While Crane Bank was tottering on the edge of the grave, Dr Sudhir Ruparelia pestered Bank of Uganda for USD100m to recapitalize the bank. After assessing the financial status of Crane Bank, the regulator found that Crane Bank needed about UGX50Bn to keep afloat.
But the regulator agreed to lend Sudhir about UGX80Bn on condition that he was vested with capacity and the will to repay the taxpayer’s money. The central bank’s director of banking, Ben Ssekabaka told COSASE committee in 2016 how Sudhir would frustrate their efforts to save Crane Bank by presenting forged documents regarding the securities he wanted to use to secure the taxpayer’s funds.
We have been informed by highly placed sources that after learning that Sudhir wasn’t interested in reviving his bank after realizing that it would become a straw on his other businesses, Bank of Uganda elected to initially, deny him the money. But understandably, he somehow managed to convince them into releasing it. The money which Bank of Uganda gave to Sudhir to revive his own bank, have since been declared as a loss after it also got missing from Crane Bank.
This was after Sudhir, in spite of the fact that he wrote an agreement to pay back the money, turned around and used the courts of law which declared the enormous debts to be invalid and at the same time, compensated the businessman via legal costs!
Under the cover of saving Crane Bank, Sudhir went ahead and sued its debtors. For our interest, businessman Patrick Bitature would suffice. Sudhir took the lawsuit to the commercial section of the commercial court. Aware that Sudhir is a ruthless man and given the fact that he was threatening to seize his business empire, if we are to believe the exclusive story carried by the Monitor of May 28, Bitature shopped for the money to cleare the debt. According to the Monitor newspaper, Bitature used the money loaned to him by the South Africans, to sort out Sudhir. Yet what is confusing is the fact that the funds are neither here nor there.
Food for thought
To start with, DFCU, which purchased Crane Bank is understood to be still pursuing Bitature for the same funds. This would somewhat mean that Sudhir never put the money in the accounts of Crane Bank, but that he possibly pocketed the same himself! Sources within DFCU declined to talk to this website. They reasoned that the matters are in courts of law and so, didn’t want to offend the sub-judice law. Yet they still helped us to learn that the matters are still in court.
This would possibly mean that the refund wasn’t banked with Crane Bank which is why DFCU inherited it and wants to recover the money. But the fact that Bank of Uganda have gone on record to accuse Sudhir of using fake companies and proxies to borrow money from Crane bank and later wrote off those funds, would suggest that the man is capable of doing anything including receiving money on behalf of Crane Bank and pocketing it.
Evidence has been led by Bank of Uganda to suggest that Sudhir actually was the one running Crane Bank behind the curtains and as such, doing as he wished. He managed to do this by supposedly owning almost the entire bank only that he did this by using proxies. This can lend credence to the fact that one of such rented shareholders in respected banker, Karia, based in Nairobi, has since owned up.
The file of Sapphire, a company which Sudhir had hitherto stated was domiciled offshores, shortly after Crane Bank had been shut down, mysteriously went missing from the registrar of companies office. The timing of the disappearance of the file is telling. This is because Bank of Uganda had hired external auditors to carry out a forensic audit of the extent of the loot that went on at Crane Bank before its closure.That the auditors required all the files in this case touching on the shareholding of Crane Bank, could have scared someone and they dashed to cause the disappearance of the same.
The extent to which Sudhir and his family members supposedly looted Crane Bank and thereby caused its demise, we shall never know. This is because, Sudhir fought vigorously and made sure that no full court hearing happened in this affair.
If the court hearing had taken place, the country would have been accorded an opportunity to get to know whether Sudhir and his family members actually received back debts such as this one repaid by Bitature on behalf of Crane Bank. And whether, if at all, they went ahead and banked the money on the Crane Bank’s account or, kept it.
Much as Sudhir survived the process of giving full accountability for what killed Crane Bank, he remains a haunted man given the fact that he denied himself and his family members an opportunity to clear themselves. In effect, what the courts of law did was to hand Sudhir and his family justice devoid of full accountability which is double edged by the reason that the public court still holds them culpable for the reason that they never cleared themselves.
- Mr. Stephen Kasozi Muwambi is a seasoned crime investigative writer, majoring in judicial-based stories. His two decades’ experience as a senior investigative journalist has made him one of the best to reckon on in Uganda. He can also be reached via [email protected]
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