Bank tries to repossess home of Tourism whistle-blower
Whistle-blower LeYoni Junos is vowing to fight the bank she says is trying to kick her out of her home.
Ms Junos, who went through a high-profile legal battle after being sacked from the Department of Tourism in 2008, says HSBC Bermuda sent officials to her house on Middle Road, Warwick, yesterday morning, in an attempt to repossess it.
The 50-year-old says she hasn’t been able to pay her mortgage since losing her job when she flagged up concerns over alleged fraudulent activity by a Tourism US contractor.
She says representatives from the bank arrived at her home at 9am yesterday, with police officers, claiming they had the right to repossess her house and car following a court hearing that was held in her absence.
However, she says they left empty-handed when she complained the court matter had not been dealt with in the proper process and that the repossession was unlawful.
“I have a letter from the bank’s lawyers, dated November 14, saying they are planning on coming up here to remove my belongings on the property,” said Ms Junos.
“They said if they don’t hear from me in seven days then they will proceed. By their own communication, they shouldn’t have been here at this time.
“Trust me, there’s going to be something happening over the next seven days. I have decided I need to expose what’s really going on in Bermuda with banks and courts.
“People’s properties are being unlawfully taken from them. This is not just happening to me.”
The bank says it was awarded possession of the property in July 2010 and is acting strictly within its legal rights as owner.
Ms Junos says she has been in talks with the bank over the situation for a number of months.
As administrator of the African Diaspora Heritage Trail Foundation three years ago, Ms Junos flagged up concerns about Maryland-based event planners Henderson Associates, which she said had close ties to then Tourism Minister and Premier Ewart Brown.
She said Henderson Associates published false and fraudulent information about the Foundation, wrongly claiming it had US charitable status.
Shortly after, she says, Dr Brown verbally threatened her with dismissal and then her contract was terminated with no reason given.
A hearing in 2009 found she was unlawfully sacked, but not because she was a whistle-blower or the victim of political interference by Dr Brown.
In Supreme Court, she told Puisne Judge Ian Kawaley that she lost her livelihood and had her mortgage foreclosed because she tried to do the right thing.
Saying she wouldn’t be able to get a job in the public or private sector as her professional reputation had been destroyed, she said at that time: “Where does that leave me with my mortgage and my financial commitments in my own Country?”
HSBC Bermuda said in a statement yesterday: “We remain committed to working with our customers and continue to be available to guide them through challenges.
“We want customers to come into the bank immediately if circumstances present future challenges in meeting existing obligations with the bank.
“Trained specialists work with customers to understand and assess their specific circumstances and review the alternatives. We have found that these early discussions provide opportunities for us to work on all available options.
“With respect to the media query regarding Ms Junos, after many years, and extended legal proceedings, the bank was awarded possession of the property in July 2010. HSBC has acted, and will only act, in strict adherence with our legal rights as owner of the property.”
A police spokesman said: “From time to time the police are asked to assist agencies and individuals to execute court orders. The matter is entirely civil in nature and the only role of the police is to keep the peace.”