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Dfcu Bank finally clenches fist, threatens legal actions over ‘malicious news stories’

Dfcu Bank accuses Rajiv Ruparelia of paying journalists to sustain a malicious campaign against its operations with a view to causing a bank run and eventual collapse. The bank warns of legal action if news websites continue to write about its operations.

FINANCE | Like a man who quietly ignores and endures taunts from his lover’s ex-boyfriend will eventually roll his sleeves for a fight, Development Finance Bank of Uganda (dfcu) has warned of legal fightback if media “attacks” against its business continues.

At the receiving end of the clenched fist is Sudhir Ruparelia’s son Rajiv, whom the bank accuses of sponsoring sustained social media and news websites attacks on its business.

Through their lawyers, Kalenge, Bwanika, Ssawa and Company Advocates (KBS), dfcu says that since it acquired and assumed some of the liabilities of Crane Bank 10 months ago, Rajiv, as an individual, has “sponsored, coordinated, and propagated a fake news campaign against its operations and business.”

In an October 5 notice addressed to Rajiv, KBS claims the motive of alleged social media and news portals attacks on dfcu Bank is to cause a bank run (when a large number of customers of a bank withdraw their deposits simultaneously due to concerns about its solvency) and eventual collapse of dfcu.

“You have variously paid the operators of online news sites and blogs to spread malicious falsehoods about our client and its senior management, all to create an impression that our client is in a precarious financial situation and an ownership and management crisis whereas this is not the case,” the legal notice, copied to Security minister Gen Elly Tumwine, Internal Security Organisation director Col Frank Kaka and CID chief Grace Akullo, reads in part.

The legal representatives have demanded a written apology from Rajiv as well as restraint from engaging in “nefarious and malicious campaign” against dfcu.

KBS also named several bloggers and news portals and their editors that it claimed were in bed with Rajiv to run “malicious falsehoods” against dfcu.

“Once the malicious falsehoods haw been crafted into sensational online content, you have been repeatedly sending web links to the sites carrying these falsehoods using social media (particularly WhatsApp),” the legal notice says of Rajiv.

“You have done this repeatedly and to a very large number of recipients with a view to driving traffic to the false stories that you had paid for and in the hope that the links would go viral and cause maximum damage to the reputation of dfcu.”

The notice did not speak of whether dfcu is in possession of any evidence to back up the big allegations of ethical corruption it has levelled against a section of online journalists and bloggers as well as Rajiv.

However, dfcu claims that the alleged publications and campaign against its business amounts to corporate defamation and economic sabotage. The bank also cites criminal libel and offensive communication among the crimes it claims the alleged campaign is committing.

“Your repeated attempts to destabilize the second largest financial institution in Uganda also amount to economic sabotage and have national security implications,” dfcu says.

A painful loss

Since taking over Crane Bank in January 2017, dfcu has silently watched as online news websites and bloggers have a field day publishing about several issues that slid off the negotiation tables and were handled from under it as much as they did for those that were discussed on it.

At the centre of the takeover that seems to have come as big slap on businessman Sudhir Ruparelia has been former Bank of Uganda director for supervision Justine Bagyenda and the central bank itself.

The bitter deal saw to a high-profile commercial legal battle after the central bank sued Sudhir and his Meera Investments last year, accusing the tycoon of fleecing the then Crane Bank of Shs397 billion in disputed transactions, a claim the businessman denies.

Sudhir, in turn, sued dfcu Bank, seeking to reclaim leasehold titles and developments for 48 banking halls taken over by the latter when Crane Bank was liquidated.

In a suit filed before the High Court Land Division, Meera Investments Ltd contends that it is the rightful owner of the land titles and that their transfer to dfcu Bank should have been effected after its consent.

Both cases are still before courts.

However, dfcu Bank, a source told Crime24, said enough was enough after several online sites and blogs published an article that said the bank’s board of directors had rejected the resignation of its managing director Juma Kisaame.

The story, the source said, has several contentious issues and falsehoods that the bank has pinned on Rajiv as the source.

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