800 Debtors At SLCB, RCB

 

Officials of the Sierra Leone Commercial Bank (SLCB) and Rokel Commercial Bank (RCB), the two state-owned financial institutions that nearly became bankrupt because of a mountain of unpaid debts, have confided in this medium that the list of debtors presented to Commission No. 1 was just a tip of the iceberg.

With officials of RCB yet to furnish the commission with their own list of politically exposed persons that took out unsecured loans they have so far failed to repay, SLCB officials said they have hundreds of individuals and corporate entities and businesses that owe them monies they are yet to recover.

With President Julius Maada Bio having vowed that all monies meant for development that were illegally acquired by former government officials and persons would be recovered to finance New Direction development activities, RCB officials said they too have the same headache of a huge pile of unpaid debts.

Meanwhile, some of the politically exposed persons named as debtors in the list submitted to the commission have voiced disapproval, stating that SLCB has not only breached bank-customer confidentiality but sought to tarnish their character.

A spokesman for former President Ernest Bai Koroma, who SLCB said owes them about Le850 million, explained that the former President had an overdraft facility account with the bank that dates back to 30 years, prior to him becoming President in 2007. He furthered that former President Koroma had always serviced the account and had never been described as a bad debtor by the bank.

The spokesman also explained that it was after the Governance Transition Team’s (GGT) Report was published that the government ordered the bank to freeze the account, adding that as a result, the former President no longer had access to the account. The spokesman lamented that announcing the former President’s name as a bad debtor is a deliberate ploy by the Bio administration to demonize him.

Erstwhile Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Franklyn Kargbo too takes great exception to SLCB publishing his name as a bad debtor and has since written officially to SLCB asking the financial institution to furnish him with documentary proof of when he ever took out a secure or unsecure loan with them, noting that he has gone through his papers meticulously and found no evidence of him having ever taken a loan from SLCB.

Former Deputy Minister of Information and Communications from 2013 to 2016, Theo Nicol too has expressed great dismay and embarrassment over SLCB naming him as a debtor. He explained that in 2008, long before he was appointed Deputy Minister, he took a soft loan of Le8 million from SLCB.

Between that time and 2010, he said, he made several deposits and paid a lump sum of Le10 million in 2010 to offset the loan. Mr. Nicol said he did not hear from the bank until 2017 when he received correspondence that he owed the bank Le93 million which, he said, he has challenged stoutly.

Mr. Nicol said he was sent another letter saying he owed Le53 million, adding that he picked the issue up with the former Managing Director whom, he said, asked him to repay Le15 million but he insisted that he had paid the bank the Le8 million he owed them. The bank, he said, told him the money they were asking for was interest accrued, adding that he was surprised to hear the SLCB Director of Business Development naming him as a debtor, thereby giving the impression that he owed Le62 million.

Mr. Nicol, who said he supports the COI, said it should be the leadership of SLCB that should be held accountable for giving out unsecured loans against banking best practice guidelines for issuing of loans.

Former Minister of Energy, Ambassador Henry Macauley does not deny owing SLCB money but said the bank had granted him a waiver after the business for which the loan was secured went under during the Ebola outbreak.