His Highness the Aga Khan owned Diamond Trust Bank (DTB) linked to banking fraud and terrorism

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His Highness the Aga Khan, Imam of the Shia Ismaili Muslims and Chairman of the Aga Khan Development Network. PHOTO/COURTESY

By ABDULHAKIM SHERMAN

Diamond Trust Bank (DTB) one of the flagship companies in His Highness the Aga Khan investment portfolio in Kenya is in the spotlight over allegations of banking fraud and links to a terrorism suspect.

An explosive affidavit filed in court by one of the bank’s client Ms Sun Pil Lim, chairperson of Daehan Pharmaceutical Limited, of South Korean, shows that more than Sh 150 million was withdrawn from the company account and a personal account without her consent.

Ms Lim, wife of Safari Park Hotel owner Young Roh has filed two lawsuits at the Commercial and Admiralty Division of the High Court in efforts to recover her money.

Ms Lim says she decided to take DTB to court after her attempts to get an explanation from the bank regarding the state of her accounts did not receive any response.

In her court documents, Ms Lim avers that together with three other directors of Daehan Pharmaceutical Limited identified as Jolly Jeminah Lanji Ouko, Lee Jong and Jang Jongmin they opened a fixed deposit account at DTB, Thika Road Mall branch, on May 19 2015.

Daehan Pharmaceutical Ltd deposited Sh100 million in the fixed account on October 24 2015 with the two of the company’s directors; Ms Lim and Mr Lee Jogn being appointed signatory to the account.

Ms Lim adds that she opened another fixed account in her name and deposited Sh50 million in the account and DTB issued certificates of deposits on October 28 2015 and November 5 2015.

She reveals that problems started when Daehan Pharmaceutical Ltd board in December 2017 sought to know the state of the fixed deposit accounts.

Diamond Trust Bank (DTB) group CEO Nasim Devji with the group chairman Abdul Samji during one of the bank’s AGMs. PHOTO/COURTESY

Ms Lim alleges the company failed to get information they were looking for from DTB and the branch manager became evasive. The investor then moved to court to force the bank to furnish her with information regarding her accounts and the order was granted.

DTB finally provided Ms Lim with the documents and it was at that point that she discovered money had been withdrawn from the accounts without her approval as one of the signatories.

The money, according to documents, was withdrawn between March 10, 2016 and December 4, 2017 using 157 cheques in what took a total of 146 transactions to clear the entire Sh100 million.

Ms Lim claims one of the directors, Mr Lee, forged her signature and conspired with the bank manager to liquidate the account and share the money.

“Mr Lee informed us that he shared the money with the said manager in order to be allowed to liquidate the deposit and withdraw the money,” reads the plaint.

To facilitate the liquidation and withdrawal, Ms Lim claims the bank relied on an undated letter of July 12, 2016, which led to the premature liquidation of Sh30 million, where her signature too was forged.

Similar letters were presented to the bank on July 12 and October 26 2016 and were also used to liquidate the remaining Sh70 million.

The same scheme was utilised to empty Ms Lim’s personal fixed deposit account, which is the subject of the second civil suit, case number EO 68 of 2018.

She says that although in the account where she had put Sh50 million she was the sole signatory, Mr Lee forged her signature, wrote a letter requesting the liquidation of the deposit, which was then transferred to a different account.

Diamond Trust Bank (DTB) group CEO Nasim Devji was interrogated by the Anti-Terrorism Police Unit (TPU). PHOTO/COURTESY

Ms Lim wants the court to order DTB to pay her a total of Sh169,944,520, as well as the interest this money has earned from October 24 2016, costs of the two suits and any other relief the court may find fit. The bank is expected to respond to the two suits.

Diamond Trust Bank (DTB) is a leading regional bank, listed on the Nairobi Securities Exchange (NSE). It is an affiliate of the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN). DTB has operated in East Africa for over 70 years.

The bank’s board of directors includes Abdul Samji, chairman. Samji became the chairman of the DTB Group in May 2010 after having been appointed to the board in 1997. Mr. Samji is also the Chairman of the PDM Group of Companies.

Nasim Devji, is the group chief executive officer and managing director and joined the DTB Group in 1996 following which she was appointed Group chief executive officer of Diamond Trust Banks in East Africa in 2001. She is a Fellow of The Institute of Chartered Accountants of England and Wales, an Associate of the Institute of Taxation (United Kingdom) and a Fellow of the Kenya Institute of Bankers.

Other directors include Pamella Ager, a partner in Oraro and Company Advocates, Guedi Ainache, Linus Gitahi (former Nation Media Group CEO), Irfan Keshavjee, Ismail Mawji and Jamaludin Shamji.

The bank’s CEO, Ms Devji, has also been under investigations by the Anti-Terrorism Police Unit (TPU) following revelations that one of the suspects in the Dusit Hotel terrorist attack in Riverside on January 14, this year had an account at the bank’s Eastleigh branch and made several withdrawals there just days before the terror attack.

The manager of the branch, Ms Sophia Njoki, has since been charged. Ms Njoki was charged and pleaded not guilty to three counts; failure to report suspicious proceeds of crime, aiding and abetting terrorism and failure to report money laundering. She denied the charges before Milimani Law Court Chief Magistrate Francis Andayi and was released on bail.

In a paid-up advertisement in one of the dailies recently, the bank’s company secretary Stephen Kodumbe said: “DTB has taken note of the charges preferred on February 20 2019 against Sophia Njoki Mbogo, the branch manager at our Eastleigh branch. We continue to cooperate with the law enforcement and stand with our fellow Kenyans during this challenging time of seeking answers”.

Last year, the Central Bank of Kenya slapped hefty fines on five top banks for allegedly having been involved in the National Youth Service scandal transactions. DTB was among the five banks which were fined a total of Sh394 million.

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