Syed trial in jeopardy

| 27/01/2015 | 0 Comments
Cayman News Service

Hassan Syed

(CNS): A catalogue of problems regarding his defence could see the trial of the former UCCI president, who is accused of stealing around $250,000 from the public purse, delayed until next year. Hassan Syed is due to face trial in March but he has still not answered the charges against him and may still be without a lawyer. Although he has now managed to secure legal aid for his defence, he has not been given leave to instruct a Queen’s Counsel, which the lawyer who has been assisting Syed says could be essential because of the complexities of the case.

The case against the 49-year-old Pakistani national has taken a number of twists and turns since he was located and arrested in Switzerland and then extradited to Cayman in April. Having parted company with the attorney who represented him through the extradition proceedings, Syed claims to have contacted more than fourteen local law firms, all of which have refused to take the case.

While Stenning and Associates has been helping Hassan deal with his issues regarding legal aid and the proceeds of crime law, which has seen his assets frozen, hindering his ability to pay for a lawyer, James Stenning told the court Friday that the case was both a difficult and sensitive one which he felt needed the benefit of a senior lawyer and expert. He indicated that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office may hold important documents relating to the case.

Syed has made claims through attorneys in Pakistan that during his time at UCCI he was working undercover for the governor’s office investigating corruption among local officials.

Stenning told the court that even if his firm did now come on record, they would not be ready in time for the March trial. Once again Justice Charles Quin pressed for Syed to be arraigned and answer the charges against him. But Stenning said that they had not taken instructions from Syed or offered advice on the actual charges because they were not formally on record. He requested a chambers hearing in order to argue why he needed senior counsel on the case even for a limited period.

The crown raised its concerns about the case and said the director of public prosecutions would object to a delay in the trial. Toyin Salako pointed out if the trial date of 2 March is lost, it would be unlikely that a date could be found for what is expected to be a lengthy hearing before the end of this year. She accused Stennings of holding the court to ransom and if the firm was not able to represent Syed now he had legal aid, the case needed to be passed on to another lawyer.

She said that Syed has known the grounds of the charges for over a year as they were spelled out during the extradition proceedings, which in the first instance were challenged by Syed. When it was agreed that he could remain on bail while awaiting trial in order to access medical treatment for a number of health problems, he stopped the challenge and returned to the islands.

Justice Quin described Stenning’s position as “an unattractive stance to take” and despite agreeing to another adjournment for just one week, he said Syed should be arraigned next Friday regardless.

“He has a week to tell you whether he is guilty or not,” the judge added.

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Category: Courts, Crime

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