Syed tells jury about his departure, return to Cayman

Cross-examination of former UCCI chief starts Monday

Former University College of the Cayman Islands President Hassan Syed said Friday that he left the Cayman Islands in April 2008 because he was “very sick” – not because of concern about an ongoing audit at the school that uncovered financial irregularities on his university-issued credit card.

Syed, now 51, told a jury of five women and two men that he was going through “multiple health issues” at the time, including high blood-pressure, stomach trouble and bleeding behind his right eye.

Syed said his condition, cancer in the small intestine, was not successfully diagnosed until 2012 – some four years after he left Cayman.

The former university president is accused in a 12-count indictment of theft, obtaining pecuniary advantage by deception, and obtaining a money transfer by deception via a number of methods, including the credit card which prosecutors allege he used to make personal purchases.

After departing Cayman, Syed went to Toronto, where he received treatment at a military hospital, he said. He received an operation that cleared up the problems with his eye, but doctors were concerned because he was still losing weight rapidly, he said.

“They were unable to diagnose it at first, I was just losing a lot of weight … I went from 80 kg when I left Cayman to about 65 kg,” the former UCCI president said, indicating that he initially intended to return to Cayman if his health allowed.

Although the Crown has claimed otherwise, Syed told the jury he did not attempt to obtain employment in Canada while he was there for medical treatment. “Not at all,” he said.

When the small intestine/colon cancer was detected in late 2012, Syed said he received surgery to remove the tumor “sometime in March or April 2013” and received chemotherapy thereafter.

Syed’s lead attorney, Tom Price, QC, asked whether he was ill throughout the entire period between 2008 and late 2013 – when he was arrested in Switzerland in connection with the Cayman case.

“I was on treatment, but I started to work when I reached Pakistan in 2008,” he said, adding that he tendered his resignation in Cayman on May 6, 2008.

Syed told the jury he went to Switzerland in connection with a job where he was to “conclude a deal between the Swiss government and the Pakistani government.” He was arrested in Switzerland during that trip, in November 2013, and eventually agreed to his extradition to Cayman.

Mr. Price asked Syed why he decided to waive extradition proceedings.

“Since I resigned, there was a press release commending me for my work and then maybe in July of 2008 there was constant slandering [of] me in the media,” he said. “No effort whatsoever was ever made to call me or contact me and I wanted to clear my name.”

He spent a total of seven months in Swiss prison prior being returned to Cayman in May 2014. He was not to face trial for nearly three years after his return.

The remainder of the Grand Court’s time on Friday was spent on administrative matters related to the case.

The Crown’s cross-examination of Syed is expected to being Monday morning.

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