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Scammers Target CARICOM Leaders

Scammers targeted regional leaders but failed. This was first reported by the Prime Minister of Trinidad Dr. Keith Rowley and the scammers’ plot included Belize’s Prime Minister John Briceno who is also the Pro-temp Chair for CARICOM. PM Dr. Rowley said he was almost scammed into making a “substantial deposit” to a Chinese bank. Rowley explained that last Saturday whilst in Guyana, PM Briceno (quote) “communicated with me that the Office of the Secretary-General of the UN wanted to reach me and a couple of other CARICOM heads to advise us that he had received a substantial grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to be distributed among us in its ongoing poverty alleviation programme”. (end of quote) PM Rowley became increasingly suspicious when the “person purporting to be the SG attempted to encourage him to use a foreign bank to receive this grant but there would be a significant processing fee. Prime Minister Keith Rowley said he subsequently checked with Briceno “to see what was happening at his end. Pm Briceno forwarded a stream of WhatsApp messages purporting to be coming from the Secretary-General attempting to reinforce the confidence trick, through the involvement of this other high office. PM Briceno explained. 

John Briceño, Prime Minister of Belize: “Simply what happened is Prime Minister Motley messaged me on Friday. Oh no, she called me and she said “You’re going to get a message from the Secretary General of the UN, that the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation have said that they want to assist three countries, that they are setting aside $15,000,000 for to help three of the countries that have been hit hardest by COVID and as Chairman of CARICOM that they’re going to contact me.” I was contacted using the Secretary General Guterres’ number, WhatsApp and they messaged and said let’s do WhatsApp because this is encrypted. And so they messaged me and said they wanted the three countries. I contacted the Secretary General and I contacted a few other people and then it was agreed that St. Lucia, Bahamas, and Trinidad & Tobago were the three countries that were going to. They asked for the numbers. We provided them the numbers. It is only when they contacted the Prime Minister of Trinidad & Tobago and then he became suspicious immediately. Well, I had no real communications as to what kind of money you were to give and as soon as he was back and forth realising that these people were not really identifying themselves, I mean it’s the WhatsApp of the Secretary General. He became a bit suspicious and then when he messaged me and then I said you know what? I said I did not speak to the person. We were just messaging. I said I think that’s a scam. I immediately said I think that’s a scam and what convinced him that it was a scam was when they were asking him, well, for us to be able to send this money for you, we need to make, you need to make a deposit in a company, well in a bank in China. I mean those are all the red flags and so we said, we end it right here and that’s it. That’s the.”

Reporter: Okay so I’m confused.

John Briceño, Prime Minister of Belize: “So Belize was not exposed. We were not one of the three countries picked and no country has been exposed.” 

Reporter: Okay so now *inaudible* Ms. Mottley, she spoke with someone on the phone? 

John Briceño, Prime Minister of Belize: “She did not. She just said, “You are going to be contacted.” Called me and said, “You are going to be contacted by the Secretary General of the United Nations. She’s close to him. She does. She chairs one of the sub-committees of the United Nations. Actually she, on Sunday, I met her at the airport on her way to the United Nations and just said that and then so the message came and we spoke. That’s it.”

Reporter: Someone purported to be the Secretary General of the United Nations? 

John Briceño, Prime Minister of Belize: “Yes. Apparently it seems that they captured his WhatsApp and I think that has happened to people here in Belize where you would say hey you know, Polo sent me this code. I am giving you. That kind of thing. So they captured his, it seems that they’ve captured his WhatsApp and using that to try to scam these countries. But again it’s no big deal. Nothing happened.”

The matter was forwarded to the law enforcement authorities in Trinidad for investigation.