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$3M missing from TIDCO accounts

Cops to quiz former company officials

By Newsday Reporter

A police investigation into missing State funds has led investigators to two former high-ranking TIDCO officials.

Police believe that the source of certain wire transfers to an offshore account owned by some UNC officials was a TIDCO credit facility available to several senior officials at the company.

Two former officials of the Tourism and Industrial Development Company (TIDCO) are expected to be asked this week to explain the alleged larceny of more than US $500,000 (TT $3,000,000) which formed part of State funds.

Newsday learned that a police probe is now underway into two TIDCO accounts a US account and Sterling account. Several withdrawals from these accounts remained unexplained up until yesterday. None of the withdrawals reportedly had anything to do with TIDCO business, police sources told Newsday.

The withdrawals were made during trips by the former TIDCO officials, and were used to facilitate spending by a top UNC official. Some of that money was allegedly spent in the purchase of jewelry, clothing, shoes and other valuables. Some of it was transferred from the TIDCO accounts to the offshore account owned by UNC officials.

Police have already secured financial records as the probe into the larceny of the money amounting to over US $500,000 continues.

The question of the TIDCO accounts as raised in Parliament previously by Ken Valley, then Opposition Chief Whip, who claimed that a US $100,000 credit card limit available to senior officials at TIDCO, was being used for the relatives of a senior UNC official. He slammed the UNC for this conduct, which he said was an abuse. Valley noted at the time that whenever the UNC official travelled, a senior TIDCO executive was always part of the party.

The UNC Government was also criticised for using TIDCO, which managed the Road Improvement Programme, to hand out contracts to friends, thus, avoiding the tendering procedures required under the Central Tenders Board Act.

According to the Act, if a State body such as TIDCO is used by the government to sub-contract work it does not have to follow the normal tendering procedures.

Only recently, TIDCO's other controversial role in the $88 million Miss Universe Pageant was questioned, and allegations of corruption and nepotism surfaced. Last month, the police applied to their foreign counterparts for the financial records of the offshore account, which allegedly received wires from TIDCO. These records they received.

The request was made through one of several legal assistance treaties that TT signed with other countries during the Basdeo Panday administration.

Sources revealed yesterday that the foreign police are still assisting TT cops in the investigation.

Police sources also said that the account documents are now been reviewed by a team of senior legal experts to see what charges, if any are to be laid.

Efforts to contact officials at TIDCO yesterday proved futile.

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