Big Blow! Lands Ministry Cancels 48 Titles Acquired by Dfcu From Crane Bank

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Subsequent to an October 24, 2023, High Court ruling, the Ministry of Lands Commissioner, Baker Mugaino has cancelled the 48 leasehold certificates of title and given DFCU Bank 7 days to return them.

Court ruled that Dfcu had illegally transferred 48 properties belonging to Meera Investments Limited, the original owners.

“You will recall that judgment in the above-captioned suit was entered in the favour of the plaintiff, Meera Investments Limited against Dfcu Bank Limited and the Office of the Commissioner Land Registration. Orders were made directing the office to rectify the register in the terms set out in the decree including cancellation of the leasehold certificates of title. A copy of the decree is enclosed. for ease of reference,” wrote Mugaino to the Dfcu bank managing director.

“In view of the self-executing nature of the orders of the court and in order to avert possible contempt proceedings, this office proceeded and implemented the decree of the court to the extent of the orders made for its implementation, by rectifying the register and cancelling the leases as encumbrances on the Mailo and Freehold certificates of title registered in the names of Meera Investments Limited and further by cancelling all the entries on the register and white pages of Dfcu Bank Limited as proprietor of the 48 leasehold properties”.

The letter is also copied to Magna Advocates, the counsel for Meera Investments Limited, M/s KATS Advocates, the counsel for DFCU bank, the trial judge and the deputy registrar High Court land division.

“The purpose hereof is to request that, since the leasehold titles have been cancelled thereby rendering the 48 duplicate certificates of title in your possession legally inconsequential, the sat-ne should be returned to this office to avoid any possible misuse thereof. Kindly do so within seven days from the date of receipt of this letter,” the letter further said.

The ruling is yet another milestone for Dr Sudhir Ruparelia, chairman of Ruparelia Group and one of the shareholders of the former Crane Bank’s legal battles. Sudhir has continuously fought court cases insisting that Crane Bank was illegally taken over by the Central Bank with the intention of selling it.

The court ordered the commissioner land registration to cancel the transfer of the properties to Dfcu Bank and grant Meera Investment vacant possession of the suit properties within a period of three months from the date of the judgment. In a ruling delivered by Justice Tadeo Asiimwe, the court also ordered DFCU to pay former Crane Bank Shs 2.4 billion in damages with 8% interest per year for trespassing on its property.

In a brief statement dated November 3, 2023, and posted on its website, DFCU said the court ruling would not affect the bank’s operations.
“The court ruling does not affect the bank’s day-to-day operations since the branches in question were vacated in 2020. The bank remains strong and well-capitalized, meeting all the needs of its customers and fulfilling its purpose of transforming lives and businesses in Uganda. Dfcu Bank is also fully indemnified by the Bank of Uganda under the P&A agreement,” Dfcu said in a statement.

On July 26, 2023, the Court of Appeal United Kingdom (UK), ruled that the High Court of England has jurisdiction to hear the over Shs 800 billion claim filed in London by Crane Bank Limited against Dfcu Bank Limited for the purchase of Crane Bank.

Crane Bank Limited (CBL) started operations on August 21, 1995, and was, until 2016, one of Uganda’s largest commercial banks. In 2016-2017, the Bank of Uganda, exercising its statutory and regulatory powers, took over management of CBL, then closed it and sold off some of its assets and liabilities to dfcu.

As of December 31, 2015, Crane Bank’s assets were valued at Shs 1.81 trillion, with shareholders’ equity of Shs 281.43 billion and more than 750,000 customers.

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