KAMPALA, Uganda: Pondering over the enquiry report highlighting how Sudhir Ruparelia acquired ownership of buildings belonging to Crane Bank in 2012, one walks away with the feeling that the businessman is a truly dangerous mafia.
According to the forensic report whose particulars are wrapped in a 153-page booklet, and the same we shall serialize, the businessman did not only stop at paying peanuts for the otherwise prime Crane Bank buildings, but he made sure the wealthy landlord he had thus effectively turned into a tenant, paid cripplingly in terms of lease and ground rent as well!
To ensure that Crane Bank as an entity never ever, in future get back the buildings, Sudhir commanded, but of course fraudulently, his sidekicks working with the financial institution to have the land holding the properties converted from leasehold into freehold!
What the above means is that Sudhir obtained both the buildings and the land holding them on permanent basis as opposed to being a tenant of the same. If the reverse was true, he was supposed going forward, to pay lease fees to the landlord which was supposed to be Crane Bank Limited itself.
Seeing that the bank factually belonged to Sudhir himself, never mind the propaganda to the contrary, even an imbecile can easily figure out the awkward situation the financial institution faced while negotiating the evidently impugned deal for the simple fact that it wasn’t naturally expected to disagree with the terms set by its proprietor.
This is why regardless of the location, size or development of the buildings at stake, Sudhir, who was clearly the seller and the buyer at the same time, given his dominant position as the owner of the bank whose properties he desperately sought to convert, ended paying a flat fee of UGX100m for each and every building!
To demonstrate possibly the upper hand Sudhir boasted of in these matters, the seller was not permitted to value the properties before selling them out. Consequently, the bank lost the opportunity to place the true prices on each of the properties Sudhir ended up purchasing.
What happened, the shrewd businessman merely conjured up figures from his bald head and then threw the prices he desired to buy the plots at! And as we all know, the bank wasn’t expected to raise a finger against its owner!
“From our interviews with senior management, the consideration for the sale of the bank’s land was not informed by an independent valuation of the land,” the forensic report has it.
Dismissing the UGX100m purchase for as pitiable, the report adds, “It is highly unusual that the bank would accept such a flat fee for each of the property sold to Meera Investments Limited (MIL) because at the time it had parcels of land worth more than this amount.”
The above line justifies our contention about the existence of an invisible hand which was actively manipulating the sale and purchase behind the scenes. That invisible hand we know was Sudhir Ruparelia the man himself. Well, to simplify the kind of profiteering Sudhir committed in these transactions, let’s quote the money the bank paid for some of the plots of land as per the bank’s Fixed Assets Register.
We go: Plot No.93 Block 7, Mengo, Kibuga Ndeeba was bought at UGX1Bn. Plot No.1 Ishaka Fort Portal Road, Cell Ward 4 was bought at 715m, Plot 55 Main Street Jinja (Ush700m), Plot22 Kampala Road Entebbe (Ush650m) Plot No88 Block18, Kibuga Nateete (Ush650m) and Plot No18, Jinja Road, Mukono (Ush619).
But, when Sudhir chose to ‘buy’ the plots, the shameless rascal paid a mere UGX100m for each of them! Since Crane Bank spent 4,334,136,000 on purchasing these plots, simple arithmetic would show the cad ended up paying a mere Ush600m for all the plots combined! And for this reason, the businessman robbed his own bank by a whopping UGX3, 734,136,000!
Yet for just two years Sudhir was the landlord, Crane Bank not only forked out a colossal USD4.6m in rent, but the apparently cowed financial institution was also made to pay twice in respect of Plot40A Kampala road. The bank paid two payments of USD237, 364.08 apiece to Meera Investments Limited (MIL) and Crane Management Services, as per an invoice recovered by the investigators. The two companies belongs to Sudhir.
But even more scandalous, the fact that Crane bank used a combined total of Ush29.8Bn to purchase the land as well as to erect the buildings Sudhir purchased as captured in its books of December 31st 2012, it would unmistakably imply that Sudhir cheated the bank by a whopping UGX26.4Bn when he chose to purchase the properties in the manner he chose to.
Don’t drop dead yet, Sudhir not only cheated Crane Bank as we have ably illustrated above, but also went ahead and grabbed all its furniture and fittings worth a whopping UGX13.6Bn! As everyone would know, after procuring all the dirty work he procured, Sudhir now commanded his workers at Crane Bank to hide the same from the prying eyes of the Central Bank.
He instructed his workers not to reflect the losses on its books. He did so because he was understandably aware that what he had just carried out was not only criminal, but also actionable at law.
Factor in the fact that the businessman even intimidated Crane Bank into meeting all the costs that goes with transactions of this nature, including one converting it from a landlord into a tenant, to see how callous this honorary Doctor of the banana republic can be. Watch this space…
- Stanley Ndawula is a two and a half decades’ seasoned investigative journalist with a knack for serious crimes investigations and reporting. He’s the Founding Editorial Director and CEO at The Investigator Publications (U) Limited
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