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Saleh’s hand in Sudhir BoU fight revealed

Links with recent uproar over Bagyenda, dfcu

Kampala, Uganda | HAGGAI MATSIKO | Gen. Caleb Akandwanaho aka Salim Saleh is urgently seeking to sort out the Crane Bank, BoU, and dfcu Bank saga, The Independent has learnt.

Sources close to the General who is the de facto Number Two in his brother, Yoweri Museveni’s government, say he most likely is acting on the President’s instructions.

The Independent has learnt that Gen. Saleh has this month been closely looking into the issues surrounding the closure of Crane Bank and the on-going court cases it sparked.

Sources tell The Independent that Saleh has hosted a select group of officials from the central bank in an effort to properly understand what the stakes are in the fight between BoU and tycoon Sudhir Ruparelia.

President Museveni has for some time wanted to end the saga over Bank of Uganda’s takeover of tycoon Sudhir Ruparelia’s Crane Bank in October 2016 and eventual sale to dfcu Bank in January 2017 in a deal that sparked several court cases.

Now it appears, Gen. Saleh is the man to deliver the President’s wish.

The question is why Museveni is sending Saleh now?

The Independent understands that some government officials have been convincing Museveni that Sudhir should not be allowed to get away with his alleged transgressions at Crane Bank.

These officials feel that BoU has a good chance to win the cases against Sudhir. But Sudhir equally feels he can win the cases.

Stakes are high for the officials at the central bank. If they lose the case, they stand to lose over Shs 500 billion, part of which they pumped into Crane Bank before selling it to dfcu at Shs 200 billion. The transaction wiped out the central bank’s capital.

Stakes are high for tycoon Sudhir too. He could pay BoU the same amount should he lose. He stands to lose property too.  Having lost the bank, Sudhir appears keen to keep his properties and hinges his hope on the fact that BoU breached an agreement he had entered with them.

Part of the explanation could also be that the parliamentary Committee on Commissions, Statutory Authorities and State Enterprises (COSASE) is expected to publish findings of its investigations into BoU soon.

Although various aspects of the report have either leaked or been released, intense debate and scrutiny of the same is expected in parliament.

It could also tie in with two stories that have recently dominated the news and appear unconnected.

One story claimed the one of Uganda’s top banks, dfcu, is in trouble over liquidity following an announcement that one of its long-term shareholders was bailing out. It was a false alarm.

The other was that the embattled former BoU Director Supervision, Justine Bagyenda has been reappointed to the board of the Financial Investigations Authority (FIA) – which, ironically, is investigating her for alleged breaches committed at BoU. There is already uproar over this in parliament.

Amidst all this, sources close to Gen. Saleh say he is now closely looking into the issues surrounding the closure of Crane Bank and the on-going court cases it sparked.

Anticipation appears to tie in with recent strident statements by BoU officials that they have acted appropriately; especially in the take-over and sale of Crane Bank.

In the most recent case, BoU Governor Tumusiime Mutebile has spoken publicly—emphasising that BoU did not have a choice but to take over Crane Bank because its managers had mismanaged its capital.

The belief by each side that it can win could partly explain why arbitration talks between Sudhir and BoU agreed in 2017 before Principle Judge Yorokamu Bamwine have stalled.

Just this month on July 17, Bamwine sent the case file back to the head of the Commercial Court, Justice David Wangutusi for further action, and citing failure of both BoU and Sudhir to make meaningful input.

It is not clear whether Saleh falls in the camp of those convinced that Sudhir can be defeated and punished.

But sources tell The Independent that when Saleh in early July hosted a select group of officials from the central bank, he reportedly told them that although he has read the documentation about the issues, he wanted to hear from them what exactly was at stake.

An officials who attended told The Independent on conditions of anonymity, that the venue of the meeting was at Saleh’s favoured venue for such critical meetings—Serene Suites—a boutique hotel on top of Mutundwe Hill on the edges of the Kampala city owned by Esther Ampumuza, a middle-aged businesswoman, who works closely with Saleh.

In the past, The Independent has reported that Saleh has since late 2014 been occupying the only presidential suite at Serene Suites that costs US$1,000 per night.

Saleh also maintains an office at the hotel and, since he hosts visiting delegations of the nation’s Who is-Who, it has led Serene Suites to be called “the other State House”.

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