Sentencing will take place in August for Hassan Syed, former University College of the Cayman Islands president, who was convicted in March of stealing more than a half-million dollars from his former employer.
In Grand Court on Thursday, defense attorney Tom Price, QC, encouraged Judge Philip St. John-Stevens to steer away from local fraud law that would allow a maximum sentence of 10 years.
Mr. Price pointed to the case of local businessman Canover Watson, who was sentenced to seven years for fraud and public corruption for stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars from the public health system. Mr. Price said this sentencing provided a more reasonable framework for evaluating Syed.
Judge St. John-Stevens, who appeared via video link, said he will need four to five weeks to review the charges.
Prosecutor Patrick Moran argued on Thursday that the highest level of culpability on Syed’s part for his actions at the helm of UCCI between 2006 and 2008.
“All of the offenses involved dishonesty, and the victim in all of those offenses was the University College of the Cayman Islands,” Mr. Moran said.
“[The court] won’t treat that entity as a faceless financial institution. It is an educational establishment striving to serve this community.”
A jury reached a unanimous guilty verdict on each of 12 charges against Syed in March. At the time, the court found he had stolen more than $500,000 from his employer over an 18-month period. On Thursday, Mr. Moran raised that value to $701,326 to include Syed’s salary for employment, acquired by means of a falsified Ph.D.
Citing documents submitted by the Crown, the prosecution added that the university suffered additional costs from hiring an independent auditor.
“Following discovery of the offenses, the negative publicity tainted everyone at UCCI,” the document states.
“As a result of these offenses, the university had to go through the expense of independent auditors to determine what was going on.”
The cost of hiring an auditor was not shared.
Mr. Moran and Mr. Price disagreed over whether Syed fled the jurisdiction upon discovery or if he had traveled to Switzerland for legitimate medical purposes. The prosecutor argued Syed further complicated his case by escaping to Switzerland. Syed spent 204 days in custody between the time of his arrest in Switzerland in January 2014 and extradition to the Cayman Islands. Upon his return, Syed then passed 1,150 days with a tag to monitor his movement.
Mr. Moran argued that neither of these measures would have been necessary had Syed not fled the islands. He proposed that the time served should not be deducted from his final conviction.
Mr. Price said the Crown accepts that Syed traveled for health reasons.
Despite having acquired his employment by dishonest means, Syed helped expand UCCI and build up its reputation in the Caribbean, Mr. Price said.
As an inmate, Syed now works in a prison literacy program and participates in behavior management therapy, Mr. Price added. Beyond his 18 months of criminality at UCCI, the defense attorney argued, Syed has otherwise demonstrated positive character qualities.
The sentencing date is set tentatively for Aug. 3. Syed remains in custody.