BELIZE CITY, Thurs. Apr. 16, 2015–Prime Minister Dean Barrow confirmed to the local media today that as much as $500,000 has been siphoned from the Government’s Treasury Department in Belize City.
The alarming incident came to light earlier this week, and this past Tuesday, April 14, the Financial Secretary, Joseph Waight, alerted PM Barrow about the findings.
Barrow told us that while he cannot confirm the exact amount since the matter is still being investigated, he was informed that it could be “as high as half a million dollars.”
Reliable sources have indicated that between $500,000 and $700,000 was embezzled over an unspecified amount of time, and Barrow noted that while the pilfering may have been happening for some time, authorities did not find out about it until recently, which is why no sort of public disclosure was previously made.
Barrow told us that at this time, it is still unclear who may have been the culprit/s, but he gave us an explanation of how the significant amounts of money went missing.
He said, “There’s some official/s who ran some sort of a scam in terms of legitimate payments for particular accounts – changing account numbers while perhaps retaining the name, and it seems that initially the banks were only concerned that the account numbers that were given did in fact exist.”
“What the Financial Secretary told me was that basically, it was one of the banks that eventually realized that there was a mismatch between the particular name and the particular account, so it was a bank that first, as I understand it, sounded the alarm,” Barrow cited.
He added that the police are involved in the matter; however, at this point, they need more evidence before an arrest or arrests could take place.
The PM referred us to the Financial Secretary for more information on the situation, but we were informed that he was unavailable today, and that the Accountant General, Veronica Smith, would first need to get his approval to speak publicly on the matter.
We did manage to reach the Officer in Charge of Belize City Police Precinct 3, Superintendent Suzette Anderson, who is in charge of the investigation, and she mentioned that presently, they cannot release any information on the course of the investigation, since it is still in its preliminary stages and they have only recently received the documents relating to the case.