SOLD: The former Crane Bank headquarters on Kampala Road.

Former Prime Minister John Patrick Amama Mbabazi, a majority shareholder in the defunct National Bank of Commerce, and other shareholders, are reportedly behind negative publicity Crane Bank is facing.

EagleOnline has learnt from sources in the banking sector and Ugandan intelligence that Mbabazi and his NBC colleagues are bitter with Crane Bank boss Sudhir Ruparelia, for buying off their bank hardly an hour after closure about four years ago.

In September 2012, Bank of Uganda took over the operations of NBC and in its closure directive, the central bank wrote: “In exercise of its powers under Section 88(1)(a) and (b) of the Financial Institutions Act 2004, Bank of Uganda has effective today September 27, 2012 taken over the management of National Bank of Commerce,” reads the notice which was signed by Deputy Governor Louis  Kasekende. The BOU notice added: “The management and board of directors of National Bank of Commerce are hereby suspended.”

However, sources said that hardly an hour after the closure, Crane Bank management was ushered and took over the operations of the bank.

The sources further said that whereas Sudhir managed to takeover the operations of the bank and the accounts of the customers at the time, little did he know that the former shareholders weren’t happy about his immediate takeover.

“Some have in process hit back at him with the latest negative publicity whose aim is to make customers run away from the bank,” the sources told EagleOnline.

“We have picked clues that it is about the way NBC was closed and hurriedly taken over by Crane Bank and the second lead relates to politics; there are some individuals who think that Sudhir could have bailed out President Yoweri Museveni with money from his bank during campaigns and so these are trying to spoil business,” the sources say, referring to a brief about the ongoing negative publicity about Crane Bank that was reportedly prepared by Economic Monitoring Desk in the Office of the President.

Efforts to contact Mr Mbabazi were fruitless by press time.

At one time the NBC was reportedly sold to a group of wealthy Arabs at US$ 16 million but details of the subsequent transactions remain a highly-guarded secret.

Established in 1993, the National Bank of Commerce (NBC) enjoyed the shareholding of prominent Ugandans like retired Justice George William Kanyeihamba, Bank of Uganda Governor Prof Emmanuel Mutebile, Prof Mondo Kagonyera and Dr Ezra Suruma among many other personalities from the greater Kigezi region.