Friday, October 12, 2018

Over the last months, the SBM Bank ( Mauritius) Ltd has been repeatedly embroiled in various scandals, impacting on the soundness of its repute. Amidst the ongoing turmoil, government is all set to announce the appointment of Kris Lutchmeenaraidoo as Chairman of the Bank in replacement of departing Nayen Koomar Ballah.

Serving since September 2016 as Secretary to Cabinet and Head of the Civil Service, Nayen Koomar Ballah has been the Chairman of the SBM Bank. A position which initially according to various sources within the government was to be attributed to Dev Manraj, current Financial Secretary, also until 2015 Senior Adviser to former prime minister Navin Ramgoolam. The appointment at the bank, required the prior approval of the Bank Of Mauritius ( BOM). Based on Dev Manraj’s involvement alongside his notorious business partner Teeren Appasamy in the MCB scam, the BOM refused to endorse the appointment. Thereby rating current Financial Secretary and Chairman of Financial Services Commission as not being Fit & Proper.

Following the “resignation “ of Raj Dussoye , Kris Lutchmeenaraidoo was on the verge of being appointed as CEO of SBM Bank. However, his previous track record at the SBM whereby he was forced to resign from his post by then General Manager S. Nagarajen on grounds of serious violations of Banking regulations bringing disrepute to the Bank, had caught up with him. Moreover, according to senior cadres at the Bank, Kris Lutchmeenaraidoo could never have been a contender, given his poor academic record. According to these sources, he does not even carry a HSC certificate which is mandatory for obtaining consideration for the post of CEO.

With the appointment of Parvataneni Venkateswara Rao as acting CEO, which most likely will be made permanent, pressure from various quarters had eased off for a couple of weeks, until the announcement of the departure of NK Ballah. This time however, political nominees within the government have lobbied intensely for the appointment of the CEO of SBM Mauritius Asset Ltd and director of SBM Infastructure Development Ltd, as Chairman of the SBM Bank ( Mauritius) Ltd.

Cadres within the Bank forecast the Chairmanship of Kris Lutchmeenaraidoo as being “the worst possible signal at the darkest moment of the Bank’s history”. Members of the opposition, stand convinced the bank is running at full speed into a wall, dragging the whole sector along with it. One of the members of opposition, who until recently had formed part of the governing alliance, alleged “the prime minister has a strange track record with banks* and the policy of this government seems to be – A bank which is not robbed, is not a bank”.

*Pravind Jugnauth had previously served as legal advisor of various banks. One of controversies political opponents recall relates to Rs 5 million borrowed by Pravind Jugnauth and which was meant to be offset against future services. The bank ended up closing down within days.

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