A local bank came close to losing EC$1.3 million from an alleged fraudster who was trying to tap into the sale of passports or Citizenship by Investment Programme (CBI) run by the 18-month old New National Party (NNP) government of Prime Minister, Dr. Keith Mitchell.
Details of the scam can be gleaned from documents filed in a high court case between a local commercial bank and local attorney-at-law, Vanescia Francis-Banfield.
The barrister had been retained by a Korean named Oedit Kumar who expressed an interest in the CBI programme.
The documents indicate that Kumar who was on holiday with his wife in the United States in August issued instructions for the sum of US$507, 500.00 or EC$1.38 million to be sent to Francis-Banfield’s account at the bank in the form of a Bank Manager’s Cheque.
A well-placed source told THE NEW TODAY that the bank acknowledged that the cheque had come into its office.
However, two days later, Francis-Banfield is said to have received fresh instructions from Kumar to return the money since he needed it urgently to pay for medical bills in the U.S for his wife who fell sick and was in a coma.
According to the source, the bank did not query the Bank Manager’s Cheque since in banking terms such financial transactions are considered safe and proper for the movement of money.
“If a bank gets a Manager’s Cheque from another known bank, it would not suspect that anything fraudulent is taking place because that is considered to be good, clean and above board and that the sender has money in his or her account”, he said.
THE NEW TODAY understands that the Manager’s cheque came from a CIBC bank with an address in Canada.
The source said that Francis-Banfield then instructed the local bank to send back the money to Kumar in the form of a Wire Transfer to an account in the name of Courage Trading in the Philippines.
He said the bank obliged and gave instructions to its associate bank in the United States which operates in New York to wire transfer the sum of US$500, 820.78 to an account in the Philippines.
He indicated that the funds were already being processed when the U.S bank alerted the local bank that the Manager’s cheque was referred to maker.
The source said that the local bank was forced to move quickly to stop the Wire Transfer since it ran the risk of losing EC$1.3 million in what is now suspected to be a fraudulent scam.
Legal sources told THE NEW TODAY that Kumar who also travels on a Canadian passport had approached other local lawyers to get involved in the CBI programme but was turned down.
Another source told this newspaper that the local bank then officially informed Francis-Banfield that it wanted to end its association with her and her law firm.
This move by the bank prompted the local female attorney to file a lawsuit against the bank charging that she was being treated unfairly and that it was seeking to embarrass her.
The court action was heard last Friday before female High Court Judge, Justice Paula Gilford who ruled in favour of the bank and ordered Francis-Banfield to pay the bank’s cost as the loser in the matter.
A legal official told this newspaper that the issues surrounding the Bank’s manager’s cheque that “bounced” should be investigated by the relevant authorities since it bordered on fraud and money-laundering.
He said what was significant about the Kumar matter is that the Korean was seeking to send money to facilitate his involvement in the programme but no personal information or data was provided so that the necessary due diligence could be carried out on him.
Earlier this year, THE NEW TODAY reported on another matter involving finance with Francis-Banfield who was sued in connection with thousands of dollars from the sale of a mansion at Westerhall Heights in St. David’s.
The Plaintiff, Nicholas Moller had accused Francis-Banfield who was acting on his behalf of taking most of the money from the sale of the house to a Grenadian shipping agent living in New York.
The controversial lawyer was ordered by high court judge, Justice Margaret Mohammed to make a payment of EC$171, 439.70 to Moller by February 11, 2014 but she failed to honour the deadline of the court order.
The funds were eventually paid after the issue was brought to public light by THE NEW TODAY newspaper.
Moller’s lawyer, Jacqueline Mc Kenzie later told this newspaper that she was committed to filing papers before the relevant legal body to investigate the conduct of Francis-Banfield as an attorney-at-law.