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Services at local Western Union outlets were put on hold earlier in the week leaving customers short of cash, some needing it to pay bills and others to enjoy the opening of the Carnival season.

A hiccup in what was expected to be a smooth transition of the business at the end of June from previous agent British American Co. Ltd. to Jamaican-based firm GraceKennedy led to the suspension of services on the weekend.{{more}}

A release issued by US-based money transfer service, Western Union, on Monday confirmed the suspension of its service here stating “Operations are being suspended because Western Union recently appointed GraceKennedy Money Services as its new agent for St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and the companies are awaiting approval of local licensing to operate in the area.”

Searchlight has learnt that two local businessmen are heading a local group which was successful in winning the bid to represent GraceKennedy Money Services locally.

The hold up in the granting of the “local licensing” left a number of persons standing outside the new location of Western Union hoping to get some answers.

“This is not right, I had to travel all the way down from Georgetown and no one is telling us anything,” one disgruntled customer told Searchlight on Monday.

Another lady who gave her address as being Sandy Bay made no apologies in venting her frustration to the press. “I can’t wait until the week finish for my money, I have things to do and they are holding me up.”

Though no official announcement was made to the public about the new location of the Western Union offices, persons were seen flocking outside a closed ground floor office space on Granby Street, opposite the old public library.

When Searchlight contacted GraceKennedy officials responsible for the transition of the money service, they expressed concern over the issue, but however, remained tight-lipped on any official information relating to the hold up.

“I can assure you we are following the matter,” one official said, “but as far as we are concerned Western Union has already issued a public statement and has promised to provide updates should the situation change. So we would prefer to stick to the information issued by Western Union.”

Checks at the Finance Ministry on the issue revealed that so far government and Western Union/GraceKennedy officials are trying to have the matter resolved.

Officials from the Ministry of Finance told Searchlight that an application was sent to the ministry applying for a license under the Money Act 2005 to carry out money transactions here.

“The application did in fact reach the Ministry of Finance late and the ministry is processing the matter,” the finance ministry confirmed on Wednesday.

The Grace Kennedy firm, which was recently awarded the contract for Western Union’s Eastern Caribbean operations, operates Western Union franchises in Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago.

Remittances in the form of money transfer payments to Caribbean countries including St. Vincent and the Grenadines amount to some US$5 billion each year.

Up to press time it was a virtual wait-and-see situation, as local Western Union services remained suspended.