The qualifications of Public Communications Specialist, Kit Nascimento, came into question yesterday as Attorney-at-law Robin Stoby, S.C continued to grill Dr. Nanda Gopaul, Director of New Building Society, (NBS) about the process undertaken to dismiss three of the institution’s top officials.
The society is being sued for over $500M in damages for wrongful dismissal. This is the second wrongful dismissal suit brought against NBS.
In the first challenge, NBS former Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Maurice Arjoon, claimed that he and his managers, Kent Vincent and Kissoon Baldeo, were set up and charged at the direction of former President Bharrat Jagdeo, after Arjoon 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, and in breach of financial laws.
Arjoon had therefore contended that he and fellow managers were framed and faced charges of conspiracy to defraud the NBS of $69M, back in 2007.
The charges were eventually dropped due to lack of evidence.
Arjoon later won a $79M award against the society in the civil suit. Vincent is also claiming millions of dollars worth in damages in the second lawsuit brought against NBS.
At the continuation of the trial yesterday, NBS Director Dr. Nanda Kishore Gopaul, returned to the witness stand for further questioning by Mr. Vincent’s Attorney, Senior Counsel Stoby.
Gopaul, a former Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Presidency under the Jagdeo administration admitted that inter alia, the three managers were dismissed from the Society before any determination was made in the criminal court.
He was at the time being confronted with questions about the specifics that formed the grounds for the company’s dismissal of the three managers.
In response question of how the Society concluded that the Managers should be fired, Dr. Gopaul revealed that NBS had hired Nascimento to conduct an internal probe of the matter.
“But is he [Nascimento] qualified to be a private investigator?” Stoby enquired.
“We considered him to be,” Gopaul replied.
“I didn’t ask you that, because as far as I am aware, Mr. Nascimento is a known Public Communications Specialist,” Stoby retorted “Can you just answer the question?”
“I don’t know if he is only a communications specialist,” said the witness in response.
Further in reference to claims that one of the reasons Vincent was dismissed was due to the loss which the Society suffered, the lawyer noted the manager was dismissed before this could be proven.
The lawyer pointed out that NBS had consented to the judgment to pay the Account Holder, Bibi Khan, monies after the three managers were dismissed.
“So at that time, [the three Managers lost their jobs] the Society was not under any obligation to pay any monies,” Stoby suggested.
“Would you therefore say that the Society pre-judged the situation and dismissed the three gentlemen?” asked the attorney.
“No I do not agree with you. We didn’t pre-judge anything.”
“But you weren’t prepared to wait until after the criminal trial,” the lawyer added. The witness did not respond.
Stoby alluded to a letter dated August 17, 2007. He noted that the letter was issued before the determination of the criminal trial involving the three ousted Managers.
“In this correspondence, my client, Mr. Vincent was informed that inter alia he was being dismissed because the Society suffered a loss of funds …
“The loss was due to dereliction of duty, negligence… on the part of, the Plaintiff, Mr. Vincent.
“But at that time, none of this had been established by a Court of law.”
Confronted with the information, Gopaul eventually concurred that NBS Manager was send off before his case was proven.
“I am therefore suggesting to you that the action of the Society was unreasonable,” Senior Counsel Stoby added.
“I don’t agree,” said Dr. Gopaul.
The witness instead maintained that the Board took the decision to dismiss Vincent and others because of their failure to verify the authenticity of the Power Of Attorney, (POA) used in the transaction via the Deed’s Registry.
He admitted, however, that holder of the alleged falsified POA was never charged.
The lawyer put it to the witness that there was no need to verify the authenticity of the document since it bore the seal, stamp, and registration number issued by the Deeds Registry.
But the NBS Director was adamant that the Manager did something wrong by not going to the Registry.
Dr. Gopaul claimed further, that investigations proved the Registry did not have a copy of the original POA.
“And you knew this all along but you never mentioned it before,” the lawyer said pointing out that the information could not be found anywhere in the statement Dr. Gopaul had provided.
“I am suggesting to you that this is an embellishment.”
Gopaul denied the lawyer’s charge, claiming instead that it must be somewhere in the statement.
Additionally, the Attorney pointed out that based on the company‘s record Mr. Vincent was dismissed for serious mismanagement but the contract of his employment states that grounds for dismissal should include “gross mismanagement.”
“You would agree with me that those are not the same terms… I am therefore putting it to you that the dismissal letter was improper.”
“I don’t agree,” responded Gopaul.
Questioned about certain loopholes in the NBS system, Gopaul told the Court that efforts were made to have the method of operation fortified before and after the Managers were sent off.
The Attorney had previously pointed out that the Society moved to strengthen its system based on methods prescribed by the Anti-money Laundering and Countering Terrorism legislation— which came into effect long after the men were charged and terminated from their jobs.
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