Equity denies DP Ruto claims of Sh15 billion loan

Thursday, August 26th, 2021 00:00 | By
Equity Bank Managing Director, Gerald Warui and Director of Legal Services and Company Secretary, Christine Akinyi before the National Assembly’s Committee on Finance and National Planning, yesterday. They appeared before the committee to shed light on alleged issuance of Sh15 billion load to a Turkish national, Harun Aydin. Photo/PD/SAMUEL KARIUKI

Equity Bank yesterday disowned claims by Deputy President William Ruto that it issued a Sh15 billion loan to Harun Aydin, the controversial Turkish national who was deported from the country over money laundering allegations.

The bank’s management told a parliamentary committee that at no time did the Deputy President ever call the facility requesting it to advance the loan to the foreigner.

Equity Bank Managing Director Gerald Warui, while appearing before the Finance and National Planning Committee of the National Assembly revealed that Aydin does not hold an account with the bank.

“At no point have we ever advanced a credit facility to the said individual,” Warui said in reference to Aydin.

During an interview with a local radio station, Ruto claimed that he had, through a single phone call, helped Aydin secure the loan from the bank for the construction of a pharmaceutical company in Uganda.

Aydin has since been deported for allegedly engaging in money laundering activities.

Senior people

“When I was in Uganda like a month ago, the President (Yoweri Museveni) invited me to open a pharmaceutical company dealing with Covid-19 vaccines.

I was invited because the investor behind that company came right here in my office two years ago and asked me to connect him with Equity Bank since he wanted a loan to invest,” Ruto said during the interview.

The DP continued: “I picked the phone, called Equity and told them to assist this investor from East Africa.

This investor was successful and obtained a Sh15 billion loan (150 million USD) and he went and set up that factory.” 

But appearing before the committee chaired by Homa Bay Woman Rep Gladys Wanga, Warui said he is not aware of any such phone call from the DP.

“From where I sit, I am not aware of that phone call. But maybe given time, I can try to find out because we have many senior people at the bank both at the Group and Kenyan level.

We also have many board members so it might not have come to my attention who he might have called,” Warui explained.

Wanga said from the bank’s explanation, it was clear that the DP misled the country that he had secured the loan to the Turkish national.

“What we have heard today has clearly demonstrated that the DP misled the country into believing he had secured the huge loan for his Turkish ally,” Wanga said.

 “Why would the DP make such outrageous statements?” she wondered.

Single customer

According to Warui, the bank could not have advanced such a huge amount of money since lending in Uganda is capped at Sh2.2 billion only.

“There is no way we could have lent Sh15 billion to a customer in Uganda. When it comes to Uganda, the amount that can be lent to a single customer is capped to a limit of Sh2.2 billion because of the capital requirement,” Warui clarified.

Luanda MP Chris Omulele, a member of the committee, lauded the bank for the professional manner it handled the matter.

“Equity Bank has been professional and protective of its customers; have explained themselves,” he said.

Asked by Mbooni MP David Mwalika whether he was aware that one of the directors of Dei Group of companies was suspended following money laundering allegations, Warui said the bank cannot engage in such an unlawful act.

“The bank is law abiding and cannot be involved in any act of money laundering,” Warui said.

Bank, however, admitted it has a banking relationship with Dei Group of Companies, associated with Aydin, which has set up a pharmaceutical factory in Uganda.

The ground breaking of the factory was officiated by Uganda President Yoweri Museveni and Ruto.

The Ugandan President welcomed Ruto whom he described as ‘a very committed East African’ for working with the Equity Bank to secure funding for the project

But explaining the relationship between the bank and Dei Group, Equity Bank Group Chief Risk and Compliance officer Sam Gitwekere said it dates back to 2014.

“It is an old relationship and the directors of Dei Group are Matthias Magoola and Kellen Kamurungi.

Those are the shareholders according to the records of the bank,” Gitwekere said.

The Deputy President said during the function that he was representing East Africans living in Kenya as a demonstration of brotherhood of East African nations.

He said the investment is significant in three fundamental ways including the fact that Magoola, who is the brain behind the multi-billion shilling investment, is an East African and a Ugandan.

“Ordinarily, investments of this magnitude have white faces. It is people from Europe and America who engage in these investments. Congratulations to Magoola.

We are proud of you as an East African that the language you are speaking of billions of dollars, we are domesticating it in our continent.

It is new but we have champions like you who are daring to walk the journey to invest in the space and magnitude that we have witnessed,” Ruto said as he heaped Magoola with praise.

Two weeks ago, Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i told MPs that Aydin was a money laundering suspect.

Close relations

“He was to be arraigned in a Nairobi court but Turkish authorities requested to deal with him as per existing bilateral agreements,” Matiang’i said.

He added: “We got in touch with security agencies in his country, who asked us to surrender him.

We deported him on an understanding with Turkey, whom we have close relations with. Our security agencies share information. It was mutually agreed to deport him.”

The CS further revealed that Aydin had been flagged by the intelligence of a neighbouring country and one of the people he was dealing with was arrested in another country while trying to bribe a minister. 

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