Syed battles for legal funding

| 22/12/2014 | 0 Comments

(CNS): The former president of the University College of the Cayman Islands, who stands accused of stealing over a quarter of a million dollars from the institution, is caught a legal catch-22 regarding his forthcoming trial. Hassan Syed (47) has been refused legal aid because of his assets but because those assets have been frozen under the Proceeds of Crime Act he cannot access them to fund his legal representation. James Stenning, a local attorney currently acting as amicus curiae (friend of the court) for Syed said he had been granted legal aid for a hearing to try and have his assets released but there are no guarantees and Syed’s right to a fair trial is in jeopardy.

Stenning said that his firm would be prepared to act for Syed if the assets were released or he was granted legal aid. However, with some seventy witnesses in the case and thirteen charges of fraud and theft, Syed would not only need to be represented he would also likely need a Queen’s Counsel because of the complexities of the case. The lawyer also told the court that if Stenning and Associates was to formally go on record to represent Syed at trial, it is very unlikely that the defence would be ready for the case, which is scheduled to open in March.

Crown counsel Toyin Salako objected to any movement of the trial and also insisted that Syed, who has not yet answered the charges against him, be arraigned. She said the defendant has had the details of the counts since his extradition from Switzerland in May and must know whether he is guilty or not. She said that the trial date was set some seven months ago in June, adding that the delays could not “go on forever” and the crown was ready to proceed.

However, arguing on Syed’s behalf, Stenning said that he could not yet formally enter any pleas to the counts on the indictment as he had been advised. He urged the court to give the former head of UCCI more time and at least wait until after the hearing regarding Syed’s assets in the New Year.

Stenning pointed out that Syed was in a very difficult predicament over what are very serious allegations. He warned that at present, the defendant had no way to fund a lawyer and without legal aid or access to his own money he could not get a fair trial because he has no means to fund what will likely be an expensive case.

“If he is to have a fair trial, there must be reasonable time to assess the case,” Stenning said. “It is not as straight forward as it may appear to the prosecution.”

Despite the crown’s objections, Justice Charles Quin adjourned the case until 9 January but said that at his next appearance Syed must answer the charges.

Syed is accused of going on a lavish spending spree on the university credit card, using it for weekends away and luxury items, such as Tiffany jewellery. The alleged abuse of the card did not come to light until 2008, after Syed had resigned during a leave of absence. He was eventually tracked down and arrested in Switzerland and extradited back to Cayman. Syed agreed not to fight the extradition provided he was given bail and the opportunity to receive hospital treatment, as he is understood to be suffering from cancer.

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Driver charged after stabbing passenger

| 22/12/2014 | 0 Comments

(CNS): Police have charged a 33-year-old George Town man following a stabbing and robbery in George Town last month. The assault happened, police said, after the suspect had given a ride to a number of women to an address in Whitman Seymour Drive in George Town. An RCIPS spokesperson said the accused man reportedly got into an argument with one of the women in the early hours of Monday 24 November. At some point she received a stab wound to the abdomen and a mobile phone was stolen. The man was located by police and arrested. He has now been charged with wounding, robbery, and possession of an offensive weapon.

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Booze store robbery suspects face Christmas in jail

| 22/12/2014 | 0 Comments

(CNS): Police have now charged the four men arrested in the wake of a liquor store hold-up last week in Grand Harbour. All four suspect robbers remain in custody and police said they were expected to appear in court this week but they did not say when. Unless the men can schedule a successful bail hearing before the courts close for the holidays, they will be facing Christmas in Northward. The men have been charged with armed robbery and possession of firearms following the robbery last Wednesday evening at the Blackbeard's store next to Hurley’s. 

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Teenager jailed after blinding man with bottle

| 19/12/2014 | 18 Comments

(CNS): A 19-year-old West Bay man has been sentenced to two years in jail after assaulting another man with a bottle, which led the victim to lose his sight in one eye. Shaquille Bush first pleaded not guilty on 7 February this year but the day after his trial was set to begin he changed his plea to guilty of unlawfully wounding Roy Ebanks in West Bay last September. The court heard that as Ebanks was walking to the Miss Daisy Lane intersection, a drunken Bush shouted for him to leave. Ebanks agreed that he would but Bush caught him off guard with a slap to the left side of his face and then struck him on the right side of his face with a glass bottle. 

