The government credit card issued to Premier Alden McLaughlin when he was education minister was apparently defrauded of nearly $7,000, the Cayman Compass has learned.
Records provided to the Compass this week showed a series of charges – which Mr. McLaughlin, as the former education minister, did not make – between Dec. 13, 2006 and Jan. 3, 2007. Ministry of Education staff had the charges reversed as of the June 2007 card statement.
Mr. McLaughlin said he did not even know about the charges until the matter was brought to his attention last week following an open records request for Ministry of Education credit card statements between 2005 and 2012.
Mr. McLaughlin served as education minister between 2005 and 2009.
Of the more than $6,800 charges identified by the premier as fraudulent, most appeared to have been spent on online investments, using an online brokerage called Investpro Ltd. These included charges of $2,262.62 on Jan. 1, 2007, and charges of US$1,452.59 and US$968.40 on Jan. 2, 2007.
According to the Investpro Ltd. website: “Investpro Limited is an Internet brokerage and investment firm. Through our company’s website and trading platform, traders can invest in CFD’s [contract for difference] on commodities, indices and the foreign exchange market.”
Other unusual transactions were recorded during the period, including US$1,131.31 at the “Kaiso Members Recreation Centre,” a Calypso tent in Trinidad.
Another US$365.17 charge was made at the Francis Fashions shoe store in Trinidad. Yet another US$968.40 charge was recorded for an “Irving Marcelle,” which was unidentified.
Mr. McLaughlin said Thursday he had never been to any of the locations in Trinidad and Tobago identified on the credit card, and that all of the charges had been identified as fraudulent.
The former Ministry of Education credit card statements, which include Mr. McLaughlin’s and former chief officer Angela Martins’s statements, were released by the ministry in response to an open records request. The ministry had initially refused to release the statements, but recently reversed its decision on the matter.
“Whilst it is acknowledged that initially there was a decision not to release the credit card transactions, it should be noted that this was not a decision by Premier McLaughlin, who in fact is encouraging the release of the transactions,” a statement from the premier’s office indicated.
The statement continued, “It should also be noted that the card was used for local official entertainment, as well as for travel on official business.”