PARAMARIBO, Suriname – Authorities have made a breakthrough in investigations into the theft of more than SRD$50 million (US$1.7 million) from the Ministry of Finance and Planning earlier this year, with the arrest of the alleged mastermind and another suspect this week.
Robert Khoendjbiharie was taken into custody and a few days later, Mosa Rother, an usher at the Ministry and the suspected mastermind of the crime, was arrested in traffic in Paramaribo.
Earlier reports had indicated that the two had gone into hiding. Preliminary police investigations confirmed that Khoendjbiharie had indeed fled to French Guiana but recently returned to Suriname.
It is alleged the perpetrators used forged receipts and other documents to get the money transferred from the Ministry’s account to their bank account. Several expensive luxury cars purchased with the money on April 25 and June 14 have been seized.
The fraud was discovered in June when the Central Bank found that documents were offered for large transfers against agreements made with the ministry. Opposition legislator Melvin Bouva later raised the issue in Parliament.
The scandal had led to demonstrations in Paramaribo, with protesters demanding the resignation of then Finance Minister Armand Achaibersing. He had consistently denied any involvement in the crime and refused to take political responsibility for it.
However, he subsequently resigned for “personal reasons”.
During his farewell press conference in September, Achaibersing called the crime an “ordinary theft” from ministry staff he had trusted.
He also disclosed that all the money had been recovered. (CMC)