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Tuesday 20 August 2019
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George seeks more time for client in $8M Tourism scam

Attorney Martin George is seeking more time from the Tobago House of Assembly for his client, Gwen Toppin, to respond to allegations contained in a letter sent to her by the THA regarding an $8 million deposit into an alleged Virgin Atlantic Airways account as payment for airlift arrangements.

In a letter to THA Chief Administrator Raye Sandy last Friday, George, acting on behalf of Toppin, a management accountant at the Tourism Division, George said he was seeking additional time to be able to take Toppin’s fulsome and exhaustive instructions in the right to due process and the right to be heard before any decision on her future employment was made.

George said that on December 4, Toppin received a letter from Sandy in which serious, damning and alarming allegations were levelled against her that have the potential to not only ruin her personal and family life but also her professional reputation and international standing as a management accountant of repute and

distinction. Sandy said Toppin had seven days to respond to his letter.

George, however, is seeking an extension of 28 days for Toppin to respond and wants the THA to respond to this request in seven days (by tomorrow), failing which he said he has received instructions from his client to seek judicial review in the High Court against Sandy and the THA.

Toppin’s actions follows an announcement by THA Chief Secretary Kelvin Charles, via a press release on December 4, that disciplinary action was being taken against four Division of Tourism’ employees regarding the $8 million deposited in an incorrect bank account.

Of the four persons involved; two are public officers, one employed on contract and the other on a month to month basis. The two individuals employed on contract and on a month to month basis have been asked to cease reporting for duty, while the public officers have been referred to the Public Service Commission for appropriate disciplinary action, Charles said.

The week before, on November 28, Minority member and representative for Palatuvier/L’Anse Fourmi/Speyside, Farley Augustine, at a press conference at James Park, Scarborough, told reporters that a senior Tourism official reportedly received an email, allegedly from Virgin Atlantic, about a change in its bank account number. Farley said this official gave instructions for monies meant for the airline to be wired to the new bank account in the UK. He said the money was subsequently withdrawn and the account closed, and then it was learnt that the airline never collected the funds.

Charles has said that Fraud Squad officers were investigating the matter and that Chief Administrator Sandy was in receipt of reports from all relevant employees at the Division.

Attempts to contact Charles on Monday for comment were unsuccessful.

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