Shareholders of defunct crane bank have vowed to fight for justice following a ruling by the Court of Appeal from the High Court of Justice, Business and Property Courts in England.
The Court of Appeal in London overturned the lower court’s decision which had exonerated DFCU bank and its shareholders from accusations of fraudulently taking over Crane Bank.
In a statement dated 28, July 2023 issued by the board of directors, the shareholders welcomed the ruling vowing to fight justice to recover hundreds of millions of dollars awarded by the London-based court.
“Crane Bank and its shareholders are delighted with the judgment of the Court of Appeal, which vindicates their position. The Court of Appeal has confirmed that their claim for hundreds of millions of US Dollars against DFCU Bank, its executive directors, non-executive directors, and shareholders can proceed to be heard by the English courts” reads part of the statement.
According to Crane Bank, senior former officials at the Bank of Uganda engaged in a corrupt scheme to take control of Crane Bank and sell its assets at a gross undervalue, while also siphoning off public funds. Along with its shareholders, Crane Bank claims that DFCU Bank and the other Defendants took part in the fraudulent scheme and purchased Crane Bank’s assets at a gross undervalue, while also effectively paying a bribe.
“The Court of Appeal found that there are serious issues to be tried and the claim falls outside the foreign act of state doctrine, relying on the commercial activity exception and the argument that all the executive acts in question engage the English public policy of combatting and not giving legal protection to bribery and corruption,” the statement added.
The DFCU and the other Defendants cannot rely on the foreign act of state doctrine to evade liability. Crane Bank and its shareholders will continue to vigorously pursue their claim as part of a fair legal process before the English courts,” the statement further noted.
Following the sale of tycoon Sudhir’s Bank assets to Dfcu, Bank of Uganda through Crane Bank (in receivership) filed a suit against Sudhir and Meera Investments seeking to recover over Shs400 billion and 48 land titles.
However, BoU’s case was dismissed by High Court with costs on grounds that a bank under receivership cannot sue. In fact, receivership had ended and Crane Bank was a non-citizen company that could not hold freehold titles.
“The 1st respondent was closed as a financial institution and placed under receivership. Upon closer, it ceased being a financial institution under the Act and it could, therefore, not be progressed to liquidation. The 2nd respondent’s act therefore of moving the 1st respondent to liquidation are contrary to the above clear provisions of the law and the same cannot be sanctioned by this court,” states part of the ruling.
Because it was not satisfied, BoU filed an appeal to the Court of Appeal which didn’t waste its time but upheld the findings of the High Court thus pushing it to the Supreme Court that has today ruled in favour of Sudhir…just like the previous court rulings.
You may actually remember that in all legal battles, Courts of law have been ordering the Bank of Uganda to pay costs to Sudhir who has floored them multiple times.
In previous court rulings, BoU said that the decision of shutting Crane Bank was necessary upon discovering that it had significant and increasing liquidity problems that could not be resolved without the Central Bank’s intervention, given that Crane Bank had failed to obtain credit from anywhere else.
“An inventory by external auditors found that the assets of Crane Bank were significantly less than its liabilities. To protect the financial system and prevent loss to the depositors of Crane Bank, Bank of Uganda had to spend public funds to pay Crane Bank’s depositors,” BoU governor, late Tumusime Mutebile said then.
However, tycoon Sudhir denied the allegation thus counter-suing BoU, seeking compensation of $8m (Shs28 billion) in damages for breach of contract.
He asked the High Court to dismiss the case arguing that the Central Bank overstepped its mandate in commencing court proceedings against him and his Meera Investments Company.
Presenting an objection against BoU, Sudhir through his lawyers Kampala Associated Advocates, told Justice Wangutusi that when dissolving a bank, BoU had three options including putting someone else in its management – what is termed as statutory management, receivership or liquidation.
Counsel Elison Karuhanga a lawyer at Kampala Associated Advocates, argued that however, BoU chose to go for receivership yet under the law, specifically only the manager and the liquidator of the said bank is mandated to file a suit and not a Receiver.
He further explained that BoU as a Receiver could only dissolve or sell Crane Bank within 12 months but not sue its managers.
Where the saga began from
On June 30, 2017, Crane Bank Limited (in Receivership) took Mr Sudhir Ruparelia and his Meera Investments Ltd. to court for causing financial loss amounting to UGX 397 billion to Crane Bank in fraudulent transactions and land title transfers.
Crane Bank (in receivership) in its Civil Suit No. 493 of 2017 sought High Court to compel Mr Ruparelia to pay back the US$80,000,000, US$9,270,172.00, US $ 3,560,000.00, US$990,000.00 and UGX 52,083,995.00 as compensation for breach of fiduciary duty.
While Hon. Justice Wangutusi dismissed the UGX397 billion case against Mr Ruperalia on a technicality, alleging that Crane Bank (in Receivership) lost its powers to “sue” and to “be sued”, thus rendering its suit a nullity, Crane Bank (in Receivership) maintaining that receivership is a management situation, and hence no legal change as to the capacity of a company to sue and be sued.
Its also worth noting that while appearing before the Parliament’s Committee on Commissions, Statutory Authorities and State Enterprises (Cosase) Bank of Uganda officials failed to account for their errors and to produce reports on the closed banks including Crane Bank up to date.