One year after the Mauritius Commercial Bank (MCB) announced that National Pensions Fund?s (NPF) Rs 881,5 million deposits had vanished from its coffers, the biggest financial scandal to date has not yet been cleared up. Between lengthy questioning and spectacular arrests by the Independent Commission against Corruption (ICAC), an official investigation by the Bank of Mauritius and the private prosecution by the MCB, the layman is at a loss. With so many protagonists involved, independent observers wonder if anyone will ever unravel the ?plot?.
A few days before 14th February 2003, known afterwards as MCB?s ?Black Friday?, Amina Rojoa, the accountant responsible for the NPF deposits file, informed the Prime Minister that the MCB deposits could not be traced. (She was subsequently accused of ?conspiracy? with retired MCB Chief Manager, Robert Lesage).
In a press communiqué, the MCB pinpointed the latter as the mastermind. He was accused of ?fraudulently abstracting funds belonging to the MCB? and ?tampering with clients? accounts?. Charged with embezzlement and money laundering, he at once involved the two top MCB bosses: ?I followed instructions given by the General Management.?
As the investigation unfolded, ICAC identified the main beneficiary as London-based Mauritian businessman Teeren Appassamy. Money was credited to accounts of ten companies and five persons. Teeren Appasamy, the alleged master swindler, is connected to the other four - Ravi Ramdewar, his solicitor; former top civil servant, Dev Manraj, his companies? director; economist Donald Ha Yeung, his agent; and his brother, Tamby Appasamy. They, as well as MCB top bosses, have been provisionally charged. However, ICAC is still waiting for the businessman's testimony. He has not so far been bothered.
New charges filed
Both Robert Lesage and Teeren Appasamy involved the top management. Pointed out by Teeren Appasamy as his main contact, MCB General Manager on leave, Pierre-Guy Noël, has been charged of having ?willfully and criminally conspired with Robert Lesage and Teeren Appasamy to engage in several transactions involving a sum of Rs 36 million?. His deputy, Philippe A. Forget, as file manager of two companies of Teeren Appasamy, was charged with ?failing to report a suspicious transaction?. After his arrest and release on bail, charges were changed and then struck out. A month ago, ICAC filed new charges against him. Another top MCB manager, Thierry Sauzier, was charged with taking a Rs 2 million ?bribe?.
Most of the protagonists feel bitter at being thus thrown into the limelight. ICAC has been expressly blamed for media over-coverage of its inquiry and the spectacular manner of its arrests. An internal crisis has further delayed the progress of the case.
Meanwhile, the MCB has repaid the NPF deposits and started legal proceedings against 38 individuals and entities ? an intricate case, which could go on for years. Despite the nightmarish aftermath of such a gaping hole in its finances and a severe blow to its credibility, the MCB is optimistic about a ?brighter? future. The top management is convinced that the ?undeniable goodwill built up over decades of service to the nation has preserved its confidence capital?.
The ?Main Case? of Mauritius Commercial Bank
MCB has drawn up a detailed ?indictment? against 38 parties. The most important ones involved are:
-Sea Rock Paradise Ltd (1989): The Ha Yeung couple buy shares of Masilamani and Veemlah Veerasamy.
- Angel Beach Resorts Ltd (1987): Teeren Appasamy, Dev Manraj and Donald Ha Yeung?s wife shareholders as from 1997. Ravi Ramdewar, secretary until May 2002. Teeren Appasamy and Marc Daruty de Grandpré directors since August 2001.
- Belle Beach Ltd: Teeren Appasamy, sole director.
- Handsome Investment Ltd (1991): Shareholders: Donald Ha Yeung & Mrs. Pit Ho Wong Ching Hwai.
- Quartet Development Co Ltd (1986): First shareholders: Alain Richard Voon, Donald Ha Yeung, Prithiniah Geerjanand and Mrs Hurkissoon Rambaruth. Geerjanand Khoosman and Sudarshan Bhadain shareholders in 1990.
- Magarian Cie Ltd (1988): Bhardooaz Babeedin and Deochand Nundloll, shareholders. In 1994, Donald Ha Yeung joins in.
- Advance Engineering Ltd (1988): Shareholders: Narainsamy Sadien, Sudeshj Dawoodharry and Danesh Sampathlall.
- Mauri Beach Travel and Tours Ltd (1997): Dev Manraj (also director), Ravi Ramdewar (also secretary), Donald Ha Yeung and his wife (director) shareholders and Renu Manraj one of the directors.