Jan 06, 2021 News
…female union official faces over 17 charges
Kaieteur News – Dozens of persons are at their wits end after investing hundreds of thousands of dollars into bogus oil and gas training that was offered in New Amsterdam, Berbice.
The men jumped at the opportunity, after the courses were advertised on a local television station.
They were convinced that at the end of the training, they would have been employed in the oil and gas sector.
However, months after completing two courses, they never received any certificates. The courses advertised were, Standards of Training Certification and Watchkeeping (STCW) and Lifting and Banksman courses, with a requirement of $260,000 to complete both courses. One course was $160,000 while the other cost $100,000. Upon completion, they were told that certificates would be issued for both courses. The men were trained in five batches.
However, Kaieteur News understands that the first two batches received certificates, but the last three batches comprising of 30 persons never received.
Region Six Police Commander, Jairam Ramlakhan, confirmed that a probe was launched, and a woman is expected to be slapped with over 17 charges today at the New Amsterdam Magistrate Court. The woman has been identified as Simone Fortune.
The woman led the training sessions in the two courses, and has been identified as General Secretary of the Guyana Seafarers and General Workers Union.
One of the persons who invested in the training and who is a member of the Guyana Police Force stressed that he has had many regrets after it was exposed that the training may have been bogus.
“I have a lot of regrets…I heard rumours that she was a fraud and I have had many opportunities slipped through my fingers because of this…she told us we are guaranteed a job if we complete the training,” the policeman said.
He added that her assurance made him believe that what he was investing in was for his own good and that he would reap the benefits in the future. He disclosed that the money he invested, he had borrowed and was repaying monthly from his salary.
Odwin Sinclair, of Kortberadt Village, East Bank Berbice, said after seeing the advertisement on the television, was interested because it was being offered right in Berbice. He trained in the fourth batch and stated that he visited the woman’s home to find out more about the courses and it was there that she told him that “she is a training and recruiting agent for ExxonMobil and the two courses that she was offering at the time was STCW and Lifting and Banksman courses. She said $160,000 for the STCW and $100,000 for the Lifting and Banksman course.”
The STWC course ran for one week and commenced on 27 January, 2020.
“We wrote two exams and she said six weeks after we would be receiving our certificates.”
Six weeks later, there were no certificates.
Sinclair said the woman kept telling them that it was on its way, but he was concerned and so he opted to visit the Transport and Harbours Department to inquire about the length of time it would take to issue a discharge book (a document that is given to sail upon completion of the course).
To his horror, he was told that the only school accredited in Guyana that deals with seamen affairs was located in Georgetown and nowhere else.
He further disclosed that the woman told him and others that the company which “usually issue the certificates had closed down,” and that she was sourcing the certificates from another company.
He was later informed that contact was made with the company that the woman claimed was closed, and they indicated that she was not authorized to do such.
“We did the course on January 27, (2020) and then she tried to give us a next certificate which was dated August 11, 2020,” he said.
A number of persons from the first and second batch found out that the certificates they received were not legitimate. “So with that, we went back to the station showing them the receipts and the emails and everything and we filed a report.”
Another person who invested was Carlos Reed, a father of two of Sandvoort Village, West Canje, Berbice. He said that he did the two courses commencing in December 2019 with another friend, but while on the course, the woman requested that all the money be paid before the course was completed.
“…and I paid all my money and collected my receipts – $160,000 cash,” Reed said. The woman kept ignoring them and had excuses when she answered her phone after the completion of the courses. The woman reportedly told the persons inquiring that the original certificates were coming from Honduras.
“She tried to give us a different certificate, so we did a background check and they sent us an email that the certificate is not valid… it is fake and when we tell her that, she send us a voice note stating that the certificate is legit and is the highest certificate than the one that we need and the one we need is not coming anymore,” Reed said.
He added that he is presently unemployed, and has been applying to companies but was unsuccessful. They are among the many left in limbo after being lured into what is now believed to be fraud scheme.
When Kaieteur News attempted to contact the woman in question, calls to her phone went unanswered. This publication was told that in the first batch, there were 10 persons; the second had 13 while the third comprised of nine. Batch four had 16 and there are disclosures of yet a fifth batch.
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