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Court Stops Unibank Collapse Case

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An Accra High Court has put on hold proceedings in a case filed by Former Finance Minister. Dr. Kwabena Duffour, shareholder of defunct uniBank Ghana Limited.

Dr. Duffuor is seeking to set aside the government’s takeover of the bank months after its consolidation.

This follows a request by Frank Davis, lawyer of the Bank of Ghana asking for the halt as they have made an application to the Chief Justice, Sophia Akuffo for the case to be moved to the Commercial Division of the High Court.

According to him, the case was of commercial nature and ought not to be heard by a General Jurisdiction Court.

uniBank along with four other banks were rolled into the now Consolidated Bank of Ghana in August 2018 after they were found to be struggling.

They were Sovereign Bank, Royal Bank, The Beige Bank and Construction Bank.

For uniBank, the Bank of Ghana Governor, Ernest Addison, explained that the indigenous bank’s Capital Adequacy Ratio (CAR) fell below 50% of the required minimum of 10% (i.e. below 5%).

Hearing

But Dr. Duffour disagrees and is in court challenging the Bank of Ghana’s revocation of uniBank’s license he obtained in 1997 asking for an order that the Bank of Ghana gives him back his bank, according to the Statement of Claim filed in August 2018.

In court yesterday, Justice Daniel Mensah said the court has received a letter dated September 26, 2018 addressed to the Chef Justice asking for certain requests.

He said he has read the letter which suggests that the matter before the court should not be handled by the General Jurisdiction Court

Mr. Davis conformed that the letter has been sent to the CJ awaiting her response.

Surprise

Veteran lawyer, Tsatsu Tsikata representing Dr. Duffour and said it is inappropriate for his colleague to come to court with a letter which has not been made available to the other party in the matter.

He said it is wrong for the judge to engage the other party in a manner he described as “private “.

Mr. Tsikata said there is only one high court in Ghana although there are divisions indicating that if the BOG is seeking a process which is going to affect the other side, then they should be notified.

“We have not seen the letter (but) my lord has seen the letter and I think it’s completely inappropriate for my colleague at the other side to take us by surprise” Mr. Tsikata stated.

Dr. Duffour’s lawyer was of the view that the letter cannot stop the court from proceeding with the case.

He argued that the letter was to the CJ and not the judge, a reason the case could be heard.

What the letter seeks to do is to find out if the court can hear the matter Mr. Tsikata noted adding that the lawyer should have filed an application because “this is not a matter for the CJ to decide”.

“This is actually a very dangerous process. They are undertaking forum shopping in a manner that is dangerous.”

The matter is not properly before the court, the senior lawyer opined stressing that “a letter from the Law Chamber cannot be the basis to stop the process, there is nothing before you legally.”

Not Urgent 

Mr. Davis ina rebuttal averred “I don’t appreciate the urgency Mr Tsikata attaches to the matter. I find nothing improper, inappropriate and offensive about the letter and that out of courtesy I would give him (Tsikata) a copy of the letter.”

Justice Mensah said he had expected Davis to have given Mr. Tsikata a copy of the letter.

He said the court would stay the proceedings in the case pending the CJ’s advice and adjourned the case to October, 17 to allow the Chief Justice take a decision on the request.

In Dr. Duffuor’s suit, he referred to the fact that the Bank of Ghana unjustifiably impaired debt attributable to the government and quasi-government institutions, which even included validated payment certificates issued to contractors by government.

According to Dr. Duffuor, even though the Official administrator was notified of the debts amounting to 868.9 million cedis of which 428.8 million cedis was used to offset part of the BoG’s liquidity support, the central bank, and Official Administrator could not capture it in the accounts of the bank.

Dr. Duffuor says that the amount of 760.6 million cedis impaired by the Bank of Ghana as due to the granting of new loans between September and December 2017.

Also, Dr. Duffuor says he is dissatisfied with the Bank of Ghana, and the Official Administrator for not providing any lawful basis to deny shareholders from recapitalizing the bank.

By: Jeffrey De-Graft Johnson

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