BoG Governor urges local banks to be diligent against fraudsters

Bank of Guyana’s Governor, Dr Gobind Ganga speaking to the gathering at the launch of the bank’s 50th anniversary celebrations

Governor of the Bank of Guyana (BoG), Dr Gobind Ganga is warning local commercial banks to exercise due diligence to avoid any acts of fraud.

His warning comes on the heels of a commercial bank recently processing forged cheques amounting to some $23.8 million from the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA). Commissioner General of GRA, Godfrey Statia has since written the Bank of Guyana Governor on the issue, stating that this fraud is clearly a case of collusion or gross negligence on the part of the bank.

Speaking on the issue, Dr Ganga told this publication on Friday that he has met with the executives of the commercial bank in question and cautioned them to be diligent against such acts in the future.

“I have spoken with the bank involved and I have indicated to them that there is need to have more training and more awareness in terms of how one looks at certain cheques and other instrument of payments,” the Central Bank Head said.

He added, “You really have to be on your Ps and Qs with respect to those who try to beat the system with this kind of fraud. We haven’t had much in recent times but it’s an eye opener, obviously, that you have to be on the lookout.”

The Guyana Police Force has been called in to investigate the fraud and according to Dr Ganga, the Police are actively involved in the probe.

“The matter is under investigation and the Police is actively going after those who were involved. They have been looking at tapes at the commercial bank and they have been looking at the cheques that have been forged. So, they are going after the perpetrators,” he stated.

The BOG Governor noted that such acts of fraud are prevalent at various commercial banks. As such, he noted that from the Central Bank’s end,

“We continue to ensure that we have high standards in terms of the quality of cheques that are in the system, and we encourage [commercial banks] to ensure that due diligence is being done when you are intermediating a cheque or any form of payment.”

This recent issue was unearthed earlier this week after an employee of the bank called GRA to confirm the issuance and the amount on the cheque that was attempting to be cashed. That was the fourth cheque as three others were already cashed.

This publication was told that the cheques were cashed at different branches of the bank in question – one at Diamond, East Bank Demerara, and the other at its Regent Street, Georgetown location.

In his letter to the BoG, Statia confirmed that the cheques were forged since GRA cheques are stamped “not negotiable” which means that the banks are not allowed to cash them but deposit it into the payee’s account.

Further, it was pointed out by the GRA Head that the signatures of the payee on the cheques in question do not clearly match that on their ID cards. It was against this backdrop that Statia said the fraud was perpetrated as a result of negligence at best or collusion at worst on the part of the commercial bank.

He added that the fact that the bank employee would call to verify the authenticity of the cheques shows that there are rules and operating procedures in place to minimise or prevent such occurrences.

Further, the GRA Head requested the BoG to ensure such requests not be accepted from its account, and that the commercial bank is liable for the fraud.

This publication also understands that the $23.8 million that was debited from GRA’s account in the fraudulent transaction will have to reinstated.

The Police had arrested three persons – a man and two women – as part of the investigations. However, calls to Crime Chief Wendell Blanhum on Friday to verify whether these persons are still in custody were unsuccessful.