Syed never earned doctorate, court hears

Former university president Hassan Syed never received a doctorate from the University of Victoria in Canada as he is said to have claimed in his resume, a court heard Wednesday.

Syed, who is charged with falsely claiming to have a Ph.D. to get the job of president of the University College of the Cayman Islands, never even applied to the institution or attended classes there.

The jury has previously heard that Syed told colleagues, shortly before becoming president of UCCI, that he was going to Canada to defend his doctoral thesis. When he returned, he began referring to himself as Dr. Syed, several witnesses have testified.

Several members of the board of governors of UCCI also gave evidence that a doctorate was a prerequisite for the CI$135,000-a-year job and that they believed Syed had a Ph.D. when they recommended him for the position.

The court heard that Syed had previously earned CI$62,000 as a computing instructor at the college.

In a list of admissions, evidence accepted as fact by both the prosecution and the defense, read to the court by prosecutor Patrick Moran on Tuesday, it emerged that the University of Victoria does not offer the computer science doctorate with the specialty in sensor networks that Syed allegedly claimed to have earned.

Also among the admissions was evidence from a company called Lominger International that certain documents, which the prosecution claims Syed used to reclaim expense payments from the college, were not genuine.

Lominger, a U.S. firm that provides “talent management solutions” testified that its total bill to UCCI in connection with products for the Civil Service College was US$56,199. This evidence is accepted by the defense.

Syed is charged with dishonestly obtaining more than CI$70,000 in relation to an allegation that he falsely represented to the UCCI accountant that he had personally made payments to Lominger.

Earlier on Wednesday, Donovan Hutchinson, who led the audit on UCCI’s finances for the 2006/2007 financial year, said he began looking into Syed’s credit card activity in early 2008.

He said he had initially been provided with an incomplete set of statements by the college.

When the auditor general’s office questioned the statements, Syed said UCCI’s usual bank contact was not available on that day and suggested some “Joe Bloke” must have been given the job. He said he would do everything he could to get the full statements to the auditor, according to Mr. Hutchinson’s evidence.

Once the full statements were received, Mr. Hutchinson said the auditor’s analysis revealed there was no supporting documentation for any of the credit card purchases, except for some books for the UCCI library. He said he had also conducted an analysis of salary payments to the president from payroll records and a review of funds related to the Civil Service College project.

The work culminated in a draft auditor’s report that was presented to Syed in a meeting at UCCI on April 17, 2008.

Mr. Hutchinson, speaking largely to confirm details put to him by prosecutor Mr. Moran, indicated that Syed’s response had been to joke that if he accepted the audit as it was written, he would have to resign.

At the same meeting, he said, Syed produced a document purporting to authorize a salary advance of around $70,000 and asked for that aspect to be deleted from the report. Mr. Hutchinson confirmed he had told Syed he could “make no promises” and that soon afterwards he heard that the professor had left the islands.

Syed has denied 12 offenses including theft and obtaining money by deception in connection with his handling of college funds during his time as president between 2006 and 2008.

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