The MP for Bolgatanga Central, Mr Isaac Adongo has accused the Bank of Ghana Governor, Dr Ernest Addison of double standards as far as the revocation of the licence of Heritage Bank is concerned.
According to the opposition lawmaker, Dr Addison tried forcing Heritage Bank to merge with UMB three weeks prior to the revocation of the licence of Mr Agongo’s bank on grounds that he was being prosecuted in a criminal case, thus, failed the fit-and-proper test.
At a presentation at Takoradi Technical University on Thursday, 17 October 2019, Mr Adongo said: “Three weeks before the revocation of the licence of Heritage Bank, the Bank of Ghana Governor invited the MD of Heritage of Bank, the Board Chairman of Heritage Bank, our own venerable Prof Kwesi Botchwey and the 70 per cent shareholder of the bank, Seidu Agongo, to a meeting at the conference room of the Bank of Ghana”.
“In that meeting, Dr Addison recommended that Heritage Bank should merge with UMB”.
The MP said that meeting took place in mid-December 2018 at which the Governor “pressured” Heritage Bank to kowtow to the merger with UMB. B
“But after a due diligence conducted by KPMG, Heritage Bank noticed that UMB was in a difficult position to be become a merger partner. As a result, the Board of Heritage Bank declined the offer by the Bank of Ghana.
“Days later, the Bank of Ghana revoked the licence of Heritage Bank Limited, the bank they were pressurising to merge and willing to supervise a merger between it and UMB”, Mr Adongo said.
He, thus, wondered: “So, at the time that the Governor invited Seidu Agongo for merger talks with UMB, didn’t he know he was in court? If the Heritage Bank-UMB merger had materialised, it meant the Governor would have had no problem with that even though Seidu Agongo was still the 70 per cent shareholder of Heritage Bank and was still being prosecuted?”
“So, all the reasons are equivalent to announcing the death of a man who has been killed by witches and finding a name for the sickness”, he noted.
The BoG revoked Heritage Bank’s licence on Friday, 4 January 2019 on the basis that the majority shareholder, Mr Agongo, among other things, used proceeds realised from alleged fraudulent contracts he executed for the Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD), for which he and former COCOBOD CEO, Dr Stephen Opuni are being tried, to set up the bank.
Announcing the withdrawal of the licence, the Governor of the central bank, Dr Ernest Addison told journalists – when asked if he did not deem the action as premature, since the COCOBOD case was still in court – that: “The issue of Heritage Bank, I wanted to get into the law with you, I don’t know if I should, but we don’t need the court’s decision to take the decisions that we have taken. We have to be sure of the sources of capital to license a bank; if we have any doubt, if we feel that it’s suspicious, just on the basis of that, we find that that is not acceptable as capital. We don’t need the court to decide for us whether anybody is ‘fit and proper’, just being involved in a case that involves a criminal procedure makes you not fit and proper”.
However, Mr Agongo responded with a press statement in which he said that the “not fit and proper” tag stamped on him by the central bank was “capricious, arrogant, malicious and in bad faith”.
According to Mr Agongo, “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”, adding that: “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 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 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?” Mr Agongo asked.
Also, the erstwhile Prof Botchwey Board issued a statement on the matter in which it said: “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. We believe we have been done a grave injustice and a terrible precedent set that does not bode well for the future”.