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Westpac Prime Bond Fraudulent

Westpac Prime Bond Fraudulent
August 10
11:00 2018

The Suva Magistrates Court was told yes­terday that a $351,865 performance security bond submitted to the Fiji Roads Authority (FRA) by Prime Fiji Limited was fraudu­lent.

This was the testimony of Westpac Banking Corpora­tion relationship officer, Ar­isha Khan, about the bond that was submitted for a streetlight renewal contract under FRA.

Ms Khan gave evidence as the second Fiji Independent Commission against Cor­ruption (FICAC) witness in the hearing against Prime Fiji.

The company is charged with two counts of forgery and using forged docu­ments.

Prime Fiji was awarded two streetlight renewal con­tracts under the FRA Asian Development Bank funded projects.

As a pre-signing require­ment Prime Fiji had to submit performance bonds amounting to 10 per cent of the total contract cost of $2.2million and $3.5million respectively.

Ms Khan revealed that she received an email from Prime Fiji director Shane Holiday on April 15, 2016, requesting two perfor­mance bonds in the sum of $222,332 and $351,865 respec­tively for the upgrading of streetlights in the Central Division.

Ms Khan said the bank issued the $222,332 perfor­mance bond to Prime Fiji on April 28, 2016, and not the $351,865 bond because Prime Fiji did not have enough funds in its account.

She said performance bonds are guarantees for the fulfilment of particular projects and Prime Fiji did not have enough money for term deposits for both bonds.

Meanwhile, FRA Head of Risk and Compliance Rav­neel Lal told the court that he was initially suspicious about the security bond documents sent for him to verify. Mr Lal said this was because of the placement of stamps and signatures on the documents.

He was given the bond doc­uments to verify after it was submitted by Mr Holiday.

The scanned copies of the performance bonds were emailed to FRA Procure­ment Specialist Anne Marie on April 25, 2016, from Mr Holiday. Mr Lal said he was suspicious that the docu­ments could be fraudulent because the signature and stamp would normally be placed in the middle of the document.

However, the stamp and signature on one of the documents was differently placed. Mr Lal said he con­tacted the Risk and Compli­ance Team of Westpac Bank and requested verification of the two performance bond documents.

He said Mr Holiday later informed him that he had been travelling on the day and had advised a staff member to scan the perfor­mance bonds and send it to him, which he subsequently submitted to FRA.

The performance bond contained scanned copies of the stamp and signature, which were pasted on and scanned for emailing pur­poses.

Mr Lal said he was also in­formed by Westpac lawyer, Richard Naidu, of Munro Leys that the bank never ex­ecuted the $351,865 perfor­mance bond to Prime Fiji and that they were still in the process of doing so.

He also said the bank had handed over the $222,332 performance bond, howev­er the original copy of the bond document was still in Westpac’s possession.

Further, Westpac stated that it would seek an expla­nation from their customer as to how the bonds were is­sued to FRA.

Mr Lal testified that such criminal acts could create problems for the Fijian Gov­ernment in terms of bor­rowing money from ADB and the World Bank for pro­ject funding because of the sanctions that would be im­posed against Fiji.

The hearing continues before Magistrate Deepika Prakash today.

Edited by Epineri Vula

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