Minority Assemblyman Farley Augustine is calling on the Tobago House of Assembly’s (THA) Executive Council to update the public on the status of investigations into millions of dollars missing at the Division of Tourism, Culture and Transportation.
At last Wednesday’s news briefing at James Park in Scarborough, Augustine also called for information of attempts to recover a US$430,000 fee paid to soul singer D’ Angelo to perform at the Tobago Jazz Experience 2017’s World Music Night at Pigeon Point on April 29, 2017.
In October 2017, Augustine had announced that some $10 million, sent to three suppliers of services to the Division had reportedly been sent to wrong bank accounts.
He said that in July 2017, $8.8 million for Virgin Atlantic Airways to help secure flights by the airline to Tobago, was said to be wired to a wrong account, that a US$6,500 wire transfer for a Miami-based consulting firm was rerouted to a bank in the United Kingdom, and that a further $1.6 million, which he said was intended for agents in Miami for the current cruise ship season, was also reportedly sent to a wrong bank account.
THA Chief Secretary Kelvin Charles subsequently confirmed Augustine’s revelations at a post Executive Council media briefing on November 29. Charles said Fraud Squad detectives were called in to conduct investigations.
Augustine said given the economic downturn, Tobago could ill-afford to lose this sum of money.
“I saw somewhere that someone said we have a Fraud Squad in Trinidad but a ‘fraid squad’ in Tobago and that perhaps is true because we have seen no real effort to treat with that issue.
“Again, $10 million is not small change and in this hard banga season, we can’t afford to lose $1 far less $10 million,” he said.
Augustine also called for accounting on US$430,000 reportedly paid by the Division of Tourism to American soul singer D’ Angelo to perform at the Tobago Jazz Experience 2017’s World Music Night at Pigeon Point on April 29, 2017.
“Over a year ago, we were promised that within a few months, we would receive a return of the monies paid to D’Angelo. That should have happened within the space of three months and then seven months elapsed, now a year has elapsed and so we are asking the Executive Council either through the Chief Secretary or the Secretary for Tourism to give us an update on that.
“The last thing we heard is that the Division was engaging the services of lawyers to retrieve the millions of Tobago’s hard-earned dollars from D’Angelo. So, we would like to have an update on where that money is,” said Augustine.
D’ Angelo did not show up in Tobago for the event. Then Chairman of the Jazz Festival Committee, John Arnold, had told the media on the final night of the festival on April 30, 2017, at Pigeon Point, D’Angelo cost $430,000, that the down payment was still in the artiste’s possession and the THA had given a timeline of three months to collect a refund.
Arnold had told the media that D’ Angelo was unable to perform because his grandfather died, that “our job right now is not to search to find out if his grandfather really died, we have an agency to do that on our behalf. We are just going with the information that is given to us by the agency.”
Speaking with Newsday Tobago in June, THA’s Senior Counsel, Alvin Pascall said that a pre-action protocol letter has been issued for recovery of the funds via registered to Matt Ross of 11 Entertainment Company Limited, D’ Angelo and another group acting on behalf of D’Angelo. He said that at that time the parties had 14 days to respond.
Chief Administrator Raye Sandy, was contacted for information on the missing money at the Division of Tourism, said investigations were ongoing. Pascall could not be reached for information on the status of the recovery of the payment to D’Angelo.