Court finds FNPF paid widow’s $37K to someone else
The High Court in Lautoka has found in favour of a woman who filed action against the Fiji National Provident Fund (FNPF).
It has also called the FNPF’s handling of the matter ‘deplorable’.
The court heard Mohini Chandra filed a case against the fund over her late husband Ramesh Chandra’s FNPF account.
The court heard that $37, 253.63 had been paid out to someone else by a Fiji National Provident Fund staff member.
The matter was brought before Justice Mohamed Ajmeer who said that Ms Chandra had sought an order for the FNPF to release monies kept to the credit of her husband’s FNPF account at the time of his death with interest.
Justice Ajmeer said the defendant has a legal duty of care towards the deceased member, his nominee and the person or persons entitled to claim beneficial interest under his FNPF account.
“The defendant was wrong in releasing the fund kept to the credit of the deceased member to the unknown person,” the judge said.
“As a result, the defendant had failed to exercise reasonable care in handling the full withdrawal application.
“If the defendant had exercised reasonable care, it would not have resulted in the payment of the deceased’s FNPF fund to the imposter.
“The defendant should have deposited all the monies standing to the credit of the deceased’s account as unallocated amount pursuant to section 57 (3) (b) of the Fiji National Provident Fund Decree. The defendant had failed to do so. I, therefore, order the defendant to deposit into the High Court all the monies kept to the credit of the member Ramesh Chandra’s account at the time of his death with interest. The defendant must do so within 30 days of the date of this judgment.”
Justice Ajmeer said the plaintiff’s husband died on July, 6, 2000, in the United States of America, survived by Ms Chandra and their only child.
The court heard, the deceased did have an FNPF account and had never withdrawn from the account at the time of migration.
Ms Chandra made an enquiry with FNPF about her husband’s account and the outstanding balance.
They did not provide any particulars of the account.
It is alleged that whenever she asked for the particulars, FNPFclaimed that the file could not be located.
“Eventually, she was informed that the account had been paid out, but the defendant refused to divulge any further information as to who had withdrawn the monies.
“However, by letter dated September 16, 2014, the defendant informed the plaintiff that the money was paid into the account of the deceased’s bank account in 2008,” Justice Ajmeer said.
Furthermore, the court heard that Ms Chandra did provide a death certificate of her deceased husband, but the defendant maintained its position that the money was released to the deceased’s bank account in 2008 and advised Ms Chandra to liaise with the Bank.
“Now, it has been discovered under the order of the court that the deceased had a membership with the defendant being membership number EE 297, the funds standing to the credit of the deceased was paid out in 2008 into an account in Bank of South Pacific”.
Justice Ajmeer said neither the deceased nor the plaintiff was paid the monies and the FNPF had paid another in place of the deceased.
The court heard that the defendant finally admitted on September 25, 2008, all the monies kept to the credit of Mr Chandra’s FNPF account was released to another person on an application received via post after his death.
The court noted that the monies kept in the deceased’s account were released to the imposter around eight years after the deceased death and it was released on the same day the defendant received the application for withdrawal through the post.
Passing judgment, Justice Ajmeer said the plaintiff was also entitled to indemnity costs, which is to be assessed before the Master of the High Court.
Edited by Caroline Ratucadra