The final New Building Society (NBS) multimillion-dollar fraud preliminary inquiry (PI) has been hit with yet another delay, this time due to the absence of Acting Chief Magistrate Priya Sewnarine-Beharry.
Magistrate Hazel Octive-Hamilton who dealt with the matter adjourned the case to October 12 amidst objections from defence lawyer, Basil Williams, who pointed out that it has been more than four years that the case is before the court. “I ask that the court look at its diary,” he said.
The magistrate informed him that the clerk was not in possession of the Acting Chief Magistrate’s diary. She then explained that she did not know anything about the case and “I am just setting a date”.
Stabroek News understands that Magistrate Sewnarine-Beharry has been off the bench since last week owing to personal reasons and is due to proceed on annual leave shortly. All of her matters in the meantime have been transferred to Magistrate Octive-Hamilton.
Evidence is yet to be taken in this case, which has been before Magistrate Sewnarine-Beharry since last November.
Meanwhile, the five defendants—Kissoon Baldeo, Kent Vincent, Ashley Legall, Imran Bacchus and Mohanram Shahebudin—were all present in court along with special prosecutor Hukumchand.
On four occasions in November 2006, it is alleged, $69 million were withdrawn from the account of Bibi Khan by way of cheques.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.
Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Shalimar Ali-Hack had stated that four separate preliminary inquiries will be conducted. Three have been discharged for lack of evidence and owing to the non-appearance of the virtual complaint. The last PI was discharged on November 25 last.
The final PI was later transferred to Magistrate Sewnarine-Beharry after the presiding Magistrate Fazil Azeez recused himself from the case after describing an article on the third discharged matter as “inaccurate, distorted and a form of irresponsible journalism”.