While embattled Sudhir Ruparelia has become the face of huge financial misappropriations, scores of other rich men – his longtime friends like Patrick Bitature, also owe millions of dollars to the new owners of Sudhir’s former cash cow, Crane Bank Ltd.
It is understood that Bitature, the controversial tycoon behind Simba Group and Protea Hotels among other investments has been singled out as one of the biggest loan defaulters of the new look DFCU Bank that is re-evaluating some loan agreements because some of the loans may now turn toxic yet they were not before.
Last month before Sudhir finally lost his bank to Dfcu, Bitature had allegedly failed failed to clear his loans and when Crane Bank tried to attach his buildings, he ran as fast as he could to the Indian-Ugandan businessman begging him to preview over his lawyers to give him more time to pay.
It has now been revealed that Mr Juma Kisaame, dfcu Bank MD has vowed not to take any of that ‘Sudhir-Bitature nonsense’ but has this month alone already served Mr. Bitature with several demand notices over the Shs150 billion debts to the old Crane bank piled up from mid last 2016.
According to a source privy to the transaction, Bitature has failed to pay back the loan obtained on June 14, 2016 through his firm known as White Nile Consults Ltd. The businessman used the multibillion loan to construct an oil plant in Hohwa Village, Kaseeta Parish, Kabwoya Sub county, Hoima District to engage in treatment, handling, storage, transportation and disposal of oil and gas.
A desperate Bitature is reported to have staked all his top properties and family (wife, Carol and daughter Natalie) stood as guarantors to be jailed if the tycoon failed failed to payback the loan with interest of 12% or Ushs12 billion while on the US dollar exchange rate in was fixed on 10% or $3.6 million.
It is understood that at the peak of this, Dfcu is set to attach Bitature’s securities; Kyandondo Block 244 Plot 3317 land in affluent Kisugu, Kyadondo Block 244 Plot 3318 also in Kisugu, Plot 17 Kyadondo Road, Plot 1A, Bill Road Kyadondo County, Plot 90, 92, Lake Drive Luzira, Plot No.32 Hill Lane, Kampala and Block 2 Plot 134 at Kaseeta, Buhanguzi, Hoima District.
Also to be taken over by DFCU is Bitature’s signature firm Simba Telecom Limited that has several branches in Kampala and other top towns of Uganda, his Luzira Marina Limited and Chapter Eleven Limited.
However, an insider intimates that the concern is that the few properties of Bitature that Dfuc Bank are looking to attach have been found to be over-valued and most of them mere airs.
Neither Bitature nor Dfcu’s Juma Kisaame was available for interview for this article.
Government people’s money
The sour bank loans do not just pose a risk to economic recovery. As revelations of their scale and size become public for the first time, the unpaid debt of loaded people like Bitature have triggered angry allegations of banks going easy on well-connected businessmen, and questions about why taxpayer money is being used to prop up struggling state-connected banks.
Pressure is growing on the government to ensure that Dfcu that was majorly made of SACCOs of different government ministries and agencies is not exposed to the toxic loans from Crane Bank.
So far, the Dfcu owners look to be digesting their spoils without issue, but some warning bells are ringing about the high prices paid and the heavy debt load taken on – loans that are tied to real estate and a skittish Kampala business market that can swing sharply even when the politicians in State House Entebbe sneeze, let alone if there’s a credit crunch or steep economic slowdown.