PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad (CMC) – Trinidad Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley says he will be referring a scam which had him announcing that he and several other Caribbean Community (Caricom) leaders had received “a substantial grant” from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, to the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service (TTPS) as well as “all other relevant authorities”.
In a statement posted on the official Facebook page of the Office of the Prime Minister, Rowley said that last Saturday whilst in Guyana the Caricom chairman, John Briceno, who is also the Prime Minister of Belize “communicated with me that the Office of the Secretary General (SG) of the UN wanted to reach me and a couple other Caricom Heads to advise us that he had received a substantial grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to be distributed among us in its ongoing poverty alleviation programme”.
Rowley said that he returned a call to the Secretary General on Sunday, whose number and profile picture he has on his phone, and “thought nothing unusual of this up to this point since the Gates Foundation had made grants to Trinidad and Tobago at least twice before.
“This being so I mentioned at the press conference on Sunday that I was advised that we are to be allocated another grant as described. Today, I attempted to speak to the SG on the number I was carrying on my phone but was only able to communicate by WhatsApp and not voice.”
Rowley said that a “person purporting to be the SG attempted to encourage me to use a foreign bank to receive this grant but there would be a significant processing fee.
“My suspicion was further aroused when the person on the other end attempted to guide me towards making a substantial deposit in a Chinese bank as a prerequisite to receiving the grant. Having requested and not receiving any documentation and being contacted in a familiarity not normally associated with the Office of the SG, I was now convinced that this was a most brazen scam being run in the shocking manner as described. “
Prime Minister Rowley said he subsequently checked with the Caricom chairman “to see what was happening at his end.
“He forwarded a stream of WhatsApp messages purporting to be coming from the Secretary General attempting to reinforce the confidence trick, through the involvement of this other high office.
“Please be advised that I am satisfied that there is no grant but that there is a brazen attempt to scam countries through the use of impersonation and identity theft. I will be referring this matter to the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service and all other relevant authorities,” Rowley wrote.