Magistrate recuses self from NBS fraud PI

– cites article in this newspaper

Magistrate Fazil Azeez yesterday recused himself from the final New Building Society (NBS) multi-million dollar fraud preliminary inquiry after describing a recent article on the matter as “inaccurate, distorted and a form of irresponsible journalism”. Yesterday, the fourth preliminary inquiry was set to begin. The others have all been discharged for lack of evidence and owing to the non appearance of the virtual complaint. The last discharge occurred on November 25.

The five defendants; Kissoon Baldeo, Kent Vincent, Ashley Legall, Imran Bacchus and Mohanram Shahebudin in this matter was present yesterday. Azeez, while not going into details about the article which was published in this newspaper on November 26, stressed that reporters in the court system should have the relevant training so they would be aware of “what to write and what not to write”. He pointed out that in cases where there are inaccuracies he does not blame the reporter but rather the management of the media house since they should “train people so they would know what to do and what not to do”.

The magistrate explained that because of how the story was written there was an inference that he had taken a certain position. He added that at the last hearing he said that there was insufficient evidence and this was the grounds he used to discharge the matter. “It is as a result of this [the article] that I am rescuing myself from these proceedings…. It seems it is the magistrate who took sides in the matter,” he said adding that he will be sending the case to the chief magistrate for reassignment. Meanwhile, Basil Williams, attorney for former manager Kent Vincent indicated to the court that “this will be the third magistrate and we are going nowhere”.The matter will be heard again in Court One tomorrow. On four occasions in November 2006, it is alleged, $69 million were withdrawn from the account of Bibi Khan by way of cheques. The five defendants along with former director/secretary Maurice Arjoon and Amarita Prashad were subsequently charged.

The case has endured many delays over the years.