Court rules in favour of wrongfully dismissed NBS boss – orders compensation
More than a decade ago, Maurice Arjoon was hauled before the Courts on allegations of fraud and misconduct perpetrated against the New Building Society, (NBS).
Arjoon, a former Chief Executive Officer, attached to the financial institution was accused of conspiracy to defraud NBS of $69M.
Arjoon was on the verge of retiring when charges against him were instituted; he was dismissed from NBS, thus losing his pension and other benefits. He therefore sued NBS for wrongful dismissal and for withholding his pension.
The case dragged on for in excess of six years in the Court. And after months of delay in providing a judgment, the Court finally ruled yesterday. Arjoon was however not present for the hearing, reportedly due to his ill health.
The presiding Judge, Brassington Reynolds handed down a ruling in favour of Arjoon around noon. He essentially ruled that Arjoon suffered as a result of wrongful dismissal from NBS and should be compensated financially for the damages. The Judge also determined that the former executive is entitled to his pension, and severance benefits stipulated by law.
The Court however made no specific determination of the sum to be awarded. The former Executive Director had sued for some $550 million worth in damages.
Counsel for the plaintiff, Edward Luckhoo, (S.C) therefore requested that the Court make a calculation of the award. He noted that it should not be left to opposing parties to determine such figures. His request was acceded to by Counsel for NBS, Mr. Ashton Chase (S.C). The Court is therefore expected to give a computation of the amount in damages today. The Court nonetheless awarded court cost to the tune $200,000.
Reynolds offered his profound regrets for the delay in rendering the decision. The judge blamed the setbacks on his extensive administrative obligations. The Judge noted that in addition to his work, he dealt with the death of two close family members this year— his mother and son.
In a summation of the evidence provided in the civil trial, Reynolds pointed to the testimonies of witnesses of the defence as well as the evidence provided by Arjoon, himself.
He noted while NBS claimed “just cause” for the summary dismissal of Arjoon, the defendants did not underscore in the evidence led, the circumstances of the alleged misconduct.
The Judge said further that the New Building Society provided for summary dismissal in cases of misconduct. The Society had cited Arjoon for serious misconduct; a term which he (Arjoon) said could not be justified.
NBS had pointed to the withdrawal of almost $70 million from a saving and prosper account belonging to Bibi Shamina Khan. The withdrawal was made by way of a Power of Attorney; a matter which the society took an issue with. In a letter addressed to Arjoon prior his dismissal, the society said the unauthorized withdrawal was due to a dereliction of duty, fraud, neglect and or serious misconduct on the part of the former CEO. The Society had concluded that Arjoon had acted with serious misconduct.
But, the Court in its ruling determined that NBS failed to provide evidence which amounted to misconduct on the part of Arjoon, serious or otherwise.
“It is more probable than not that the Plaintiff was dismissed without reasonable or probable cause.”
Additionally, the Court ruled that the defendant failed in its bid of a counterclaim.
It had been noted, too, that in lieu of his dismissal, the plaintiff was invited to a meeting with the Board of the Society. Arjoon had requested through his attorney, Anil Nandlall, particulars of the alleged breach of his contract — but the Society refused to supply Arjoon with particulars it reportedly identified as part of the breach.
The Court said that the plaintiff by law was entitled to particulars of the allegations levelled against him but they were never given to him.
The Court therefore concluded there was no justification for NBS’ allegation.
Further the Court outlined that recommendations were made for the strengthening of the financial system of NBS following the matter involving Arjoon in 2007. The Court opined that it could be safe to say that at the time of the withdrawal, systems were not in place.
“The failures, gaps and omissions were therefore systematic and not to be attributed to the officer that sat at the pinnacle of the chain of command.” The Court therefore declared that the system ought to have been better enforced.
Back in 2007, Arjoon was accused of conspiracy to defraud the NBS of $69M along with Kissoon Baldeo, 38, of 86 Zeeburg, West Coast Demerara (Assistant Mortgage Manager of NBS) and Kent Vincent of 1247 Canje Pheasant Lane, South Ruimveldt (Operations Manager). They had faced a trial in the Magistrates’ Court.
That matter was later dismissed for lack of evidence. The former CEO claimed that he was framed after he refused to illegally endorse the lending of $2B, in 2006; moved to sue NBS for wrongful termination of his contract.
A report by the Ombudsman had outlined that Arjoon’s decision to only lend an amount in keeping with Guyana’s financial laws, apparently angered former President, Bharrat Jagdeo, who allegedly threatened to deal with the CEO.