A source of funds declaration from Venture Credit Union has been leaked to the public. This declaration shows approximately $1.8 Million being deposited into the account of Foster Cummings whose occupation is listed as “SENATOR”. The form is dated 23rd July 2020.
Accompanying this is a copy of the identification of the person conducting the transaction, who lists her employer as “Pical Sec. Ltd” and two letters of award from the National Maintenance Training and Security Co. Ltd. (MTS) dated 16th December 2019 and 30th January 2020.
A cheque from MTS for the exact amount listed on the source of funds declaration has also been uncovered. The cheque is however made out directly to Venture Credit Union.
The Letters of award are addressed to “Rivulet Investments Group Limited”. This company lists is sole shareholder as “Juliet Modeste” as the sole shareholder, a director and the company secretary. It is public knowledge that this person is the wife of Minister Cummings and the address listed on company documents are identical to the address given for Foster Cummings on the Venture Credit Union documents.
These letters of award were purportedly provided as evidence in support of the declaration which states that “MTS CONTRACT” is the source of the $1,807,862.63 payment.
Interestingly, the letters of award in total, with VAT total $1,134,199.69.
These documents raise a number of question for Minister Cummings, MTS and Venture Credit Union.
I believe it should also attract the attention of the Prime Minister, the Financial Intelligence Unit of Trinidad and Tobago and the Financial Investigations Branch of the TTPS.
1. Were the letters of award from the MTS followed up with formal contracts with Rivulet Investments Group Limited? If so, when where they executed, and when was the work described in the letters of award completed?
2. Why did a wholly owned state enterprise facilitate a payment directly to a Financial Institution, allowing it to be deposited in any account held at that institution?
3. Can MTS account for the difference in the sums disclosed in the 2 letters of award and the amount in the cheque? Were additional contracts awarded to Rivulet Investments and on what date?
4. Did the financial institution conduct enhanced due diligence based on the fact that- sizeable cheque, much higher than the threshold established by law, was being deposited into the personal account of a “politically exposed person”; this cheque originated from a wholly owned state enterprise; the holder of the account was at that time a candidate in the upcoming general election, which was held 2 weeks after the transaction; the amounts disclosed in the letters of award were less than the amount of the cheque; the letters of award were addressed to “Rivulet Investments Group Limited” and a company search would reveal that Foster Cummings in not an officer of that company;
5. did Minister Foster Cummings disclose this large deposit to the integrity commission and the Board of Inland Revenue? Did he pay taxes on this sum?
6. Since the payment under these “letters of award” were deposited directly into Minister Cummings personal account, did his wife’s company include this sum as income and did they pay taxes in relation to this payment?
The Financial Obligations Regulations require all financial institutions to pay particular attention to transactions such as these which present a number of “red flags”. Institutions are required to conduct adequate due diligence, and if there is sufficient case to deem a transaction suspicious, it must be reported to the FIU.
Failure to disclose these suspicions is a criminal offence and carries stiff penalties. Failing to have adequate policies and procedures in place to identify a suspicious transaction and a high risk client, sus as a politically exposed person, also carries penalties under the law.
The Prime Minister, Commissioner of Police, the Minister of Finance and Director of the FIU which is the supervisory authority for Credit Unions ought to be aware that there are policies against “commingling of funds” whereby a company’s income is deposited into accounts together with personal funds. Indeed this policy is one widely adopted by every regulated financial institution in order to minimize tax evasion and money laundering.
These documents suggest that funds paid by a State Enterprise to a company owned by the close family member of a candidate in the 2020 general election and Senator in the 11th Parliament were deposited into the personal account of that said Senator.
On behalf of the right thinking citizens of this country, I am calling upon the FIU, the Commissioner of Police, the Minister of Finance and the Prime Minister to take action and determine whether there was a breach of the law to facilitate a large deposit in to the personal account of Minister Cummings, whether any tax laws, anti-money laundering laws or other policies were breached by Rivulet Investment Group, Minister Foster Cummings, MTS and Venture Credit Union.
The selective application of laws and enforcement of rules is an affront to democracy and the rule of law. The PNM government has developed a habit of making wild accusations against others but remaining silent when confronted by allegations with supporting evidence to suggest wrong doing right under their own noses.
Senator Jayanti R. Lutchmedial