– Says appeal of High Court ruling an unconscionable act
Two former managers of the New Building Society (NBS) who said they suffered terribly from trumped up fraud charges 10 years ago, are calling on the mortgage institution to do the right thing.
Kissoon Baldeo, 48, is now living in New Jersey, US, with his family.
Following news that NBS was appealing an award to pay millions in pensions, Baldeo said he is hoping to bring closure to the worst period in his life, where he was rejected for jobs, among other suffering. He was the former Assistant Mortgage Manager.
Kent Vincent, 56, is now the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the highly respected Food For The Poor (Guyana), a non-Governmental organization involved in charity work.
A former Operations Manager, his life too was torn apart after he, Baldeo and their former boss, Maurice Arjoon, were all charged with stealing over $60M from NBS, Guyana’s foremost mortgage lending institution.
The men were later cleared of the fraud charges and Arjoon, the former CEO, filed a High Court action, seeking his pension and other benefits.
He also filed an official complaint in 2014 with former Ombudsman, Justice Winston Moore, in 2014, asking for an investigation to be launched into his wrongful arrest and charge.
Arjoon claimed he was set up, under the direction of former President Bharrat Jagdeo, because he refused to use NBS monies to finance the construction of the Berbice Bridge. Arjoon said that the use of the monies would have been illegal under NBS regulations.
After Arjoon was charged, NBS nevertheless went ahead and bought shares in the bridge, a structure that was until last year under the control of Dr. Ranjisinghi ‘Bobby’ Ramroop, a close friend of Jagdeo.
A number of board members have reportedly expressed unhappiness over the charges.
Moore, who has since passed away, in his Ombudsman report findings, concluded that Arjoon and his two managers were wrongfully charged.
The High Court last month awarded $79M to Arjoon, representing pensions and other benefits.
However, Justice Brassington Reynolds did not immediately award damages. Arjoon was claiming up to $550M. NBS has since signaled its intentions to appeal the awards.
The matter, for Arjoon and two managers, has now been dragging on for almost 10 years.
Baldeo made it clear this past week that NBS should think the matter through and do the correct thing. It would have the first time that the manager has spoken since the 2007 charges where their faces were splashed in the newspapers.
“After serving the NBS for 20 years I was wrongfully charged for fraud and subsequently dismissed from the Society. After the criminal case was dismissed due to absolutely no evidence, I felt the NBS would have paid me my benefits…pension contributions, severance pay and pay during the four years the court case took. Although there was no evidence, I was forced to file a lawsuit against the NBS seek compensation.”
Baldeo explained that unfortunately, he had to migrate to the US with his family and thus had to withdraw the lawsuit.
“During all these years, me and my family suffer tremendous setbacks…financially, emotionally and physically.”
He said that the embarrassment that the matter brought him and his family cannot be explained. “However, we have managed to overcome this trauma and eventually move on with our lives, but the scar is still there.”
In the US, it was hard to find jobs. Companies who interviewed him conducted background checks.
“It affected me getting a job in the US and negatively impacted my life in every regard… now the court has ruled in favor of Arjoon, I still feel the NBS will do the right deed and compensate the three managers.”
Baldeo, noting that he and his former colleagues were all charged and freed under the same circumstances, made it clear that he is not seeking a fortune from NBS.
“We are just asking to be compensated for what we are entitled to. I do hope that good sense will prevail and the Board now realize the extent of damage that was caused to the three innocent managers and do the right thing by rewarding then for what they deserved.”
Meanwhile, Vincent said that it was difficult to describe the move by NBS to appeal the decision of the court to award benefits to his former boss.
“Yes, I suffered terribly and would like to bring closure. It is difficult to describe…to put into words exactly what NBS is doing. I think it was said that they can drag this out in court indefinitely.”
Vincent, who had spoken in the past about the suffering he and his family faced because of the charges, disclosed that he feels for Arjoon.
“I feel badly for Mr Arjoon. I feel that it is totally unfair, on their part; I think it is unconscionable for them to now appeal. We sued separately…ours is still pending. The same judgment will come, as we followed the same procedure.”
Vincent said he was 44 when he was charged and then fired after serving 13 years.
“I don’t know if they want to see this man (Arjoon) die before he gets what is due. It is wicked on their part to do something like that. Terrible, terrible…people should come out and speak,
Arjoon don’t deserve what happened. I don’t know who could put pressure…they (NBS) don’t have a heart…they don’t have conscience. This is a man’s livelihood. Go ahead and pay the man.”
According to Vincent, persons will have to answer to God for the wrong things they are doing.
“Even if they don’t answer in this life, they will answer in judgment. This appeal is an indictment on NBS. I have not even called Mr Arjoon. What can I tell him? NBS was a place with a heart for the people. If they can do this to someone who worked for them 30 years, giving his best to society, what would they not do to anyone else? They have no heart and they have lost their way.”
The Arjoon family last week expressed frustration by the appeal of NBS.
The former CEO said that the mortgage society had provided no acceptable reason why he was dismissed, and no objection on the pension claim, during the High Court case.
“I was therefore very surprised when the judge “awarded” my pension due for the past 10 years and unpaid salary, but none of the $550M in damages and consequently, it is my opinion that I won the battle, but NBS won the war.”
Arjoon said that he decided to accept the esteemed judge’s ruling and expected that NBS would have done likewise.
Arjoon pointed out that his innocence was also proven during the NBS internal and external investigations, as well as that of Bank of Guyana, since 2007, and subsequently confirmed in court in 2010, and then by the late Ombudsman in 2014.
“I subscribed to a pension scheme for three decades to be paid pension at age 60, yet I was illegally dismissed six months before retirement. My pension rights have therefore been illegally denied from the inception 10 years ago; a blatant violation of the Terminations and Severance Pay Act (TESPA) which is continuing with the non-payment to date!”
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