…Says Govt. officials were apprised of the process
Ombudsman, Justice Winston Moore, yesterday addressed what he described as a number of misconceptions and unfair criticisms leveled against his report on a complaint brought by former Chief Executive Officer and two former members of the New Building Society.
Moore told media operatives that what he finds most baffling is the fact that the very persons making the criticisms about the report, never made any objections when he updated and made contact with them during the preparation of the document.
The Ombudsman said that some of the comments being peddled in the media in relation to published excerpts of his report were as a result of persons not thoroughly reading the document.
The report by the Ombudsman concluded that police wrongfully charged the former NBS boss, Maurice Arjoon, and two of his managers for a massive $69M fraud at the New Building Society, in 2006.
The report, which was released this month, was based on complaints by Arjoon on January 16 last, which claimed that he was framed after he refused to illegally endorse the lending of $2B for an investment into the Berbice River Bridge in 2006.
Arjoon’s said that his decision to only lend $350M in keeping with the country’s financial laws angered former President Bharrat Jagdeo, who allegedly threatened via Nanda Gopaul, to “deal with the CEO.”
Fraud charges were laid against the former CEO who served the company for over 30 years along with his two senior managers, Kent Vincent and Kissoon Baldeo.
In briefly examining some of the details of the correspondence with certain officials, Ombudsman Moore related that upon receipt of Arjoon’s complaint, he wrote a letter to Cabinet Secretary, Dr. Roger Luncheon, and attached unedited copies of the complaint among other relevant data.
In his letter to Dr. Luncheon, Moore stated that he required certain information to further determine whether a basis existed to conduct an inquiry; whether Minister of Labour , Dr. Nanda Gopaul, did make a call to Arjoon and the content of the conversation.
He said he also asked the Cabinet Secretary to bring the said allegations to the attention of Minister of Finance, Dr. Ashni Singh who was also implicated in the matter. Dr. Luncheon subsequently told Moore that he was still to receive the response from both Ministers with regard to the allegation.
After writing to the Head of the Presidential Secretariat, the Ombudsman also wrote to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Shalimar Ali-Hack in April. He had asked her, based on his observations, to reopen the case and examine it with a fresh mind. He also sent all the information at his disposal.
He said that the DPP replied that while she was willing to grant his request, she was of the view that the current findings are not enough to warrant the reopening of the case.
Ombudsman Moore emphasized that the reason for his provision of the brief details of the correspondence with the government officials was to show that he dealt with them openly.
No one raised any issues with regard to jurisdiction or the matter being sub judice (meaning that the matter is currently before the court and it is therefore prohibited from public discussion), he said.
“All the while, no one said ‘mind your own business, you’re trespassing and stay out of my territory,’” Moore said.
He added that he had no knowledge of how the report got leaked to the media fraternity but nonetheless, was surprised when he saw some of the comments from certain officials, including Dr. Luncheon, the DPP and Minister Gopaul.
After excerpts of the report were published in the media, Dr. Luncheon had said that while he does not lend much credence to the contents of the report, he was surprised that a former judge would make utterances on a matter that is before the court and as such felt that it showed disregard for sub judice.
The DPP then sought to question the Ombudsman’s authority to deal with such a criminal matter and expressed that she felt such a case was out of his jurisdiction.
Gopaul also questioned whether the Ombudsman had the power to look into the matter and had denied ever issuing any threat to Arjoon on Jagdeo’s behalf for not approving funds as requested.
Ombudsman Moore refuted the three contentions. He reminded that while there is a civil matter before the court in relation to the wrongful dismissal of the former NBS Chief Executive Officer, his concern was the criminal complaint against the public officials.
He said that considering the matter with which he was dealing, he did not see how it disregarded the sub judice law or would even conflict with the current matter before the court.
As for jurisdiction, the Ombudsman said that he was not sharing all of his cards and that he will for the moment, “talk half and lef half.”
He said that the jurisdiction of the Ombudsman is covered by probably the largest section in the Constitution which details the functions and limitations of his post.
Ombudsman Moore stated that after his examination of what was before him, he found no evidence to suggest that the complainant was guilty of fraud, or even had intent to do so.
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