Former Director/Secretary Maurice Arjoon and Amarita Prashad were this morning freed of any connection to the 2006 New Building Society (NBS) $69M fraud case which has been dragging along for over three years now.
Magistrate Fazil Azeez discharged two of the preliminary inquiries (PI) based on insufficient evidence.
The other defendants Kissoon Baldeo, Kent Vincent, Ashley Legall, Imran Bacchus and Mohanram Shahebudin although freed of the same charges still have to return next month for a third matter which is yet to start.
The first discharged matter reads that on November 1, 2006 the seven defendants allegedly withdrew $15M from the account of Bibi Khan in the form of two cheques.
The second charge reads that on November 8 the defendants conspired with others to withdraw $32,230,384 from Khan’s account using two cheques.
According to the third charge, on November 17, Bacchus, Legall, Shahebudin, Baldeo and Vincent allegedly conspired to withdraw $22,664,000 from Khan’s account by using two cheques.
Special prosecutor Sonia Parag told the court that during a meeting with the Director of Public Prosecutions she was instructed to proceed with the third matter and that she (the DPP) was not going to respond to her letter asking for the matter to be withdrawn.
Earlier this year, the prosecution was forced to close their case without the testimony of the complainant, Bibi Khan, from whose account the $69M was said to have been stolen. It was for this reason; the unavailability of this main witness that efforts were made to have the third charge withdrawn.
Defence lawyers and the magistrate expressed surprise and frustration at the DPP’s instruction to proceed with the case which would yield the same result as the other two.
One of the lawyers Abiola Wong in asking for an early date for the commencement of the third matter said that after being before the court for years, the lives of the defendants have once again been put on hold.
She noted that the decision on how to proceed has to be made by the court.
The magistrate in his address said that for some reason they (the DPP) still want to hold on to the case. “I can’t scratch it (the jacket) up. I don’t have that power. Regrettably it has to be heard and I have to give a date… This is a waste of the judicial process”, he said.
He later noted that unfortunately he has to “come back and write the same evidence all over again”.
Arjoon in a brief statement to the court said that when the fraud was unearthed, he was nine months from retirement and would have been eligible for pension and other benefits.
“I have never been to court in my entire life”, he added.
The magistrate later advised him and the other defendants to proceed to the High Court.
The third case begins on December 20.
It was alleged that by way of cheques, cash in various amounts were withdrawn on four separate occasions in November 2006 from Khan’s account.
In early 2009, the then presiding Magistrate Nyasha Williams-Hatmin discharged one of the matters on the basis that there was not sufficient evidence to proceed.