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Getting information from Andre Curtis was ‘like pulling’ teeth, jury told

Trying to get accurate information from Andre Curtis was like "pulling teeth," according to a Government financial controller.

Mr Curtis is on trial at Supreme Court accused of stealing more than $130,000 from the Faith-Based Tourism initiative Government hired him to set up.

He denies charges of theft and false accounting.

Today, the jury heard from Richard Scott, the financial controller at the Department of Tourism at the time in question. He explained that Mr Curtis had to fulfil certain criteria in order to obtain each instalment of the $400,000 he was contracted to be paid.

That included organising ten FBT events, getting sponsorship, and attracting at least 2,200 visitors to the Island through faith events.

However, Mr Scott said that documents supporting the targets came in "piecemeal" from Mr Curtis and did not give full information.

He cited examples where the numbers of visitors to Faith-Based Tourism (FBT) events could not be verified and expenses were not supported by documents.

"This was a constant to-and-fro between us, trying to work with him and explain what we needed," recalled Mr Scott.

At one point, he even tried to "break down in layman's terms" what was needed from Mr Curtis, sending him a sample invoice listing payments to "Jack, Jill and Bill".

However, the problems continued, according to the witness, to the point where it was "getting a bit taxing" and "it was like pulling teeth".

He and the acting director of tourism, Ian Macintyre, eventually resorted to having weekly meetings with Mr Curtis, which was "not normal" practice.

Mr Scott told the trial he "eventually" got the documents needed to pay the first four instalments to Mr Curtis, totalling $345,250 up to January 4 2008.

Those documents included "letters of intent" from sponsors who wished to get involved with the events, plus copies of emails from vendors and overseas speakers.

Mr Scott said between the contract being signed and the last instalment of the payments being due to Mr Curtis in April 2008: "Faith-Based Tourism was in the media and we even had Parliamentary Questions as a result. So my view was 'let's make sure that we get as much information as we can so if ever Parliamentary Questions come up again about Faith-Based Tourism, we can answer those questions without any problems.' That's when we had these regular meetings with Mr Curtis and the acting director at that time."

Prior to the final instalment being due in April 2008, Mr Curtis submitted a statement claiming he had spent a total of $271,000 on FBT over the course of his contract. However, Mr Scott recommended to Mr Macintyre that no more money should be paid to Mr Curtis.

"I said we have done what we can, we have met with Mr Curtis, and at this point the only recourse we had was to withhold the last payment," he explained to the jury.

"It was violation of the contract. The supporting documentation was not there and we did not have the visitors. The last drawdown was tied to producing 2,200 visitors."

Mr Scott said that numbers of event attendees were sent by Mr Curtis with no details to verify them. He was also required to show how many FBT visitors had been "converted" to regular visitors to Bermuda, but never did this.

Mr Curtis stated that he had done radio interviews about the FBT events, but did not supply proof, according to Mr Scott.

When he informed Mr Curtis that he would not be paid his final instalment, he said his response was that he would get the information needed.

"I will get everything you need," was what Mr Curtis "continually told us," according to Mr Scott.

The case continues.

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Published September 29, 2011 at 3:58 pm (Updated September 29, 2011 at 3:58 pm)

Getting information from Andre Curtis was ‘like pulling’ teeth, jury told

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