Officers from the Criminal Tax Investigations department of the Board of Inland Revenue on Tuesday swooped down on the National Lotteries Control Board (NLCB), seizing the invoice submitted in the $.5 million contract awarded to a marketing employee.
The move follows a Sunday Express exclusive highlighting the award of the $511,750 contract to Jevon Jeffrey, who, unknowing to the board, had formed a company two months after joining the State entity in January 2013.
The Express learned on Monday that following the expose by the Sunday Express, management opted not to renew Jeffrey’s contract.
The company—Fontaine Branding Solutions Ltd—was awarded the contract to supply promotional items for Carnival and corporate events last year.
The Express learned that the BIR officers arrived at NLCB’s Port of Spain offices around 8.30 a.m and requested the original invoice after it was discovered that the VAT registration number on the invoice was false.
In fact, investigations further revealed that Fontaine Branding Solutions Ltd is not VAT-registered and the number 101578 listed on the March 21, 2013 invoice, belongs to Splendid Foods Ltd located at O’Meara Estate in Arima.
When the Express contacted the company yesterday enquiring if they were aware that Fontaine Branding Solutions Ltd was using their VAT registration number, an official who did not want to be named said: “We are shocked. My bosses will be in contact.”
Fontaine Branding Solutions Ltd claimed VAT in the sum of $66,750 on the March 21 invoice.
The officers are expected to return to the NLCB tomorrow to take statements before interviewing Jeffrey.
As reported previously, the Express also unearthed that the 9-11 Fitt Street, Woodbrook address listed on the invoice does not belong to Fontaine Branding Solutions Ltd but to ESG Business Suites—a company engaging in the rental of offices.
The business address for the company on the Companies Registry was listed as Fraser Lane, Green Street, Tunapuna.
And according to records at the Ministry of Legal Affairs, as at January 24, 2014, the company’s address remains the same.
The Winston Siriram-led board had requested a report from NLCB director Camille Forde on the procurement process that was used to award Fontaine Branding Solutions Ltd the contract.
By letter dated April 4, 2013 Forde responded to Siriram’s queries.
Forde, in the letter obtained by the Sunday Express, stated that on October 18, 2012 the marketing committee of the NLCB agreed to use $4 million to finance the procurement of branding services for Carnival 2013 and corporate giveaways.
A decision, Forde said, was taken to engage a service provider and a contract was awarded to Advantage Advertising Services Ltd which recommended several companies to provide the various promotional items.
Forde said as at January 30, 2013 USB Models Mercuri Caribbean Ltd was recommended by Advantage Advertising Services Ltd to provide the following promotional items:
• 2,000 custom flashlight key
• 1,000 custom drawstring bags
• 2,000 custom roll up water bot-
• 500 custom lighted glasses
• 250 promotional sunglasses
• 1,000 custom hand sanitisers
• 500 custom lip balms
• 500 custom stress balls
• 1,000 custom nail files
• 500 custom 3D gaming glasses
• 1,000 custom fabric totes
• 250 custom umbrellas
• 5,000 custom solo pencils
• 2,500 custom hand sanitiser pens
• 100 custom lunch bags
• 100 custom lunch totes
• 150 custom folding chairs
• 1,000 custom duffle bags
• 1,000 custom desk caddies
On March 14, 2013, the same day Fontaine Branding Solutions was formed, Forde said the company was recommended by Advantage Advertising Ltd to supply the following:
• 5,000 printed water bottles
• 3,000 universal mobile phone car
• 5,000 drawstring sport bags
• 5,000 cooler bags—$90,000
• 3,000 headphones with pouch
However, Express investigations have revealed that Advantage Advertising Services Ltd never made any such recommendations.
When the Express contacted Advantage Advertising Services Ltd on Tuesday asking whether the company did in fact make the recommendations, an official who requested anonymity said: “We learned of the information in the newspapers. We have not yet called NLCB. I have no further comment.”
Company records at the Ministry of Legal Affairs show that the company USB Models Mercuri Caribbean Ltd does not exist.
Company records show that a company trading as Mercuri Caribbean Ltd was set up in 2010 —the information obtained by the Express is in contrast to that submitted by Forde.
When the Express contacted Siriram yesterday he said the board agreed that an audit should be conducted into the entire process relating to the award of contracts.
“All will be revealed with the audit. We will get answers relating to the present issue and other matters,” Siriram said.