By Lagi Keresoma
APIA, SAMOA: FRIDAY 7 AUGUST 2015: One of the main witnesses in the trial of three defendants accused of allegedly being involved in a pyramid money making scam, has told the Court that the local investors monies allegedly remitted to Thailand are still in an account with the ANZ bank in Apia.
Benjamin Pereira, the Assistant Governor for Central Bank of Samoa (CBS) confirmed this after hours on the witness stand where he told the court earlier this week that $100,000 of investors funds was already remitted to a UFun account in Thailand.
Defense counsel Leota Raymond Schuster told the witness that the list of investors and amount of their investment are not all presented on the list given to CBS.
In the list, there are names of investors only without any amount against the name, but the $100,000 remitted overseas, does not tally with the amount in the list.
“Do you agree that the investors money had not been removed and are still in an ANZ account?” asked Leota.
“Yes, but there is a shortage,” responded Pereira.
Asked if they had checked the amount of money in the bank, Pereira said “more than $100,000.”
Defence line of questioning was to determine where CBS came up with the notion that the $100,000 remitted to Thailand belongs to the investors.
Defendants actions were upfront
Leota told the Court that there was no hidden agenda behind the defendants action to warrant CBS in labelling the defendants action as illegal.
According to documents presented to Pereira, everything UFun Group representatives did were documented including a letter from the then Acting Prime Minister in response to the group’s request to visit Samoa.
The Acting Prime Minister’s letter was an invitation to the group to visit Samoa.
The defendants presentation were done before the Government’s financial institutions and they also breached their agreement with investors by exposing confidential information on investors to CBS.
According to Leota, these are not actions done by someone trying to hide something.
Overall, the defendants did comply with CBS requirements.
However, Pereira said the defendants only complied after CBS froze their accounts.
Determining the alleged illegal action by the defendants
According to the defence, there was no formal complaint to the police or the Attorney General’s Office of any illegal activities involving the defendants, which raised the question of who made the call that the defendants actions were illegal.
It took Pereira several minutes before saying there was a meeting of the management team but the final call is made by the Governor.
“So who gave the matter to the Attorney General’s office and the police?” asked Leota.
Pereira shrugged his shoulders and said the Governor makes the final decision.
“Isn’t it true that that the Governor acts on recommendations and advise from her management team, which also includes yourself?” Leota asked.
Chief Justice Patu Tiava’asu’e Falefatu Sapolu intervened and asked the witness if he knew that the matter was handed over to the AG’s office and police to investigate.
“Yes, the file was given to them to investigate,” said Pereira.
On the 21st May 2015, police were brought in to investigate which led to the AG’s office prosecuting the matter .
Defence continued to push that CBS was only working on a suspicious theory but the witness, after several questions from the CJ explained that one of the illegal action’s was remitting funds overseas without the approval of CBS.
Another incident which raised CBS’s suspicion was when one of the defendants accompanied one of the local investors who wanted to invest money overseas to the CBS office.
According to Pereira, when the investor was asked verbally for the reason behind remitting his funds overseas, he said for investment.
“When he filled in the banks form, he did not tick ‘investment’ but tick the word ‘gift’,” said Pereira.
That alone rose suspicious, said Pereira. The case continues today with CBS lawyer taking the stand