Uganda is many times filled with incredible stories. One of them last week was hearing that businessman Ham Kiggundu had lost over Sh100 billion to Diamond Trust Bank, who debited unlawfully his accounts.
The amount involved sounds incredible. In fact, if Mr Kiggundu did not have assets worth the amount spoken about, many people would dismiss this one as another fake story.
Mr Kiggundu, chairman of Ham Enterprises, has not yet come out to make an official statement, but leaked documents and correspondences, show he has dragged DTB to court, to force them carry out an audit on the money he has in their bank.
If this turns out true, DTB is at a point of serious reputational dent. Whereas losing a customer is bad enough, but losing one such as Ham Enterprises, is a serious error for which the managing director should be fired, if His Excellency The Aga Khan, who cares about good business practices, came to learn about it.
Stories of bank officials making small deductions from customers of banks have been around for many years. What is unheard of in Uganda’s banking history, is that a customer of 10 years plus, one who banks billions, one day sat down and made an audit that left a bank naked.
This is why DTB must be forced to accept do an audit on Ham Enterprises because the allegations made that Sh100 billion was stolen from his account, is both economic and security crime which must take the attention of Bank of Uganda, Parliament, Financial Intelligence Agency, The Bankers Association, and of course, the Presidency.
Kiggundu, as a home-grown successful businessman, is a highly prized player in Uganda’s economy that anyone who messes up with him, is also messing up with Uganda’s economy.
Elsewhere, you cannot go and mess around with the fortune of people like Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook, Jeff Bezos of Amazon in USA, or Jack Ma of Alibaba in China, among others and you are left to walk scot-free. Doing so is messing with the economy of that country which serious countries cannot allow.
Ham is a new generation businessman who has built his company from scratch, sacrificing all comfort to contribute to Uganda’s prosperity.
Bank of Uganda silence
What is even more disturbing is the silence of the regulator, Bank of Uganda, on this matter.
Of course, when Ham chose to do business with DTB, he didn’t draft BoU in their relationship. However, it is BoU’s responsibility to ensure all banks in Uganda conduct their work in accordance with the banking laws of Uganda and International laws, for which BoU is the custodian.
It is also a fact that BoU monitors all bank transactions, and therefore, the buck stops with the Central Bank when a Ugandan investor of Ham’s caliber stands up to complain that he has been cheated by DTB to a tune of sh100 billion! BoU should stand up and take control of the situation.
For this is another reason for Ugandans little trust in commercial bankers, as they operate no more better than briefcase Saccos that open today and close the next day with money of Ugandans.
History is also threatening to repeat itself when BoU fails to do its constitutional mandate, which has seen banks in the past close over mismanagement and one wondered where the Central Bank was looking when this said “mismanagements” were running down the banks with clients’ deposits. If Ham could lose sh100 billion in 10 years in DTB, what else is going on in that bank?
With an inditement in Parliament and the Auditor General that the incompetence of BoU managers led partly to the failure of several banks in the past, many people are not happy that BoU can sit there and failed its policing credentials.
However, I believe not all is lost with BoU. In fact, the changes taking place at the Central Bank will see it redeem its leadership position in matters of banking and economy.
I am certain, when Ham Enterprises loses Sh100 billion, it may not contribute to its collapse, but, it will affect its investment prowess. And many Ugandans will certainly lose out on opportunities such as jobs that come with an investor such as Hamis Kiggundu putting his money in the country, he loves and believes in.
Diamond Trust Bank should be brought to book, and if possible, be heavily penalized if found, wanting in playing by ethical rules of the game.
I find it unacceptable that when Ham discovered the fraud and wrote to DTB on November 16 2019, terminating all contracts, the bank was not bothered enough to immediately review its procedures as a matter of urgency and importance.
That DTB have dragged their feet in making their own audit to discover the culprits in this fraud, and bring them to book, makes the institution look supportive of the process which brought about this mess.
Which also means, it is not just Ham Enterprises that suffered this theft, but many more unkeen clients, should have lost monies through these “extortionate, irregular, unlawful, deceptive transactions” as Ham called it in his letter to the bank.
BoU has said in the past that it closed banks to protect depositors’ money. What more sign does our central bank need to intervene in this matter? How much more money does one need to lose before BoU does its job!
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