Muponda shed light over ownership of Century Bank

Written by The Zimbabwean

As the dispute between ENG Capital and Interfin Bank Holdings over ownership of Century Bank, later CFX Bank and now Interfin Banking Corporation rages on in the courts and outside, The Zimbabwean on Sunday spoke to Gilbert Muponda, a co-founder of ENG Capital that originally owned Century Bank to establish what exactly is the subject of contest in what is shaping up to be one of the biggest corporate battles witnessed in Zimbabwe in recent times. Excepts:

(TZS) Many people wonder how you outsmarted the police, six years down the line would you like to share with us how you did it?

(GM) I do not think I outwitted the police. The individuals at ENG executive security just did their work. On my part I had been praying and fasting for five weeks before I left Zimbabwe so I felt there was divine intervention.

You know the biblical moments when the seas open to let you pass and then close once you are gone. I was never a fugitive. Fugitive refers to someone who is fleeing justice, I do not think at that time what was happeing to me was justice, I was fleeing persecution and there is a term for that.

(TZ) What exactly is the issue in dispute between you and Interfin?

(GM) I have always maintained my 309 million Century Bank Holdings shares were illegally and irregularly converted into CFX shares (and) then into Interfin Bank Holdings shares.

The movement from Century Bank to CFX Bank to CFX/Interfin Banking Corporation clearly shows there is a problem and attempts to conceal and deceive on the initial fraudulent transfer of the Century Shares into CFX Bank then Intern Bank.

For that reason we have demanded to know the full identity of the individual or entity who initially “bought” the 309 million shares for which I am demanding US$15,4 million made up of the US$0.05 per share multiplied by 309 million shares.

Our legitimate claim to compensation of US$15,4 million for the 309 million shares is indisputable.

Farai Rwodzi and Interfin’s refusal to pay compensation is groundless and is absolutely not acceptable.

(TZS) You cannot operate Century/CFX Bank in Zimbabwe because you are specified, so what happens should the bank be returned to you as you demand?

(GM) ENG is still solvent and financially solid. We are working flat out for the re-launch around December 31. But it won’t be in Zimbabwe as I remain specified. I cannot be a director in Zimbabwe it will just be active outside Zimbabwe until de-specification. But we are ready from day one (of de-specification) to re-launch ENG Bank.
ENG Bank will not take deposits from the public. It will be focused on investment banking and activities such as research, mergers and acquisitions and private equity. Our feeling is that Zimbabwe has enough traditional banks but it does not have a proper investment bank in the mould of Goldman Sachs and Black Stone.

There are no meaningful deposits in the Zimbabwe market so most banks will struggle to get by because of mis-aligned cost structures and over staffing. Our model will focus on helping small companies get listed or raise capital instead of focusing on mobilising deposits that are not there.

(TZS) And your specification?

(GM) My lawyers have engaged the authorities about de-specification and we are happy with the progress. We have positive feedback that things may be normalised soon to allow my safe return and re-launch ENG Bank.

(TZS) The High Court said you abused depositors’ money when you travelled to Europe and Asia to watch Formula 1, the rugby world cup and English premier soccer league matches?

(GM) I have never watched a match in the United Kingdom, My favourite soccer team is DeMbare (Dynamos) so there is no way I could go to England to watch a football team I have no liking for instead of my one beloved one based in Mbare.
Let me set the record straight - ENG never availed depositor funds to its directors for personal use nor did I as an officer of ENG exploit depositor funds for personal use. ENG did not take deposits from the public, ENG was a fund of funds which meant only other highly specialised Institutions dealt with ENG.

ENG founders were a very focused and determined team and it is that spirit and hard work, that built ENG into a formidable entity in a short period of time.

The foreign travels mentioned were actually business trips undertaken by the directors of ENG – a company managing assets in excess of 160 million dollars exploring new markets in preparation for the anticipated launch of ENG Global.
(TZ) Those you allege are fighting you will ask why did you run away if you were innocent?

(GM) Natural self preservation dictated my actions – I had to run away from a vicious system and greedy individuals who would have stopped at nothing in their quest to strip me of all my wealth and (re)create my persona as a scapegoat and reason for the collapse of the financial system.
My attorney, the late Mr Oscar Ziweni, was harassed, intimidated and arrested for defending me and specified for taking my brief and in the end I had no legal representation.
At that time the tumultuous atmosphere that had gripped the nation and the political interference in the ENG saga, presented a clear and present danger to me and my family which left me with no choice but to abscond and seek refuge elsewhere,, where I could then clear my good name in peace.

(TZ) Why do you think you where targeted?

(GM) We were targeted because we did not have a political Godfather to protect us. You should know by now Zimbabwe is a class society there are people who feel they only deserve certain things and certain level of success. If you succeed without their help or involvement or they don’t know who you are that is cause of concern to them and the full state apparatus can be unleashed on you. I was an SME (self made entrepreneur).

(TZS) Most Zimbabweans still do not have confidence with the banking sector, With the perception people had or still have about what happened at ENG, what gives you confidence you will make it?

(GM) The ENG brand remains strong. Since ENG was closed six years ago I haven’t seen any exciting and meaningful financial services brands coming out of Zimbabwe that are as nearly strong. Yes it may have been affected by this immediate past but all strong brands are built by going through such events and forging ahead.

ENG has settled all claims against it and there have been excess assets which we will use as the core of our new vision with the same name. Once Century/CFX Bank is returned to me and ENG we will restructure and rename it ENG Bank and model it similar to Black Stone and Goldman.

Most banks are struggling in Zimbabwe because of their cost to income ratios which are totally out of line. In addition the banks have failed to access foreign credit lines to inject liquidity in the market. ENG Bank will be in a unique position to access foreign credit lines because of the networks I have been developing over the last six years since I left Zimbabwe.

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