Cops return $1.2m seized during $100-note exchange in 2019

The $100 polymer notes which replaced the cotton notes. -
The $100 polymer notes which replaced the cotton notes. -

INVESTIGATORS of the police’s Financial Investigations Branch have returned $1.2 million to a Tobago businesswoman who tried to exchange her cotton bills to polymer in December 2019.

Earlier this week, an application for a cash detention order was withdrawn by the police on the basis there was nothing to suggest that the woman received the money by unlawful means or it was to be used for an illegitimate purpose.

The woman, whose family owns several businesses on the island, tried to exchange the cash left for her by her husband who did not believe in doing business with banks.

On Wednesday an application was made to withdraw the cash-detention order first granted on December 22, 2019.

The court was also informed that a request will be made to the Comptroller of Accounts for the release of the cash.

The businesswoman was represented by her attorneys Om Lalla, Dereck Balliram and Sue Chin Hing Ramdhanie of the firm K.R. Lalla and Company, who challenged the detention order by the FIB.

The police also said it would discontinue its investigations into the matter.

The cash, which amounted to $1,248,600, was seized by the police on December 22, 2019, when the woman and her son went to a financial institution in Tobago to exchange it to polymer bills. This was after the Central Bank announced its change-over plan for cotton bills, starting with $100 notes, to withdraw them from circulation.

According to the documents filed in support of the application to have the matter discharged, officers of the FIB were on duty at the financial institution when they received information from a teller that a man wanted to find out about exchanging a large amount of cash at home.

The man said the money belonged to his mother when her husband died.

He also said his father was also a businessman both in Trinidad and Tobago and the money was savings because he did not like dealing with banks.

He also told police they had to deal with his mother since the money was hers.

When she was questioned, she said money, which was left for her by her husband, was being kept in a safety deposit at another bank and she gave her son permission to take the money out when the bank said it was relocating, and she felt that was too far for her.

The police seized the money on the basis that the family couldn’t, at the time, reasonably account for the money or produce documents.

The first detention order by the court was for an initial three months and this was further extended until October 13.

Following their investigations, the police told the court they had intentions of returning the money to the family since the Companies Registry showed that the woman was affiliated with several businesses on the island; commercial banking accounts reflected deposits and withdrawals for the businesses; the Board of Inland Revenue said the family was up-to-date with their taxes and they were the owners of a safety deposit box.

Investigations also revealed there was little personal banking activity compared to their commercial accounts in line with the son’s claim that his father never believed in putting money in the bank.

The police concluded that there was reason to believe the money was legitimately obtained and that their investigations should end.


"Cops return $1.2m seized during $100-note exchange in 2019"

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