The former board of now defunct Heritage Bank Limited have described as “a grave injustice” the Bank of Ghana’s (BoG) decision to revoke the bank’s licence after alleging that its main shareholder was ‘not fit and proper’ to own a bank.
In a press statement responding to the central bank’s allegations following the revocation of the licence on January 4, the former board said BoG’s action was not well grounded and now “a terrible precedent” that “does not bode well for the future.”
The board was chaired by Prof. Kwesi Botchwey, an economist and former Finance Minister.
“Heritage Bank was, by the Bank of Ghana’s own admission a solvent bank. It NEVER received liquidity support from the Bank of Ghana. Its corporate governance record had never been impugned by the Bank of Ghana,” the statement said and wondered why the central bank would gloss over these to close the bank down on grounds of suspicion.
On January 4, the Governor of BoG, Dr Ernest Addison, said the central bank had found, among other things that Heritage Bank’s “capital appears to have come from sources which are suspicious.
“In the application for a banking licence, each shareholder of Heritage needed to demonstrate their “ability to subscribe to the shares” of the bank. The Bank of Ghana is not satisfied that the original sources of the bank’s capital are acceptable, in terms of section 9 (d) of the Banks and SDI Act, 2016 (Act 930) and section 1 of the Anti-Money Laundering Act of 2008 (Act 749) which requires acceptable capital to be obtained from lawful and transparent sources,” the governor said.
He listed other alleged offences that included aspects of a criminal prosecution in the high court involving the state and Heritage Bank’s main shareholder, Mr Seidu Agongo.
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In the press statement, the board said: “We find it puzzling that the Bank of Ghana should now be disputing the existence of a contract between Heritage Bank’s main shareholder and COCOBOD, when the Bank, as part of its due diligence ahead of the granting of HBL’s provisional banking licence had requested and received confirmation from COCOBOD of the existence of the contractual arrangements between the COCOBOD and the said shareholder.
“Furthermore, it is even more puzzling that the Bank of Ghana would claim it has no knowledge of Mr Seidu Agongo being a shareholder of Sarago Limited. The shareholding structure of Sarago Limited is a matter of public record since it is a registered company at the Registrar-General’s Department.
“More importantly, the Bank of Ghana in its own provisional licence to Heritage Bank stated as a condition that the concentration of HBL’s shareholding in Mr Seidu Agongo and Sarago Limited be diluted within three years of the commencement of operations.
“Mr Agongo’s association with Sarago Limited was thus known to Bank of Ghana at the time of the licensing,” the statement said.