By Rodney Sieh
Monrovia – FiBank Liberia, one of the first financial institutions to surface in the aftermath of the election of President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf that was at the verge of bankruptcy has now been taken over by new shareholder, Ghana Growth Fund Company (GGFC) to protect the bank from collapse. The bank was about to close as the report of the bank’s imminent collapse surfaced amid what sources tell FrontPageAfrica has been a series of lingering suspicious inside robbery activities at the institution.
The report follows the acquisition of a loan the bank received from the Central Bank of Liberia in the amount of US$15 million to help it stay afloat. But barely a week after the loan was granted, things became complicated when robbers hit the bank taking away a whopping US$500,000.
FrontPageAfrica was initially informed that the hit was done by armed robbers but sources at the bank informed FPA that it was in fact an inside job. “They opened the vault and took the cash out, money that the CBL had just given them to stay afloat,” said the source privy to the ongoing investigation, but speaking on condition of anonymity. “It is the Central Bank of Liberia loan money they played in so.”
Lingering financial issues at the bank, FPA gathered prompted owners to begin shopping for potential buyers. This is not the first time the bank has been in the midst of controversy. In 2013, at least 15 persons at the bank were suspended and investigated in connection with a US$1.2M fraud at the First International Bank (FIBANK) Liberia Limited, but trusted sources within and amongst the investigators hinted that some of the bank’s executives are linked to the rip-off.
In 2011, the bank whose books were audited by Voscon Inc., Monrovia, Liberia reported that as at 31 December, 2010 shows an Assets Base of US$6.5 Million, Total Equity Capital of over US$7.6 Million, and a Deposits Base of US$10 Million. The bank reported that its assets was just under USD 20 million and Deposits in excess of US$12 million, while an expected capital injection will push our equity base to over US$10 Million by the end of June, 2011.
FiBank Liberia is a member of the FiBank Group which has banking and insurance subsidiaries in four other African Countries namely: The Gambia, Sierra Leone, Guinea, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. The bank in recent years expanded its operations to include eight (8) branches and five (5) MoneyGram and Western Union Retail Outlets in the capital suburbs and in the provinces. The bank recently obtained from the AfricanExport-Import Bank a USD 10 Million Facility on non-recourse basis and a USD 3Million Trade Finance Facility to stimulate import-export activities throughout Liberia.
CBL confirms takeover
The Central Bank of Liberia late Wednesday confirmed that the bank has now been taken over by a Ghanaian based financial institution, the Ghana Growth Fund Company (GGFC) as the new shareholder.
“In keeping with the new Financial Institutions Act of 1999, the CBL, pursuant to the takeover of FIBLL, has appointed a Provisional Administrator (PA) for the purpose of facilitating the smooth transfer of ownership to the new Shareholders and ensure the continuous operations of the bank”, the CBL stated.
According to the CBL, the new shareholder is already a part of the Liberian financial system as the owner of the Liberian Enterprise Development Finance Company (LEDFC). As part of protecting the interest of Liberians, the CBL also announced that it has agreed with the new shareholder to allow significant Liberian participation in the new ownership of the bank.
“The CBL wishes to assure the depositors, creditors and general public that it has taken the necessary actions to ensure the continuous operations of the bank”, the CBL assured.