(CNS): Paul Hume Ebanks put the blame for his troubles on the shoulders of McKeeva Bush and members of the UDP when he gave evidence this week, refuting the charges against him regarding a massive status grant scam. Ebanks claimed that he gave the former premier around $250,000 from people he recruited into the scam after Bush had “blackmailed” him into the scheme in exchange for resolving Ebanks’ own status troubles, caused by his previous convictions for the same crime.
He described meeting Bush or his press secretary, driver or other party members in various places, such as the Glass House or Banana’s Bar or clandestine meeting spots like Public Beach, to hand over bundles of cash. But Ebanks said he could not recall the amounts or specific dates when he met with Bush or his surrogates.
Ebanks claimed that he was the innocent victim in the scheme orchestrated by the former premier with several members of the UDP, which he said turned out to be a con. Even though many of those he has accused have made statements refuting even knowing Ebanks beyond a passing acquaintance let alone having anything to do with the scam, he insisted that they were all lying, and none of them were “going to come here and admit it”, as he hurled allegations at various people.
Ebanks faces a catalogue of fraud charges relating to conning around two dozen victims, who paid over $167,000. But by his own admission there could be many more victims, as he has insisted that he collected around a quarter of a million dollars, all of which he claimed he gave to Bush.
He accused the former premier and UDP members of leaving him in the middle of the situation after the party lost the 2013 election. When people that Ebanks had recruited into the scheme and taken cash from began demanding their money back, he said, they threatened to kill him, burn his house and shoot him and all his family. But he said that he continued to recruit more victims to raise as much cash as possible to pay back the earlier victims he claimed to have recruited on behalf of Bush.
He said he did not have any intention to permanently deceive anyone but when the former premier and other UDP people involved in the scheme deserted him, his life and family were the ones in danger and he had no choice. Ebanks told the jury he did not want to “resort to guns and drugs” to get out of the situation he was in, and hoped that he would eventually be able to pay everyone back through the illegal numbers game or other business ideas that he was also involved with.
As he unfolded his story to explain the list of allegations against him, Ebanks told the court that he had been in Cayman since he was a child and had he received status through his Caymanian stepfather, who adopted him. But he didn’t know that he had to apply for status in his own right when he became an adult. After he was convicted in 2006 of the same offence of conning people into paying him to get them status which he could not deliver, he was sent to prison.
When he was released from jail in 2011, he was given a special governor’s permit to remain. A few months later he said he went to see his Bodden Town MLAs, Dwayne Seymour and Mark Scotland, about his status and claimed, they told him to go to McKeeva Bush.
Ebanks claimed to have met then premier Bush in Myrtle’s Restaurant on the West Bay Road, where Bush told him that if he helped recruit 100 potential candidates for status for a fee, Bush would sort out Ebanks’ own status troubles and he would also be paid $100,000.
Ebanks said that although he declined the offer at first, he was cajoled into it and suggested that he was blackmailed by the premier.
Refuting every accusation levelled at him from the dozens of witnesses called by the crown in support of its case, Ebanks consistently denied the allegations. He claimed he was the victim of powerful politicians who manipulated him then left him in danger at the hands of the people whom he had innocently recruited into what he believed was a genuine scheme just like the 2003 status grants.
Ebanks said he only continued with the con after Bush and the UDP lost power, knowing that he could not follow through on the promise of status, as he insisted he was simply trying to pay back people who were threatening him as quickly as he could. Ebanks claimed he had always intended to pay the new victims back as soon as he managed to accumulate enough funds, but he said he was arrested before he could refund everyone involved.
The case continues.