May 14, 2021 News
– Police launch investigation
An investigation has been launched by the Guyana Police Force (GPF) after three-forged Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA) cheques amounting to over $23.8M were discovered to be cashed at a commercial bank. The discovery was made after an employee at the bank called GRA to confirm the issuance and the amount of a fourth cheque that was attempted to be cashed.
Commissioner General of GRA, Godfrey Statia, confirmed that the cheques are not authentic GRA cheques. He further highlighted that all cheques issued by the GRA are stamped “not negotiable.” He explained that this means that commercial banks are not allowed to cash them and that they must be deposited into a payee account. He told this newspaper that the forgers have been en-cashing cheques at a commercial bank that purportedly shows that the cheques were issued by the GRA.
He further noted that the fact that the forged cheques were cashed at a commercial bank demonstrates some level of collusion between the forgers, the bank’s employees and likely some GRA employees who may have provided the forgers with the cheque numbers.
According to Statia, GRA’s original cheques are issued by the Bank of Guyana (BOG) and all of the cheques are in their possession. He disclosed that GRA will not be conducting any fraud investigation since the agency has the original cheques, whether blank or cancelled. After the discovery was made, the entity notified the police and an investigation was launched into the matter.
When this publication contacted the commercial bank at which the forged cheques were reportedly cashed, a representative stated that she is aware of the matter but will desist from commenting on the issue since the police have launched an investigation. It was also stated that the bank will not be conducting an independent internal investigation into the matter.
According to a letter seen by this publication addressed to the Governor of the BOG, Dr. Gobin Ganga, Statia explained the discoveries and outlined several discrepancies.
The letter stated that the three forged cheques that were cashed amount to $23,810,000. It was further revealed that the monies were withdrawn from GRA’s IR revenue account. GRA is requesting from the BOG to not accept the withdrawals from its IR account and asked that the BOG not honour the payments since the commercial bank must be held liable for the act.
Five discrepancies were highlighted in the letter. The first noted that the GRA does not issue refund cheques with electronic signatures and in the case of such cheques, the BOG and other commercial banks should have been notified.
The second point that was outlined is that, “All GRA refund cheques or payments to individuals and companies are affixed with the non-negotiable stamp.” It was stated that the only time such stamp is not affixed on the cheques is when transfers are done between GRA’s accounts or to the Consolidated Fund. It should be noted that the aforementioned is a standard policy that all government agencies must adhere to.
The third discrepancy that was highlighted in the letter is that the payee signatures on the cheques do not match the signature on the identification cards. This shows collusion or negligence.
The letter stated that the discovery was made after one of the commercial bank’s employees found it obligatory to call GRA to confirm the issuance of one of the cheques and the amount listed. After that phone call, checks were made at GRA and the original cheques were discovered still in GRA’s possession. It was stated that the fact that an employee called, shows that the commercial bank has rules and operating procedures to reduce or prevent such occurrences and as such, the bank’s failure to follow these rules in the three previous instances is either negligence or collusion with the perpetrators. The last discrepancy that was outlined is the fact that all of the forged GRA cheques were cashed at the same commercial bank, which is further evidence of collusion.
It was expressed in the letter that until the police investigation is completed the liability of forged cheques lies with the commercial bank, which would have negligence insurance for such occurrences.
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