…because he refused to lend US$10M for Berbice Bridge
Gopaul “telephoned me and said that as President Jagdeo did not get the $2B for the Berbice Bridge he – the President will “deal with me!” – Maurice Arjoon
Maurice Arjoon, who was one of three New Building Society (NBS) Managers sacked in 2007, has made startling
claims. NBS is the country’s largest mortgage finance entity.
Arjoon said he ran into trouble after refusing to back a proposal to lend $2B to the Bridge committee in 2006 for the building of the Berbice River Bridge.
The claims by former Director/Secretary and Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Maurice Arjoon, were contained in an explosive report by an independent public complaints body. The report was released earlier this month.
The report would have come from a complaint filed by Arjoon back in January with the Ombudsman, Justice Winston Moore.
Guyana would have been without an Ombudsman for a number of years.
On June 1, 2007, Arjoon, Kent Vincent and Kissoon Baldeo were all charged with fraud over the withdrawal of some $69M from a savings account.
NBS has repaid the account holder almost $74M.
The fraud charges were dismissed but NBS had already sacked the Managers citing fraud, negligence and serious misconduct.
The Ombudsman report cleared the three managers, and questioned how investigators recommended charges when there was clearly no evidence in the police file.
Justice Moore noted in his findings that: “The standard required for conviction of a criminal offence is proof beyond a
reasonable doubt for every element of the offence – the acts as well as the mental ingredients.
“Without intending any disrespect to anyone, I would state that carelessness, most species of negligence, foolhardiness or even stupidity are not the standard of proof of guilt for a criminal offence.
“I do not hereby state any finding or conclusion that anyone at the NBS should be blamed for any of these.”
Assisting with the Ombudsman’s independent investigation of the complaint was Henry Chester, Deputy Commissioner of Police (retired).
According to the report, Arjoon in his complaint, said that at the time of the “trumped up charges”, he was six months away from retirement, which would have entitled him to receive a lucrative monthly pension and substantial benefits.
Arjoon believed that an independent investigation would have revealed that persons from the Central Islamic Organisation of Guyana (CIOG), including the Director of Public Prosecution, Shalimar Ali-Hack, did not want to take action against the real perpetrators of the fraud.
The reasons were simple. It was punishment for “certain decisions and/or recommendations I made in the interest of the NBS but were deemed unfavourable to the President of Guyana and certain Directors of the NBS.”
The President back in 2006-2007 was Bharrat Jagdeo.
Government had been seeking monies to finance the construction of a bridge across the Berbice River.
According to Arjoon, while NBS is supposed to be a private company, it is run by persons aligned to the Government and
He said that in 2006, at an NBS Board meeting, three Directors voted for an investment of $2B in the Berbice Bridge, while three voted for zero investment.
“I recommended that the Directors be guided by the Financial Institutions Act in determining the quantum to invest in the Berbice Bridge, to which they all agreed without any objection, thus $350M was invested (then).”
The former CEO said that less than two hours later, he received a call from Dr. Nanda Gopaul, the then Permanent Secretary of the Office of the President, who was part of the Board.
Gopaul is the current Minister of Labour.
Arjoon claimed that Gopaul “telephoned me and said that as President Jagdeo did not get the $2B for the Berbice Bridge he – the President will “deal with me!”
According to the Ombudsman’s report, during his investigation, Justice Moore wrote Head of the Presidential Secretariat, Dr. Roger Luncheon, on the allegations against Gopaul and whether Dr. Ashni Singh, the Finance Minister, did order the Bank of Guyana to investigate the NBS, as a result of the allegation of fraud.
He also asked whether the report of the investigation was deliberately suppressed to the detriment of anyone.
“Dr. Nanda Gopaul replied through the Head of the Presidential Secretariat denying communicating any threat to Mr. Arjoon. In fact, he claimed that he and Mr. Arjoon had very cordial relations up to the time Mr. Arjoon was dismissed by the NBS.
To date no response has been received from Dr. Ashni Singh.”
Arjoon also had other claims in June 2007, “certain Directors of NBS subsequently confided that the President (Jagdeo) called them to a meeting at Office of the President where the Chairman and Vice Chairman lied that the police said they had evidence against me and the two Managers.
“The President asked of the Board ‘Why do you have them there then?’” This is the main reason they agreed to fire us (sic).”
The former CEO said that when written to in January 2008 by his wife, with information attached that the DPP wrongfully charged him and the two Managers, the former President “quickly confirmed the DPP.” Then, amendments to the NBS Act were rushed through parliament and hastily assented to by the President, to make it impossible for NBS members to call special meetings in the event of wrongdoings.”
Arjoon also claimed that in November 2010 – before the criminal charges were dismissed –Jagdeo offered to grant the full pension and benefits in return for dropping the civil lawsuit.
“Given that I was told the civil matter would be drawn out for years, I decided to accept. “The President arranged for me to meet Dr. Nanda Gopaul at Office of the President who admitted that I did no wrong. He agreed for legal fees to be paid by NBS and that I can get full pension and benefits.”
However, Arjoon said that surprisingly, NBS lawyer, Ashton Chase, sent a letter
“advising approximately half of my monthly pension and lump sum due, stating this was agreed to after discussion at the highest level.” Jagdeo was the person at the highest level.
Arjoon refused the deal.
The Ombudsman said that he was of the opinion that Arjoon, the two Managers and Amrita Prashad, another NBS staffer who was charged, had “all suffered injustice, notwithstanding the fact that they were all discharged by Magistrates at the various Preliminary Inquiries.”
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