Deputy Governor (Hon.) Franz Manderson took the witness stand Tuesday (25 October) to bolster the Crown’s case against a man being tried for operating a multi-year immigration status scam.
The attorney for Paul Hume Ebanks offered no cross-examination after the Deputy Governor’s testimony. Mr. Manderson is among several prominent figures whom Mr. Ebanks reportedly name-dropped in an effort to persuade people to pay him to expedite a change to Permanent Residency or Caymanian status.
“Absolutely not,” was Mr. Manderson’s frequent response to questions by Crown Counsel Toyin Salako or (Hon.) Justice Michael Wood regarding any meetings, conversations or plans involving Mr. Ebanks and the selling of status changes. He noted that the Deputy Governor’s office has no official role or authority in the status application process.
Mr. Manderson said he had known of Mr. Ebanks since high school, but did not consider them to be friends.
The Deputy Governor outlined past and current processes for obtaining Caymanian status. He was an articled clerk at Walkers during the 2003 mass granting of Caymanian status which started, he said, with a desire by the government of that time to grant status to 500 “upstanding people” but grew to more than 2,000 due to “significant public interest.” Those status applications were made directly to Cabinet and included a one-time $400 fee. He said the government of 2005 changed the process to add a board which would consider applications before Cabinet could send a maximum of four status grants to the Legislative Assembly per calendar year. Mr. Manderson called it “a more open and transparent process” to avoid a repeat episode of the 2003 mass grants.
After explaining the current process for achieving status, renamed the “Right to Be a Caymanian,” Mr. Manderson answered a series of questions denying ever meeting Mr. Ebanks about changing people’s status from Work Permit to Permanent Residency, Naturalisation or Caymanian status. He said he does get approached by people who have been offered a status change in exchange for money, and that “on every occasion, I advise them to call the police.”
Mr. Ebanks sat expressionless in the box throughout Mr. Manderson’s testimony which each of the jurors, five women and two men, took detailed notes. Prior to Mr. Manderson’s appearance, jurors were read statements by alleged victims who said that after giving Mr. Ebanks or an associate a large sum of money –at least $2,000– they would go weeks or months without an update and all but gave up hope of getting their money back or their promised change in status.
The trial is scheduled to run throughout this week in Grand Court.