After the incident occurred Ebanks reported it to the police and was taken to the hospital, where he was told that he had suffered a serious penetrating injury to his right eye and blood in the chamber of his eye. The injury has affected Ebanks’ vision as he is now completely blind in his right eye, which is likely to be permanent.

During the sentencing hearing earlier this month, the court heard that Ebanks was going to the Logwood area to collect limes from a friend for sale when he noticed Bush some distance away. Ebanks said that wen Bush started to shout to him to leave, there were other people around him so he did not know who he was speaking to. Bush came up to Ebanks and said “Get out of here!” and slapped him on the left side of his cheek with his hand, and as Ebanks turned around to leave Bush picked up a glass bottle from the ground and hit him over his right eye with it, causing it to shatter.

Ebanks told social workers in his impact statement that he was completely shocked by Bush’s actions and that he has received what he feels is an insincere apology from Bush, in which he said, “Sorry, I was drunk.” Ebanks has been unable to work for 6 months and has found it hard to readjust back to his regular routine. In addition, Ebanks’ lack of sight has caused him to fall off a step at his house and break his leg.

The outstanding medical bills for Ebanks’ hospital visit are CI $5,526.67 as well as thebill for his broken foot, which is CI $2,165.97.

Since the incident Bush has stated that he “feels really bad” about what happened and has expressed genuine remorse but stated that payment for Ebanks’ medical bills will not be made, and speaking on his behalf, his lawyer said, “Compensation is not going to happen.”

Justice Charles Quin described the crime as a  “malicious and violent attack”, where Bush deliberately “picked up a bottle and struck the victim again” after first slapping him in the face. He said this was "a serious aggravating factor” that had been taken into account. The judge also said that there were few, if any, mitigating factors and that Bush’s failure to “provide, or even offer, any compensation whatsoever to the victim does not convey genuine remorse”.

Taking all factors into consideration, including the defendant’s age, the judge said the appropriate sentence would be two and a half years but he gave Bush a discount for his last minute guilty plea, which avoided the need for trial, and sent him to prison for two years.

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Teen heard minister’s tirade

| 19/12/2014 | 76 Comments

(CNS): A teenager taking part in the Chamber of Commerce’s mentoring programme was one of dozens of people who witnessed the verbal assault by the health minister on his chief officer last week. The incident, which has caused outrage in the community and stirred up calls for the minister to step down, was overheard by the student from St Ignatius Catholic High School who was attending the ministry on her first workplace visit with her mentor, Nancy Barnard, the deputy chief officer. The Chamber confirmed that the youngster had reported the incident, which involved yelling and swearing, but that bothCO  Jennifer Ahearn, the target of the abuse, and Barnard had discussed the issue with her and explained that it was not normal workplace behaviour.

“Following the incident, Mrs Barnard and Chief Officer Jennifer Ahearn took the time to meet with the student to stress to her that the behaviour she experienced was not normal or proper for the workplace,” an official from the Chamber stated. “Mrs Barnard and the Chamber’s Programme coordinator, Trisha Meyerhoff, also took the time to contact the student’s parents via email and by phone to discuss the incident and to offer further support if necessary.”

Chamber CEO Wil Pineau explained that all mentors are required to complete a mentor training seminar and to submit a police clearance in order to participate in the programme. At the opening reception, everyone was instructed to inform the Chamber’s Programme Coordinator if there is any incident that takes place at the workplace or during any visit that makes them feel uncomfortable or threatened in any way.

“Since the start of the programme in 2003, this is the first report of any incident during a workplace visit,” said Pineau.

Ironically the mentoring programme is sponsored jointly by the Chamber of Commerce and Osbourne Bodden’s ministry, which includes youth in its portfolio.

