Feb 26, 2019 News
The Confidential Secretary attached to the New Building Society (NBS), Antonia Chichester, is the first witness to take the stand in the second wrongful dismissal lawsuit filed against the financial institution.
About a year ago the financial institution faced a similar lawsuit filed by its former Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Maurice Arjoon.
The High Court ruled in favour of Arjoon, who claimed he and his Managers (Vincent) among them, were set up and charged, at the direction of former President Bharrat Jagdeo, after he refused to sink almost $2B of NBS money into the construction of the Berbice River Bridge.
The CEO claimed that the lending of NBS money in that manner would have been highly illegal, breaching financial laws.
It’s against this backdrop that the case has its genesis. Arjoon, Vincent and fellow Manager, Kissoon Baldeo, faced charges of conspiracy to defraud the NBS of $69M, back in 2007.
The men faced a trial in the Magistrates’ Court. The charges were later dismissed for lack of evidence. Citing irreparable harm from the negative publicity and loss of salaries and benefits, Arjoon and Vincent moved to the High Court to seek redress.
In separate lawsuits, both the former CEO and the Manager each claimed $550 million in damages from NBS for the wrongful dismissal.
After about seven years of intense legal battles, Arjoon was finally granted judgment by the Court to the tune of some $79 million.
Kent Vincent who is now the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Food for the Poor (Guyana), has been anticipating his day in court.
Yesterday marked the beginning of his case before Chief Justice Roxane George-Wiltshire. During the hearing, Chichester, who is a Confidential Secretary attached to the financial institution for the past 28 years, faced questions about her knowledge of NBS systems‘ manual and rules. She told the court that she could not recall many of the events which date back to 2007.
The witness also faced questions relating to procedures and documents she would have allegedly prepared and handled during that year.
While she told the court that she could not identify in the documents the signature of Maurice Arjoon whom she worked under for several years, Chichester said that she could recognize some of the signatures on the documents.
She admitted, too, that the systems manual and rules of the institution could not be changed or amended without the approval of the Board of Directors at NBS.
The matter has been adjourned to March 4, 2019. On that date, the Court is expected to call a member of the Board of NBS, Dr. Nanda Gopaul. He later became a Permanent Secretary in the Office of the President, under the Jagdeo administration and then the Minister of Labour. Also sitting on the Board then, was union leader, Seepaul Narine.
The NBS Board is currently chaired by Floyd McDonald, a former Commissioner of Police. Attorney Devindra Kissoon is representing the institution
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