Jury selected in Syed trial

Hassan Syed, pictured here during his first Cayman court appearance in May 2014, is due to stand trial starting this week.– Photo: Chris Court

A seven-person jury was selected Monday for the trial of Hassan Syed, the former president of the University College of the Cayman Islands, who is accused of stealing from his former employer.

Syed is accused of stealing or fraudulently obtaining more than $500,000 from his former employer during his time at the helm of the college between 2006 and 2008.

He was arrested in Switzerland in November 2013 in connection with the alleged offenses and has been on bail awaiting trial since then.

Syed denies the offenses. He formally entered not guilty pleas in February 2015 to 13 charges, including allegations of theft, obtaining a pecuniary advantage by deception and obtaining money order by deception.

Those charges included allegations that he falsely claimed to have a doctorate to get the position as president of UCCI.

It is also alleged that he used his UCCI credit card for a series of fraudulent expenses, and that he bought a US$20,000 Mitsubishi from Tony’s Toys using a UCCI check, according to the indictment read out at the February 2015 hearing.

Other charges include fraudulently obtaining a $70,000 salary advance from the college, falsely claiming official travel expenses for family members, and buying bathroom cabinets on his UCCI credit card.

He was also accused, in the initial indictment, of submitting to UCCI false invoices totaling just over $65,000 for a company called Lominger International Services.

On Monday morning, prospective members of the jury were given a questionnaire to answer in an effort to eliminate those with close connections to the university or with any of the witnesses in the case.

A total of 52 potential jurors were relieved from duty based on their answers to the questionnaire, eight were struck off through peremptory challenges from lawyers on either side. The seven-person jury and two alternates were sworn in around 3 p.m. Monday. The prosecution is scheduled to present its opening argument at noon on Wednesday.

The trial is expected to last six weeks and involve some high-profile witnesses.

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