer 100 people status so that they could become registered voters.
In interviews read in court and then in the witness box starting Monday, Ebanks said by the time he was arrested, he was taking money from people so that he could pay back others who had given him money for status.
He said he took money, with the intention of paying it back, because “people were threatening to kill me … burn my house down … shoot it up …. My life was in danger and my family’s life was in danger.”
Ebanks said when he began collecting money for status or residence, he gave it to McKeeva Bush, who was the premier of the Cayman Islands until December 2012. Asked why he would give money to Mr. Bush after 2012 when he was out of office, Ebanks said Mr. Bush was not out of office – he was still an MLA.
The situation arose because Ebanks was concerned about his own status on the island, he said. He was 6 years old when he was brought to Cayman and he received status through his stepfather, who adopted him when he was 16. He did not know he had to apply for status on his own when he turned 18.
Certain facts were agreed by defense attorney Laurence Aiolfi and Crown counsel Toyin Salako. They included Ebanks’s convictions in 2006 for obtaining property by deception – the deception being that money given to him was for the legitimate grant of status or residency.
Ebanks was released in September 2011. In January 2012, Governor Duncan Taylor signed a Governor’s Permit authorizing Ebanks to remain and work in the Cayman Islands.
Ebanks said he wanted status because the permit did not give a time frame and he did not think it was fair that he had to report three times a week to the Department of Community Rehabilitation. He said he spoke to [MLAs] Dwayne Seymour and Mark Scotland about it because he was in their district and they suggested he speak to Mr. Bush.
Ebanks said Mr. Bush was the premier and he had the power. “He did it in 2003, so I thought he would do it again in 2013,” he said, referring to the government grants of status in 2003.
He said he made contact with Mr. Bush and Charles Glidden, the premier’s press secretary. A meeting was arranged at Myrtle’s Restaurant and Mr. Bush assured him he would take care of it, Ebanks told the court. A few days later, he said, Mr. Glidden phoned him and said Mr. Bush wanted Ebanks to get some people that he could give status to and then Ebanks could get his own situation sorted out. Ebanks said he would not do that because he had been in prison for that already. Days later, Mr. Glidden called and said Mr. Bush said if he did not, he wouldn’t get his situation sorted out.
Ms. Salako reminded the defendant that Mr. Glidden had come to court and given evidence that he had had no conversations or meetings with Ebanks.
Ebanks replied, “They ain’t going to come to court and admit to that.”
He claimed he gave money to Mr. Glidden on one occasion and the rest of the times he gave it to Mr. Bush. He agreed he told police he had given Mr. Bush roughly a quarter of a million dollars in cash.
Asked when he handed over money, he said he did not remember: “I was carrying various sums of money to him on different occasions.”
Asked where his records were, Ebanks said he did not have records. He said the “girls” who helped recruit people to apply for status through him had kept their own records.
Reminded that he had said his quota was 100 people to get status, he pointed out that some people were canceling, so they had to get others to fill the spots. He also thought Mr. Bush would let him know when he reached 100.
At one point, he said, Mr. Bush, when he was no longer premier, sent him to Financial Secretary Kenneth Jefferson. He did not remember when this occurred.
It could have been around the same time that Mr. Bush told him there was a check at the Dart offices for payment to the women who had helped Ebanks recruit status applicants. Ebanks said he went with one of the women to collect the check, but they were told it had been called back. Ebanks said he learned later that Jackie Doak, a senior executive at Dart, was the one who had asked for the check back.
Ms. Salako asked, “You find it very easy to call people’s names and just accuse them, don’t you?” Ebanks replied, “No.”
Ms. Salako asked why he would be going to Dart if he had given the money to Mr. Bush.
“Dart back McKeeva a lot,” Ebanks replied.
Justice Wood asked how much the check was supposed to be for. Ebanks said it was $300,000.
Ebanks was still in the witness box at press deadline.