Powerful cartel behind blogger defaming National Bank of Kenya (NBK)




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“Treasury and a cartel is frustrating a professional team that has delivered under very difficult circumstances and that could have done better if Treasury had in the least, approved the rights issue in 2013, 2014, 2015 or even now. This is corruption and abuse of office happening right under our eyes as board and nation,” says a board member at National bank of Kenya.

“We are not at war with Treasury or anyone. The bank is listed, and to own the bank…simply buy the shares on the securities exchange. We are heavily audited and regulated by CBK and CMA and we are advising whoever is paying the blogger or  is behind this messy affair  to achieve their goals without  putting at risk a Kenyan people’s bank or people’s professional careers by maligning their names,” CEO & MD Munir Sheikh Ahmed

Pensioners at NSSF and other investors in Kenya’s 9th largest lender National bank of Kenya (NBK) stand to lose billions of shillings to a powerful Rift Valley cartel ahead of the 2017 general elections after one of the most daring conspiracies in recent history to take over a parastatal bank gets to a close.

The plot – according to various sources in parliament, NBK and Treasury – places Treasury at the center along with Kimutai Kerring representing suspended NSSF Managing Director Richard Langat at the National Bank of Kenya board. The other co-conspirators include two directors at the bank, Reuben Koech and Head of Premises, Albin Sigei.

A non-executive director in the Bank’s board of directors confirmed that more than half of the board has continuously resisted attempts by a group within the board to take over the recently re-branded well performing bank. This has been going on for at least a year. There has also wide public knowledge that this group has been behind recent negative articles by one blogger defaming the bank, some members of the board and the management, in spite of the bank’s recent sterling performance.

Continuous audits by the regulator, internal and external auditors have cleared the bank’s management from the false claims.

The plot to take over the bank has also been in the public domain for a while. On August 20, 2015, for instance, former Finance Assistant Minister Oburu Odinga told Parliament’s Public Investment Committee that he was aware of a plot involving “treasury mandarins” to sell the bank to a well known politician. “Mr. Chairman, I do not know why this issue has not been investigated. It is criminal for Treasury to assist in a plot to grab such an important Kenyan bank,” said Hon Oburu.

PIC chair Adan Keynan said parliament would not sit and watch the grabbing of a bank owned by Kenyans.

According to other sources at Treasury, the plot has involved frustrating the bank’s Transformation Program by Treasury- driven by CS Henry Rotich, who has denied the second fastest growing Kenya bank approval for a rights issue approved by shareholders in 2013 AGM. Treasury under Henry Rotich, is today, still the only major shareholder that has yet to write to the Capital Markets Authority to approve the rights issue. In glaring inconsistency, Rotich contradicted himself last week claiming that Treasury had withdrawn funds intended for the bank’s rights issue because no shareholder had yet to write to CMA in approval of the rights. Treasury is also behind a directive for massive withdrawal of funds from the bank by parastatals.

NBK in 2015 reported profit before tax of Kshs 1.8 billion in FY13 and Kshs 2.43 billion in FY14.  In Q3 2015 NBK reported the best performance in the bank’s history at Kshs 3.3 billion. But this was achieved under strenuous conditions with bank at one time having to sell sub optimal buildings outside the city to shore up capital. NBK has been growing at a compound annual growth rate of 31% YoY. Analysis of key regulatory ratios show an improvement since 2012 and the institution has not announced a loss since new management took over in August 2012.

In spite of the progress at the well audited and heavily regulated bank which is returning billions of shilling in dividends each year to Treasury and NSSF on their preferential shares, Treasury has continued to frustrate NBK in what is seen as facilitating the takeover goal. Treasury for instance, has quickly approved rights issue for loss making institutions like Kenya Airways and loans for Mumias Sugar Company, while delaying rights for a profitable NBK since 2013.  The bank has been growing its capital organically due to this delay.

TSC and Defense have recently moved their funds from NBK, on instructions intended to further frustrate the bank. While the plot to take over the bank initially planted negative stories through the media intended to devalue the NBK share and create panic selling of shares at the Nairobi Securities Exchange; thereby facilitating the buying of shares at a cheap price by unknown companies: another plan was in play to take over the bank’s management to facilitate looting and control. To achieve this, NSSF management, a key shareholder with 48% stake, was weakened with no substantive or professional management for years.

