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NBS to “safeguard” GY$59 million pension benefits to former CEO; denies persons were locked in unlawfully

The New Building Society Limited (NBS) on Wednesday said it would take steps to “safeguard” the GY$59 million in pension benefits paid by cheque to its former Chief Executive Officer, Maurice Arjoon who was dismissed as a result of a fraud probe.

“While the Society paid over the said sum to avoid a confrontation, it will be taking steps to safeguard that sum given the fact that the matter will continue in Court until a final resolution,” NBS said in a lengthy statement.

The Society also defended the decision to close its doors with several persons inside Tuesday afternoon, saying its employees feared a robbery because the High Court Marshals and persons who later turned out to be lawyers and Arjoon’s family members did not identify themselves initially and present a Court Order.

NBS said based on the Court of Appeal decision, if the GY$59 million in pension benefits had to be paid that money would have had to be drawn from the Trust Company (Custodial Trustees) of the Pension Scheme. The country’s leading mortgage institution said although no court order was received for levying on its properties,  when its lawyers arrived at the Chief Office it decided to pay Arjoon from NBS’ funds and would await a refund from the Pension Scheme.

At the same time, NBS said it would await the outcome of an appeal of the Court of Appeal’s decision that the GY$59 million in pension benefits be paid from the Pension Scheme funds, held by the Trust Company (Guyana) Limited assuming it was the final award. NBS’ lawyers on January 9, 2018 and asked the Court of Appeal to set aside the January 4, 2018 order to pay.

Locked in

No mention was made of the fate of several top managers and supervisors who were arrested and taken to a nearby

Deputy Commander of A Division, Wendell Blanhum speaking with NBS lawyer, Pauline Chase

police station as part of a probe into alleged unlawful imprisonment of several persons at the NBS’ Chief Office, Tuesday afternoon from about 12:15 PM. Those senior Society officials were later released on their own recognisance.

Inside the building at the time were several customers, a reporter, a lawyer, Arjoon’s daughter,  a policeman and one High Court Marshal.

However, NBS said after the “storming” of its Chief Office by “unknown individuals”, later identified as marshals of the Supreme Court, lawyers and relatives for Mr. Maurice Arjoon, former CEO of the Society, staff thought a robbery was about to be executed and took action to secure the cash.

“At around 12.30 p.m. on Tuesday, January 23, 2018, a group of men came to the back entrance of the Society’s Office and opened the door of a Nissan Vehicle, owned by the Society and driven by an employee. They ordered the employee out of the vehicle and forcibly took the keys and took possession of the said vehicle.

At the same time, persons were seen coming out of a vehicle with building breaking equipment outside of the Society’s building perimeter. This caused some panic among employees of the Society who thought that a robbery was about to take place. Several cashiers moved away from their posts and the management quickly took a decision to lock down the entity,” the NBS said.

NBS added that subsequently, members of the Guyana  Police Force arrived and management was informed that the persons who took possession of the vehicle and were in and around the Head Office were marshals of the Supreme Court.

The financial institution, regarded as Guyana’s premier mortgage lender, denied locking in anyone against their will but opted to “lock down” the office for fear that a robbery was in progress. “In the midst of the commotion and the absence of a court order being produced, the management took a decision to safeguard the cash while giving customers an opportunity to orderly leave the bank through one entrance. The NBS at no time prevented persons from leaving the office and in an effort to ensure the safety of cash, there was some inconvenience,” NBS said.

Given the manner in which this operation was conducted and the absence, even up to this point in time, of the  Court Order,NBS said “it is our view that the management took the right decision to protect the interest of the Society, its staff and customers.”

“The marshals 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,” said NBS.

The Society assured that if properly served with any instrument or order of the court, “we would readily comply with such an order or instructions.”

 

NBS accused the Marshals of unprofessional conduct and said a complaint would be lodged with their superiors with a view to having an inquiry conducted.

The Society suggested that the police were directed to show up at NBS as part of a plan to embarrass the institution. “The large presence of police officers, some of whom were armed with high powered rifles, makes it appear that they may have been apparently under the instructions of someone or persons bent on embarrassing the Society”.

With regards to the detention of three internal security guards and one external guard from Professional Guard Service as part of the probe of alleged unlawful imprisonment, NBS added that its security system was made vulnerable “the further delay and detention of our Security and Managers after the impasse must be viewed with concern as the Security of the premises was left exposed”.

NBS also said legal action would be taken to” redress this illegal and improper conduct of Mr. Arjoon’s representatives, his Lawyers and the Marshals.” and “the Society will also seek to have a proper explanation from the appropriate authorities concerning the seizure and impounding of one of its motor vehicles.”

 

NBS said the dismissal of Arjoon and two other NBS officials had nothing to do with its investment in the Berbice River Bridge or the intervention of any government officials at the time,

“The Board of Directors of the Society at that time, unanimously agreed to the dismissal of the three officers for serious infractions, including gross misconduct and negligent performance of their duties. The payment of $69M by these officials in an unauthorised manner and under highly suspicious circumstances caused the Society to suffer a loss by re-imbursing the account holder via a court order in the sum of $71M,” said NBS.

The Society says its investment in the Berbice Bridge is a very lucrative one and has been proven to be a correct decision. “The claim therefore by Mr. Arjoon and others must be seen as a mere smoke screen to garner public sympathy and to cover up their failure to follow standard operating procedures in the performance of their duties.”