KAMPALA- Property mogul Sudhir Ruparelia has hired two top law firms to defend him in the Shs397 billion fraud case which Bank of Uganda brought against him in the High Court.
The two law firms Kampala Associated Advocates and J.N. Kirkland & Associates received the court summons on Wednesday.
This ends several days of speculation about which lawyers would defend Kampala’s and probably Uganda’s most propertied man. The Chambers and Partners, a global ranking company for law firms, ranks Kampala Associated Advocates as Band 2 in the General Business Category.
Mr Ruparelia was served with the court summons by A.F. Mpanga Advocates, one of the law firms representing Bank of Uganda in the case, contrary to earlier claims that the businessman had already received the court’s notice.
About a week ago, the High Court’s Commercial Division issued summons to Mr Ruparelia to file his defence against the case within 15 days failure of which judgment would be passed in his absentia.
The 15 days start from the date the defendant (accused) receives the court summons.
This implies Mr Ruparelia’s requirement to file his defence started on Wednesday when his lead law firm Kampala Associated Advocates was served with the court summons. Mr Peter Kabatsi of Kampala Associated Advocates is the lead lawyer.
The two law firms will now battle it out with Bank of Uganda’s legal team of MMAKS Advocates and A.F. Mpanga Advocates.
MMAKS and A.F. Mpanga are ranked in Band 1 of the Chambers and Partners rankings of advocates.
About a fortnight ago, Bank of Uganda sued Mr Ruparelia and his Meera Investments in the Commercial Court, seeking to recover Shs397b the central bank accuses him of siphoning out of his liquidated Crane Bank.
The central bank accuses Ruparelia and Meera Investments of fleecing Crane Bank of billions of shillings in systemic fraudulent transactions and invoices.
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Particulars of the Bank of Uganda submissions in the Commercial Court state that Mr Ruparelia fraudulently took $92.8m (about Shs334b) and another Shs8.2 billion of depositors’ money from his Crane Bank for personal gain.
It is further alleged that Mr Ruparelia and his associates Vivek Sharma and Rakesh Gupta, created false invoices to bill Crane Bank for activities that did not happen.
The central bank took over Crane Bank on October 20, 2016 after its capital dwindled to below the statutory minimum, placing depositors’ money at risk.
Bank of Uganda attributed this fiasco to the bank’s Non-Performing Loans. At the time of collapse, Crane Bank, which was solely owned by Ruparelia, was ranked the third largest bank in Uganda.
In January 2017, Crane Bank was liquidated to dfcu Bank which took over some of the defunct bank’s assets and liabilities pending completion of a forensic audit ordered by Bank of Uganda.
It is on the strength of the audit findings that Bank of Uganda took a decision to sue Mr Ruparelia.