In one of its first major cases, the Office of the Ombudsman has issued a damning report regarding criminal charges filed against three senior managers of the New Building Society (NBS) seven years ago and which has raised troubling questions of meddling in that mortgage entity by the previous administration.
The Ombudsman, Justice Winston Moore, is the independent public advocate who is charged with representing the interests of citizens by investigating and addressing complaints of maladministration or a violation of rights.
Justice Moore was sworn in back in January after several years of Guyana being without an Ombudsman.
In January, Maurice Arjoon, a former Director/Secretary and Chief Executive Officer of NBS, the country’s largest mortgage financing provider, filed a complaint with the Office of the Ombudsman, “alleging a multiplicity of wrongs done to him and two senior managers of the New Building Society Ltd (NBS).”
Arjoon, who worked over 30 years at NBS, claimed that he and two managers were, on June 1st, 2007, “deliberately and maliciously charged for an alleged fraud which the Police and the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) as well as the Board of Directors of NBS knew we did not commit, and which was also confirmed by several investigations at the NBS.”
The former CEO said that after more than three years of delays, his case was finally dismissed, with those of the two managers a year later. He had been six months away from retirement when he was sacked, as a result losing his benefits.
The two other managers were Kent Vincent and Kissoon Baldeo.
In his report which is to be sent to President Donald Ramotar; Cabinet Secretary, Dr. Roger Luncheon; Finance Minister, Dr. Ashni Singh and the Director of Public Prosecutions, among others, the Ombudsman said “the rush to the conclusion that the three top managers had orchestrated a massive fraud from the account of a depositor with their own organisation, is an area that angels would fear to tread, not to mention that Mr. Arjoon, the CEO was six months away from retirement.”
Justice Moore also said that the humiliation and trauma suffered by the managers and their families must have taken a toll on “their health, not to mention the effects of these events on the morale of the NBS staff.”
The report found that missing police files on the charges indicated interference that was highly irregular.
The report also said that Dr Ashni Singh, Minister of Finance, despite being asked, did not comment on the allegations that he deliberately suppressed a Bank of Guyana Report that would have possibly prevented charges being laid.
A junior staffer, Amrita Prashad, should also not been charged.
“I, however, trust that the three senior managers and Ms. Amrita Prashad who clearly appear to me to have suffered grave injustice when they were charged, would receive their due.”
In his claims, Arjoon said he believed that an independent investigation will also reveal that certain influential persons did not want to take action against the real perpetrators of the NBS fraud.
As a matter of fact, Arjoon claimed that the wrongful charge and subsequent termination of services were instituted after his decision to not endorse an investment of $2B in financing from NBS for the construction of the Berbice Bridge.
Arjoon believed that his decision to only invest $350M made high-ranking government officials upset. He also claimed that while NBS is supposed to be a private company, it is run by persons aligned to the “Government and/or the CIOG.”
The accusation against Arjoon and the two managers was that they conspired using a forged Power of Attorney to withdraw $69M from an account at NBS. The case had generated significant attention because the managers were all well-known.
Arjoon has filed High Court proceedings over his sacking and loss of benefits from NBS.
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