The Crown’s first civilian witness in the trial of five immigration officers was questioned on Wednesday by defense attorneys, some of whom questioned her reason for giving evidence.
Mariel Maleno Suriel pleaded guilty last year to four charges of conspiracy to commit fraud against the government. She began testifying on Friday in the current trial of the immigration officers and two civilians, all of whom have pleaded not guilty to conspiracy to commit fraud on the government. The allegation is that they arranged for the payment of rewards to public officers as consideration for providing assistance to work permit applicants to pass an English language test. Applicants must pass the test if they are from a country in which English is not the primary language.
Defense attorney Crister Brady asked if Ms. Suriel expected to get a smaller sentence by giving evidence. She said no, adding, “The sentence is going to be what it is going to be. If I have to go to prison, let it be.”
Her evidence was primarily against a civilian defendant who, she said, had told her he had a contact in the Immigration Department. He allegedly arranged for immigration officers to administer the test who would help a candidate through it.
The jury has heard that such “help” usually cost CI$600 or US$800.
Ms. Suriel said she never paid any money to any immigration officer. She said she thought she was doing good by helping her family members by asking the man to arrange for assistance in passing the English test. “I didn’t think that knowing someone else was doing wrong made you wrong as well,” she told attorney Keva Reid.
Later, when re-examined by prosecutor Patrick Moran, she said she realized the accused man was doing something wrong “in the eyes of the law” because he told her she couldn’t tell anyone about it and the women he helped shouldn’t tell anyone because it was like a secret.
Ms. Reid suggested that Ms. Suriel had come to court to protect herself. She also suggested that Ms. Suriel sold numbers, referring to a lottery that is illegal in Cayman.
The witness agreed that when she was arrested in January 2017, officers found her with a book of numbers. She said she would take responsibility for selling numbers, but the responsibility she would not take was selling English tests.
She also denied bringing people to Cayman for money.
Questioned by attorney Jonathon Hughes, Ms. Suriel agreed that she had no idea if any money went to any immigration officer. She did not know the officers in the dock. One of the female officers was the girlfriend of the male civilian, but he had never said she was his contact.