Former university president Hassan Syed used his “charm and status” to manipulate those around him, taking “every penny he could while the sun shone,” prosecutor Patrick Moran claimed Tuesday afternoon.
Recapping Syed’s five days in the witness box as he concluded his closing statement in the trial, Mr. Moran, said the professor had shown himself to be dishonest and evasive.
He acknowledged the jury may believe that the University College of the Cayman Islands’ accountant Khemkaran Singh had not done enough to rein in Syed’s credit card spending, but he urged them not to judge the accountant too harshly, saying he had been manipulated by Mr. Syed.
“You have had the benefit of watching Mr. Syed giving evidence, of seeing how the man deals with questions, how he deflects them. He is a remarkably difficult man to pin down.
“It is not difficult to imagine just how hard it was for Mr. Singh to pin him down, to stand up to him. It takes courage to stand up to your boss when he is at the height of his powers.”
He added, “Perhaps he didn’t have the strength or the time to stand up to his boss, and he didn’t have enough information about where the money was going to blow the whistle.”
Mr. Moran said the accountant had passed on his concerns about Syed’s credit card spending to the auditors. He said it was only then, when someone who was not answerable to the president began asking questions, that the truth began to come out.
“That is when Syed knew the writing was on the wall. He had taken every penny he could while the sun shone and as the sun began to go down he emptied his bank account and slipped away,” said Mr. Moran.
Syed is accused of using UCCI funds, largely through his college-issued credit card, to make lavish personal purchases including jewelry, holidays and a car for his girlfriend. He claimed in his evidence that it was agreed that the accountant would deduct personal expenditure from his salary or request repayment. He acknowledged he had been negligent about providing receipts but claims he was not dishonest. He is facing a total of 12 charges including theft, obtaining pecuniary advantage by deception, and obtaining various money transfers by deception, in connection with his time at the helm of the college between 2006 and 2008.
Mr. Moran said Syed had been well liked and respected at the college and had used this to his own advantage.
“However many good deeds he did for UCCI over these years, they pale into insignificance when you scratch beneath the surface of what he was up to; what he was spending, where the money was coming from and how he was seeking to cover it up.
“He used his charm and his status to manipulate those around him,” he said.
Syed’s attorney Tom Price QC is scheduled to make his closing statement in the case on Thursday.