Girlfriend: ‘Syed wanted to marry me’

Former girlfriend says professor bought weekly gifts

The former girlfriend of Hassan Syed testified Tuesday that the professor had wanted to marry her and had bought her lavish gifts, including jewelry, cash and a car.

Katrina Parchment met the former president of the University College of the Cayman Islands when she was working in the Portfolio of the Civil Service, according to her police statement, which was read into evidence in Syed’s Grand Court trial.

She said she had found the professor intelligent and “fascinating to listen to” and they had started dating.

“He wanted me to be his girlfriend and shortly after that he proposed and wanted us to get married.”

Ms. Parchment, in her statement, indicated that Syed gave the impression that he was very rich and bought her gifts on a weekly basis.

“We frequented The Ritz-Carlton. We would go there for cocktails and sometimes we would go upstairs to Tiffany’s Jewelry Store.

“Sometimes I would be with him and he would purchase something. If I looked at something I liked, he would just buy it.”

She said Syed had taken her on a trip to Montego Bay for his birthday, paying for everything, including hotel, air fare, meals and gifts.

She said she was under the impression he was “very rich” and she had not questioned where his wealth came from. He had indicated that he had previously worked as a CEO in Asia and was also pulling in substantial royalties from his published works as a professor, as well as rental income from property in London and Toronto.

She said he had six credit cards that he used interchangeably.

“He knows I like jewelry and he purchased it for me frequently.

“He just said he loved me and was wealthy enough and wanted me to be happy and have things I liked.”

During the course of their relationship, she testified, Syed bought her a car, paid off her student loan, funded renovations to her apartment and gave her cash gifts whenever she went overseas.

On one occasion she arrived home to find a new television in her living room.

She said she had offered to pay him back for some of the purchases, including the car, but he had refused.

“He told me he was insulted and he doesn’t want my money because he had millions.”

She said Syed had bought gifts for almost everyone she knew, including a car for her mother and jewelry for her friends and co-workers.

“His little line was every woman deserves a piece from Tiffany’s.”

Syed is accused of theft in connection with allegations that he dishonestly spent more than US$200,000 by using his UCCI credit card for personal purchases.

Suspicious transactions highlighted by the prosecution include nearly US$80,000 in spending on jewelry, including more than US$50,000 on items from Tiffany’s.

Ms. Parchment said Syed had talked to her about leaving his job at UCCI, indicating he had an offer for a $300,000-a-year position with Cable & Wireless.

However, she said, she suspected he planned to leave the island because he had a meeting with UBS Bank in which he indicated he wished to transfer money to an account in Switzerland.

She said he had called her one evening to tell her he was leaving the next day for an operation to remove blood clots behind his eye. She said they continued to communicate at times while he was away, but that she had stopped talking to him in May 2008.

Earlier on Tuesday, two former members of the UCCI board of governors gave evidence about recruiting Syed to the president’s job.

Syed is accused of obtaining a pecuniary advantage by deception by falsely claiming to have a doctorate in computer science from the University of Victoria in Canada in order to secure the job and the CI$135,000 annual salary.

Both Richard Hew and Rohan Small testified Tuesday that a doctorate had been one of the job requirements and that they would not have recommended Syed for the position if they had not believed his claim on his resume to have a Ph.D.

Syed has denied a total of 12 offenses connected to allegations that he stole or misappropriated more than CI$500,000 from the university.

The trial continues Wednesday.

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