Crane Bank and its shareholders have spoken out after the Court of Appeal from the High Court of Justice Business and Property Courts in England issued a judgment quashing an earlier decision by the lower court exonerating dfcu Bank and its shareholders from fraudulently taking over Crane Bank.
In a statement, Crane Bank shareholders have welcomed the judgment of the Court of Appeal, which vindicates their position.
A long-running lawsuit involving claims exceeding US $200 million, relating to a Ugandan bank, will be heard by the English courts following a victory for Crane Bank and its shareholders in the Court of Appeal.
The latest chapter in this dispute turned on the ‘foreign act of state doctrine, which prevents the English courts from hearing matters concerning foreign government acts of state taking place in the territory of the foreign state. The ruling from the Court of Appeal found that Crane Bank and its shareholders’ claims are not barred by the foreign act of state doctrine.
Crane Bank was one of Uganda’s largest commercial banks until 2016. The claim asserts that officials at the Bank of Uganda engaged in a corrupt scheme with the defendants to take control of Crane Bank and sell its assets for the benefit of the conspirators. Along with its shareholders, Crane Bank claims unlawful means conspiracy against the Development Finance Company of Uganda (DFCU), its executives, and four development finance institutions who it is claimed took part in a fraudulent scheme to purchase Crane Bank’s assets at a gross undervalue.
The Court of Appeal has confirmed that their claim for hundreds of millions of US Dollars against DFCU Bank, its executive directors, non-executive directors and shareholders can proceed to be heard by the English courts.
“Crane Bank claims that senior former officials at the Bank of Uganda engaged in a corrupt scheme to take control of Crane Bank and sell its assets at a gross undervalue, while also siphoning off public funds. Along with its shareholders, Crane Bank claims that DFCU Bank and the other Defendants took part in the fraudulent scheme and purchased Crane Bank’s assets at a gross undervalue, while also effectively paying a bribe,” the shareholders said in a statement dated July 28.
“The Court of Appeal found that there are serious issues to be tried and the claim falls outside the foreign act of state doctrine, relying on the commercial activity exception and the argument that all the executive acts in question engage the English public policy of combatting and not giving legal protection to bribery and corruption.”
Crane Bank shareholders warned that dfcu Bank cannot rely on the foreign act of state doctrine to evade liability.
“Crane Bank and its shareholders will continue to vigorously pursue their claim as part of a fair legal process before the English courts,” the shareholders added.
The Court of Appeal found that there are serious issues to be tried in relation to the claimants’ reliance on (i) the Commercial Activity Exception, and (ii) the argument that all the executive acts in question engage the English public policy of combatting and not giving legal protection to bribery and corruption, thereby falling outside the foreign act of state doctrine (the Public Policy Exception).
The Greenberg Traurig team, led by Masoud Zabeti, a shareholder and Litigation chair for Europe at Greenberg Traurig, also comprised Of Counsel Katharine Bond, Senior Associate Miten Vaghela, Senior Associate Bethany Histed, Associate Thai Nguyen, and Trainee Solicitor Francesca Conroy. The team instructed Lord David Pannick KC of Blackstone Chambers and Hannah Brown KC, David Caplan, and Ben Lewy of One Essex Court.