A Grand Anse landscaper who was hired by the Grenada Olympic Association (GOA) has given graphic details of money that was allegedly extorted from him by an executive member of the body for work done on the grounds of its headquarters at Morne Rouge in the south of the island.
Josiah Aberdeen spoke to THE NEW TODAY in an exclusive interview about the manner in which the payments were demanded and futile meetings he had with local Olympic association boss, Royston La Hee and General Secretary, Veda Bruno-Victor to brief them on the alleged illegal act.
Aberdeen said that he made three payments to the GOA Executive members totaling $425.00 in kickbacks for the contract that was given to him to do landscaping on the premises located near to a popular supermarket in Morne Rouge.
According to the landscaper, the very first time he got payment it was in the form of a cheque which was handed to him by the Executive member who then dropped him off at a local commercial bank to change it.
“When I came from the bank and I came home and divided the money between me and my wife then (name withheld) calling me and asking me for his money,” he said.
The gardener told this newspaper that he argued with the Olympic association Executive member about the payment that he was asking for since he did not know that he had to give him any money from the arrangement.
He said: “My wife said to avoid thing just give him something. So we decided to give him $125.00”.
Aberdeen highlighted a second encounter with the request for payment from the GOA Executive member.
“(Name withheld) called me from my home, ordering me to come down to the Olympic House, he wants to show me something that he wants me to work on. I rushed down there, only to know that (Name withheld) harassing me if I don’t want to give him his money. We gave him $150.00 there.
According to the Landscaper, he handed the GOA Executive member a third payment of $150. 00 but he and his wife decided not to give any more payments to the individual.
He said that he told the wife that he did not want “these people (in the Olympic Association) feel that I was in some sort of a bubul racket with (Name withheld)”.
“If (Name withheld) wants to collect money from people why (Name withheld) don’t give them people a bill? Why he is trying to use me as a pawn to do so,” he added.
The Landscaper stated that he soon ran into problems with the Olympic association official for resisting his demands for more alleged underhand money.
“Because I refused to give (Name Withheld) the money he demanding from me that is when (Name withheld) started to pressure me. He started to apply more work on me – the time I was supposed to leave he (was) extending the time, extending the days,” he said.
Aberdeen pointed out that prior to this, the GOA Executive member told him that the Olympic body was satisfied with the work being done and decided to give him an additional payment of $25- 27.00 for each day of work.
According to the Grand Anse resident, he was forced to go into the head office to raise the issue of payment for work done as the monies were now slow in coming after he refused to give in to the Executive member.
He said: “I didn’t know that (Name withheld) had to put in a voucher for me to get pay. It’s when we go to the office and I start to explain to the office what’s going on (money extortion) that’s when I get to understand that in order for me to get pay (Name Withheld) used to have to write a voucher and had to send in a voucher in order for me to get pay.
“All the time I didn’t really knew that a voucher had to be placed in order for me to get pay. So the voucher start going in late, and late and later. The last payment that I got, he (GOA Executive member) didn’t put in any voucher for me. Miss Bruno and them that did what they did for me to get pay but he didn’t do it.
“I don’t know if he (GOA Executive member) did it after. It was after I explained to them what was going on then they asked me to stay home, stop work until they sort out this thing with (Name Withheld). Nobody didn’t come back and tell me nothing again so I thought that was the end of it and I didn’t bother with them people again.
The Landscaper spoke of a meeting being arranged by Bruno-Victor to inform President La Hee about the alleged underhand payments made to the GOA Executive member.
“I showed Mr. La Hee the messages that (Name Withheld) sent to me. I even showed it to the (GOA) Office Manager, I even showed it to Miss Bruno when I had the first meeting with her because it is she who get me to speak to Mr. La Hee and to have the meeting and to tell Mr. La Hee what was going on.
The Landscaper spoke of being informed that there will be some General Meeting of GOA to discuss the alleged underhand payments and depending on the outcome they will call him back to work.
“One of the staff down there told me that they had some meeting with (Name withheld) and (Name withheld) threatened that he will give the committee a lawyer,” he said.
Aberdeen denied that any Olympic association official called after to inform him about the outcome of the meeting.
“I thought that they would have called me when they had the meeting to explain myself and to give my side of the story in the meeting in front of (Name Withheld) but that never happened,” he said.
The Grand Anse resident denied that La Hee had told him to bring his wife to a meeting as a witness to these alleged underhand payments to the GOA Executive member.
“I wasn’t told to bring my wife. I was asked to come and give a statement on the development that was taking place. I phoned my wife from Mr. La Hee’s office on my phone. He spoke to her on my phone. I wasn’t told or asked to bring her around,” he said.
THE NEW TODAY asked the Landscaper to give specific details about the contents of the messages that he had received from the GOA member who was demanding these alleged unauthorised payments from him and had showed them to both La Hee and Bruno-Victor.
He said these related to claims being made by the GOA Executive member that he (Landscaper) was no longer performing satisfactorily in an effort to fire him from the job.
“I showed Mr. La Hee those messages when I went to him and Mr. La Hee even came with me to witness that some of the things that (Name Withheld) were claiming that I wasn’t doing was already done.
“Mr. La Hee came to the site – me and him, and I think one of the mister that was working with Mr. La Hee at the company (Geo f. Huggins) apparently.
According to the Landscaper when he visited La Hee at his work place on the Grand Anse stretch, he also received a message of reprimand from the GOA Executive member on his cellphone complaining that he was down on the GOA site and did not see him there doing any work.
He also accused the Executive member of cheating him of monies by sometimes submitting payment vouchers for two days less than what he actually did on the compound.