TOBAGO MAN FACES FRAUD CHARGES
By Nalinee Seelal Sunday, October 13 2013
Extradition proceedings are now underway to have a Tobago businessman returned to this country from Canada to face criminal charges for fraudulently obtaining $5.5 million from the Sport and Culture Fund based in the Office of the Prime Minister.
The man fled Tobago to Canada with his wife after illegally obtaining the funds. His wife, who returned to Tobago in September, was arrested by the Fraud Squad as she landed at the ANR Robinson International airport. She has appeared before a magistrate and has been granted $900,000 bail.
Sunday Newsday understands the fraud was made known to Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar by an official of the Sports and Culture Fund and that Persad-Bissessar alerted both the Fraud Squad and the Office of the Attorney General.
Yesterday Senior Fraud Squad officers confirmed to Sunday Newsday that they have sought the assistance of the Central Authority Unit under the direction of the Attorney General, Anand Ramlogan, to have the man extradited from Canada to stand trial for fraudulently obtaining State funds.
Sunday Newsday understands in April this year, a report was made to the Fraud Squad that $5.5 million was transferred out of the Sport and Culture Fund account and into the account of the Tobago-based company owned by the couple. Fraud Squad investigations showed that shortly after the transfer of the money, the businessman withdrew all funds from the company account and left Tobago, together with his wife, for Canada.
Warrants were issued in Trinidad for both their arrests.
The woman told police she was unaware a warrant was out for her arrest when she attempted to re-enter Tobago last month.
Reports are that the businessman involved has since been detained by immigration authorities in Canada following a formal request by the Trinidad Central Authority Unit to the Canadian government and that Attorney General Ramlogan has directed the Unit to work with the Fraud Squad, Interpol and the Canadian authorities to have a provisional warrant issued for his arrest.
The Sport and Culture Fund is a Fund set up in the Office of the Prime Minister that gives money to temples, churches, sports groups and non-governmental organisations.
Sunday Newsday understands the money stolen from the fund was done through a wire transfer and that bank documents obtained by the police show that the businessman used a fraudulent document to obtain the money.
This document, a copy of which was obtained by Sunday Newsday, was dated March 19, 2013 and recorded as OPM:SCF:31/5/3 Vol 11. Addressed to the Manager, Banking Hall Department, 1st Floor, Central Bank Trinidad and Tobago, it stated:
“I shall be grateful if you will arrange for the transfer of funds in the sum of Five Million Five Hundred Thousand Dollars (5,500,000.00) from the Sport and Culture Fund Account No #01-20930-00-00-00 to (name of company) No 200007041001 Republic Bank Ltd, Carrington Street, Tobago West Indies (Business). Your early attention to this matter will be greatly appreciated.”
The document bore the alleged signatures of three persons in the office of the Prime Minister, all of whom have denied ever issuing any instructions for the businessman to receive the funds.