Co-op bank closes account of passport selling agent

In a dramatic move on Wednesday, the Grenada Co-operative Bank Limited (GCBL) closed the accounts held at the financial institution by one of the lawyers selected by government to engage in the sale of passports to foreigners.

The bank complied with an order of the court to terminate all accounts held in the name of attorney-at-law, Vanescia Francis-Banfield arising out of a dispute in which GCBL nearly lost EC$1.4 million in a fraudulent scheme by a client of the city-based lawyer.

The Bank Manager's Cheque that was sent to Co-op Bank but was "bounced" for lack of funds

The Bank Manager’s Cheque that was sent to Co-op Bank but was “bounced” for lack of funds

THE NEW TODAY has obtained a copy of the Court Order issued on the instructions of female high court judge, Justice Paula Gillford following an application made before the court by Francis-Banfield to prevent the bank from closing her accounts.

The judge ruled in favour of the bank and issued instructions to the female lawyer to comply with the decision taken against her by Co-op bank.

The Court Order, filed on September 11, 2014 read in part: “The Applicant/Claimant (Francis-Banfield) is given seven (7) business days to close all accounts with the Respondents/Defendants (Grenada Co-op Bank), failing which the Respondent/Defendant may do so”.

Well-placed sources told this newspaper that Francis-Banfield was making moves to appeal the decision of the high court judge.

Francis-Banfield who has emerged in recent months as one of the lead lawyers for Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell was retained by one Oedit Kumar who claimed to be a Korean and wanted to get involved in the controversial Citizenship by Investment (CBI) or sale of passport scheme which the 19-month old government has resumed in order to get quick finance for the cash-strapped Treasury.

Kumar who was said to be on holiday in the United States with his wife, issued instructions for US$507, 500.00 which is the equivalent of EC$1.3 million dollars to be sent in the form of a Bank Manager’s Cheque into the Co-op Bank account held by Francis-Banfield.

Two days after the document arrived at the bank, Francis-Banfield informed Co-op Bank that Kumar had given her fresh instructions to return the money in the form of a Wire Transfer to a bank located in the Philippines because he needed the money to pay the medical bills of his wife who fell sick and was in a coma in the United States.

Co-op Bank then issued instructions to its corresponding bank in New York to prepare the wire transfer for the Philippines account when it was discovered that the Bank Manager’s cheque was fraudulent.

The local bank had to move expeditiously to block the transfer of the funds since it was at risk at losing over one million E.C dollars in the fraudulent act.

In documents filed in the court, Co-op Bank painted a picture of an unforgiving Francis-Banfield who allegedly showed no remorse over what had happened to the bank.

An affidavit filed in the court by Gary Sayers, Retail Manager of the Spiceland Mall Branch of Co-op Bank addressed the lukewarm reaction of the attorney-at-law when she was informed that the alleged money transfer by Kumar in the form of a Bank Manager’s cheque was a fraud.

“When I brought this fact to the attention of the Applicant (Francis-Banfield), her response to me was that the Bank should find its money how it could and that it could take her to Court if it chose to. This response of the Applicant (Francis-Banfield) was made by her during a speaker phone conversation in the presence of others
including by Mr. Floyd Dowden the Executive Manager of Operations & Administration of the Respondent (Co-op bank).

“I am informed and verily believe that this reaction and response of the Applicant (Francis-Banfield) was reported to the management of the Respondent (Co-op bank) and that this resulted in the decision
communicated to the Applicant (Francis-Banfield) in the letter dated August 8th, 2014 that the Respondent (Co-op Bank) had decided to discontinue banking services to the Applicant effective August 29th, 2014.

In her own affidavit filed on September 3, the barrister denied ever issuing those words to the bank employee.

She said: “It is denied that I had a telephone conversation with Mr. Sayers on that date at all. All my conversations with Mr. Sayers were confirmed by emails I sent to him and on the occasion I was told that Ms. Jackson was in attendance. I copied her as well in that email confirmation of the conversation I have had.

“At no time did anyone say to me that Mr. Dowden was present during those conversations. As far as I know, Mr. Dowden is attached to the Respondent’s City Branch. I vehemently deny that I utter those words to Mr. Sayers or to anyone”, Francis-Banfield added in the affidavit.

Full details of the two affidavits will be provided in the next issue of THE NEW TODAY newspaper.

As a public service, THE NEW TODAY reproduces in full the letter that was sent by Co-op Bank to Francis-Banfield on its decision to close her accounts.

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