Bank of Uganda has lost an application in which it sought to join as ‘amicus curie’ (friend of the court), the ongoing appeal by Diamond Trust Bank (DTB) against Ham Enterprises, a company owned by businessman Hamis Kiggundu.
The court was sitting to hear an appeal against a ruling by the High court to the effect that the DTB-Kenya, a parent company of DTB-Uganda was not registered to do business in Uganda, nor appoint DTB-Uganda as an agent to collect debts owed to the Kenyan bank by Kiggundu.
The judgement stemmed from a case filed by Kiggundu, and his two companies Ham Enterprise Limited and Kiggs International (U) Limited against DTB-Uganda and DTB-Kenya, in March last year, accusing them of fraudulently siphoning more than Shs 120 billion from his accounts without his knowledge and consent.
Kiggundu said that between February 2011 and August 2018, he was offered credit facilities by the banks to develop commercial properties in Uganda. But as he continued servicing them, he learnt that the banks were taking out money from his accounts. He also asked the court to declare DTB-Kenya’s demands for payment illegal, since it was not registered to carry out business in Uganda.
The High court then stopped DTB from taking out money from Ham’s accounts, refund about Shs 120 billion that DTB had already taken out, and release all securities belonging to Ham. DTB successfully secured a stay of execution of the judgement orders in November, and also appealed the judgement.
At the hearing of the appeal, Bank of Uganda had requested to be considered a friend of the court in order to assist the court with information in the consideration of the matter. A ‘friend of the court’ is a neutral party who assists a court by offering information, expertise, or insight that has a bearing on the issues in the case.
But the Court of Appeal judges Richard Buteera, Kenneth Kakuru and Christopher Madrama ruled that the central bank cannot claim to be a ‘friend of the court’ because it already opposed the High court ruling made by justice Henry Peter Adonyo.
BOU’s lead counsel David Mpanga’s plea that the regulator of the banking industry was a neutral person was rejected by the judges, who also reminded the appellants that the BOU issued a statement immediately, criticizing the High court ruling, in support of DTB.
The judges advised the bank’s lawyers to formally apply to be a party to the case by Monday, February 1, 2021, and serve the respondents, Ham Enterprises and two others by the same date, to which the lawyers agreed. This application will be due for hearing on February 24.
After the ruling, justice Kakuru warned the two parties to the case, against what he called emissaries.
“I would like to implore the counsels and parties to stop sending me emissaries over this matter. If you believe in the justice of this court, why send emissaries?” wondered the judge.
“This was a matter that was even raised by the principal judge and it’s coming back now. It must stop,” he warned, without specifying which party was a culprit.