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Heritage bank, uniBank shareholders were victimised – Minority

The Minority in Parliament has accused the Akufo-Addo administration of using the banking sector reforms as a ploy to deliberately collapse businesses owned by people thought to be affiliated with the opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC).

The Minority claims the recent revocation of the license of Heritage bank confirms their suspicion that the Central Bank was being used by the government to attack shareholders of banks the government is not comfortable with.

“The most recent development is the revocation of the license of Heritage Bank Ghana on the grounds that its majority shareholder, Mr Seidu Agongo, failed the “fit and proper person” test, and thus, was “unsuitable” to own or run a bank in Ghana. Dr Ernest Addison, Governor of Bank of Ghana on Friday, 4 January 2019 at a press conference said Heritage Bank’s capital appears to have come from sources which are suspicious.

“The Governor stated categorically that the funds used to acquire Heritage Bank’s license were derived from contracts awarded to Mr. Agongo by COCOBOD which are currently the basis of criminal prosecution in the High Court of Ghana. For this reason, Mr. Agongo is not fit and proper to own a bank in Ghana. Recall that the case also involves Dr Opuni, former CEO of COCOBOD. Mr. Governor, when did it become a crime to use earnings from one type of business to engage in another?

” We find this very disappointing and unfair. It is rather unfortunate that a whole Central Bank Governor will act in such a prejudicial and unjust manner based on presumptions that are not considered “prima facie”. Although the matter is still in the high court and pending final adjudication, the Governor has pronounced Mr. Agongo guilty and, on this basis, decided with his management and Board to deprive him of his hard-earned investment,” the Minority said in a statement.

The statement added “What has happened to the so-called adherents to the rule of law? What has become of the time-honored principle of “innocent until proven guilty”?

“Is the Governor a “surrogate” for judicial action against opponent? Is it a coincidence that other surrogates are being used to call on the Special Prosecutor to victimize members of the Opposition? We find this very worrisome because it has become clear that capricious abuse of power for the victimization of political opponents has become the order of the day under the current government.

“This position taken by the governor has blown the lid on the unfair targeting of investors such as Dr Kwabena Duffour because of their affiliation with the NDC.

” It is gradually becoming evident that the just-ended banking sector clean-up has an inherent political motivation. Ghanaians will recall how the indebtedness of Government of Ghana to UniBank due to the failure of the NPP government to pay claims owed the Bank, resulted in the collapse of UniBank and several jobs were lost”.

The Banking Sector reforms conducted by the Bank of Ghana that ended on 31st December 2018, saw banks in Ghana being reduced from 33 to 23.

Below are details of the statement by Minority

Minority Statement On Political Motivation Behind Banking Reforms: Government Should Clear the Air

The Minority in Parliament has noted with grave concern, draconian actions taken against some indigenous banks by the Bank of Ghana under a purported Bannking-sector clean-up and wish to state the following.

1. There has always been suspicion that the NPP Government led by Nana Akufo Addo is hard on businesses owned by people who are perceived to be sympathizers of the former NDC Administration. The NPP Government must be reminded that these businessmen or women are first Ghanaians and their businesses employ the citizens of our great nation.

2. Therefore, it is important to spare them the disastrous polarization and victimization that is engulfing our politics.

3. The most recent development is the revocation of the license of Heritage Bank Ghana on the grounds that its majority shareholder, Mr Seidu Agongo, failed the “fit and proper person” test, and thus, was “unsuitable” to own or run a bank in Ghana. Dr Ernest Addison, Governor of Bank of Ghana on Friday, 4 January 2019 at a press conference said Heritage Bank’s capital appears to have come from sources which are suspicious.

4. The Governor stated categorically that the funds used to acquire Heritage Bank’s license were derived from contracts awarded to Mr. Agongo by COCOBOD which are currently the basis of criminal prosecution in the High Court of Ghana. For this reason, Mr. Agongo is not fit and proper to own a bank in Ghana. Recall that the case also involves Dr Opuni, former CEO of COCOBOD. Mr. Governor, when did it become a crime to use earnings from one type of business to engage in another?

5. We find this very disappointing and unfair. It is rather unfortunate that a whole Central Bank Governor will act in such a prejudicial and unjust manner based on presumptions that are not considered “prima facie”. Although the matter is still in the high court and pending final adjudication, the Governor has pronounced Mr. Agongo guilty and, on this basis, decided with his management and Board to deprive him of his hard-earned investment.

6. What has happened to the so-called adherents to the rule of law? What has become of the time-honored principle of “innocent until proven guilty”?

7. Is the Governor a “surrogate” for judicial action against opponent? Is it a coincidence that other surrogates are being used to call on the Special Prosecutor to victimize members of the Opposition? We find this very worrisome because it has become clear that capricious abuse of power for the victimization of political opponents has become the order of the day under the current government.

8. This position taken by the governor has blown the lid on the unfair targeting of investors such as Dr Kwabena Duffour because of their affiliation with the NDC.

9. It is gradually becoming evident that the just-ended banking sector clean-up has an inherent political motivation. Ghanaians will recall how the indebtedness of Government of Ghana to UniBank due to the failure of the NPP government to pay claims owed the Bank, resulted in the collapse of UniBank and several jobs were lost.

10. We compare this ongoing harsh treatment with the shielding of other investors who are known sympathizers of the NPP and demand answers to the following questions.

a) What circumstances led to the capitalization of Prudential Bank and universal Merchant Bank under the current Ghana Amalgamated Trust (GAT)?
b) Why was Dr Paa Kwesi Nduom’s GN Bank not recapitalized despite the huge sums of money GN Bank is owed by Government?
c) Why didn’t GN Bank benefit from the GAT but was rather downgraded to a savings and loan Company?

11. We have taken note of all the political undertones employed in resolving the problems with some of the banks. We are also very much aware of the arbitrary selection of banks by the Governor of the Bank of Ghana and the Minister responsible for Finance who benefited from the Ghana Amalgamated Trust (GAT) to recapitalize.

12. The good people of this country deserve to know the criteria that qualified them to be selected for support from Ghana Amalgamated Trust (GAT). We are reminding the Minister that the use of pension funds due employees is use of public funds.

13. The Minority is requesting the Ministry of Finance and the Bank of Ghana to publish the guidelines if there is one available for public knowledge.

14. We call on the Government to stop the victimization, as implied by the Governor. We must state emphatically that we are not against the sanitization of the financial sector but will resist any form of political oppression and victimization in any form. We will not allow the Akufo-Addo government to create a partisan business environment for our patriotic citizens.

15. Our business men and women deserve better because their businesses employ Ghanaians irrespective of their political affiliations.

16. We also demand assurances from the Chief Justice that courts will not be used to rubber-stamp this form of victimization.

17. Long live Ghana our motherland.

Signed
Cassiel Ato Forson
Ranking Member, Finance Committee
8th January 2019

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