Mar 13, 2016 News
Almost nine years ago, three senior officials of the country’s biggest mortgage lender, New Building Society (NBS), ended up in the Georgetown Magistrates’ Court, charged with fraud.
One of the three Managers was Chief Executive Office (CEO), Maurice Arjoon. He was on the verge of retiring when the charges came and he was dismissed from NBS, losing his pension and other benefits.
The court cases were dropped after the main witnesses stopped coming to court. However, stain on the men’s lives and that of their families remained. They have been fighting for years to clear their names and to receive their benefits.
The swearing in of the Ombudsman, Justice Winston Moore, in January 2014, saw Arjoon seizing the opportunity. He filed a complaint. Months later, investigations and a report by the Office of the Ombudsman cleared the men.
The damning report by the Office of the Ombudsman concluded that police wrongfully charged the former CEO and two of his Managers for fraud. The report said that the men suffered grave injustice and should be compensated for losing seven years of their lives.
However, since that report, little has happened to give the men justice. A new Government, under President David Granger, took office in May last year, following early General Elections.
The report of the Ombudsman, in keeping with the laws of the country, was sent to the National Assembly in November 2014, but was not tabled until July 2015, under the new Government.
It has not yet come up for debate or handling.
Today, Arjoon is again calling for the matter to be debated.
Arjoon disclosed that on October 1, 2015, he wrote President David Granger explaining how he has been denied justice.
He is asking the President for a number of things. “I am asking that the Ombudsman’s report be addressed in the National Assembly when Parliament reconvenes. It should include compensation for the victims, by the state, the re-opening of the case and prosecution of the perpetrators of this criminal act.” He told the President that it is now over eight years since this grave injustice commenced.
A civil matter- “Arjoon vs NBS”- has been ongoing for over four years due to various delays with a conclusion not expected in the near future.
“This includes payment of pension rights which has been illegally withheld for over eight years.”
The former CEO said that he asked the President to intervene to help speed up the matter being handled in the National Assembly, the country’s highest law-making forum.
The letter to the President last year was copied to Prime Minister, Moses Nagamootoo; Minister of State, Joseph Harmon; Minister of Governance, Raphael Trotman; Attorney General & Minister of Legal Affairs, Basil Williams and Minister of Public Security, Khemraj Ramjattan.
Indeed, President Granger replied to Arjoon on October 30, 2015, indicating that he has sent the matter to Prime Minister Nagamootoo, who is the Leader of the House, for his consideration.
On November 15, the Prime Minister in a Facebook post promised that as “Leader of Government Business in the House, I am taking steps for a debate on the findings of the Ombudsman.”
Last year when the report was laid in the National Assembly, both Arjoon and his wife were in the Chambers.
He said then it would be a small victory for him and his family. He wanted to see an end to the matter.
“I am kindly asking our new Government to treat this matter as urgent and ensure that all the victims finally get justice and that the perpetrators are dealt with according to law.”
Arjoon claimed that he was framed after he refused to illegally endorse the lending of $2B, in 2006.
Arjoon’s decision to only lend $350M in keeping with the country’s financial laws apparently angered former President Bharrat Jagdeo who allegedly threatened to deal with the CEO.
The Ombudsman’s report also questioned the role that Director of Public Prosecution, Shalimar Ali-Hack, and her husband, Sheik-ul-Hack, played in the investigations. The report also questioned the police over missing key exhibits and failure to follow-up of obvious questions.
The report also called for the case to be re-opened. Also charged were Operations Manager, Kent Vincent and co-worker, Kissoon Baldeo.
The high profile case was widely reported in the media not only because of the amount involved, but because of the fact that NBS is the biggest mortgage lender in Guyana.
Vincent is now the Chief Executive Officer of Food For The Poor, one of the biggest non-governmental organizations in the country. He has sued NBS for $500M. He said that his dismissal left him with a huge mortgage payment every month. For months, he could not even speak because of the shock.
The Arjoon family was literally ostracized by persons that they once knew.
“I told reporters that I am innocent and the truth will come out. Although internal and external investigations at NBS and the trial at the Magistrates’ Courts cleared us, it is solidified seven and a half years later by this report from Guyana’s Ombudsman.” His photos too had been splashed more than anyone in the local newspapers.
He said in 2014: “The persons who conspired to get us charged took away seven and half years and continuing of our lives and that of our families. We have suffered immensely. Their actions can be considered evil and criminal…”
He had asked then for Director of Public Prosecutions, Shalimar Ali-Hack; Finance Minister, Dr. Ashni Singh and former NBS Chairman, Dr. Nanda Gopaul, and others involved in his “frame-up” to be “relieved of their positions, investigated and be dealt with according to law”.
“I will never forgive or forget their evil faces. Through their evil actions, the lives of a few men and their families were taken away and their reputations hurt. Justice has to be served.”
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