NBS asks court to stay payment to Arjoon pending appeal

Maurice Arjoon

Pending the determination of its appeal of the $79 million awarded to dismissed manager Maurice Arjoon, the New Building Society (NBS) has asked the Guyana Court of Appeal to stay any payments.

Though the court has not granted any stay, Arjoon is yet to begin receiving his severance and other benefits awarded by High Court judge Brassington Reynolds, who ruled more than three months ago, that he was wrongfully dismissed.

In its summons, the bank is asking that payments ordered by Justice Reynolds await the determination of its appeal, but has undertaken to “promptly” honour whatever judgment is finally made should it lose the case.

At the first hearing of the case on Wednesday morning before Justice of Appeal Rishi Persaud, both sides indicated that their respective affidavits had been submitted.

Counsel for NBS, Ashton Chase SC, filed responses yesterday to Arjoon’s affidavit, while attorney Sanjeev Datadin, for Arjoon, will be laying over additional submissions in another week.

Justice Persaud ordered that all additional documents from both sides are to be filed by the next hearing, which is set for November 22. Thereafter, the court is likely to rule on the appeal.

In its challenge to the judgment in favour of Arjoon, the NBS has cited more than a dozen grounds, including that it was erroneous and that pension cannot be awarded together with severance and other benefits when an employee is terminated or dismissed.

The bank said it believes it has appealed on “sound grounds,” but if perchance it loses, it would honour the judgment to be finally given in Arjoon’s favour. According to the affidavit supporting its motion, NBS said it intends to uphold this undertaking, while pointing out that since its establishment over 77 years ago, it has never been in financial distress and anticipates none.

The bank said that while Arjoon can be assured of being paid, should the appellate court affirm Justice Reynolds’ ruling, the same cannot be said should that ruling be overturned and money is to be paid to it by Arjoon.

According to the NBS, it knows of no means available to the respondent to honour any judgment it may be awarded.

The bank is represented by Senior Counsel Chase and attorney Pauline Chase.

Arjoon, meanwhile, is being represented by Datadin, in association with Edward Luckhoo SC, and attorneys Ganesh Hira and Siand Dhurjon.

In addition to the NBS, Trust Company (Guyana) Limited, the executor of the estate of Ahmad Khan (deceased), Seepaul Narine and Nizam Mohamed are listed as the appellants.

On July 20, Justice Reynolds awarded Arjoon a total of $79,282,801 after ruling that he was entitled to recover all benefits that were lost as a result of the dismissal.

Arjoon and two others were dismissed in June, 2007 following the disappearance of $69 million from the account of Bibi Khan.

Among its grounds for appeal, the NBS has argued, that on the basis of the trial judge’s conclusion that Arjoon was wrongfully dismissed by the NBS, he was not entitled to severance pay by virtue of his status and contracts and according to the Termination of Employment and Severance Pay Act.

It also says that pension, which the court also awarded, could not be granted in conjunction with severance or any other benefit that relates to termination or dismissal, and that the judge did not give due attention to the relevant parts affecting Arjoon’s conduct in the NBS rules, the systems manual, the pension rules and the contract signed by him.

Additionally, the NBS has advanced that the overriding defaults in the respondent’s dealing with the withdrawals from the account of Khan were not taken into account by the judge nor did he consider that the person making the withdrawals from the account was not duly and properly authorised to do so, thereby causing NBS a loss of over $79 million.

In his judgment, Justice Reynolds had said that the court found no evidence to substantiate the NBS’s claims that Arjoon committed gross or serious misconduct, warranting his dismissal. The judge had said that it showed no established rules, standards or procedures that Arjoon was guilty of breaching.

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