Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley says information he received suggesting that Trinidad and Tobago was being offered significant funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, in fact, came from a scammer who was seeking to get money from him.
He said he will report the matter to the police.
The Prime Minister had told a news conference Sunday that he had received word from the United Nations’ General Secretary saying that T&T was in place to receive the funding.
However, the Prime Minister issued a statement yesterday saying it was all a scam.
“Last Saturday whilst in Guyana, the chairman of Caricom communicated with me that the Office of the Secretary-General of the UN wanted to reach me and a couple other Caricom Heads, to advise us that he had received a substantial grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to be distributed among us in its ongoing poverty alleviation programme,” Dr Rowley said.
He added: “I returned a call to the Secretary-General on Sunday (whose number and profile picture I have on my phone). I thought nothing unusual of this up to this point, since the Gates Foundation had made grants to Trinidad and Tobago at least twice before. This being so, I mentioned at the press conference on Sunday that I was advised that we are to be allocated another grant as described.
“Today, I attempted to speak to the SG on the number I was carrying on my phone but was only able to communicate by WhatsApp and not voice. A person purporting to be the SG attempted to encourage me to use a foreign bank to receive this grant but there would be a significant processing fee.”
Dr Rowley said that his suspicion was further aroused when the person on the other end attempted to guide him towards making a substantial deposit in a Chinese bank as a prerequisite to receiving the grant.
“Having requested and not receiving any documentation and being contacted in a familiarity not normally associated with the Office of the SG, I was now convinced that this was a most brazen scam being run in the shocking manner as described. I subsequently checked with the chairman of Caricom to see what was happening at his end. He forwarded a stream of WhatsApp messages purporting to be coming from the Secretary-General attempting to reinforce the confidence trick, through the involvement of this other high office,” the PM said in the statement published on his Facebook page yesterday.
He said he was satisfied that there was no grant but that there was a “brazen attempt to scam countries through the use of impersonation and identity theft.”
“I will be referring this matter to the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service and all other relevant authorities,” the PM said.
Speaking on his return from Guyana in the VIP Lounge at the Piarco International Airport on Sunday, Dr Rowley had said, “Today, I have been advised that we are lucky to be identified for a not-insignificant share of some funding to be made available from the Bill Gates Foundation. I spoke to the Secretary-General of the United Nations who has identified us for that gift that we will accept and put to good use in T&T.”
He did not give details on what would have qualified T&T for the funds and what the amount of it was to be, as he went on to discuss other matters.