— faces over $6 billion in lawsuits
THE Guyana National Newspapers Limited (GNNL) is facing serious financial and professional challenges, having to deal with over $6 billion in lawsuits filed against the newspapers for matters relating to publications under the APNU-AFC Government.
Minister within the Office of the Prime Minister, Kwame McCoy, said that the Board of Directors reported to him that as of August 2, 2020, the GNNL was in a financial deficit with a no operating cash flow to meet immediate needs.
“These lawsuits all relate to irresponsible reporting, reckless and careless directions from the former board members, general managers and editor-in-chief. Not only are we faced with these lawsuits, we are also faced with the additional costs of legal representation as these matters go to court,” Minister McCoy noted.
The minister in charge of information said that it is clear that the former general managers of the company, the likes of which include Ganesh Mahipaul and Sherod Duncan, have endangered not only the viability of the company but also the livelihood of its employees.
From August to date, McCoy said the new management team and Board of Directors have started to put cost-recovery measures in place that will hopefully soon realise self-sufficiency.
The editorial team, he said is also being evaluated and changed so as to restore professionalism and pride in the GNNL and its service to the people of Guyana.
Justice Sandil Kissoon, on Friday, awarded $27.5M to the owner of SleepIn Group of Hotels, Clifton Bacchus, for a defamation of character lawsuit filed against former Guyana Chronicle Editor-in-Chief (EiC), Nigel Williams and GNNL.
Additionally, Pasha Global Inc. and Yokohama Trading Guyana Inc., were each awarded $12.5M in damages.
Bacchus, along with Pasha Global Inc. and Yokohama Trading Guyana Inc. took GNNL– the printers of the Guyana Chronicle – and Williams to court following the publication of an offensive article on August 15, 2017.
The front-page headline of the article read, “Tracking the money… Sleepin boss, associate snared in money laundering probe… SOCU tells Gaming Authority investigation on since 2016.”
Further, on pages two and eight of the August 17, 2017 edition of the newspaper, Williams published or caused to be published an article under the heading, “The Dutch Connection… Sleepin Casino Surinamese partner was jailed for money laundering… Bacchus quizzed about permission to import slot machines.”
The former EIC and by extension the newspaper, had tried to create a nexus between Bacchus and the Surinamese businessman’s legal troubles.
Meanwhile, a memo seen by this publication revealed that the former EIC, Nigel Williams, who walked off the job after a change in administration, received millions in a payout from the company after a retroactive gratuity was signed off and approved by the then subject Minister, Moses Nagamootoo.
Also an audit into Sherod Duncan’s stewardship of GNNL has found that in excess of $5 million was spent on 21 transactions which did not adhere to the tender board rules and procedures which govern the corporation.
Additionally, cash advances given to Duncan for overseas and local travel are still to be cleared as he has not provided the necessary documents to support expenditure while the company’s personnel policy and procedures manual were ignored during the recruitment, termination and dismissal of several employees.
Duncan was also accused of making payments outside of established approval processes.
Payments were also made to persons whose name did not appear on the payment invoice for which no receipts were provided, nor was the work certified satisfactorily done.