The founder and majority shareholder of Heritage Bank Limited (under receivership), Mr Seidu Agongo, has broken his silence on the collapse of the bank, describing the Bank of Ghana’s (BoG) decision to revoke the licence as an “indecent haste” that has irreparable damage on him and other stakeholders.
In a press statement issued Monday afternoon, Mr Agongo, a businessman and philanthropist, said the central bank’s decision was calculated to prejudge the outcome of the state’s criminal proceedings against him in the High Court.
It is his first comment on the collapse of the bank, more than two weeks after BoG revoked the bank’s licence, citing his suspicious capital and Mr Agongo not being fit and proper to own a bank, among others as basis.
In the statement available to Graphic Online, Mr Agongo said he did not engage in any underhand dealings in the course of establishing the HBL.
“I have been in business since 2001 and I have since founded about fifteen (15) entities in areas such as Real Estate, Manufacturing, Agriculture, Media, Commodities, Pharmaceuticals and Financial Services that currently directly employ at least 3,500 GHANAIANS!
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“I wish to state emphatically that in establishing HBL, I engaged in no underhand dealings and, in fact, as the Central Bank itself had attested on many occasions, HBL was a very well governed Ghanaian bank which remained solvent till the very end,” he said.
On BoG’s stance that he was not fit and proper to be a shareholder of a bank, Mr Agongo said: “In purportedly making the determination, the Central Bank obviously had little regard for the time-honoured principle that a person is presumed innocent until proven guilty by a court of competent jurisdiction.
“The fact that I have a case pending before the High Court is a matter of public knowledge but my guilt or innocence is yet to be determined by the Honourable Court,” the statement said.
“The determination that I am not a fit and proper person to be a significant shareholder of HBL because the Central Bank suspects the funds are derived from illicit or suspicious contracts with the COCOBOD is not only calculated to pre-judge the outcome of the criminal proceedings but also violative of the principle of presumption of innocence to which every individual is entitled.
“Since when has suspicion become a substitute for credible evidence?” he asked in the statement.
He said “the Central Bank’s determination having supposedly been based on the premise that the sources of capital of HBL are “suspicious” as the contracts from which they emanated are the subject of pending criminal proceedings, will the Central Bank restore the banking licence of HBL if I were to be acquitted of the current charges?
“The utter irrationality of the action of the Central Bank in revoking the licence of HBL on the basis of pending criminal proceedings and the fact that the harm done to HBL and its stakeholders may ultimately be irreparable is palpable.”
“The unanswered question is this; why the indecent haste? Why did the suspension of the voting rights of my shares in HBL pending the determination of the proceedings in court, for instance, not commend itself to the Bank of Ghana if indeed it had been acting otherwise than in bad faith?”
Mr Agongo said he was never made aware by BoG at any point whatsoever that I was the subject of a fit and proper person test by the Central Bank and I had never been asked any questions or clarifications by the said Central Bank contrary to the impressions now created BoG.
“In fact, it is not known to me when the said fit and proper person enquiry or assessment began and when it ended. I had not been given a hearing yet my fate had been sealed in this hostile manner by the Bank of Ghana,” he noted.