Crane Bank Saga Leaves Bank Of Uganda Naked, Facing Public Scrutiny

Sudhir chats with one of his lawyers COURTESY PHOTO Sudhir chats with one of his lawyers

Bank of Uganda (BoU) had a torrid 2017 as the Crane Bank saga weighed on the country’s central bank. What began as an everyday activity to supervise and regulate the banking sector when they took over and subsequently sold Crane Bank to DFCU turned out to be a big speck in the Emmanuel Tumusime-Mutebile led regulator’s eye.

As events unfolded and more information made its way into the public domain, it turned out that Bank of Uganda which is mandated by the law to regulate and monitor the banking sector was largely at fault for failing efforts by former Crane Bank owner Dr. Sudhir Ruparelia to recapitalize the commercial bank.

In a defense filed by Dr. Sudhir Ruparelia contesting the fraud charges brought against him by Bank of Uganda, the businessman denied all fraud charges and wrong doing which reportedly caused Crane Bank to lose about Ushs400Bn. The businessman tasked Bank of Uganda to prove their allegations.

To settle the scores, mediation between Crane Bank and the businessman was suggested. The mediation proceeding have yield more positives for Sudhir Ruparelia than Bank of Uganda. Information coming through indicate that Bank of Uganda was incompetent and failed to execute their mandate something that worried the public.

Claims of corruption and conflict of interest made rounds in public domain. At one point a private citizen sued the central bank for incompetence and supposed conflict of interest.

Some sections of the public wonder why Bank of Uganda rushed to sell off Crane Bank yet the owners, the Ruparelia Group, were looking for reinvestment capital. Dr. Sudhir Ruparelia, who founded the bank in 1995, and is a leading and renowned investor in the country, maintained a leading role in bank’s growth.

The lack of clarity of issues contested and bizarreness of how the central bank handled the Crane Bank issue was a big concern to many experts in the banking sector with many predicting a collapse in the banking sector. This saga in the long run has kept significant numbers of bank users away from the banking halls as many withdrew their money and kept it home or on mobile money.

Since 2015, Bank of Uganda has closed down more than three commercial banks. In the process, many customers lost their money and businesses. The warring manner in which Crane Bank was taken over and sold was a worry to bank users.

Many people lost trust in commercial banks and Bank of Uganda. They felt safe with their monies in their houses instead of commercial banks that would be closed down easily.

Bank of Uganda reportedly spent four billion shillings (Shs4bn) on lawyers and auditors while pursuing Dr. Sudhir Ruparelia in the Crane Bank saga. The money was reportedly paid to a local law firm Messrs. MMAKS Advocates and two international audit and accounting firms, PriceWaterHouse Coopers (PwC) and Klynveld Peat Marwick Goerdeler (KPMG) in legal and ‘management’ costs, respectively.

However the money that was spent to MMAKS Advocates and David Mpanga from FK Mpanga and Company Advocates was money wasted. In late December, tycoon Sudhir Ruparelia received an early Christmas present from the justice system after the high court disqualified the two firms due to “conflict of interest” and “breach of advocate-client relationship”.

The commercial division of the high court ruled that lawyers David Mpanga and Kanyerezi Masembe who previously represented Crane Bank were privy to confidential information regarding Sudhir and that this information could be used to the businessman’s disadvantage.

Sudhir Ruparelia represented by Kampala Associated Advocates also argued that the lawyers are principal witnesses in the Crane Bank Case. This gave Sudhir Ruparelia the first round win he needed. Bank of Uganda is now represented by Sebalu, Lule & Co. Advocates.

While it is too early to predict what will come out of the mediation, one thing for sure is that the battle will be with us for a long time. Also this case will set for this country a big precedent on how commercial banks should manage their operations and how Bank of Uganda regulates the sector.

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