Immigration corruption trial starts in Grand Court

The trial of three women accused of conspiring to defraud the government began in the Grand Court on Wednesday.

The women are all alleged to have played varying roles in providing people with assistance to pass an English-language test in exchange for money. The test was administered by the then-Immigration Department, now Customs and Border Control.

At the time, people coming to work in Cayman from a country where English was not the primary language had to pass a test before their respective work permits could be granted. The alleged wrongdoing is said to have occurred between March and April 2016.

During his opening statements, Crown prosecutor Greg Walcolm told the jury, “Candidates were willing to pay hundreds of dollars to pass the English-language test.”

The jury of five women and two men heard that in the summer of 2016, senior immigration officers became concerned that the tests were not being conducted diligently. That concern sparked an internal investigation, which was then handed over to the Anti-Corruption Commission.

One of the trio on trial is a 59-year-old Caymanian woman, who at the time of the allegations held a senior role in the Immigration Department. She is accused of using her position to administer the tests and produce false passing grades.

The other two women, ages 36 and 40, are both from Honduras. Neither of the women were employed by the government. They are said to have referred candidates to the immigration officer.

A court order prevents Cayman Compass from releasing the names of the defendants in the case, until a verdict is reached.