Court Rules On Fortiz Case Dec. 18

Lawyer-Tony-LithurThe Accra Commercial Court will on December 18 rule on the application brought before it by Mr. Tony Lithur, counsel for Fortiz Equity Fund, against the action taken by Andrew Awuni on the sale of Merchant Bank.

Mr. Lithur had prayed the court to dismiss Mr. Awuni’s suit which he has described as too weak and not having enough grounds to halt further transactions on the deal.

The date was given by the presiding judge, Sophia Bernasko Essah, after both counsel in the case had made their presentations.

When the case was called yesterday, Mr. Lithur, who appeared with Mr. Emmanuel Botchwey, owner of Fortiz, told the court that the reason he was asking the court to strike out the suit was because he (Mr. Awuni) does not have the capacity to challenge the sale.

He explained that per section 35 of Article 247 of the PNDC Law on Pension, a contributor had no right to challenge the investment decision of the Social Security and National Insurance Trust (SSNIT), unless he was a trustee.

“Mr. Awuni is not a trustee but just a contributor who, in his individual assessment of the deal thinks it is a bad transaction and therefore should be reverted. The law, however, does not say so, or give him the right to challenge a decision taken by management of SSNIT”, he further explained.

Mr. Lithur stated that the managerial decision taken by the board of directors of the bank and SSNIT could only be challenged by parties to the deal, but not a mere contributor.

According to him, the action of Mr. Awuni undermines the exercise done by the Bank of Ghana (BoG) as a regulator and the well informed investment negotiated by SSNIT, and therefore, the court should dismiss the writ.

In response, counsel for Mr. Awuni, Mr. Egbert Faibille expressed disappointment with Mr. Lithur’s presentation and reminded the court that  PNDC Law 247, as cited by Mr. Lithur, had been repealed by the Pension Act 766 of 2008.

He held that under Act 766 it was legitimate for contributors to sue SSNIT as a corporate entity, hence, the decision to challenge the sale in court.

Mr. Faibille stated that the 14 reliefs  sought in the amended writ against the 13 institutions and persons  at the centre of the deal were legitimate and deserving of a hearing, and subsequently a judgment.

Upon hearing  both sides, the judge adjourned hearing to December 18 when he will give a ruling on the matter.

Mr. Lithur, last week, filed the application asking the court to dismiss the writ brought before it by Mr. Awuni to revert the sale of Merchant Bank.

His application stated that Mr. Awuni, the Executive Director of the Centre for Freedom and Accuracy (CFA), does not have the capacity to challenge the sale in court, though he is a contributor to the Social Security and National Insurance Trust (SSNIT).

Mr. Lithur’s application was sequel to the suit filed by Mr. Awuni against 13 institutions and persons at the same court, on the sale of the bank.

Mr. Awuni, on November 15, filed the writ at the Accra Fast Track High Court to revert the deal, which he has described on several platforms as fraudulent and did not show value for money.

He filed an interlocutory injunction on November 22 to halt further transactions on the sale, pending the determination of the court, but decided to discontinue the matter and rather pursue it in the Commercial Court.

He filed a fresh suit at the Commercial Court against the 13 institutions and persons  at the centre of the sale.

The defendants in the new writ include the Social Security and National Insurance Trust (SSNIT), Fortiz, the Bank of Ghana (BoG), KPMG, all the board members of Merchant Bank as at the initial stage of the sale and three other persons.

However, the Commercial Court is yet to hear the writ, as Mr Awuni has not yet succeeded in withdrawing the matter from the High Court.

Mr. Awuni has prayed the commercial court to restrain the parties from consummating further transactions.

The Bank of Ghana approved the deal for Fortiz Private Equities Fund Ghana Limited to pay GH¢90 million cedis for the 90 per cent stake in Merchant Bank.

Dr. Kofi Wampah, Governor of BoG told journalists at a news conference in Accra recently that the BoG had done nothing wrong in the approval of the sale of Merchant Bank to Fortiz but played its role effectively as regulator to ensure a clean deal.

The SSNIT, which is at the centre of the deal and has 90 per cent stake in the bank, has also issued a statement which indicates that the sale was strategic and would boost returns on its investments.

It further stated that Fortiz was the best bidder and, therefore, won the bid, ahead of the South African second largest bank, First-Rand Bank.

Meanwhile, a statement issued by the directors of the firm said Fortiz had completed transactions on the deal and ready to take over the Bank. By Charles Amankwa  


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