(CNS): When the former president of the University College of the Cayman Islands took the stand on Thursday, he told the court he was not being dishonest when he used his college credit card for his own purchases. Hassan Syed (51) painted a picture of being incredibly busy and dedicating his time to growing the university. He admitted being negligent when it came to the paperwork but not dishonest, as he believed all the non-college related spending on his cards had been paid back.
Syed said he was so busy and had such a big workload that he did not keep track of his spending properly. “That was negligence on my part… but I was not being dishonest,” he told the jury, as he answered questions from his own defence attorney, Thomas Price QC.
During the presentation of the crown’s evidence against Syed that he stole more than half a million dollars from the UCCI, prosecutors had described Syed as mingling his personal finances with those of the college and requiring the accountant, Khemkaran Singh, to go along with it.
But Syed claimed that he had told the accountant he could check the credit card statements whenever he liked and that the mail all came to the college post box, for which Singh had the key. He denied that he was being chased by Singh on a daily basis about the paperwork but he admitted that he had neglected to keep a proper track.
He said that he understood that the UCCI credit cards were for use in relation to college business but he said there was clear provision for holders to pay back the college if they were used for personal things. Asked about specific purchases on the credit card that the crown says were personal and never paid back, Syed implied that many could have been college business but it was too long ago for him to remember. But when asked about one of the transactions in Tiffany’s jewellery store, he admitted it was for his girlfriend and a personal purchase that would have been paid back.
Before his attorney began asking Syed about the specific counts that he is charged with, he asked about his background. He said he was born in Pakistan and travelled around the country as a child because his father was a civil servant, but he was recruited into the army at just 15 years old. He claimed to have fought in the Soviet-Afghan war on two tours of combat duty in the 1980’s and engaged in specialist operations training with special forces. He also said he fought in one of the disputes between India and Pakistan on the Kashmir border.
During military service, he said, he acquired a science and engineering degree and completed graduate studies at NESCOM (the National Engineering and Scientific Commission) in Pakistan, where he worked with classified military technology. He also acquired various Microsoft qualifications, he said. However, the lawyer skipped over the issue of his PhD, suggesting that Syed was likely to be asked about that by the crown.
Syed is accused of lying about his PhD and securing the president’s job on false pretences. According to agreed facts, Syed did not attend the university in Canada where he claimed he had secure his PhD when he was at UCCI as a lecturer and agreed that the university does not even offer the doctorate that he claims to have.
Syed has denied twelve charges that relate to deception and dishonesty offences. The case continues.