By Andre Bagoo Sunday, May 20 2012
IN THE six-month period when the Hindu Credit Union (HCU) made $10 million in losses, the HCU received bills totalling more than $220,000 for a 2003 US trip by the then president Harry Harnarine, which included two stays at the Hilton Walt Disney World and about $1,000 in room expenses for movies and games and even one charge for Oreo cookies.
The details of the expenses charged in the name of Harnarine are disclosed in dozens of HCU documents relating to the trip, which were submitted to the Colman Commission of Inquiry last week and obtained by Sunday Newsday. The bills were submitted to the HCU mere months before a run on the institution and after it incurred losses which worried auditors, according to evidence heard at the inquiry this month.
The documents disclose:
… a total bill of $220,000 submitted by Harnarine’s sister, Pamela, for credit card expenses during the period October to December 2003;
… stays at four different hotels, including two stays at the Hilton Walt Disney World;
… room bills charged to the HCU which included $1,000 for ten in-room movies and two in-room games; one charge for Oreo cookies; one charge for a drink of Bacardi;
… a charge for a ticket to Philadelphia and a charge for changing a ticket; and
… charges for a cellphone, in addition to charges for phone calls on hotel rooms.
By way of memorandum dated four days after Christmas 2003, Pamela Harnarine asked then HCU CEO Ravindra Bachan to re-imburse expenses.
Apparently writing on behalf of Harnarine, she said, “Please make the necessary arrangement to reimburse me for the following expenses which were incurred on my credit card during the months of October, November and December, 2003 by the officials of the Hindu Credit Union.”
She broke down the expenses as: hotel accommodation (US$14,435/TT$90,940); cellphone (US$265/TT$1669.50); office supplies (US$600/TT$3780); auto rental (Orlando — US$1,800/TT$11,340, New York — US$1,500/TT$9,450); change airline ticket (US$200/ TT$1,260); airline ticket (New York - US$5,125/$32,287); airline ticket (Philadelphia US$3,750/TT$23,625); meals (US$4,150/TT$26,145); ground transportation (US$2,800 /TT$17,640).
Some bills were submitted in support of these claims in relation to hotel expenses, as evidenced by notes made on one copy of Pamela’s memorandum which links the bills to the document. For the period Wednesday, November 5, 2003 to Friday, November 7, 2003, Harry Harnarine stayed at the Hilton in the Walt Disney World Resort, Hotel Plaza Boulevard, Lake Buena Vista, Orlando, ostensibly on a business trip. The total hotel expenses for this stay came up to TT$16,200. Not far from the many pleasures of the Magic Kingdom, Harnarine nonetheless sought entertainment in his room. There were two in-room movies billed: one at a higher rate of US$13.10 (TT$83) and another at US$8.75 (TT$55) on Thursday.
The invoice was issued in Harry Harnarine’s name, listing his address as 542 Southwest 127th Avenue, Miramar, FL 33027, US. The card used for payment is said to be his. He enjoyed overnight valet parking.
Then, on Sunday November 9, 2003, Harnarine, no doubt still on his roving business trip, moved to a different hotel about 200 miles away: the Intercontinental Miami at 100 Chopin Plaza, Miami. It was not his first visit. In fact, he had stayed at this hotel on October 17, 2003 and October 18, 2003 at a cost of US$265 (TT$1,700).
In November, the Intercontinental bill was US$1,155.46 (TT$7,300). The expenses included: two items described as “in-room movie” each costing US$13.78 (TT$ 87) and an “in-room game” costing US$7.98 ($TT50). He checked out on Monday November 10, 2003.
According to the paper trail, Harnarine next appeared at the JFK Airport Hotel from Monday November 10, 2003, to Wednesday November 12, 2003.
Once more, seeking relief from the stresses of business travel, the expenses here include two movies: one at a lower rate (Movie #333 at US$7.99/$TT50) and one at a higher rate (Movie #313 at US$14.11/TT$90).
While a ticket to Philidephia was referred to in the overall bill, there were no documents submitted in relation to a trip to that city and no suggestion that he actually went.
By Wednesday November 12, 2003, Harnarine was back at the Intercontinental, Miami, again according to the documents. There, room expenses included another “in-room game” for US$7.98 (TT$50); one Bacardi at about the same price; and Oreo cookies from the refreshment centre (US$3.54/TT$22).
By Tuesday November 25, 2003, Harnarine was at another hotel: the Harriot. No address is given on the invoice, which puts the departure date as November 26, 2003. Total expenses: US$373 (TT$2,350). The name recorded on this invoice is “Howahat Harrinarhne”.
By Tuesday December 9, 2003, two weeks before Christmas, it was full circle: Harnarine was back at the Hilton in the Walt Disney World Resort, Orlando. Total expenses for this stay, which lasted until the next day, was about US$1,155 (TT$7,281). Two other names appear on the bills for this stay: Gordon James (said to have been an HCU contractor) and Joe Ramsahai. Items charged to the HCU included, once more, four in-room movies (US$50/TT$302).
Pamela Harnarine’s request seems to have been acted upon by the HCU.
By March 9, 2004, US$3,157 ($20,000) had been paid off, leaving a further balance of US$31,468 ($200,000) to be processed as at that date, according to a note on the HCU document submitted to the Colman Inquiry. The inquiry ended a sixth evidence hearing last week Friday.