(TRINIDAD GUARDIAN) – Police seized millions more in cash at the Third Exodus Assembly Church in Longdenville headed by Pastor Vinworth Dayal late Thursday evening.
The latest raid was conducted by officers of the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) of the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service with the help of the Financial Intelligence Branch (FIB), as they widened their investigation into the financial operations at the church.
Officers from the FIU are investigating an incident in which the pastor attempted to change close to $29 million in old $100 bills on December 31. That money has since been seized by the police.
“It’s millions for sure,” said a senior investigator who spoke with Guardian Media following the police search at the church that was conducted simultaneously with an operation at an Ocean Avenue home in Gulf View, La Romaine, on Thursday evening.
At the La Romaine house, which is occupied by the pastor’s relatives, investigators only seized documents.
But at the church, investigators said they found large sums of $20, $10, $5 and $1 notes in a large cabinet.
“There were also large evidential bags filled with these notes as well. It’s a lot!” one investigator explained.
Sources said they found thousands of envelopes that contained tithes, according to Pastor Dayal, who was present during the search. The pastor, according to investigators, explained that they had large brown envelopes and white envelopes inside of these brown envelopes. The white envelopes had old $100 bills that were removed to be exchanged and the brown envelopes contained all the “other types of bills.”
Several stacks of the bills were tightly held together by rubber bands that were found in the large bags or inside the cabinet.
Investigators said during the search Dayal kept telling police that he would be vindicated and the money they saw came from tithes given to him by his congregation.
The large sum of money was taken away by officers of the FIU and they will be starting a count on Friday to estimate exactly how much money they recovered on the church compound.
National Security Minister Stuart Young said on December 5 last year that the new polymer $100 bill would help authorities in their fight against money laundering and other illegal operations. The public was advised to change their old $100 bills for the new polymer $100 bills by December 31, 2019. However, the pastor came under the radar after he tried to change close to $29m on the deadline day. Police subsequently seized the money on the Proceeds of Crime Act before Thursday’s raid at the church.