Mediation talks in the multi-billion commercial dispute between Bank of Uganda (BoU) and property mogul Sudhir Ruparelia have hit a snag and the case file sent back to court for further action.
Principal Judge Yorokamu Bamwine, the mediator appointed last November, has written to Justice David Wangutusi, the head of the Commercial Court, stating that since he took over the mediation, there has not been any input by either party to the case.
“I am inclined to forward the file to you (Justice Wangutusi) without the input of the parties but with information to them through counsel to be kept there until such time when they will be ready to proceed and they move you forward…Please accept the mediation file back that way,” Justice Bamwine’s letter reads in part. It is dated July 17.
This does not mean the mediation talks have totally collapsed. They can be revived but upon the lapse of the first mandate. The court may extend the time for the mediation and give the Principal Judge fresh mandate to preside over the process again.
Mid last year, the Central Bank sued Mr Ruparelia and his Meera Investments Company, for allegedly fleecing his self-owned Crane Bank, of Shs397b in fraudulent transactions and transfers. The commercial bank was closed by the Central Bank and sold to dfcu Bank.
Mr Ruparelia denied the accusations and instead counter-sued the Central Bank seeking compensation of $8m (aboutShs28b) in damages for breach of contract.
Last year, Justice Wangutusi advised both parties to consider the mediation process and have their differences settled out of court, warning that should the matter go for a full hearing, the losing party will pay heavily.
Both Ruparelia and bank of Uganda embraced the mediation with Justice Bamwine appointed the arbiter.
Rules of mediation require that out-of-court talks should not exceed two months and should the parties fail to agree in that period, the case file be returned for a full hearing before a judge.
The two-month mediation period between Sudhir and BoU elapsed in December last year.
In his letter, Justice Bamwine explains that the mediation process has been “on-and-off” due to various reasons.
The letter was copied to Mr Ruparelia’s lawyers Kampala Associated Advocates and BoU lawyers Sebalu & Lule Legal Consultants.
Sources privy to the mediation talks, last evening told this newspaper that in the initial meetings presided over by the first arbitrator, the disagreement was mainly on whether MMAKS Advocates and AF Mpanga Advocates should be allowed to be part of the mediation process. The two law firms were representing BoU.
The Commercial Court went on to disqualify the two law firms from representing BoU late last year on grounds that they were privy to the confidential information regarding Mr Ruparelia and that this would be detrimental to the businessman, if they went ahead to represent BoU.
This saw BoU hire another law firm of Sebalu & Lule Legal Consultants for further legal representation.