Friday, 19 July

Restore licences of banks killed for political reasons – Pianim

Defunct Heritage Bank, Accra

Banks whose licences were revoked for political reasons must be restored, economist Kwame Pianim has said.

In an interview with Accra-based TV3, Mr Pianim said: “Licensed banks which are proven to have been revoked for political reasons should be reversed.”

Former President John Mahama recently said the unjustified collpase of some banks by the Akufo-Addo government justifies his promise to restore their licences should he win the 2024 elections.

Speaking at the CEO's Summit in Accra on Monday, 22 May 2023, a few days after making the promise in Tamale, Northern Region, Mr Mahama cited an example to buttress his point.

"One bank was shut down because there was criminal prosecution against its major shareholder", the former president said.

"It had nothing to do with the bank," he noted, adding: "And there might be other such cases, so, we need to look at all of them and see whether the withdrawal was just or it wasn't."

The Case of Heritage Bank

The Bank of Ghana revoked the licence of Heritage Bank Limited 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 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.”

HBL was added to Consolidated Bank Ghana Limited (CBG), which was first formed when the central bank collapsed some five local banks in August 2018.

They included The Royal Bank, The Beige Bank, The Construction Bank, Sovereign Bank and uniBank. Later on, HBL and Premium Bank were added to the first five.

"BoG witch-hunted solvent Heritage Bank to satisfy personal desires" – Ayariga

In February 2019, the founder of the All People’s Congress (APC), Mr Hassan Ayariga, accused the central bank of deliberately targeting and collapsing Heritage Bank Limited (HBL), which was solvent, just to satisfy someone’s personal wishes and desires.

Mr Ayariga said he saw "clear mischief and witchhunting".

He explained: “Of all the nine banks that the Bank of Ghana collapsed, only Heritage Bank was a solvent bank, yet its licence was also revoked."

“Therefore, collapsing Heritage Bank was purely to satisfy personal desires and not in the interest of the banking sector or the economy,” Mr Ayariga  said.

He noted that given that Heritage Bank "was solvent and, therefore, not a risk to any third parties, if the Bank of Ghana suspected anything, it could have used other alternatives provided under the BSDI Act 930 to exclude Mr Seidu Agongo from exercising his rights as shareholder until the determination of the case at the High Court. But to meet the personal interest and deprive him of owning a bank, simply because he is the one, BoG decided to revoke the licence and put the lives of the staff, other shareholders and even customers at risk".

BoG was ordered to kill Heritage Bank on political grounds though it had ‘solid’ board with ‘safest hands’ Kwesi Botchwey as chair – Amoabeng

In October last year, the CEO of now-defunct UT Bank, Prince Kofi Amoabeng, also said the Bank of Ghana was told by officialdom to collapse Mr Seidu Agongo’s Heritage Bank Limited.

Mr Amoabeng, whose bank was also collapsed in the first term of the Akufo-Addo government, told Nana Otu Darko on CTV’s morning show, Dwabre Mu, on Tuesday, 4 October 2022, that the “unfortunate thing is, the Bank of Ghana is supposed to be independent but I don’t think they were independent with their decision on Heritage Bank because, if they were independent, why do you issue a licence and withdraw it?”

“When you were issuing the licence, didn’t you know the owners and the board?” he asked.

“It means they were told to withdraw the licence,” he deducted.

“And it’s not a fair way but it’s another dangerous path that Ghana has taken,” he regretted, noting: “Every institution has been politicised including even the army.”