Economy

Equity denies Sh15bn loan for Uganda vaccine plant - VIDEO

Equity-centre

Equity Centre in Nairobi upperhill. FILE PHOTO | NMG

Equity Bank #ticker:EQTY Wednesday denied claims by Deputy President William Ruto that it loaned an unnamed investor Sh15 billion to set up a vaccine manufacturing factory in Uganda on his recommendation.

Dr Ruto had last month alleged in a radio interview that he successfully placed a call to the bank to fund the investor towards the construction of a Covid-19 manufacturing factory owned by Dei Pharmaceuticals.

The director of legal affairs at Equity Group, Christine Browne, however told Parliament Wednesday that the bank never made such a transaction.

She said such a deal would be impractical since it would be in breach of the bank’s single obligatory lending limit — the maximum amount an individual is allowed to borrow. This limit is expressed as a percentage of a lending institution’s capital and surplus.

Equity Uganda’s regulatory capital is about Sh9.8 billion and the law only allows an individual to borrow 25 percent of this amount, which would translate to Sh2.5 billion — way below the Sh15 billion that Dr Ruto had claimed was loaned to the investor.

Mrs Browne also denied any links between Equity Bank and a controversial Turkish businessman, Harun Aydin, who was deported from the country last month, for suspected involvement in money laundering despite coming in on a work permit as an investor in solar energy. Mr Ayadin is an associate of Dr Ruto.

“Mr Aydin has never had any relationship with the bank, directly or indirectly, not been through Dei Pharmaceuticals. He is a stranger to the bank,” she told the National Assembly Committee on Finance and National Planning yesterday.

The Turkish businessman was among those who were to accompany Mr Ruto on his aborted trip to Uganda early last month.

Immigration officials at Nairobi’s Wilson Airport allowed others in the delegation, including Mr Aydin, to travel but blocked Mr Ruto, saying he did not have the required clearance to fly out of the country.

The Turk was arrested upon arrival at Wilson Airport on August 7 and deported to Istanbul two days later, hours before his scheduled appearance before a court to answer charges of money laundering.

The government defended its move to deport Mr Aydin, saying that he was linked to a money-laundering ring.

MPs raised concerns that Dr Ruto had publicly spoken of helping a foreign investor to get funds from a local bank to invest outside Kenya, yet job creation through the manufacturing is one of four pillars of the Big Four agenda, championed by President Uhuru Kenyatta.

“As a committee, we have been concerned that the Deputy President of the Republic of Kenya lied to Kenyans about this facility (loan),” Gladys Wanga, who chairs the National Assembly Committee on Finance and National Planning, said.