Thursday, February 17, 2011

Ex-BSP Banker to Face Trial. Bank Forging Documents?

Joshua Arlo

Garth McIlwain, former managing director for Bank South Pacific (BSP), will face trial in the National Court following a decision by the Committal Court in Waigani to commit him on two criminal charges of falsifying bank documents on a fixed floating charge against a business entity under the Yama Group of Companies.
Magistrate Sinclaire Gora said documentary evidence presented by prosecutors contained more undisputed facts which weighed heavily against him warranting a trial at the National Court to verify and test out the seriousness of these allegations. Mr. Gora reminded him that although he is committed on charges of uttering and forgery he is not guilty.
McIlwain had created and signed the fixed floating charge on May 6, 1999 against a purported loan taken out by a business entity within the Yama Group of Companies, which Mr. Yama has denied knowledge of. He is alleged of not being BSP MD at the time, nor was he an employee of BSP, therefore, had no lawful authority to sign. Various supporting documents including one from MP Peter O'Neill, a former director and chairman of BSP from 1997 to 1999 stated McIlwain was not employed by BSP. Another director on the board from 1999 to 2000 also stated the same.
After nearly seven years McIlwain and the bank registered charges with the Registrar of Companies. McIlwain argued that because the Yama Group of Companies had failed to register the charge he and the bank had taken the initiave to register it on December 1, 2006: this was to recover monies owed to the bank from the purported loan taken out. Registrar of Companies Alex Tongia, who was deputy registrar at the time the charges were signed, gave evidence that a file search confirmed it was registered years late. Mr. Tongia's evidence described this as 'highly unsual and suspicious' as it breached the Companies Act because the documents looked as though they were photocopied. Mr. Tongia's evidence which Mr. Gora read, "it appears falsified and the altered action is not proper". Mr. Tongia went on to suspect some kind of fraud. Did Yama Group of Companies create charges? "No ... Mr. Tongia's evidence is crucial and raised doubts against the defendant", said Mr. Gora.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Bank Out of Cash. Customers' Fault?

Post-Courier, Feb 9, 2011  
The shortage of cash at the Bank of South Pacific's Buka Branch has irked major businesses operating in the Autonomous Region of Bougainville.
These businesses, who have BSP accounts, cannot continue with their daily operations because of the cash crisis.
One of the copra-buying companies in Buka -- the first to come out publicly against the kind of service BSP offers was Olbert Copra Buyers.
Philip Benson, the manager for Olbert Copra Buyers said the shortage of cash is affecting his company's normal business operations.
"We deal with customers every day and directly paying out cash for their produce. The sellers are people from the villages who want to cash and we run out of cash to pay them because there is not enough at the bank". Mr. Betson said. 
"It is very disappointing for BSP, telling us that cash has run out and we have to wait until other business houses deposit, then we can perform withdrawal."
However, BSP issued a statement yesterday stating that in the Autonomous Region of Bougainville they plan to expand the Buka Branch by the year's end and open a new branch in Arawa and set up two new ATMs in Kokopau. 
"In regards to cash handling BSP charges 2 percent on cash handling. This is for every over the counter withdrawal at a branch. It should be noted that the costs of operating a branch are extremely high considering BSP has to transport money to remote locations, additional security costs from lawlessness, the need for better systems and so forth", BSP said. 
BSP said to get cash to centers such as Buka, the aircraft charter costs along in approx. K40,000 ex POM and a charter is required monthly. Then there are other associated costs such as security that goes with cash movements (armored vehicles, etc). 
"To ensure that businessmen, such as commodity buyers, get the cash to pay growers there is a lot of costs and resources involved and BSP covers these costs through cash handling fees. 
"Cash shortages are extremely unfortunate but are sometimes caused by commodity buyers who place pressure on the branch with unscheduled withdrawals. To avoid such instances, it is normal protocol for commodity buyers to ensure sufficient notice is given to branches". 
BSP encouraged their retail customers to use the SMS banking which is far more convenient, safe and accessible. 
By using ATM and EFTTOS machines in shops and using SMS banking, BSP customers can actually reduce their annual banking fees if the customer manages their banking needs correctly. 
The SMS banking initiative allows customers to do banking 24 hours a day and seven days a week. Through SMS banking customers can transfer funds to nominated accounts, check the last three transactions, top up their Digicel mobile phones and change their PIN numbers. 
BSP has also launched the BSP Rural Initiative with new Rural Agencies already opened in six centers. The centers are Kwikila, Lufa, Henganofi, Banz, Minj and Kerowagi. 
BSP expects to open 100 Rural Agencies in the next 18 months.