(CNS): Thomas Price QC told the jury that his client, Hassan Syed, was a “pathetic” older man “smitten” with a much younger woman, who had behaved disgracefully when he used the UCCI credit card to lavish her with gifts, but he was not dishonest as he had always intended to pay back the money he spent. As the leading UK attorney summed up his client’s defence Thursday at the close of the former university president’s trial, he said the crown had not proved that Syed acted dishonestly and asked the jury to find him not guilty on all 12 counts.
Syed is charged with stealing more than half a million dollars from the local college when he was president for around 20 months in 2007 and 2008. He has denied the dozen charges, claiming either than the money he took or acquired was approved in some way, was a legitimate expense or it had been paid back and at no time was he acting dishonestly.
Price said that Syed never had any intention to permanently deprive the college of the money when he used the credit card or college cheques to buy gifts for the woman he had fallen for. Price said Syed should not have done it and “it was embarrassing” to behave the way he did over a younger woman, but when asked, he had paid back what he owed. At the heart of the case was the fundamental issue of dishonesty, the lawyer said, as he claimed that Syed was not guilty of theft.
He acknowledged that Syed had been wrong, as he described the circumstances of his relationship with the younger woman as “a pathetic picture of an older man showering a young girl with gifts from Tiffany and holidays to Jamaica”.
Price said it was true that there is no bigger fool than an old fool, as he described Syed as a “fool writ large” over the woman and how “in the throes of a passionate love affair” he wasn’t thinking about stealing, just buying her a new dress or jewellery and he was going to worry about paying back the expenditure later.
“It is not a good image but it is not dishonest. It was pathetic but it was not dishonest,” he said, as he suggested Syed willingly put himself in debt to pay off her student loans. He said he was stupid and reckless, but because he paid back the money when he was asked, the case was all about the human condition and its weaknesses, not the legal niceties.
Price claimed that the crown had a weak case and that they had not presented sufficient evidence to prove beyond reasonable doubt that Syed had acted dishonestly. As he reviewed some of the charges against the background of what he said was the shambles at the UCCI and the portfolio of the civil service, he suggested the arrangements in relation to the Civil Service College were at the very least a “bit dodgy” and “that people were up to something”, referring to Syed’s claims that the false invoices relating to the course material were approved by Peter Gough. Gough was called to give evidence briefly after Syed took the stand and made the claims and flatly denied ever authorising the false invoices to help the college recover its costs.
However, Price said people at the UCCI and at the portfolio were trying to cover their backs. He implied that Kem Singh, the college accountant, may also have had something to hide or was incompetent.
“When you look at this shambolic college and the shambolic POCS” along with what he said was the inadequate evidence from the crown, Price asked the jury if they could really be satisfied that the case had been proved.
“Would you want to be convicted on this evidence?” he asked rhetorically, as he urged them to return not guilty verdicts.
The judge began his review of the case for the jury Thursday afternoon, but warned it may take as much as two days to direct them in law and summarize the evidence before he would send them out to deliberate.
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