LONGDENVILLE, Trinidad--Financial Intelligence Branch (FIB) investigators were busy on Friday, counting “millions of dollars” they seized from the Third Exodus Assembly Church in Longdenville headed by Pastor Vinworth Dayal, on Thursday evening.
Senior investigators said only a few bags had been counted and the estimated sum so far was just over TT $1 million (US $147,895) with “several other money bags containing TT $20, $10, $5 and $1 notes still to be counted.”
The latest raid was conducted by officers of the FIB as they widened their investigation into the financial operations of the church.
Officers of the FIB spent several hours on Friday with the assistance of several bill-counting machines to check the money recovered at the Longdenville Church.
“It’s a long process and there are still several bags to be counted,” said a source familiar with the investigation.
According to another senior police source, the money has to be counted within 96 hours so the lawmen can go to court and obtain a detention order to have the money lawfully detained for three months under the Proceeds of Crime Act so they can pursue further investigations. The Police Force had to go to the court before the counting of the TT $29 million (US $4.29 million) that was brought in by Pastor Dayal on December 31, to ensure the amount could be lawfully detained before the December 31 deadline. If this had not been done the money would no longer have been recognised as legal tender.
Officers from the FIB are investigating an incident in which the pastor attempted to change close to TT $29 million in old TT $100 bills on December 31. That money has been seized by the police.
On Thursday, investigators also went to a La Romaine house occupied by the pastor’s relatives, where they seized documents. At the church, investigators said they found large sums of TT $20, $10, $5 and $1 notes in a large cabinet.
They found thousands of envelopes that contained tithes, according to Pastor Dayal, who was present during the search. The pastor explained that there were large brown envelopes with smaller white envelopes inside. The white envelopes contained old TT $100 bills that were removed to be exchanged and the brown envelopes contained all the “other types of bills.”
National Security Minister Stuart Young had said on December 5 that the new polymer TT $100 bill would help authorities in their fight against money laundering and other illegal operations. The public was advised to change their old TT $100 bills for the new polymer banknotes by December 31, 2019. However, the pastor came under scrutiny after he tried to change close to TT $29 million on the final day. ~ Trinidad Guardian ~