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Sunday 17 December 2017
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THA, Fraud Squad probing million-dollar payment to wrong account

Disciplinary action is being taken against four employees of Division of Tourism, Culture and Transportation regarding monies deposited into an incorrect bank account, when it was intended for Virgin Atlantic Airways for payment of airlift arrangements.

In a press release on Monday, THA Chief Secretary Kelvin Charles said the matter was reported to the Fraud Squad which has begun an investigation.

“The Chief Administrator is in receipt of reports from all relevant employees at the Division and owing to the seriousness and severity of this matter, the Chief Administrator has commenced disciplinary action against four persons from the Division,” Charles said.

He said that of the four persons involved, two were public officers, one was employed on contract and the other employed on a month to month basis.

“The two individuals employed on contract and on a month to month basis have been asked in the public’s interest to cease reporting for duty with immediate effect. With regard to the public officers, the matter has been referred to the Public Service Commission for appropriate disciplinary action. It must be noted that until advised by the Public Service Commission, the two public officers remain on duty at the Division of Tourism, Culture and Transportation,” Charles said.

He said the THA was working assiduously with the Fraud Squad to ensure that this case was resolved in the shortest possible time.

Last week Tuesday, at a press conference at James Park in Scarborough, Minority Representative for Palatuvier/ L’Anse Fourmi/Speyside, Farley Augustine raised reports of a payment of $8 million, intended for Virgin

Atlantic for flights arrangements for the UK/Tobago route, into an unknown bank account, and called on Chief Secretary Kelvin Charles and Tourism Secretary Nadine Stewart Phillips to make a public statement on the matter.

“We are also asking the Chief Secretary to call in the Fraud Squad and if he doesn’t do so, we will do so. We are also calling on the Central Accounts in the Ministry of Finance to step in. We are calling on the Auditor General to also step in and the local auditors to also step in and to verify if due diligence was paid,” Farley said at the press conference

Later that day, Fraud Squad Fraud Squad officers were reported to be at the Division of Tourism’s Sangster’s Hill, Scarborough offices.

Augustine said the allegations of fraud involved an employee of the Tourism Division, who, in July, reportedly informed staff in the Accounts Department that he had received an email stating that the account number for Virgin Atlantic had been changed and that $8 million was to be wired to this new account.

“About a week ago, the Division received a call from Virgin Atlantic saying that they have not received the $8 million. When checks were made, the account in which the monies were placed, that account was wrong and the $8 million was already withdrawn and the account was closed,” he said.

“This is not a local account, but a foreign account and the monies were withdrawn, and the account closed, and Virgin is still without its $8 million, so the Division is now left in a quandary, having to double on its expenditure in order to secure the Virgin flight,” he added.

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