FOR NEARLY two years Jim John (not his real name) claimed he cashed close to $2 million in cheques for the LifeSport programme and has never lifted a finger to work in it.
The LifeSport programme is currently being audited by the Ministry of Finance and has been transferred from the Ministry of Sport to the Ministry of National Security following allegations of financial impropriety, ghost gangs and ghost companies.
The man from East Trinidad spoke exclusively with CCN last week at Express House in Port of Spain on the condition that his identity be concealed as he feared for his life.
He said he and many others were only being used as pawns in the multi-million-dollar game.
“We are being used as scapegoats and the youths them need to know and realise that and that is causing plenty of the killings. This LifeSport, you know how much killing that cause and still going on?” he said.
John said he was enticed into getting into the fast money business by Curtis Gibson, who was shot dead a few weeks ago for his alleged involvement in the LifeSport programme.
“It is easy money. I not accustom working nowhere, is easy money it eh no robbery, no killing nobody, but then I really get chain up because if a man come and tell you that you can eat ah $300,000 or $400,000 and it have no crime in it you will do it, anybody will do it, nobody can’t say they will not do it,” he said.
Providing CCN with what he called evidence, he brought some copies of the already cashed government cheques made out in his name, one totalling almost quarter of a million dollars and the other $173,500, both bearing the signatures of two officials in the Ministry of Sport.
He explained that only he could have cashed the cheques as they were crossed with “account payee only”.
The Express contacted one of the main officials whose name appeared on the cheques as a signatory but his lawyer said he would not make any comment.
The arrangement, John said, was simple. Cash the cheques and take a five per cent cut, while the rest he claimed was collected a few days later by top-ranking officials whom he sometimes met in the company of Gibson at the Hyatt Regency hotel, at Westmall or at certain restaurants in East Trinidad.
“We wait for some days to change the money, we cyar do it right away and when the money done change he (Gibson) pick me up and we went by the gangster house. We would meet a certain Government official in a restaurant and the money will pass to him. On average I cashed about eight cheques, close to $2 million...it was $100,000, $300,000, nothing cross $500,000. They say the reason for that is not to raise eyebrows,” John said.
The man who lives in a community torn by crime says the premise of the LifeSport programme was to ease the violence by giving gangsters hush money to stay in check. “It was a way of telling people who warring somebody to hold dey hand. You know it had good intentions but fellas not seeing the good intentions, meaning in the sense it was a use thing...saying you all stay cool and we give you some LifeSport money to cool yourself.”
He says his motivation for also cashing the cheques was the promise by officials that he would later be given a cheque for close to half a million dollars, but that never materialised.
He boasted how easy it was to land the money from the pockets of taxpayers.
“We would sign for it and you get it...you just walk in the building and sign for it and get it. I never done any work for LifeSport or Ministry of Sport. Never! You can do your own investigation and see...never, never, what work we did and tell me what work we did with taxpayers money. Show me what work we do,” John stated.
ROBERTS: SERIOUS ALLEGATIONS
CCN spoke with Sport Minister Anil Roberts last Friday about the allegations made by “Jim John” and the alleged infiltration of criminal elements said to be benefiting from LifeSport.
Roberts kept a straight face as he answered.
“Serious allegations of an international proportion, serious allegations of terrorism, criminal activity so I am eagerly awaiting. I have nothing to say. I maintain my silence.Terrorists getting one point five to three million a month, allegations, one super coordinator, 1,400 ghosts in the programme, these are serious allegations and then it comes down to other ones,” said Roberts.
The Sport Minister said he was waiting for the completion of the internal audit before saying anything further on the matter.
Roberts has boasted that the LifeSport programme was his brainchild and that it was conceived to reform and elevate underprivileged black youth.