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2 sent home, 2 to face PSC

Published: 
Tuesday, December 5, 2017
$8m Tourism Division wire fraud probe
THA Chief Secretary Kelvin Charles

Two employees of the Tobago House of Assembly’s Tourism, Culture and Transportation Division have been ordered to stop reporting for duty while two others have been referred to the Public Service Commission (PSC) for disciplinary action.

The decision comes on the heels of a Fraud Squad investigation into an alleged wire transfer fraud involving $8 million intended for airlift arrangements with Virgin Atlantic Airways. The money was reportedly deposited into an incorrect bank account.

THA Chief Secretary Kelvin Charles yesterday said the action was initiated against the employees due to the seriousness and severity of the matter. He said two of the four involved are public officers so their matters were referred to the PSC for disciplinary action.

He said until the THA is advised by the PSC, those two employees will remain on duty at the division. But the other two, who are contract workers, have been told to “cease reporting for duty with immediate effect.”

The issue was first highlighted by THA Minority member Farley Augustine last week.

It is alleged a senior division official, after allegedly receiving an email from Virgin Atlantic about a change in their bank account, gave instructions for monies meant for the airline to be wired to a new account in the UK. The money was subsequently withdrawn and the account closed in the UK.

It was later learnt that Virgin Atlantic never collected the money, which was for airlift agreements from the UK to Tobago. The THA official later claimed his email account was hacked.

A similar incident allegedly occurred in July 2016, where the same officer caused the THA to place $1.6 million, meant for agents in Miami for the upcoming cruise ship season, into a wrong account.

Augustine had demanded that the THA send all those identified as being involved on administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation.

Yesterday, Charles said the THA is also working with the Fraud Squad to ensure the case is resolved in the shortest possible time.

“Due process must be observed,” he said.