Five charged over $19.4M fraud involving forged GRA cheques

The Georgetown Magistrates' Court

Five persons – four men and a woman – have been charged for forging $19.4M worth in cheques in the name of the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA) and cashing same at the Guyana Bank for Trade and Industry (GBTI).

Those charged are: Romeschand Singh, 40, of Grove Squatting Area, East Bank Demerara (EBD); Komalram Persaud, 25, of Golden Grove, EBD; Devindra Moteeram, 24, of East La Penitence, Georgetown; Anush Khan, 29, of Diamond, EBD; and Shareesa Tappin, 26, of Clifford Avenue, Georgetown.

They appeared before Magistrate Leron Daly at the Georgetown Magistrates’ Court where they were not required to plead to the indictable charges.

The four men were released on $600,000 bail each with the condition that they report to Assistant Superintendent Caesar every other Monday until the hearing and determination of the trial. However, the woman was remanded to prison.

It is alleged that between October 28, 2020 and May 11, 2021 Singh conspired with Persaud, Moteeran, Khan and other persons to forge two Bank of Guyana cheques, purporting that these were issued by the GRA’s Internal Revenue Department.

The first cheque was dated April 9, 2021 and was made out to the value of $9,550,000, while the other cheque was dated April 20, 2021 and was made out to the value of $9,875,000.

The issue was unearthed 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.

The cheques were cashed at different branches of the bank in question – one at Diamond, EBD, and the other at its Regent Street, Georgetown location.

In a letter to the Bank of Guyana (BoG) on the issue, the GRA Boss Godfrey 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.

INews understands that the money that was debited from GRA’s account in the fraudulent transaction will have to reinstated.

Meanwhile, the court matter has been adjourned to June 21.