Days after an explosive report that spoke of wrongful fraud charges against Chief Executive Officer, Maurice Arjoon
and two senior managers, Kent Vincent and Kissoon Baldeo of the New Building Society (NBS), a former Board member and now senior Government official, has denied he ever issued any threats.
Minister of Labour, Dr. Nanda Gopaul, who was also a former Board member of NBS, the country’s largest mortgage financing lender, also questioned whether Ombudsman, Justice Winston Moore, even had jurisdiction to review the matter.
However, the Act governing the Ombudsman states; It shall not be necessary for the Ombudsman to hold any hearing and, subject as hereinbefore provided, no person shall be entitled as of right to be heard by the Ombudsman. The Ombudsman may obtain information from such persons and in such manner, and make such inquiries, as he thinks fit.
If, during or after any investigation, the Ombudsman is of opinion that there is evidence of any breach of duty, misconduct or criminal offence on the part of any officer or employee of any department or authority to which article 192 of the Constitution
applies, the Ombudsman may refer the matter to the authority competent to take such disciplinary or other proceedings against him as may be appropriate.
Gopaul also insisted that Arjoon and the two Managers were sacked for “dereliction of duty, negligence and serious misconduct”.
The CEO complained in January that he and the two Managers, back in June 2007, were deliberately and maliciously charged for a $69M fraud committed at NBS. The fraud was said to have been committed in late 2006.
In his complaints to the Office of the Ombudsman, Arjoon claimed that he was framed after he refused to back a $2B investment in the Berbice River Bridge.
Rather, NBS Board of Directors, voted for $350M. That vote on that investment by the Board, in which Arjoon participated,
apparently angered former President Bharrat Jagdeo, according to the Ombudsman’s report.
Arjoon claimed that he was told this by Gopaul in 2006. Months later, fraud charges were laid.
Yesterday, the Minister in a statement said, “There seems to be a lot of spin, political and otherwise, on the Ombudsman’s report on a complaint by Mr. Maurice Arjoon against his prosecution as a result of a fraud committed at the New Building Society in 2006.”
He said that reports emanating from the media would give one the impression as if senior Government functionaries, including Jagdeo, had a hand in some form of victimization against Arjoon.
The Minister slammed the report.
“I wish to categorically state that had there been a proper investigation done and persons who have been accused of certain wrongdoings given an opportunity to be heard, it would have been revealed that all the accusations made by Mr. Arjoon are baseless.”
Gopaul said that the Ombudsman’s report on the complaint, which was released earlier this month, implicates a number of persons who were never afforded an opportunity to respond to the allegations made against them and therefore, it violates the principles of natural justice and most basic requirements of fairness and due process.
“Importantly, the learned Ombudsman does not have the mandate and jurisdiction to review the decision of a private
company to dismiss its employees.
“The fact that the company (NBS) was not even consulted simply compounds the wrong.”
Even worse, Gopaul said, the Ombudsman embarks upon an inquiry to review a dismissal and to make findings thereon when that very issue is the subject of active litigation filed by Arjoon in the High Court.
“The report therefore, has been done in complete disregard of the sub-judice principle. Legal advice is currently being sought on what actions can be taken in challenge to this most unfortunate report.”
Gopaul also released a copy of a response he had sent to the Ombudsman’s office in January in which he denied ever making any threatening telephone calls to Arjoon on any matter whatsoever.
“Mr. Arjoon and I, along with other Board members, shared a very cordial relationship up to the time of his dismissal and even socialized together on several occasions after the initial Berbice Bridge investment,” he said in the letter.
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