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Anti-corruption officers head to Tobago – COPS PROBE THA VOICE NOTE

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Anti-corruption officers head to Tobago – COPS PROBE THA VOICE NOTE

Anti-corruption officers head to Tobago

WHILE Tobago awaits a response from Tobago House of Assembly (THA) Chief Secretary Farley Augustine on a leaked voice recording said to be of two THA officials discussing the use of public funds to hire people to carry out a political propaganda campaign, officers of the Anti-Corruption Investigation Bureau (ACIB) and Fraud Squad are probing the matter.

Despite the uproar since the recording’s release in May, Augustine has remained silent on the matter.

Acting Deputy Commissioner of Police for Intelligence and Investigations Curt Simon confirmed to Newsday on Tuesday that police are looking into the recording.

He said, “My officers are mulling over it with advice from the legal department and other investigative areas within the TTPS.

“We have to look to see if there are offences, and if there are in fact offences, if they were committed by anyone. And if the persons who we suspect committed the offences, if they did or were capable of committing the offences.”

He said these factors must be considered before launching an official inquiry.

Head of the Anti-Corruption Investigations Bureau (ACIB), Snr Supt Arlet Groome preferred not to say whether or not an investigation is underway when Newsday contacted him for comment.

Newsday understands an officer from the Fraud Squad, working closely with ACIB, received an assignment last week for an “urgent matter” in Tobago.

“Not much else is known about the nature of the assignment, as the amount of information on the matter has been limited to only the investigating officer but it is safe to say that an investigation into the recording is underway,” the Fraud Squad source said.

Commenting on the issues on May 13, the Prime Minister said he would not intervene in THA operations unless there was a breach of the law.

This came weeks after the one-minute-15-second voice recording of a man and a woman discussing a strategy that involves employing people under the THA and having them promote propaganda on social media.

The male voice on the recording said the strategy “will help in the ways Tobagonians is (sic) responding to the moves in Trinidad; that can help in shaping the narrative.”

Although Dr Rowley said he had no intention of commenting on Tobago’s business, he said, “If in Tobago there are officials who are prepared to break the law, they will face the law.”

The Integrity Commission acknowledged receipt of questions on the issue from Newsday, sent via email on Tuesday, but did not say if it has launched an investigation. The commission investigates allegations of misconduct by people in public life.

Deputy Chief Secretary and Secretary of Health, Wellness and Social Protection Dr Faith BYisrael, questioned on the voice note on Tuesday, said the executive council had decided it would allow the chief secretary to comment.

“He did indicate some time ago that he will make a comment, and that will come soon. We are simply going to allow that to happen,” she told reporters after a grant-distribution ceremony in Scarborough.

“The executive council has been busy doing what we have to do. When the chief secretary is ready, which will be soon, you will hear him comment about it.”

On the timeline of “soon,” she said: “Well, time longer than twine, as they say.”

Questioned further about the extended silence leaving room for speculation, she said some patience was necessary.

“This is why I’m saying we definitely need to just sit and wait on the chief secretary to speak. When he speaks you would understand the situation, you would understand the silence, you would understand everything that we have been treating with and you will then say, ‘Ah, now I get it.’”

Among those who have called on Augustine to clear the air is head of the Tobago Business Chamber Martin George. He has said if Augustine did not comment there would be “a continuing lingering question mark over the relevance, validity, transparency, and honesty of persons, who may or may not, in one way or another, be implicated or associated with this alleged voice note.”

On what George described as “very serious, weighty, and troubling matters” he felt that “as far as Tobago politics goes, it must be held up to a higher moral and ethical standard and one that can withstand scrutiny.”

Retired head of the public service Reginald Dumas has also previously said, “Whoever it was involved, there was a clear conversation on the issue of using public funds for private political purposes, which is a corrupt act and a violation of the law.”

Anti-corruption officers head to Tobago

– with reporting by Kinnesha George-Harry

Newsday newspaper Trinidad and Tobago

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