Andre Curtis. *File photo
Andre Curtis. *File photo

WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 28: Businessman Andre Curtis stole more than $100,000 of Government money he had been given to organize faith based tourism events on the island, a court heard today.

Just days after signing a contract with the Department of Tourism in April, 2007, Mr Curtis, 49, from Warwick, used $89,000 of the money he had been allocated for a ‘personal transaction’, prosecutor Kirsty-Ann Kiellor told a Supreme Court jury this morning.

She said Curtis, also the founder of Harvest Investment Ltd, had been given a $400,000 grant to organize a series of religious events designed to bring tourists to the island.

Prosecutors allege he did not use all of that money for the purpose intended and then lied to Government about how much cash had been invested in the project.

Ms Kiellor told the jury: “You will hear that during the course of the 12 months, Mr Curtis was diverting funds paid by Government into Harvest’s account.

“They were used for things other than running Faith Based Tourism or putting on events. These were personal transactions. Theft.”

Mr Curtis is charged with stealing just over $130,000 from Government and falsifying accounts in relation to his work with Faith Based Tourism.

When he was asked by Department of Tourism staff about where the money had gone in 2008, the court heard Mr Curtis produced a document suggesting he had spent a total of $500,000 — including $340,000 in Government money and $165,000 from his own firm Harvest Ltd.

Ms Kiellor said witnesses would testify that there was no investment from Harvest.

“You're going to hear that there was no $165,000 to add to this pot that was spent, and the figures he gave were fictitious and wholly wrong.

“The figures he gave the department were wrong and he knew it. He must have known it,” she said.

Cherie Whitter, who was the permanent secretary for the Department of Tourism and Transport at the time, testified that Mr Curtis had approached the department with the idea to stimulate tourism through faith-based events.

She said he was hired to run and manage the initiative in April 2007. Outlining the terms of his contract she said the expectation was that he would organize at least 10 events bringing 2,200 tourists to the island. He was also required to solicit additional sponsorship to help the events succeed.

The grant money from Government was to be paid in installments based on Mr Curtis’ ability to meet those goals, she said.

The contract also gave Department of Tourism staff the right to examine and audit his books to ensure ‘the funds were used for the purpose they were intended’, said Ms Whitter.

She said there was no agreement or discussion for the money to be used for anything other than faith based tourism events.

Ms Whitter said she left the department shortly after the contract was signed.

Mr Curtis faces a second charge of theft of more than $140,000 from Andrew Smith in connection with a second business — Vision Construction.

Prosecutors claim he used money paid to his construction firm for the renovation of Mr Smith’s two-bedroom apartment for personal gain.

He denies two charges of theft and one charge of false accounting. The trial continues.