Syed says he had permission to falsify $152,000 invoice

Former college president Hassan Syed claimed Thursday that he had been authorized by a senior civil servant to alter an invoice from a U.S. company.

Syed acknowledged that he had created a false invoice from Lominger Limited Inc., a company connected to the project to set up a Civil Service College in the Cayman Islands. But he claimed he did so after consulting with Peter Gough, who at the time was the chief officer in the government’s Portfolio of Civil Service.

The portfolio partnered with the University College of the Cayman Islands to set up the civil service college in 2007, and Lominger was contracted to provide a human resources “product” for the project.

Giving evidence in his trial on Thursday, Syed acknowledged that he had altered a genuine invoice from Lominger to create a false document indicating that he had personally paid US$152,000 on his own Amex card to the company in September, 2007.

The document was found in the “president’s folder” on a UCCI computer and the document history indicated it was last altered by someone with the username “HSyed,” Crown prosecutor Patrick Moran has stated.

Syed agreed he had sent this document to the Portfolio of Civil Service, which reimbursed UCCI for the amount. He also acknowledged that he had later reclaimed US$52,000 of the amount from UCCI.

Syed claims the invoice was altered with the knowledge and consent of Mr. Gough.

He said the payment was actually meant to reimburse UCCI for US$100,000 it had spent on “plant,” including laptops to set up an online learning center as part of the civil service college project.

“I did not falsify the invoice. This invoice was altered after mutual consultation with Peter Gough,” Syed said.

“It was a risk because there was nothing in writing. In positions of leadership, sometimes you make decisions, sometimes they are right and sometimes they are not, but you take those risks. I had nothing in writing about the amendment of this invoice. It was all verbal.”

He said the US$52,000 he had reclaimed from UCCI represented money he had actually spent with Lominger, though he could not recall specifically what he had spent it on and what documentation he had provided to UCCI accountant Khemkaran Singh to support the claim.

Asked if he had used the falsified invoice to reclaim the cash, he said he could not remember.

Syed is accused of dishonestly obtaining money transfers worth more than CI$70,000 from UCCI by falsely representing that he had made payments to Lominger in connection with the Civil Service College.

He also faces 10 other charges, including allegations that he dishonestly spent the college’s money for personal gain.

In his fourth day in the witness box on Thursday, Syed was also questioned by Mr. Moran about three UCCI checks, worth a total of US$50,000, spent in August and September of 2007.

Syed acknowledged that he had cashed one of the checks, worth US$10,000. He claimed this was for meals for a group of disabled children visiting as part of the Stay Focused project.

He also acknowledged he had signed a UCCI check for US$20,000 to be paid on to his college credit card, indicating the expenditure was for books and other expenses related to an accountancy course.

He accepted that in the week that followed he had spent nearly US$10,000 on jewelry using the credit card, and another US$7,500 on kitchen appliances.

“Did you think about whether there would be any money left over for books when you made those purchases that week?” Mr. Moran asked.

“I can’t comment on what I was thinking at that time,” said Syed, indicating that he could not recall.

He also said he could not recall another US$20,000 UCCI check, which the prosecutor suggested was used to “top up” the credit card again after Syed’s “spending spree” on jewelry and kitchen appliances.