This is according to Energy and Energy Affairs Minister Kevin Ramnarine who, in response to a question from Chaguanas West MP Jack Warner in Parliament yesterday, said outstanding monies “will be recovered using all diplomatic and legal channels available to National Energy and FCB.”
Noting the question referred to “recent revelation” that in September 2011, a $60 million wire transfer fraud occurred at the NEC through its banker, FCB, Ramnarine said the incident occurred at the bank’s Point Lisas branch and he made it known at a post-Cabinet press conference on November 20, 2011.
Both the NEC and the FCB, he said, have taken action and the criminal investigation was with the police.
Giving a background to the transfers, he said that on September 26, 2011, during a routine monitoring exercise of the NEC’s bank statements, it was noted that US$9,608, 904.36 had been debited from its US dollar account at the FCB, and that there had been three wire transfers that the NEC had not authorised.
The first transfer in the sum of US$1,250 million was made on September 19 to Central International Co LLC, of 1 Whitman Road, PO Box 525, Canton, MA 02021, US through the Bank of America, 75 State Street, Boston, MA, USA. Of the sum, the NEC has recovered US$912.593 or 73 percent. The FCB enlisted Looney & Grassman LLP, based in Boston to take action against the recipient in Boston and its bankers. The NEC was represented by Cohan, Rasnick and Myerson LLP, Boston.
The second transfer, totaling US$3.725 million was made on September 20 to Andrew James Thomas Newman Inc, Emaar Boulevard, Downtown Dubai, PO Box 123234, Dubai, UAE.
It was paid through the National Bank of Abu Dubai (now Abu Dhabi), Mall of Emirates Branch, Mall pf Emirates, Shzayed, Dubai, UAE. The NEC and FCB initially sought the help of the Central Bank, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and TT High Commissioner to the United Kingdom to recover the monies from Andrew James Thomas Newman Inc, Dubai.
In October 2011, the NEC engaged the law firm Ince &Co Middle East LLP to recover the money. Money laundering charges were brought against Andrew James Thomas Newman Inc in May 2014 after the Dubai courts had appointed a committee to investigate. NEC also filed civil charges which is ongoing.
In November 2014, Ramnarine said the court in Dubai sentenced Andrew James Thomas Newman to three years imprisonment, and the public prosecutor advised that the UAE Central Bank must make a decision on whether or not to return the funds.
As recent as April 15, Ramnarine said that on the advice of its attorneys in Dubai, the NEC once again asked the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to intervene using its diplomatic channels to recover the funds. The funds, Ramnarine said, “have been frozen and are being held in the Cental Bank of the UAE.”
The final transfer in the sum of US$4,633,717, also conducted on September 20, 2011, was wired to Steadroy CO Benjamin & Co, Eton Chambers, Corner Cross and Nevis Streets, PO Box 767, St John’s, Antigua, through the RBTT Caribbean Bank Limited, High Street, St John’s Antigua and Barbuda. The full sum was recovered from Steadroy CO Benjamin & Co.
Ramnarine said that in response to queries from the NEC and the FCB, it was discovered that the letters instructing the wire transfers were examined and deemed to be fraudulent.
After preliminary investigations, he said, on September 30, 2011 the matter was reported to the Fraud Squad and later to the Financial Intelligence Unit.
FCB also engaged the Kroll Associates UK Limited in 2011, he said, to investigate the circumstances of the wire transfers, including the information on the holders of the recipient accounts and to assist in the recovery of the funds.