Thursday, December 6, 2018

The roller-coaster ride of MauBank has reached a new stop, with Hinduja Group settling for USD 100 m. With no hurdles expected from Governor Goolgoolye, the endorsement by the Bank of Mauritius only seems to be a formality, ending 2018 on a happy note for the Hindujas .

Since the Jugnauth led government launched its midnight riot over the Bramer Bank back on 3rd April 2015, over USD 182 m have been injected in the setting up of National Commercial Bank ( NCB) and later merging of the Mauritius Post & Cooperative Bank to create MauBank. It is also believed there is a debt impairment worth USD 80 m which will soon hit the headlines, with the habitual cronies of the government involved in looting the bank.

New international regulations allowing tax probes and bank-data exchange between governments, have seriously disturbed the comfort of billionaires stashing their money in Swiss coffers. The crack down on Switzerland’s age old opaque private banking practices, led Indian billionaire Gopichand Hinduja in 2016, to publicly forecast an exodus of world’s richest people to havens in middle east to house their assets. In his own words, the prominent shareholder of Hinduja Group stated “People are finding new havens. I don’t think Switzerland can maintain its importance in banking.”

The Hindujas have the knack of getting embroiled in controversies. In 2005 , they were cleared from all charges pressed against them in the Bofors arms deal, after a 14 years legal process costing billions. In 2014, the Hinduja Bank based in Switzerland was probed for noncompliance to money laundering laws and hosting accounts of clients assessed as high risk.

The Hindujas – Mauritius relationship , is also a tale of sadness. In 1992, defying the family marriage tradition, 22 year old Dharam Hinduja, only son of Srichand Hinduja committed suicide by self-immolation in a cheap lodge room in Mauritius. Dharam Hinduja had married the love of his life, Ninotchka Sargon, an Australian of Roman Catholic faith and fled to Mauritius fearing the wrath of his family. With then Prime Minster Anerood Jugnauth offering every possible support following call from his counterpart , P V Narasimha Rao, the couple was tracked down within 24 hours. Both husband and wife entered into a suicide pact which left Dharam with 70% burns. He was jetted to Queen Mary’s Hospital in Britain, where he died 2 days later, leaving his father devastated.

Their accession to Britain’s league of richest people was unimaginable 50 years back. Today the Hindujas own landmark properties which were once the pride of the crown. Their success is the result of many shrewd and daring moves and when it comes to business, the Hindujas are ruthless. Pitted against a government which, even partisans agree, appears like a poultry of headless chicken, the negotiations with the Hindujas was a walk over, right from the beginning.

The Bramer Bank which had overnight been entrusted to SBM ( a listed company), then branded as NCB within a week and later on merged with MPCB to form MauBank was bound to fail with such overdose of political interference. Had it not been for the media, the Jugnauth led government would have had its stooge imposed as CEO of the new entity. Observers claim, this is also the most blessed time for thieves willing to loot, pocket commissions on unsecured loans, write off debts, award contracts and transfer funds. The regulators and Jugnauth led government are willing to allow the Hindujas to walk into the Bank with USD 100 m, while the same people had objected when Britam Kenya proposed to save Bramer Bank by agreeing to inject the USD 100 m imposed by the Bank of Mauritius. The SME bank which the Jugnauth government has been boasting about in 2 consecutive budgets, promising to be the driver of the new economy, will soon be the bling bling Bank hosting the shady accounts of billionaires fleeing Switzerland.

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