Suriname Police Investigate Major Finance Ministry Fraud

Suriname has been rocked by a major fraud scandal in which millions of dollars (one SR$ = US$0.04) were withdrawn from the bank account of the Ministry of Finance and Planning through false documents and receipts.

Authorities said a total of SRD$40.9 million was withdrawn from the account in April and June after the perpetrators presented false documents to the Central Bank of Suriname (CBS) for cash.

The government confirmed the withdrawal after opposition lawmaker Melvin Bouva of the National Democratic Party (NDP) led by former president Desi Bouterse raised the issue in parliament last week.

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A criminal investigation has since been opened and the bank accounts of the people and companies to which the stolen funds were transferred have been seized.

Preliminary investigations reveal that the suspects, among other things, purchased expensive vehicles and laundered much of the money through various companies.

The Ministry of Finance and Planning said on June 27 this year that a forged payment order worth SRD$20 million was presented to CBS.

“This was revealed on June 28 and the order was immediately blocked. The Central Bank subsequently indicated that two other falsified payment orders had been presented previously for the same person. These transfers were carried out,” said the ministry in a statement, noting that withdrawals were SR$14 million on April 25 and SR$26.9 million on June 14.

But Bouva told parliament that between 500 and 900 million SR dollars had been stolen, but the government denied the figures given by the opposition lawmaker.

Meanwhile, there are calls for Finance Minister Armand Achaibersing to step down, but President Chandrikapersad Santokhi says he sees no reason for the minister to resign or be fired.

Santokhi told reporters that immediately after the fraud was discovered, the ministry filed a report and the police opened the investigation. He said he was awaiting the results of the investigation.

“The investigation must show who is responsible,” said President Santokhi, who is defending Achaibersing “because there is no ongoing investigation against the minister”.

The police have since questioned several people, including two employees of the Ministry of Finance, with some of these people likely to be considered officially as suspects.

CMC/