Veteran journalist and commentator Andrew Mujuni Mwenda has taken a swipe at lawyers representing Bank of Uganda (BoU) in a court case it has been engaged in with the now defunct Crane Bank for years.
The Supreme Court of Uganda, the highest in the land, has for the fourth time ruled in favour of tycoon Sudhir Ruparelia in a long protracted legal battle touching on the controversial takeover, placement under receivership and and sale of assets of Crane Bank to DFCU.
With the sale Crane Bank assets to DFCU Bank, Prof Emmanuel Tumusiime Mutebile’s Bank of Uganda filed a suit under Crane Bank in Receivership against Sudhir and Meera Investments.
In its suit, the Central Bank sought to recover over Shs400bn and 48 land titles.
The High Court dismissed the suit by BoU. Court ruled that a bank under receivership cannot sue, receivership had ended and Crane Bank was a non-citizen company which could not hold freehold titles.
Dissatisfied with the ruling of the High Court, the central bank rushed to the Court of Appeal which, consequently, upheld the judgement given by the lower court.
Displeased once again, BoU appealed the judgement in the Supreme Court.
But Sudhir Ruparelia had to act since even before the hearing of the Supreme Court appeal, BoU placed Crane Bank into liquidation (something which would change Crane Bank’s status).
The Supreme Court threw out an application by the central bank to change the status of Crane Bank.
When Ruparelia learnt that BoU had issued a public notice placing Crane Bank into liquidation, he ordered his lawyers of Kampala Associated Advocates to file an application the central bank seeking a temporary injuction against the move pending the main appeal before the Supreme Court in which the commercial bank was under receivership.
On October 04, the Supreme Court granted Sudhir Ruparelia’s prayers, and blocked the liquidation of Crane Bank.
The Supreme Court bench, on which sat five justices: Rubby Opio-Aweri, Faith Mwondha, Prof Lillian Tibatemwa Ekirikubinza, Ezekiel Muhanguzi and Percy Night Tuhaise, ruled that BoU was not immune to suits and had been sued for acting in bad faith by attempting to liquidate a bank in contempt of court orders.
The bench also ruled that changing the status of Crane Bank from a bank under receivership to Crane Bank in liquidation would render the appeal before it moot and nugatory.
“An interlocutory mandatory injunction doth issue returning the status quo of the 1st respondent to what it was at the time of filing Civil Appeal No.07 of 2020. A declaration doth issue that the 2nd respondent is in contempt of court’s order,” read the ruling in part.
“The 1st respondent was closed as a financial institution and placed under receivership. Upon closure, 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” reads the ruling.
The Supreme Court judges further ruled: “The interests of justice therefore demand that a mandatory interlocutory injunction is issued to restore the status quo that existed at the time of filing Civil Appeal No.07 of 2020.
In the present case, the contempt by the 2nd respondent relates to conduct which perverts the course of justice. The attempt at circumvention of the decision of the Court of Appeal by altering the status of the 1st respondent from Crane Bank (in receivership) to Crane Bank (in liquidation) was in our view aimed at impeding or perverting the course of justice before this court and the same amounted to contempt.”
Orders issued by the justices of the highest court in the land include: A temporary injunction doth issue restraining the 2nd respondent, their agents or anyone acting under their authority from placing the 1st respondent under liquidation pending the hearing and determination of Civil Appeal No. 07 of 2020; a temporary injunction doth issue restraining the 2nd respondent, their agent or anyone acting under their authority from continuing with the liquidation process of the 1st respondent pending the hearing and determination of Civil Appeal No.07 of 2020; an interlocutory mandatory injunction doth issue returning the status quo of the 1st respondent to what it was at the time of filing Civil Appeal No.07 of 2020; a declaration doth issue that the 2nd respondent is in contempt.
Last month, BoU withdrew its appeal in their case against Crane Bank (In Receivership) against Sudhir Ruparelia and Meera Investments Limited.
“Take notice that the appellant does not intend further to prosecute the appeal. Take further notice that the appellant, will pay the costs of the appeal and in the courts below to the respondent,” stated JB Byamugisha Advocates, a lawyer for Crane Bank in Receivership and Bank of Uganda, in a notice dated September 15.
Now, with the central bank losing most of the cases against Sudhir Ruparelia, veteran journalist and commentator Mwenda has called out BoU lawyers for reportedly selfishly minting millions from the protracted legal battle.
“With one loss after another in every court, it is clear Bank of Uganda made and continues to make grave mistakes on Crane Bank. One wonders why they keep this legal fight instead of settling with Sudhir out of court! Unless, of course, they are making money in legal fees!” said Mwenda.
“Governor Mutebile has failed to solve this quandary and this calls for an outside intervention. The thuggery in the sale of Crane Bank shook my faith in the independence of the central bank. The entire Crane bank saga is a gravy train for BOU legal department to enrich themselves.”
Additional Reporting: Courtesy