NBS’ $59M pension cheque to Arjoon clears

Maurice Arjoon

With the honouring of the $59,033,281 cheque he received from the New Building Society (NBS), Maurice Arjoon yesterday finally received his pension in full.

His attorney Sanjeev Datadin confirmed to Stabroek News that as far as he had been aware, there were no hiccups with the transaction, which was done at the ScotiaBank.

“The full amount of the cheque was honoured,” he said, before adding that, “so far as we are aware there is nothing to inhibit our client.”

On Wednesday, Datadin told Stabroek News that the cheque had been deposited as per normal but would have taken a day to clear. This, he noted, is what his client said was related to him when he visited the bank to have the transaction done.

Initially refusing to comply with two previous court rulings to pay the former manager, whom a court said it wrongfully dismissed in 2007, NBS finally wrote Arjoon the cheque on Tuesday afternoon.

More court marshals arriving at the scene on Tuesday

But this was only after his legal team moved in to levy on its assets at its headquarters earlier that day.

Pandemonium broke out at the institution’s Avenue of the Republic headquarters as it attempted to thwart the levy proceedings, which saw the bank locking customers in and out.

Among those locked in after the bank shut its doors during the hours-long standoff were a policeman, a marshal, porters and one of Arjoon’s three attorneys, who had all gone to execute the levy.

NBS has since issued a statement defending its decision to close its doors, saying among other things that its facility was stormed by unidentified individuals and employees thought a robbery was about to occur.

Persons locked in the bank, however, told this newspaper that the police and marshal were clad in uniforms. This was also observed by the Stabroek News during the six hours it spent at the scene.

According to the NBS, the marshal and others “came in unidentified like ‘thieves in the night’ in an unprofessional manner that resulted in the panic, chaos and misunderstanding which took place.”

The levy proceedings succeeded only in removing one vehicle from the compound, before the bank’s doors and gate were shut.

As a result, customers transacting business at the time were locked in, and denied exit, while customers wanting to get in were denied entry.

Sometime during the unfolding drama, the bank, in an apparent bid to avoid further embarrassment, quietly allowed customers to exit through its back gate. Managers of the mortgage institution, whom it is believed had given the order to lock the doors, were taken into custody on Tuesday night and questioned.

Deputy ‘A’ Division Commander Wendell Blanhum told Stabroek News that it is still premature to talk about charges, but noted that the managers have all been released on bail.

Asked whether investigators had spoken to most of the persons locked inside the bank, Blanhum said the police had only been able to contact two attorneys, the marshal, three porters and the policeman who accompanied the marshal to execute the levy.

The Deputy Commander has said, however, that investigations are ongoing and the police will be making efforts to contact the customers who were locked inside the bank.

NBS is likely to face a number of lawsuits for false imprisonment. Datadin had previously said that at least two such customers have contacted him, seeking representation in filing charges against the bank. He, however, clarified that he has since directed them to other lawyers, as he does not want anyone to accuse his client of any vendetta against the NBS.

To its belief that a robbery was about to occur at its facility, the bank has also claimed that persons were seen coming out of a vehicle with building-breaking equipment outside its perimeter, which caused some panic among employees.

News Source’s reporter/ photographer Joseph Allen, who had arrived at the bank to cover the execution of the levy, however, said that the porters with whom the marshal and police turned up, had no equipment to force anything open.

Datadin has also rebuffed the NBS’ claims in this regard. He told this newspaper yesterday that at no time was anyone armed with house/building breaking implements, or tools or equipment to force entry.

No such equipment was seen being carried by anyone—neither those standing around the bank, nor those exiting after the doors were open—by this newspaper.

‘Fully aware’

Offering a justification for the closure of its doors, the bank in its statement said that such a decision was taken because of the commotion and absence of a court order supporting the levy, and that cash had to be safeguarded.

Even after Blanhum and vanloads of armed policemen arrived, management at the bank still refused to open its doors. It was only until about two hours after that the lawmen were allowed in.

Datadin questioned the merit of the bank’s claim of being fearful of an impending robbery, while noting its refusal to open the doors for even the police. If it truly thought that a robbery was about to occur, Datadin questioned whether the NBS triggered any of its alarms or summoned the police.

According to the bank, if properly served with any instrument or order of the court, it would readily comply.

Counsel has said, however, that they arrived with their order and instructions to levy.

He told Stabroek News yesterday that the marshals produced the necessary documents to a staff member, who said she would bring the operations manager or general manager. “They were fully aware of the order. It was clearly… very clearly communicated to the bank,” the lawyer stressed.

Datadin is challenging NBS to make its CCTV footage public, as he said it will clearly demonstrate the falsity of the bank’s explanation.

He said that when the marshals entered the premises, they were polite and respectful and approached the enquiries desk, requesting any available senior staff, while noting that they were there to carry out a levy.

Allen, who was among the persons locked in the bank, had given a similar account.

Pure fiction

Datadin rubbished the explanations given by the bank as “pure fiction and fantasy, which he said were designed to mislead the public and conceal “the deliberate, unlawful activities of the principals of the bank.”

On December 20th last, Justice of Appeal Rishi Persaud ordered that Arjoon be paid pension in the sum of $59,033,000.

This sum was a part of the more than $79 million earlier awarded to Arjoon by High Court judge Brassington Reynolds, who ruled that he was “wrongfully dismissed” and entitled to be compensated accordingly for severance benefits, pension and loss of earnings.

Following the court’s computation from estimates submitted by attorneys on both sides, Justice Reynolds in July of last year awarded a total of $79,282,801 to Arjoon.

Justice Persaud, however, stayed the remaining $20,249,801 that was awarded to the sacked manager for severance.

In its appeal of Justice Reynolds’ ruling, the NBS had said that it would honour whatever final judgment was awarded to Arjoon.

The mortgage institution, however, did an about-face on that undertaking when it filed its newest challenge to the Full Bench of the Court of Appeal, arguing, among other things, that the $59,033,000 awarded by Justice Persaud was not due now to Arjoon for pension, even on the premise that he is entitled to it for his service to the bank.

According to the financial institution, the High Court judgment does not include this figure.

It argues that in the absence of Justice Reynolds’ July, 2017 judgment, which is yet to be made available, the basis for and accuracy of the pension figure is not available for its examination and critique.

The bank holds further that Arjoon is fully responsible for the termination of his services and partly for the more than $70 million it has lost, including legal expenses, for a counterclaim it made.

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

On June 12th, 2007, Arjoon and two other managers, Kent Vincent, Operations Manager, and Kissoon Baldeo, Assistant Mortgage Manager, had their services terminated after $69 million was discovered missing from the account of Bibi Khan.

Arjoon was interdicted from duty before being dismissed. The trio, along with several other employees of the bank, were charged in the matter but they were later freed after Khan repeatedly failed to attend court hearings.

After the charge against him was thrown out, Arjoon subsequently filed the lawsuit against the Society, for wrongful dismissal.

Late Ombudsman Justice Winston Moore had concluded that the three managers suffered a “grave injustice” as he found that there was insufficient evidence to suggest that the trio was guilty, let alone to successfully prosecute them.

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