Ex UCCI boss looks for new lawyer in $200k theft case

| 06/10/2014

(CNS): The former president of the UCCI, who is accused of going on a $200,000 spending spree on a government credit card, is changing attorneys and has still not formally answered the charges against him. The 47-year-old, who is in poor health, appeared in court briefly on Friday to say that his attorney, James Austin-Smith, was coming off record and he would be seeking new counsel. The court heard that Syed is expected to answer the five counts of theft, three counts of obtaining a pecuniary advantage and seven counts of obtaining property by deception in November ahead of a trail set for March and will need to move quickly to find new representation.

Syed returned to Cayman from Switzerland earlier this year after he was arrested with assistance from Interpol. He volunteered to return to Cayman to answer the charges provided he was bailed in order to get the medical treatment he needs to fight cancer. He was granted bail on an electronic tag, with a surety of $400,000 and cash security of $50,000.

The arrest of the former university boss and subsequent extradition came as the result of several alleged unauthorized transactions on the university’s credit card during his time as president. With the highly publicized circumstances surrounding the investigation, the charges that were eventually laid against him included absconding from the Cayman Islands. He has been a fugitive since 2008.

Syed disappeared shortly after claiming to be extremely ill that year and having taken a salary advance to pay for medical expenses. During his first appearance the court heard that Syed had allegedly asked a colleague to wipe certain computer files clean and left for Jamaica.

At the time of leaving, he was still employed as the university’s president, though not long afterwards he resigned via phone. The credit card spending was then discovered by the auditor general. Syed is alleged to have bought Tiffany jewellery and paid for extravagant weekends away on the government credit card, running up bills of around $200,000.

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