Test conspiracy involved employment agency

| 09/10/2019
Cayman News Service
Cayman Islands courts

(CNS): One of three woman facing corruption charges in an alleged bribery conspiracy over English language tests (ELTs) at immigration owns an employment agency, the crown told a jury Wednesday, as it opened its case. She recruited one of the crown’s witnesses through her agency to work as a janitor. But the woman from Honduras, who could not speak English very well, was told by the agent that she could secure her a temporary permit and get her through the ELT for a fee, the crown said.

The employment agent is charged alongside an alleged go-between and an immigration officer, who prosecutors said was the officer who conducted the test taken by the witness and passed her, despite the woman’s poor English skills.

Crown counsel Greg Walcolm said that, when she comes to court later this week, the witness will give evidence that she did not complete the test but was helped by the officer, and that she sent money from Honduras to pay the officer for the permit and to pass the test.

The prosecutor told the jury that the women were involved in a conspiracy in 2016. It began when the witness had a work permit declined and her friend sought help from the employment agent, who then paid the officer to steer the candidate through the test.

After the women had got the witness through the test and obtained the temporary permit, the immigration department had begun an internal investigation into the language testing, in response to concerns that the tests were not being administered properly. The department had passed on its findings to the Anti-Corruption Commission, which began an investigation and subsequently arrested around a dozen people.

The three women charged in this case were among them, and all of them had their phones seized. Walcolm said that when the phones were interrogated, the officers found hundreds of messages that supported the bribery and fraud allegations.

Explaining the details of the charges to the jury as well as the evidence he would produce, the prosecutor said he would demonstrate that the three women, who have all denied the charges, were guilty.

The case continues.

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