Khalid Wasi

No statute of limitations on sense of injustice

  • TV villain: JR, played by Larry Hagman, in Dallas in the 1980s

It is hard to tell a true story without names to avoid libel yet it must be told. Further, there are enough people on this matter, who can tell their own story. Understandably there was a time when to mumble would put one at tremendous risk of persecution, but that atmosphere is slowly disappearing. Because of that I will give an account from someone who is deceased but whose suffering speaks from the grave.

Sometime during the early 1990s a man very senior to me, a renowned carpenter contractor, shared a story. Some may remember there was a recession in and around 1993, construction dried up, the housing market plummeted and there was much unemployment. This gentleman, who was perhaps approaching his eighties, was called to the bank because allegedly he had missed payments on his loan.

If you know the older generation, they never missed or liked to miss a payment on anything, and out of habit always paid on time. When he got notification from the bank, he speedily gathered all of his receipts and headed to the bank to challenge its false assertion. He showed them his receipts to prove he was not behind. When the bank teller looked at the loan account number, they said to him yes, you have kept that loan up, but itís the other one of a similar amount thatís in arrears. He said I only have this one loan, to which the teller said no sir you have two loans in your name, and he showed him his signature.

When people get loans, rarely if ever do they have an accountant or lawyer process the application, and if the loan officer asks you to sign three or four pieces of paper, you sign believing they are necessary documentation. Boom! What if you have signed for two loans and without knowing are granted both? What if you have signed, also unbeknown, the right for someone else to manage the second loan? Letís call that, Episode No 1 in a saga that would make JR on Dallas look like a schoolboy.

I opened another laundry and had a house sale that was to cover the cost of development. I received a call from a banker who said very candidly he wanted a piece of the action. I asked what action. His reply: I want a slice of Pembroke Laundry. He did not stop there. He said if I did not give him a slice he would open a laundry to compete with my new laundry, and added that his man would win because he would be his financier.

I refused and the sale for the house was promptly cancelled because the finance for the purchase, which was previously granted, suddenly became unavailable. He also withdrew an overdraft on my construction company, which made the financial picture a bit more of a challenge.

When persons are goaded into complying, one never knows their predicament, particularly a general contractor who is bound by contract to complete a project, or a businessman requiring stock and relying on overdrafts to bridge staged payments or maintain an inventory.

Unfortunately, this was the dark side to the saga for many persons. Then for them to face a double whammy by having the banks consider those who were blindsided or blackmailed as a party to a syndicate was another tragedy added.

Add to this another reality, which is most bank officers had a credit ceiling for authorisation of loans, which meant that if they went over that ceiling they needed dual signatures. Most of the senior officers in the banks in the early 1990s were white, so if anything untoward was committed, everyone who was a party to the transaction was guilty. They could not claim they did not know what they were signing as a cosignatory.

Notwithstanding if a crime was committed, it should have been prosecuted in a court of law; we donít take the law of execution in our own hands. However, as it appeared, to save the face of those cosignatories, and the reputation of the bank, they chose privately to litigate the matter without the proper investigation tools. Hence, persons who were already treated wrong faced a double whammy by having the banks lump them in a category of persona non gratis. This was an all-pervasive systemic crime by multiple institutions, the victims of which were hapless to defend themselves with nowhere to turn for relief.

Today is a different day, and there are statutes of limitations to consider because we are talking about a crime that took place 25 years ago, which no one had the fortitude to challenge. It cannot be challenged today. The older gentleman I referenced died shortly thereafter; it was a blow to him, from which he never recovered.

The story will not die because there are too many still living who can recite every line, chapter and verse.