Kimutai has instituted at least 3 unsuccessful attempts to fire the management headed by former Standard Chartered executive Munir Sheikh Ahmed with Chairman Hassan Abdirahman each time standing in his way.

In one of board meetings recently, the Chairman said:  “The NBK management under Munir (Sheikh Ahmed) has changed the way NBK operates. The bank has re-branded, automated and modernized.  We have announced the best ever performance in 48 years in Q3, 2015. All the allegations against the management have been proved false by audits and PIC.  And we – as a board – know better than believe these false blogs. Why fire the management because of someone else’s interest? I think we all know what is happening here.”

In the last attempt, premised on a claim of number of cases in court to recover non performing loans, Hassan noted that it was actually the board that approved loans with recommendations from the credit committee. Kerring had also wanted Munir fired after the CEO asked the board to stop paying a salary to suspended former Mumias CFO Chris Kisire, who had failed to clear his name in the six months provided.

Sources now say that the plot to take over NBK matured two weeks ago with the weakening of the bank’s Board Chair.  On 14th March, the Business Daily had reported that Chairman of the board Mr. Hassan Abdirahman Mohamed had been implicated in a Kshs 100 billion money laundering suit involving an aviation company. While this did not implicate NBK Management and Business Daily made clarifications to that effect, the cartel used the opportunity to exert immense pressure on the Chairman to resign. Hassan, a former executive at Dyer and Blair, said he privately runs a company that provides Wealth Management services and would respond to the suit effectively.

Kimutai however immediately moved to overturn the board’s  leadership and installed himself as Chairman. Mr. Hassan said to have been defeated in a vote is said to have turned to the powerful Rift Valley figure, who prevailed upon Kimutai to let him remain as Chairman. Some board members believe Mr. Hassan may have bought back his position with a promise on cooperation in the take-over plot.

Mr. Hassan since softened his stand and defense for professionalism (Hassan has earlier stated that he believed that bank management and professional careers should only be shattered with marching orders only when there was solid ground and not mere allegations).

The board has neither found fault in NBK chief executive officer nor any member of the senior management team.  Munir, described by directors and colleagues at the Bank as meticulous in his work, was defended by other board members in each of the attempts to fire him and in each of the false claims by blogs planted on the internet by the cartel.

A board member who did not want to be named, because he held another position in the management of the bank said:  “Treasury under Rotich and this cartel are finishing an assignment to deliver the bank to whoever is behind the plan. It is a known plot inside the board. We have heard that the politician said he owns businesses in all sectors apart from banking and there is someone in his way.”

“National Bank is literally being grabbed from the public and it does not matter what the rest of the board vote for. They will be pushing out a professional team that has delivered under very difficult circumstances. This is a team that could have done better if Treasury had in the least, approved the rights issue in 2013 or 2014 or 2015 or even tomorrow,” says another board member. “This is corruption and abuse of office happening right under our eyes as a board and as the whole nation watches.”

The board last year held press conferences to defend the Management from false allegations. But with a case threatening him, Hassan will be unable to act in public interest.

The plot to take over the bank is imminent.  In a board meeting that was held on Thursday March 24, 2016 – which extended into the night – board members were surprised by the admission by Hassan that his views did not count. Other board members were surprised by this argument, at a time when Kimutai had moved yet another disbandment proceeding. Some members of the board walked out of the sitting.

Members of the board now want the President to act and not watch as Treasury abets the take over and running down of a profitable public bank, in spite of wide public knowledge of the plot to grab the bank.

Contacted for comment CEO & MD Munir Sheikh Ahmed said: “We are not at war with Treasury or anyone. The bank is listed, and to own the bank…simply buy the shares on the securities exchange. We are heavily audited and regulated by internal and external auditors, CBK and CMA and we are advising whoever is paying these blogger (s) or is behind the defamation of the bank to achieve their goals without putting at risk a Kenyan people’s bank or professional careers by maligning their names.”

(Disclaimer: The above post was sent to aptantech anonymously. We’ve decided to publish it as an issue of public interest. The views expressed in the post are those of the author and not aptantech).




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