Trini woman also fingered in Republic Bank fraud

A Trinidadian may be involved in the multi-million-dollar fraud committed at Republic Bank (Guyana) Ltd and more staffers are expected to be sent home as the investigation continues.
According to reports yesterday, a woman from Trinidad and Tobago is also involved in the fraud but it is not clear in what capacity.

For the second day running, senior officials at the bank have refused to divulge any information on the fraud, said to be over $250 million. According to reports, the atmosphere at the bank’s city branches especially Camp Street, is tense.

Yesterday afternoon Stabroek News attempted to get a comment from Managing Director Edwin Gooding but his secretary said he was “in and out of meetings.” This newspaper was advised that recently appointed Senior Manager of Corporate and Management Services, Patricia Plummer, was dealing with the press on the issue. When this newspaper spoke to her on Wednesday, she would only confirm that there was a fraud, but said the bank had nothing more to say as the police were investigating. She was not in her office when this newspaper called yesterday and a message was left with her secretary; the call was not returned.

The fraud was discovered sometime last November but this newspaper understands that it occurred over a period and started at the bank’s former Camp and Regent streets location and continued at the new Robb and Camp streets location.

At least three senior officers, one who was only recently appointed, have been sent home and staff members, especially at the Camp and Robb branch are wondering who would be sent home next.

This newspaper understands that one of the senior employees who was sent home made an “arrangement” with the bank before proceeding on annual vacation but from indications he may not return.

None of the employees who were sent home are prepared to speak and other employees have stated that little or no information was being given to them about the fraud. Some only learnt of it when it was reported in the local newspapers.

While it is not clear how the fraud was perpetrated, Stabroek News understands that so-called “customers” went into the bank and using fraudulent signatures made money transfers to various banks in Canada. It is not clear on what level employees at the bank were involved or how many persons the fraud was perpetrated on.

Crime Chief Seelall Persaud had told Stabroek News that the police were investigating and that they were in contact with their counterparts, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP).
One of the loopholes at the bank that may have been taken advantage of was the fact that there was no way of verifying addresses and identities in other countries. Sources have told Stabroek News that verification of information is done on the telephone on numbers provided by the persons conducting the transaction. It was pointed out that the person could provide the number of someone who is working in collusion with him/her.

It was reported that when the bank found out about the fraud it halted some transfers that were in progress, but sources said that maybe the bank should have allowed the transfers to go through in an effort to ascertain who was receiving the money.

Stabroek News was told that the bank learnt of the fraud when one of its bona fide customers went directly to senior officials at the New Market Street head office and made certain claims. Those officials have since been keeping the information close to their chests.

“Hardly any employee knows what happened, even those in senior positions at other branches, no one is saying anything and people are very tense,” one source said.
On Wednesday, Public Relations Officer Jonelle Dummet, had said that the bank was putting mechanisms in place to avoid such a fraud being committed in the future.
This recent fraud, said to be the largest by far, follows one in mid 2006 when six employees were sent home in connection with the disappearance of $8 million from the bank’s Kitty/Guyoil ATM.

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