Crown: Syed took advantage of college

The courthouse in downtown George Town. – Photo: Taneos Ramsay

Former University College of the Cayman Islands president Hassan Syed took advantage of a lack of checks and balances at the college and beyond, Crown prosecutor Patrick Moran claimed as he began his closing statement in the trial Tuesday.

Mr. Moran said Syed had been deceitful in his evidence to the jury and said some of his claims, including suggestions that someone else had created false documents found on his computer, simply made no sense.

The prosecutor cautioned the jury not to put on the “spectacles of hindsight” and shift responsibility for Syed’s actions to the officials who failed to stop them.

“The feeling that there were not enough checks and balances at UCCI and perhaps beyond is hard to shake,” he said. “In fact, there were far more checks and very few balances, and many of those checks were made out to Hassan Syed.”

He asked the jury to consider some of Syed’s claims in detail, including his assertion that he was too busy to provide paperwork for some $400,000 of credit card spending to the college’s accountant. Syed is charged with theft in relation to around $200,000 of that spending, which he used to make personal purchases, including expensive jewelry and holidays for his girlfriend.

He also faces 11 other charges related to allegations of dishonestly obtaining funds from the college, using other UCCI funds for his own benefit, and lying about his qualifications to get the job in the first place.

Mr. Moran said Syed had failed to provide a “shred” of paperwork to the college’s accountant to support his credit card spending, despite repeated requests. He said he had been much more diligent, however, in providing paperwork and invoices when he felt the college owed him money.

“Mr. Syed and Mr. Singh [the UCCI accountant] were able to communicate whenever Mr. Syed felt he was entitled to money. Don’t forget that when you consider if Mr. Syed would have had such difficulty in providing paperwork to Mr. Singh when it came to his credit card statements,” he told the jury.

Syed has claimed that an arrangement was in place for the college’s accountant to check the credit card statements and deduct money from his salary for repayment of personal expenditure. He said in his evidence that he had been negligent about paperwork but not dishonest.

Mr. Moran suggested this was simply not true and would have been impossible in the absence of any receipts.

He said he had given the accountant nothing but empty promises to repeated requests for receipts and continued to spend money on the credit card at a rate that was far in excess of his salary. In September 2007 alone, he spent $30,000 on personal items on the card.

“How could he possibly have believed that Mr. Singh would be able to deduct that from his salary or that he would be able to repay it?” asked Mr. Moran.

“Where did he think the money was going to come from every time he pulled out those cards?”

He said Syed, in his evidence, appeared to have disclaimed responsibility for numerous false documents, some of which were found in his electronic folder on the UCCI computer. These included an e-ticket, which the Crown says was doctored and used to claim travel funds, a fake credit card policy for the university, which the prosecutor says was given to auditors by Syed in an effort to justify his spending, and Syed’s resume, which falsely claimed he had a doctorate from the University of Victoria.

Mr. Moran asked the jury to examine the credibility of Syed’s claims not to have created those false documents.

He said the jurors needed to ask themselves who would benefit from the creation of those false documents, whose folder they were found in and who gave instructions to destroy them.

“You may find the answer to those questions is Hassan Syed,” he said.

Throughout the case, the prosecutor said, Syed had been able to remember details when he felt it helped his case but had been evasive on other occasions.

“Even the most intelligent person will come unstuck when confronted with evidence of their dishonesty. I suggest that has happened during the course of this trial,” he said.

He highlighted Syed’s claim that he had not sent the resume which was in his name and was reviewed by the selection panel that appointed him as president. The resume contained a false claim that Syed had a doctorate from the University of Victoria. In his evidence, Syed claimed not to have seen the document before and said he had not sent a resume with the application because the college already had his on file.

Mr. Moran said, “There is no dispute that a lie was told in the resume that was provided with the application paperwork. There can be no realistic dispute that lie enabled Mr. Syed to get the position as president. The only question is, who told the lie?”

He said it would make no sense for anyone but Syed to have created the resume. Pointing out that a second resume, with the same claims, had been sent on Syed’s behalf as part of a job application for a post in Canada around the same time, Mr. Moran said, “We’ve got somebody trying to get him a job in Cayman and someone else trying to get him a job in Canada? Why would anyone do that?

“The only person who stood to benefit from these resumes is Hassan Syed …. Mr. Syed behaved dishonestly and now he has tried to put the blame on others for those lies.”

Mr. Moran was continuing his closing statement as of press time Tuesday afternoon.

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