PORT OF SPAIN –– Video footage of a messenger from the National Energy Corporation (National Energy, formerly NEC) walking into a First Citizens bank and requesting a transfer, which may have resulted in an act of fraud, is now in the hands of the police, Minister of Finance Larry Howai said yesterday.
In the meantime, another twist in the case has emerged, with Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley, who spoke on the $60 million fraud at a People’s National Movement (PNM) public meeting last week, disclosing in an interview on i95 FM on Monday that the husband of one employee who was contesting a decision to have her fired or suspended had since been gruesomely murdered.
On Monday, Minister of Energy Kevin Ramnarine stated the person who scammed away millions from NEC in an illegal transaction appeared to have simply walked into First Citizens and requested the transfer to a bank account
As it happens, the person’s action was caught on camera and the videos have been turned over the to the police, Howai said yesterday, speaking to the media outside Parliament, at the Port of Spain Waterfront Centre.
“There’s a video of the person who actually came in, yes; so that was passed over to the police,” Howai said, in response to questions on whether physical evidence had become available in the case.
Since the illegal transfer in 2011, about $35 million has been recovered while millions remain frozen by authorities in Dubai. The person convicted of the crime in that country has also disappeared.
Among the details to emerge in the last week was that part of the illegal payment had been billed as an US$1,250,187.36 worth of “food items for Guyana” by National Energy, via an invoice sent to the Central International Company LLC.
The Central International Company LLC, of Boston, Massachusetts, United States, is in the food business while National Energy, a subsidiary of the National Gas Company (NGC), is not.
Howai said yesterday it was not unusual for transactions to be carried out between NEC and First Citizens in the same manner that the illegal transfers were, and the transactions are accompanied by signatures and telephone verifications.
Howai said he was concerned, however, about the length of time the investigation had gone on for, particularly in the face of such glaring evidence.
“Of course, we’re very concerned about that. I would like to see these things dealt with a lot more expeditiously,” Howai said. “But the police, I understand, are going through their processes.
“I’m not quite familiar with what they have to do. But, certainly, I would’ve liked to have seen this brought to a conclusion much earlier.”
Following discovery of the massive fraud, four employees from National Energy were suspended and later reinstated.
Howai has now revealed mid-tier supervisors at First Citizens have been either dismissed or suspended.
“I understand that one person was dismissed. I don’t have the details of what happened with everyone off the top of my –– yuh know?” Howai said.
He says while moves are being made to retrieve the remaining $25 million from Dubai, there’s no deadline as to when it will be returned.
Howai was chief executive officer of First Citizens and chairman of National Energy at the time of the fraud.
Rowley has also said a mid-level employee of First Citizens was fired or suspended after the $60 million went missing and that that employee was now fighting the company’s decision.
The person’s husband has since been murdered in a most gruesome way, Rowley said.
He said there were those who were making connections between the murder and the exposure of the fraud.
Rowley said he was amazed government had failed to bring this important issue to Parliament.
“Where two state agencies allowed $60 million to leak out, until I raised that [at a public meeting in Malabar last Tuesday], it was unbeknownst to the vast majority of parliamentarians, and it never formed the subject of any conversation within the walls of the Parliament. No parliamentary committee. No Parliament floor discussion. No question in the Parliament,” he said.