(CNS): The seven men and women serving on the Grand Court jury in the crown’s case against the former president of the University College of the Cayman Islands for theft and fraud will be deliberating today for a third day. The jury had not reached a verdict at the end of court business on Wednesday after more than a day and a half of consideration and were sent home by the judge to return Thursday to continue their work.
On Tuesday, as they began their deliberations, the jury was directed by the judge to reach unanimous verdicts and to consider all twelve counts separately. He said they should only reach a verdict in each case based on the evidence for the individual charge.
Syed is accused of a catalogue of deception offences that amount to the theft of over $500,000. The charges start with the allegation that he secured the president’s position in the first place on a lie as he claimed to have a PhD from a university in Canada when he did not. Syed denied the charge and said he had never claimed to have a PhD from a Canadian university as his PhD is from a college in Pakistan and that the application indicating it was from Canada was incorrectly submitted by someone else on his behalf.
He is also charged with theft based on more than $200,000 worth of charges on the UCCI credit card between September 2006 and March 2008. This included luxury weekends away and tens of thousands of dollars of jewellery and even purchases for Viagra — allegations he denied, claiming that the spending on the cards was either legitimate, paid back or overlooked through negligence but not dishonesty.
Other charges against Syed relate to him cashing university cheques and misleading the college about the intended use for the cash, which he has also denied. When he gave evidence on his own behalf, he said he uncertain about the chain of events and could not recall the details but maintained that the cash was either paid back or was used for college business. He admitted, however, that he had used some of the cash to buy his girlfriend a car.
The former college boss has also denied charges of claiming travel expenses for his family and falsifying invoices relating to resources for the Civil Service College (which he claimed were authorised by the former senior officer in the education ministry, Peter Gough) and falsifying time sheets for consultancy work.
Syed denied any dishonesty over the consultancy work, claiming he was entitled to charge more than $150,000 for the extra work he did dealing with the CS college and that he had even cut his hourly rate in half to save government money.
Syed is also facing a charge relating to a $70,000 salary advance. His claim that this was authorised by the UCCI board chair at the time, Connor O’Dea, was denied by O’Dea when he gave evidence. When Syed gave evidence during the trial, he said he had asked for the salary advance because he needed medical treatment but he admitted that he used it to pay off his girlfriend’s student loans.