Suriname’s outgoing Finance and Planning Minister, Armand Achaibersing, says the SRD59 million (One SRD=US$0.03 cent) reportedly missing from the ministry has been recovered, saying it was not about a scandal but “a common theft.”
In July, the Dutch-speaking Caribbean Community (CARICOM) country was rocked by a major fraud scandal in which millions of dollars had been withdrawn from the bank account of the Ministry of Finance and Planning through forged documents and receipts.
The authorities said the funds had been withdrawn from the account in April and June, with the perpetrators presenting false documents to the Central Bank of Suriname (CVBS) for cash.
“This came to light on June 28, and the order was immediately blocked. The Central Bank subsequently indicated that two other falsified payment orders had previously been presented for the same person. These transfers had been carried out,” the ministry said in a statement, noting that the withdrawals were SRD$14 million on April 25 and SRD$26.9 million on June 14
The Suriname government had confirmed the withdrawal after opposition legislator Melvin Bouva of the National Democratic Party (NDP), headed by former president, Desi Bouterse, raised the issue in Parliament.
Bouva told Parliament that between SRD$500 million and SRD$900 million had been stolen, but the government has denied the figures put out by the opposition legislator.
Achaibersing, who has stepped down from office, told a news conference that he was leaving with his head held high and his pride intact because he can look everyone straight in the eye,
“I was born empty-handed and will go away empty-handed,” Achaibersing told reporters when asked if he would leave with “a golden handshake.”
“Maybe it sounds arrogant. But I want to see the day when someone stands in front of me and says, “Achaibersing, you ever asked or gave me something to get something done.” If you can produce that person for me, I’ll dig a hole. I go in and never come out. It may come across as arrogant, but I say it with the wide side of my mouth.”
President Chandrikapersad Santokhi had defended his finance and planning minister amid calls for his resignation as a result of the financial scandal, and Achaibersing said he regrets that at least two persons linked to the theft have been able to leave the country.
No one has been named to replace Armand Achaibersing, but Foreign Affairs Minister Albert Ramdin and Planning and Environment Minister, Silvano Tjong-Ahin, will temporarily act in the post.