IO’s allegedly took $600 for English test pass mark

| 21/01/2019 | 0 Comments
Cayman News Service

Department of Immigration

(CNS): Immigration officers allegedly took $600 from at least 15 Spanish speakers to steer them to the 75% pass mark needed to get through the department’s English Language Test and secure work permits, even though their language skills were not up to scratch, the court heard Monday. As the acting director of public prosecutions, Patrick Moran, set out the details of the crown’s case against five immigration officers and two civilians involved in an alleged bribery conspiracy, he told the jury that the case was based largely on phone messages and evidence from a witness who has already made admissions about her involvement in the conspiracy.

Despite the considerable publicity surrounding this case since the first immigration officers were arrested in January 2017, reporting restrictions have now been placed on the trial by the court for legal reasons, and as a result the seven defendants cannot be named.

The five immigration officers are all charged with varying degrees of involvement in the same conspiracy, which alleges that a group of Department of Immigration employees were cooperating with at least two residents of the local Spanish-speaking community to take $600 each time from prospective work permit holders from Cuba, Dominican Republic and Honduras.

This was to get them through the English Language Test, despite their inability to speak the language to the required standard to be able to secure a work permit. Most of the people who are accused of having been unlawfully assisted and essentially bribed their way to the 75% pass mark were women who had been recruited to the Cayman Islands to work in local bars.

The crown said that one of the two civilian defendants was also taking a cut of the bribes and found the people willing to pay the money to get through the test in order to secure permits.

Moran said that phone message communications, largely via WhatsApp, between that defendant and various immigration officers as well as communication between the officers form the bulk of the crown’s case.

When the group was arrested last year, after immigration management reported concerns to the Anti-Corruption Commission about questions of integrity relating to the English test, police officers seized phones from those accused of being involved in the conspiracy, which was where the bulk of the evidence was sourced.

As he went through that evidence, which is expected to be presented over the coming weeks, Moran read many of the messages that appeared to show the defendants discussing the conspiracy, including the fee, how the money was to be paid, who was doing what tests, as well as who was flying into Cayman and when they would be expecting assistance with the tests, routinely conducted in the wake of prospective permit holders arrival.

Moran told the jury they would hear from one woman who had already admitted her part in the conspiracy. He said that she would give evidence against the same defendant who the crown alleges was the one finding those in need of the unlawful help with the tests.

The trial is expected to last several weeks because of the number of defendants. All seven defendants are charged with conspiracy to commit fraud on government, while the immigration officers are also charged with accepting bribes.

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Category: Courts, Crime

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