The co-founder of defunct UT Bank, Prince Kofi Amoabeng, has revealed that he bent over backwards to not only advance a loan of Gh¢5 million to Ken Ofori-Atta and his Databank partner Keli Gadzekpo in the past but also protected them from being harassed by the bank’s loan recovery team.
In his book ‘The UT story: Humble Beginnings’, Mr Amoabeng, whose bank was later collapsed under President Nana Akufo-Addo with Mr Ofori-Atta as Finance Minister, narrated: “Ken and his partner, Keli Gadzekpo, came to me bearing their shares in Enterprise Insurance as collateral for a loan of about ¢5 million”.
“At the time, the cedi had undergone redenomination and had been rebranded as ‘new Ghana cedi’. The ¢5 million he requested, therefore, was equivalent to about $5 million,” he wrote.
He said even though the duo did not meet certain requirements, he ensured they got the loan because of his relationship with Mr Ofori-Atta at the time.
“We were very good friends, so, I felt obliged, albeit not without conducting the necessary due diligence. It was curious though that they did not prefer the banks where they would have secured the loan at a much lower annual interest rate as compared to our significantly higher monthly compounded interest rates”, Mr Amoabeng expressed in the book.
“Be that as it may, after I perused their documents, I felt it was acceptable to grant the loan. The only snag, and a significant one at that, was that the amount exceeded the Single Obligor Limit. Ideally, I should have declined their request there and then. Instead, I decided to bail them out,” he said in the book.
“Unfortunately, Ken failed to honour his end of the bargain. He defaulted badly on the repayment schedule. The situation was so bad that they could only service the interest on the loan,” he revealed.
“I became concerned because I had assured the board, I knew Ken very well and I was convinced beyond doubt that he would honour his word. Thus, I had egg on my face, especially as my partner had expressly stated his disapproval of the request,” he said.
“I called a meeting with Ken and Keli and admonished them to do their best to pay up. I made it clear to them that I did not want my men to hassle them. Sefa Asante was the Credit Officer in charge of that portfolio. Because of my relationship with Ken and the respect I had for him, I prohibited Sefa and his team from applying our usual, rigid recovery methods.
“In fact, I gave him express instructions not to ever hassle Ken and his team. They could check on them every now and then, but they had to be discreet about it. If they felt they were being stonewalled, they should not push back or react. Rather, they should revert to me on how to handle the situation,” he said.
“Furthermore, to be double sure that Ken and Keli were not hassled, I devised a clever plan and informed them about it. Anytime the board exerted pressure on me, I invited them to a meeting, documented the meeting, and formally informed the board about it. It was all a ruse to hold the board at bay and buy Ken and Keli more time to pay up,” he added.
“When the issue lingered, I reduced the interest rate to about 3% a month, just so they could settle their debt. Unfortunately, it took them over four years to pay up. Even then, they serviced it in bits and pieces until they were able to eventually pay up,” he revealed.