The Commercial Court has pushed to March the hearing of the case in which city tycoon Sudhir Ruparelia wants the new lawyers hired by Bank of Uganda (BoU) also declared conflicted, and therefore unfit to represent the central bank in the commercial dispute with businessman.
The case was pushed to March following the falling sick of the David Wangutusi, the Head of the Commercial Court.
Ruparelia, in a suit filed in December last year at the Commercial Court, argued that Sebalu and Lule Advocates should not be representing BoU and Dfcu Bank since it has already represented Crane Management Services that owned Crane Bank which was controversially sold to Dfcu Bank in January 2017.
Crane Management Services sued DFCU Bank demanding rental arrears amounting to Shs2.9 billion and US $385,728.54 in respect of tenancies of suit properties that were formally owned by Crane Bank Limited (CBL).
“In view of the advocate-client relationship between the applicant (Crane Management Services sued Dfcu Bank) and the 1st respondent (Sebalu & Lule advocates), the latter’s continued participation as defence counsel for the 2nd respondent (Dfcu bank) herein, which is the defendant in High Court Civil Suit (HCCS) No. 109/2018 against the applicant/plaintiff, is prejudicial to the applicant’s head suit,” the petition reads in part.
Ruparelia also wants the court to issue a permanent injunction, restraining Sebalu & Lule Advocates from appearing as defence counsel for dfcu bank in the other court case that the two principals are battling out.
In December 2017, the Commercial disqualified Masemmbe and Mpanga from the sh397 billion Sudhir Ruparelia’s case against Bank of Uganda (BoU), citing conflict of interest.
In his ruling delivered on December 21, 2017, the head of the commercial court division, Justice David Kutosi Wangutusi stated that David Mpanga of A.F. Mpanga Advocates and Timothy Masembe of MMAKS Advocates acted in violation of the Advocates regulations.
Section 4 of the regulation says that an advocate shall not accept instructions from any person in respect of a contentious or non-contentious matter if the matter involves a former client and the advocate as a result of acting for the former client is aware of any facts which may be prejudicial to the client in that matter.
Court documents further indicate that when Dfcu Bank took over the assets and liabilities of Crane Bank, it also took over occupation and use of the said rented properties from which the real estate company wants to recover accumulated rent arrears from Dfcu bank.
Some of the properties cited include; Crane Bank branches at plot 9 on Market Street, plot 1-13, Jinja Road, plot 47, Republic Road-Mbale, Speke Hotel (1996), Pot 19 Cooper Road (Crane Plaza), plot 20, Kampala Road –Crane Bank ATM.
Sudhir told journalists at court that it is pure conflict of interest and greed.(The reason we are here is for the ruling but it has been pushed to March 1 and we wait as we get more details, it is a simple case of conflict of interest”.