KAMPALA – Justice David Wangutusi of the Commercial Court, has on Monday, August 26 dismissed fraud allegations brought by Bank of Uganda against city tycoon Sudhir Ruparelia and his Meera Investment Ltd, who claimed he fleeced his own Crane Bank Ltd of UGX. 397 billion.
The Bank of Uganda (BoU)/Crane Bank (in Receivership) sued Sudhir and Meera Investments Ltd of allegedly fleecing the defunct Crane Bank Ltd of UGX. 397 billion that the central bank wanted refunded.
The judge has ordered BoU to pay costs.
But Justice Wangutusi has agreed with Mr. Sudhir’s lawyers and maintained that BoU/Crane Bank (in receivership) did not have a legal basis to sue Sudhir ending the almost two-year main legal battle between the two.
The Court held: “Once Crane Bank was put under receivership by BoU, it was non-existent and therefore had lost powers to “sue” Meera Investment Ltd and Sudhir Ruparelia”.
The businessman, through his lawyers — Kampala Associated Advocates (KAA) raised an objection, rubbishing claims by the Central Bank, and cited a hoist of authorities faulting BoU.
Lawyer Elison Karuhanga of KAA argued that when dissolving a bank, BoU had three options — puting someone in management in what is called statutory management, receivership or liquidation.
Sudhir’s lawyers faulted BoU for acting hurriedly and overstepping her mandate in hurriedly selling off the Bank to dfcu Bank, a deal that has since attracted criticism.
According to Mr Karuhanga, BoU had 12 months within which to carry out the four functions which did not include suing.
Mr Bruce Musinguzi also argued that Mr Sudhir was no longer the majority shareholder of Crane Bank that he founded after Mr Rasik Kantaria, a Kenyan national, on December 6, 2010, snapped up 47 per cent of the bank’s shares.
He added that Mr Kantaria later transferred his shares to White Sapphire Ltd, a company incorporated in Mauritius and that a one Jitendera Sanghani, a British citizen, held 4 per cent stake in Crane Bank.
He also contends that under Uganda’s Constitution and the Land Act, Crane Bank in Receivership could not own or hold freehold property and was, therefore, not capable of holding the suit property in it’s names.
In response to the submissions of Sudhir’s lawyers, BoU through it”s lawyer Dr. Joseph Byamugisha told the court that when a financial institution is placed under receivership, the power to commerce or to continue with the civil suit does not stop.
About the case:
The BoU on January 25, 2017, placed Crane Bank Ltd under the receivership. Later that same year, the central bank alongside Crane Bank sued Mr Ruparelia and his Meera Investments Ltd for allegedly fleecing his own bank of Shs397b in fraudulent transactions. Mr Ruparelia has roundly dismissed the allegations and counter-sued the Central Bank, seeking compensation of $8m (Shs28b) in damages for breach of contract.
Mr Sudhir has since successfully petitioned court to block lawyers Kanyererezi Masembe of MMAKS Advocates, David Mpanga and Sebalu & Lule Advocates from representation in the case after court ruled that they were conflicted.