-demands apology, retraction
Republic Bank Limited (Guyana) is threatening legal action against Kaieteur News for two articles that implicated the commercial institution in an allegation of money laundering.
According to a letter sent out by Cameron and Shepherd Law Firm, yesterday, Republic Bank said that it is seeking an apology and retraction for the articles appearing in Kaieteur News on January 6 and January 7, 2016 in addition to $5 million worth in damages.
The document stated that the Bank will proceed with legal action, if the newspaper fails to comply with these demands within the next seven days.
The articles in question appeared on the pages 3 and 7 of Kaieteur News on January, 6 and January 7, 2016 under the headline “SARU probes local Bank accused of money laundering” and “Probe into money laundering by SARU: No evidence of wrongdoing by Republic Bank — says Central Bank” respectively.
The legal correspondence outlined that the said articles, which name Republic Bank are replete with untruths, are false, malicious and inaccurate statements, conclusions and inferences that have been maliciously contrived to irreparably injure the impeccable reputation of our client, which is the largest commercial bank in Guyana with a reputation for excellence in all aspects of its business and a subsidiary of Republic Financial Holdings Limited, which owns other banks throughout the Caribbean.
According to the letter, the first untruth in the article published on 6th January is that a deposit of $82,068,617: was effected to the bank account of a sitting government minister on June 16, 2011.
The second untruth is the insinuation that the alleged deposit of $82,068,617 was effected by Haresh Narine “Chinee” Sugrim, the proprietor of Guytrac.
According to the letter the first article also insinuated that because Mr. Sugrim was accused in the United States of money laundering, the Bank was somehow involved in money laundering.
It was noted that following this article, the Bank of Guyana, which has sole statutory regulatory control over commercial banks, issued a statement that after a full investigation it had found no wrongdoing by our client.
However, the document from Cameron and Shepherd pointed out the article published on January 7, while mentioning the statement of the Bank of Guyana, improperly, irresponsibly and recklessly sought to defend the untrue statements in the preceding article and to repeat the untruths falsehoods, misrepresentations, and insinuations.
“Had you chosen the path of responsible journalism by making enquiries, you should have ascertained that the circumstances of the matter relate to the failed business of Precision Woodworking Limited, which has been placed in receivership by our client, (Republic Bank) for recovery of a debt of over half a billion Guyana dollars, which debt was personally guaranteed by its directors, Ronald and Rustum Bulkan.” the letter said.
After the company was put in receivership, the document stated that, three legal actions were filed by the company and its two directors against the Republic Bank.
Only one of those actions, Precision Woodworking and Ronald and Rustum Bulkan —v- Kashir Khan and Republic Bank Guyana Limited — Action No. 298/CD of 2012, Demerara survived.
In that action, the lawyer’s letter noted that very issue of the alleged deposit of $82,068,617 was raised by the plaintiffs (Ronald and Rustum Bulkan) and has been fully answered and explained by Republic Bank in paragraph 20 of its defence and counterclaim and paragraph 33 of the witness statement filed on its behalf, both of which are public documents and in which it is stated:
“[T]he loan facilities granted by the Bank to the Company because of the admitted inability to pay by the Company and the voluntary closure of its business became non-performing and the Bank was obliged under the provisions of the Financial Institutional Act and the Rules and Orders made there under to make book provision for the Company. In so doing, the Bank provisioned for the sum of $82,068,617 which appears as a credit to the company’s account.”
“The said sum of $82,068,617 however represents a provisioning entry passed in accordance with the Financial Institutions Act and the Rules and Orders made there under,” the legal letter explained
It went on to note that “by virtue of the failure of the company to pay its indebtedness to the Bank, to which the Financial Institutions Act and its Rules, Regulations and Orders apply, could no longer recognise the sum of $82,068,617: as an asset on its books and an accounting entry was passed through equity to reflect this. This accounting entry does not have the effect of reducing the indebtedness of the Company nor does it represent a credit to the Company’s account.”
It was noted that the matter was explained to the Plaintiffs and their Attorneys-at-Law and their failure to understand it does not mean that the explanation was incoherent.
“The provisioning entry was not, therefore, an actual deposit and it is false and untrue to say that it was. Moreover, it is completely false, malicious and untrue to suggest that the alleged deposit of $82,068,617: was made by Haresh Narine Sugrim and that our client was somehow involved in money laundering.”
The letter therefore said that the two articles published by Kaieteur News are false, malicious, irresponsible and amount to serious libels committed by the publication.
In the circumstances, the Firm was instructed to demand, an immediate retraction of the articles and an unequivocal apology from the newspaper and an undertaking not to write and/or publish any further articles relating to this matter, save and except the apology.
“Our client also demands damages for the loss and damage it has suffered as a consequence of the aforesaid libellous publications in the sum of $5 million to be donated to a charity of our client’s choosing.”
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