Jul 08, 2016 News
Director of the New Building Society Limited, (NBS), Seepaul Narine, was taken to task yesterday over the protocol used to terminate the employment of former Chief Executive Officer, (CEO) of the financial institution, Maurice Arjoon.
Arjoon has been involved in a bitter court battle with the Society over the last five years for wrongful termination of his contract and for withholding of pension.
The case dates back to 2007 when the former CEO was accused of conspiracy to defraud the NBS of $69M.
The accusation against Arjoon and the two managers was that they conspired, using a forged Power of Attorney, to withdraw $69M from a NBS account in the name of Bibi Khan. But after he was cleared of the charges, Arjoon sued the Society.
Arjoon’s case against NBS has been protracted over five years.
The matter continued yesterday before Justice Brassington Reynolds at the Supreme Court in Georgetown.
Under cross examination by Attorney-at-law Edward Luckhoo S.C, Narine, a member of the NBS Board of Directors, faced a number of questions about the process used to fire Arjoon.
Luckhoo is providing representation for Arjoon while Senior Counsel Ashton Chase is representing the defendant, NBS.
During the examination Narine, who is expected to be the last witness to testify, was asked about the investigation the board conducted to arrive at the decision to fire the former CEO.
Questioned specifically about the legitimacy of the Power of Attorney which was presented to bank managers for withdrawal of monies from the account of Bibi Khan, Narine said that at the time of the decision, the board had a feeling that the Power of Attorney produced to the bank was not genuine.
He specifically noted that the board was suspicious that the signature of the consular officer in Canada “T. Ramroop,” contained in the document, was false. The witness nonetheless stated that he could not recall whether the board had found otherwise.
Senior Counsel Luckhoo subsequently confronted the witness with a document which was previously produced to the court by his (Narine’s) attorney Ashton Chase.
According to the document read aloud in court, a meeting was held at the Deeds Registry, in which a woman identified “Ms. Paul” confirmed that the Power of Attorney was registered. The woman also confirmed that the document contained an “embossed seal” from the Guyana Consulate in Canada.
The attorney then told Narine to read aloud a part of the information contained in the document.
Narine read that Ms. Paul also confirmed the document contained the signature of T Ramroop, whom she knew, as he is her ex brother-in-law.
At this point, the witness appeared a bit stunned. He told the court that he could not say whether the Board had the document when they came to their decision, but he doesn’t believe that the Board would have consented to judgement if the members were aware of the information.
At the last hearing, Narine told the Court that on August 14, 2007, at a fully attended NBS Board meeting, a unanimous decision was taken to dismiss Mr. Arjoon. Narine had outlined that the reason for Arjoon’s dismissal was negligence.
Given his years of experience as a trade unionist and as General Secretary of the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers’ Union (GAWU), Narine was also questioned about the procedure of terminating an employee in relation to the labour laws.
In response to the questions, the witness said that while all workers have rights enshrined in the constitution, workers with Union representation have more benefits.
Asked whether he is aware of the process employed prior to the sacking of employees under the labour agreement, Narine responded in the affirmative.
He nonetheless stated that Arjoon was invited to the meeting with the board, but he did not attend.
Do you have a copy of the invitation,” asked Luckhoo
“Yes sir,” Narine replied.
The lawyer subsequently asked whether Narine knew of workers’ right to be represented by an Attorney, to which Narine responded that workers have the right to be represented by anyone of their choice.
The witness was later confronted with two letters signed by Attorney-at-law Anil Nandlall. The letters were written on behalf of Arjoon.
The pieces of correspondence were sent on different occasions by Nanda Gopaul – Chairman of the NBS Board – requesting information on the particulars of (negligence), which the Society claimed was the basis for Arjoon’s termination.
According to the letter, Nandlall said that the information was necessary for his client to prepare a defence. The lawyer never received a response from the board.
Narine said that he could not recall the letter, but accepted the suggestion by Luckhoo, that workers have the right to request information to adequately defend their position.
However, the NBS official noted that employers are not obligated to respond to the lawyer’s request, and had done nothing wrong in doing so.
The matter is scheduled to continue at the High Court on July 11.
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