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Citizen Weekly

Sunday, 17 August 2014

EQUITY BANK, CBK OPEN ANOTHER WARFRONT



More damning details are now emerging that Equity Bank, a respected financial institution, has been compelled by the Central Bank of Kenya to explain circumstances under which it is Four Ways Towers branch opened and operated “a fraudulent account” where millions of shillings are said to have been lost by an aggrieved party.


Central Bank of Kenya manager in charge of the bank’s supervision Stephen K’Odera, in a letter seen by your favourite authoritative newspaper Weekly Citizen told Equity Bank’s managing director James Mwangi, to furnish him with information regarding account No 0010293196441 owned by Interactive Advertising Limited, after George Karanja wrote to him complaining that the branch had failed to do proper due diligence when opening the account which was later used to defraud his company.

CBK is said to have asked Mwangi: “Please investigate the issue raised and advise us on the circumstances surrounding the case and resolution thereof.”

The matter has since been filed before the High Court in which it is alleged that Equity Bank connived to open a fraudulent account for a customer without his approval or authority and thereof loss of millions of shillings.

Equity Bank must clear its name given the fact that the case has been dragging on for months. The leading regional bank, with a sordid customer base will be hard pressed to explain to the current status and would be account openers and if it was not in any way not  privy to underhand deals  that might have occasioned the account opening, operations and the related activities including communications that might have taken place between the bank and those who have been alleged, both before the High Court and CBK, to have operated it.


This is also at a time the bank craves for confidence as it launches thin sim overlay technology toward the end of this month of August. The bank having created a subsidiary, Finserve, to run its Mobile Virtual Network Operator and it now remains to be seen if customers can trust them while they face these serious integrity issues.

The bank might even be compelled to seek to settle the matter out of court as documents in our possessions show that the sooner it is dispensed with the better, according to an insider at   CBK who did not want to be named.

Equity Bank through its Four Way Towers – Corporate Section is sued in a case in which money totaling Sh19,197,200 is said to have been variously withdrawn from account No  0010293196441 opened under name of Interactive Advertising Limited.
The signatories are alleged to be Edith Njeri Kimani and Diana Kanyi Wambugu, alleged directors of company, leaving out original and the prominent director and owner. It is alleged that a senior manager at Equity is known to Kimani.

The Plaintiff, George Karanja, through  Atonga Miyare and Advocates allege that documents which were used were fraudulently prepared and used to open an account without his authority and approval, and Equity Bank on its part, allegedly failed to exercise  due diligence at the Attorney General’s Chambers to ascertain who the real directors of the company.

Questions arise  as to who were the authorising signatories in opening of the  account at its Four Way Towers on November 19  2008 where the said amount was deposited and subsequently withdrawn on various dates.

According to documents lodged in the High Court, Equity bank, Four-Ways Towers branch allowed Ms. Kimani of ID No 5482883 (PIN: A00126534F) and Ms Wambugu of ID No. 22541623 (PIN: A003750595D) as directors of the company.

Other documents which have been filed in court include an alleged copy of memorandum of understanding of articles of association which has been allegedly doctored to include Ms Wambugu as a director in place of Karanja, the lead director of the advertising company. The handwritings indicate that the document true to the facts is indeed invalid.

The signatories and names appended on certificate of incorporation of the Interactive Advertisement Limited, and the domestic taxes department of the Kenya Revenue Authority among others, used in opening the accounts are the same, and where Ms Wambugu originates as a director

The Equity Bank will have to explain why between November 19 2008 and March 24 2011 it collected money totaling Sh19,197,200 in the foregoing fraudulent and secret account held in the same name of Interactive Advertising Limited. Karanja also disputes a meeting that was allegedly held November 3 2008 where resolutions to open the account with Equity Bank were made via a board resolution.

The plaintiff categorically states that these irregularities  have been perpetrated against him and the company sinceNovember 19  2008 until the bank account became dormant sometimes in February 2013, with the full knowledge, connivance and acquiescence of Equity Bank, thus “permitting a stranger to be signatory to his bank’s account”.

He says Equity Bank conduct amounts to conflict of interest and a gross derogation of bank customer relationship and the Central Bank of Kenya Prudential Guidelines while acting negligently towards the plaintiff resulting into loss of funds by him and the company.

The lawyers claim that Equity Bank failed to conduct and/or carry out due diligence before opening the account and allowing an imposter to pose as a director and secretary of the company in the opening of the account fraudulently and without mandatory information.

The Equity Bank is also alleged to have used Karanja’s co-director’s personal address mobile phone number, email address and other personal contact details instead of those of Interactive Advertising Limited officially registered postal and email statements of the account and communications thereon.

He therefore, claims loss of Sh19,197,200 and further losses of business and income as a result of the bank’s conduct who on many accounts ignored several demands and entreaties by the plaintiff. This will also include interest on the sum total, general damages for loss of income and business and costs at commercial rates from November 19 2008 to present.