The Chamber has called for a full investigation to take place and the outcome to be made public. President Johann Moxam, who recently called for unity in Cayman, also raised his concerns about the allegations that Bodden had derided Ahearn’s Caymanian status and said such comments “destroy harmony”.

“The Cayman Islands is a multi-cultural society with residents living and working here from around the world. Our success is based on our ability to integrate and to accept that while we may have cultural and national differences, we are all working to make the Cayman Islands the best place to live and to conduct business,” Moxam said. “Anti-Caymanian or anti-foreigner comments destroy that harmony.

“We need to make every effort to remove these sentiments from our day to day discussions and interactions. Our collective objective should be to create a more inclusive Cayman for all stakeholders, whilst respecting and maintaining our heritage and traditions. This includes native, multi-generational persons married to Caymanians and persons who have lived and worked among us who have been granted the privilege of Permanent Residency and Caymanian Status, as well as those who are seeking to become Caymanian,” he added.

The existing divisions in the communities have been exasperated in recent years as the number of foreign workers coming into Cayman has continued, while the economic recession has taken a heavy toll on the local workforce, which is now competing with cheap labour from overseas.

As government battles to deal with the fallout, it too has been striving for a greater degree of unity and as a result it is the comment from Bodden that his chief was no more Caymanian than a piece of “f^*^ing driftwood” that appears to have exacerbated the minister’s tirade into a national crisis.

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Gov should have met MLAs

| 19/12/2014 | 52 Comments

(CNS): The closed door decision made by Governor Helen Kilpatrick to retain and back the police commissioner was wrong because she should have at least heard from all of the country’s political representatives first, the independent member for North Side has said. The governor made it clear she supported David Baines, regardless of the shocking revelations that the RCIPS had recruited and retained an officer who was charged and recently convicted of murder while Baines was at the helm of the organisation. Ezzard Miller said that whatever the governor decided, in the end was down to her but she should not have made that decision without first hearing representations from elected members on behalf of the people.

“The governor made her decision without considering the position of the representatives of any constituencies,” he said, noting that the politicians had made several public declarations that they wanted to meet with her. It is understood that the governor did have a closed door meeting with the premier, but no one else, and it is not clear if Alden McLaughlin passed on any concerns or requested that she meet with the other 17 members of the Legislative Assembly.

“She may have come to the same decision after considering my or anyone else’s input but without any input, how can we see if the process of making that decision was made fairly and in consideration of all of the facts?” he asked.

The issues of crime fighting and police management have been a hot topic lately, with the public and the politicians raising concerns about both. Despite the revelations that Tyrone Findlay was recruited to the RCIPS armed unit from Jamaica just weeks before he was charged with murder, the commissioner is not being held accountable.

Miller said that it does not matter who Baines delegated the recruitment duties to, in the end neither the commissioner nor anyone else at the top of an organisation can "delegate their accountability and responsibility”. Miller said it was up to the chief of any organisation to delegate the work to a competent person and if they didn’t, they are responsible.

Miller also took aim at the governor's allegations that people were engaging in “false criticism and unwarranted personal attacks”, and asked if the UK representative was in possession of information that contradicts what the public has been told.

“If the governor has evidence that Tyrone Findlay has not been convicted of murder and that the commissioner of police did not have his bail amended to allow him to come back to work in the RCIPS after he had been charged, she should release this information,” Miller added.

The North Side MLA said that was one of the issues that he found the most difficult to comprehend and why he believed the commissioner should resign. The MLA stated that even if Baines and the RCIPS had been duped into taking on someone under investigation for murder and then obligated legally to retain him, the idea that the police boss took steps to bring the officer back to Cayman to work in the local police was an outrage.

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Two dozen people arrested in 24-hour period

| 18/12/2014 | 8 Comments

(CNS): Drugs, drinking and driving, jumping and breaching bail, disorderly behaviour, assault, indecent assault, burglary, credit card cons and robbery were some of the crimes that the police rounded up suspects for in a 24-hour period, starting on Wednesday when the arrests began with a crack-cocaine drug bust in West Bay. “The holiday season, which is in full swing, gave cause for members of the RCIPS to step up their vigilance in making this festive season safe,” a spokesperson said Thursday, as the list of arrests was revealed, including two Clifton Hunter High School students who were arrested on suspicion of possessing a small amount of ganja.

