A Trinidadian pastor’s TT$28 million in tithes was seized by police officers from the Financial Investigation Branch (FIB) as he was attempting to exchange his old bills for the new polymer notes on New Year’s Eve.
The paper notes were impounded under the Proceeds of Crime Act.
A large sum of cash was also reportedly seized at the pastor’s house in Central Trinidad on Thursday (Jan 2). Pastor Vinworth Anthony Dayal—who claims that the funds were accumulated over 19 years of voluntary contributions from his congregation—showed up at the bank minutes before the deadline on New Year’s Eve to exchange the bills.
Dayal first attempted to get the new polymer notes on December 23 at First Citizens Bank in south Trinidad but was redirected to the Central Bank of Trinidad and Tobago (CBTT). Central Bank representatives instructed him to visit the bank in person and fill out a source of funds declaration form prior to redemption of the notes in his possession.
The Financial Intelligence Branch stated that Dayal had promised to come in with the cash days before and repeatedly visited the Central Bank promising to do so. He failed to present the funds on each occasion until the last day of the deadline just before the bank closed. Claiming that the money was his personal funds, he walked with 29 copy-paper boxes, each containing TT$1 million. While he has not been arrested, he will now have to go before the court to explain his source of income. According to sources in the FIB, the TT$28 million seizure from the pastor is the largest amount impounded since the polymer process began.
When he first announced the introduction of the new bills in December, National Security Minister Stuart Young said the polymer $100 bills were aimed at combatting money laundering and other illicit activities. The Trinidad and Tobago government stated that this was also the reason for setting such a brief window to exchange the notes.