Eland Still Battling NIB  *Over US$207M Rice Cash

 

When the National Investment Bank (NIB) faced liquidity challenges in the early 2000s and was about to be sold off, it was Eland International Thailand and its sister company in Ghana, Eland Ghana, that saved it, Today investigations have revealed.

 

The state banking firm needed US$2 million to survive. Fortunately, the bank got more than what it had hoped for through a trading business it entered into with the Thai business company and its Ghanaian partner, Eland International Ghana.

 

Goods worth about US$13 million were placed at its doorsteps to trade with after signing a Collateral Management Agreement (CMA) with Eland International Thailand/Ghana.

 

All that the bank needed to do was to store the goods at its various warehouses look for buyers and sell to them and take its cut while the remaining amount is deposited into Eland International Thailand’s accounts.

 

To ensure fairness and transparency, an escrow account was opened at NIB for such special purpose trading business.

 

This breakthrough deal was secured by the bank through the assistance of Mr Daniel Charles Gyimah, who had then been appointed as the Managing Director of NIB.

 

Until his appointment as MD for NIB, Mr Daniel Charles Gyimah was the MD for EXIM Guarantee Company, a firm which was also doing business with Eland International Thailand/Ghana.

 

It all started when in the year 2000, Eland International Thailand/Ghana entered into a rice supply agreement of about 14,400 tons at a CIF value of US$5million with Network Trading Company (NTC) on a credit of two years.

 

NTC was being managed by Prosper Adabla, Sam Adabla and Edward Boahene. The company had a Collateral Management Agreement (CMA) with EXIM Guarantee Company of which Mr Daniel Charles Gyimah was the MD. And the paper learnt that Mr Daniel Charles Gyimah and Mr Prosper Adabla were very close friends.

 

They issued four (4) Promissory Notes (PNs) worth US$1,250,000 with each payable after each six (6) months.

 

This business transaction was counter guaranteed by GR World, a credit insurance guarantee company, which covered the risk of default to EXIM Guarantee Company.

 

While Eland International Thailand/Ghana was working on the risk and supply documentations, they were informed that Mr Daniel Charles Gyimah had been appointed as MD for NIB and, therefore, had moved the CMA to NIB.

 

Eland International Thailand/Ghana had no difficulty agreeing to the said transfer of business to NIB since the risk was more acceptable on the face of it to their bankers and or fund managers.

 

Since NIB wasn’t on a sound footing financially, it incorporated a clause in the CMA that the funds for clearing the goods and all local expenses would be paid by the suppliers out of which same would be recovered from the sales and repaid to Eland Thailand/Ghana.

 

A credit guarantee premium and expenses of £395,000 would also be paid by the supplier (Eland International Thailand/Ghana) and repaid from the sales proceeds.

 

Industry sources with knowledge about the said business transaction say since the investment was heavy, Eland International Thailand/Ghana requested for some time to seek the approval from its bankers.

 

However, NIB took board approval and issued four Promissory Notes (PNs) on the same terms as EXIM Guarantee Company and guaranteed them.

 

It then insisted that Eland International Thailand/Ghana shift its business from their bankers to NIB with a promise to render better services and charge less for under the CMA.

 

Eland International Thailand/Ghana which then had a vision to expand its business across all ECOWAS member countries at a little cost agreed to the terms being offered by the NIB and, therefore, entered into a Collateral Management Agreement (CMA) with NIB on November 10, 2001 for a period of ten (10) years.

 

Having sealed the deal, it was time for their first transaction. Here, the NIB did not issue or guarantee any Promissory Notes (PNs) for Eland International Thailand/Ghana.

 

Eland International Thailand/Ghana paid £395,000 to GR World for credit guarantee for NIB and NTC following which the NIB raised an invoice of US$109,600 for the CMA of both companies in January 2002.

 

Eland International Thailand/Ghana thus shipped 22,000 tons of Thai White Rice 25% broken in 50kg by a chartered vessel- MV Sea maiden- which arrived at the Tema Harbour in the last and early week of February/March 2002.

 

However, what appeared to be a promising and healthy relationship between Eland International Thailand/Ghana and the NIB has ended on a sour note with NIB allegedly using some dubious means to rip off the Thai business firm which is headed by Mr Arvind Bhatnagar.

 

Today can report on authority that when the NIB then under its new MD brokered the deal with Eland International Thailand, a request was made for its representatives to travel to Ghana to meet the then President of the Republic, His Excellency, John Agyekum Kufuor.

 

To this effect, Mr Bhatnagar and Ms Sinisa Saksarut, who is the Managing Director of Eland International, India, travelled to Ghana where they were led by Mr Daniel Charles Gyimah to greet His Excellency, J.A. Kufuor at his residence.

 

The meeting with the president was to assure the investors that their investments were safe in the country.

 

But little did they know that they were going to bump into difficulties.

 

It became apparently clear that NTC lacked the financial muscle to raise enough capital locally for stevedores, loading and unloading, transportation, pallets, fumigation, and bonding of NIB warehouses among others for the first transaction of 22,000 tons of Thai White Rice 25% broken in 50kg.

 

However, it still wanted to take charge of the rice consignment which was about to arrive and this resulted in a tussle between it and the NIB.

 

The matter was taken to court and the NIB won the sole control rights over the rice of both companies.

 

Eland International Thailand/Ghana immediately transferred US$415,000 into its Dollar Account with the NIB as a deposit to earn higher interest rate and also to make it available as cash against cash collateral to pay temporarily for all the expenses which will be paid back from the first sales to square off the temporary overdraft dollar deposit.

 

This US$415,000 has allegedly not been paid by the NIB with no explanation to date.

 

Sources familiar with the transaction say the NIB has since brokering the deal with Eland International Thailand/Ghana allegedly showed complete indifference to the terms of the CMA by neither taking part in discharge operations, repair and upkeep of its leaking warehouses, fumigation, and as well as the provision of security. 15,000 bags of rice were reported missing from the warehouses.

 

This is in spite of appointing a Warehouse Committee and Credit Committee as only the bank could extend credit at its sole discretion and risk on the CIF value only and not on local expenses and duties as well as VAT among others.

 

To make matters worse under the CMA, the NIB, we are informed, neither rendered weekly accounts nor provided daily balances in the escrow account. The bank is alleged to have also opened multiple escrow accounts in Cedis and Dollars and showed transfers from one account but no statements to enable Eland International Thailand/Ghana to check the corresponding credit.

 

With Eland International Thailand/Ghana feeling frustrated about the doings of the NIB, it threatened legal action ten (10) months into the CMA.

 

Afraid of losing the deal, the NIB convinced Eland International Thailand/Ghana to pay huge sums of money to have the maturity dates on the three (3) Promissory Notes (PNs) extended to full two years instead of the half yearly. Here over US$300,000 was charged to Eland International Thailand/Ghana account with the bank agreeing to remit US$1,250,000 to Eland International India but with an unwarranted condition.

 

Our sources say Eland International Thailand/Ghana was forced to provide an advance counter guarantee from ICIC Bank in India that upon receipt of the amount it would open Letters of Credit (LC) to supply further 25,000 tons of rice.

But the NIB, we understand, has since recoiled into its shell and maintained its silence over the matter after kicking against the arbitration in London.

 

This situation has, therefore, provoked Eland International Thailand to trigger the arbitration proceedings with the hope of claiming its US$207.5million with interest.

 

 

Story: Freeman KORYEKPOR AWLESU

Writer’s email: freeman.koryekpor@todaygh.com

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