Overnight four people were taken into custody on warrants for failing to appear in court. Another two people were arrested for disorderly conduct at the George Town Police Station and assaulting police, and another man was arrested and taken into custody for failing to comply with his bail conditions, having been charged with the theft of a sail boat. Four men were arrested Wednesday night in connection with the liquor store robbery in Grand Harbour

In Bodden Town police arrested three drunk drivers, while in West Bay a 35-year-old male resident was arrested for assault occasioning actual bodily harm after an altercation with a family member. On Cayman Brac a 53-year-old man living in Creek was arrested by officers for the indecent assault on a young female.

The police also arrested four Romanians, who remain in custody, over the last two days for a credit card scam.

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Romanian scammers arrested by local cops

| 18/12/2014 | 0 Comments

(CNS): Detectives from RCIPS Financial Crimes Unit have arrested four Romanian men aged between 33 years and 42 in connection with allegations of cloning credit cards. Two of the suspected con artists were arrested Tuesday 16 December and the other two yesterday, Wednesday 17 December on suspicion of obtaining property by deception. The men, who were said to be visiting the Cayman Islands for the first time, are accused of skimming, where they used cloned credit cards to purchase merchandise from local business establishments. The men remain in custody pending a legal ruling from the Office of the Director of Public Prosecution. Detective Inspector Ian Lavine of the FCU advised local businesses to be vigilant during the festive season. 

He said that people paying by credit cards should produce a form of identification and that sales agents should check that the method of identification matches with the name on the credit card.

This is not the first time that Cayman has been targeted by gangs of con artists using cloned cards. In 2013 a gang of three Malaysian credit card con men using the same scam attempted to purchase high-end watches and diamonds at a number of local duty free stores before they were arrested. The men were sentenced to 16 months in prison in March and April of this year and ordered to be deported once they are released.

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Brac burglar makes off with four TVs and booze

| 18/12/2014 | 2 Comments

(CNS): A burglar made off with a significant television haul on Cayman Brac some time Wednesday night and Thursday morning, police have said. Officers from the Brac police station are now investigating the residential break-in which happened in the Southside Road East and Ashton Reid Drive area of the island. The crime was reported to police just after 7:00am Thursday when the owners said four black Sony Bravia TVs, sized as, two 52 inch, one 46 inch and one 32 inch were stolen along with a quantity of alcohol. The public are asked to contact Chief Inspector Frank Owens on 948 0331 or 516 6100 if they have any information, have seen any suspicious persons or vehicles in the area or if they are approached by anyone attempting to sell the stolen goods.

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US sheriff donates sniffer dog to CI customs

| 18/12/2014 | 19 Comments

(CNS): The Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office in Arizona State has donated a top crime fighting seven-year-old Beagle mix to the Cayman Islands Customs K-9 Unit to help with the detection of illegal narcotics. Blaze arrived on Saturday 13 December with K-9 Officer Deputy Sheriff Joe McLemore and Ioana Oancea from Arizona, who handed over the energetic dog in a short ceremony at Customs Headquarters, increasing the number of dogs in the unit to five. The dog, which has a track record sniffing out heroin, marijuana, cocaine and methamphetamines with ease, will work both the cruise port and the airport on Grand Cayman with his new handler, Tate McFarlane.

Malachi Powery, the supervisor of the K-9 Unit, started the ball rolling to get Blaze when he was on holiday in Arizona and contacted his counterpart officer, Mike Milseps, in the sheriff’s office, with whom he had attended a bloodhound training course. The transfer had been in the works since June of this year.

Thanking County Sheriff Joe Arpaio and the Deputy Sheriff for the donation, Collector of Customs Samantha Bennett handed over plaques to both the Arizona officers who brought the dog, telling them, “We are delighted that Blaze is here and adding to our K-9 detection capabilities.”  

McLemore said his office would next attempt to donate a bloodhound.

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