Dr. Rajan Mahtani, the 75-year-old founder of Finance Bank Zambia (FBZ), has testified in a London court, alleging that Bob Diamond’s Atlas Mara breached the terms of an acquisition agreement. Dr. Mahtani, along with co-claimants, is seeking up to $100 million (£80m) in damages from Atlas Mara, accusing them of acting with “sinister motives.”
The dispute revolves around the acquisition of FBZ by Atlas Mara, with Dr. Mahtani intending to secure the future of the bank. However, he claims that Atlas Mara failed to honor the terms of the agreement, leading to financial losses and reputational damage.
During the court proceedings, Dr. Mahtani detailed events leading up to the 2016 deadline for repurchasing one of FBZ’s subsidiaries from Atlas Mara. Under the agreement, Atlas Mara would sell Finance Building Society (FBS) to a third party if a buyer was found by December 31, 2016. Dr. Mahtani, intending to buy and run it as a standalone business, claims that Atlas Mara breached this agreement.
Atlas Mara’s legal representative, Anna Boase KC, suggested that Dr. Mahtani orchestrated a series of communications to pressure Atlas Mara into selling FBS back to him. She referenced emails and letters sent on December 21, 2016, containing confirmation of his intention to repurchase FBS. Boase accused Dr. Mahtani of disregarding the sale and purchase agreement (SPA) and attempting to manipulate the situation.
In response, Dr. Mahtani denied the allegations, stating that he believed he was dealing with “honorable, bona fide parties” and accused Atlas Mara of breaching the agreement with “sinister motives.” He highlighted a lack of cooperation and adherence to the SPA, leading to difficulties in completing the transaction.
Beatrice Hamza Bassey, General Counsel of Atlas Mara, testified that the firm did not take Dr. Mahtani’s intentions seriously and had no reason to ask for the SPA, as they did not consider the deal a priority. She claimed that it was impossible to conclude the deal by the deadline and accused Dr. Mahtani of an “ambush” with a barrage of documents.
Dr. Bwalya Ng’andu, former Deputy Governor of the Bank of Zambia, provided testimony related to the court case. He confirmed that the Bank of Zambia did not take a position on whether the repurchase of FBS by Dr. Mahtani should proceed. He clarified that the commercial terms agreed upon by the parties, as outlined in the SPA, would apply.
Denying claims of expressing views that could discredit Dr. Mahtani, Dr. Ng’andu emphasized the professional relationship maintained by the Bank of Zambia. He stated that the bank would not give signals to others about issues unrelated to them.
The court hearing is set to continue, with further testimonies and evidence presented.
Central News, Press Room, Central Criminal Court