Kampala- Property mogul Sudhir Ruparelia on Thursday revealed in his defence that in March, he entered an agreement with Bank of Uganda (BoU) to clear his obligations regarding the defunct Crane Bank and escape prosecution.
BoU, which last October took over Crane Bank saying the bank was dangerously undercapitalised, disregarded the agreement and dragged Mr Ruparelia to court on July 3, accusing him, among other things, of fraudulently selling the bank shares to himself.
BoU Governor Emmanuel Tumusiime-Mutebile told this newspaper in an interview on Tuesday that the internal fraud at Crane Bank was “well hidden.”
In the March 20 Confidential Settlement and Release Agreement (CSRA) signed between Mr Mutebile for BoU on behalf of Crane Bank Limited/CBL (in receivership) and Mr Sudhir, the latter agreed to pay $60m (about Shs214b) in cash and to transfer all freehold and mailo titles for land on which all Crane Bank branches around the country are sitting, as part of the “settlement consideration.”
According to the agreement, Mr Ruparelia was to pay the $60m in three installments, starting with $8m (Shs28b), which was to be within 30 days from the date of execution of the agreement. Another $10m (Shs35b) would have to be paid within a period of 90 days. The two installments ($18m) were to be paid in the BoU account in the names of Crane Bank Limited Funding.
The remaining balance of $42m (Shs150b) was to be paid by way of transfer to BoU real property with an aggregate fair market value of $42m. The agreement categorically states that “fair market value of the real property shall be reached by a joint valuation” of the two parties.
“Sudhir Ruparelia will identify and supply a list of properties (free of all encumbrances, claims whether legal or equitable, and whether registered on unregistered) whose collective fair market value shall meet the required value under this agreement and shall submit the list to BoU for execution,” the agreement reads in part.
The confidential agreement, signed and sealed, details 19 clauses that were “to be abided by both parties at all times”.
Clause 6 on “Release” states that the agreement “is in full, complete and final settlement of all claims that either party may have against the other, and each of BoU and Crane Bank, hereby fully and finally releases and forever discharges and shall refrain from instituting, directing, procuring, instigating or maintaining, all and/or any actions, claims, sanctions (whether administrate, civil or criminal), rights, demands and set offs, whether in this jurisdiction or any other whether or not presently known to either party...”
Asked why BoU proceded to sue Mr Ruparelia, BoU’s director of communications, Ms Christine Alupo, said: “I am constrained to comment on the Crane Bank matter out of respect for the sub-judice principle, but we will address all issues at an appropriate time.”
In the case documents now before the High Court, BoU, through its lawyers MMAKS Advocates and AF Mpanga Advocates, presents a detailed catalogue of what it calls dubious or fraudulent activities that took place in Crane Bank under instructions or knowledge of Mr Ruparelia.
BoU also wants Meera Investments Ltd to hand over the titles of the 48 properties previously occupied by Crane Bank across the country.
BoU in the suit also contends that the property mogul fraudulently took out $92.8m (about Shs334b) and another Shs8.2 billion of depositors’ money from Crane Bank for personal gain.
The central bank also submitted evidence showing that Mr Ruparelia had been violating the laws which had been put in place to regulate and prevent commercial banks from failing or collapsing.
Mr Ruparelia, through his lawyers, Kampala Associated Advocates, filed his defence on Friday, denying stealing Shs397b from Crane Bank and also denying responsibility for the collapse of the bank. He also further indicates that BoU is aware of the actual reasons why Crane Bank collapsed, an indication that more backstories are yet to unfold. He also wants BoU lawyers out of the case, citing conflict of interest.
Information available to Sunday Monitor is that Mr Ruparelia, as part of the agreement, had already cleared the first installment of $8m (Shs28b), which he was accused of having lent himself. Details of how the deal then fell apart are still scanty.
In defending himself, Mr Ruparelia also presented to the High Court grievances of his own in the counter suit that he filed concurrently, accusing BoU of breaching the agreement and demanded about Shs32b in damages, among other prayers.