IBTI depositors await fate of their funds.

Author:Saccoh, Sheku
Position:International Bank for Trade and Industry

Sierra Leoneans with their money locked up in accounts at one of the country's largest banks are watching the central bank closely for news of the fate of their funds

The Bank of Sierra Leone (BSL) on 3 February suspended the banking operations for a period of six months of the International Bank for Trade & Industry (IBTI), one of the six leading commercial banks in the country.

Depositors will have to wait until August to find out how much of their funds they will be able to recover.

Ten years old

IBTI, an indigenous bank, was established in 1983 by Lebanese Sierra Leonean Jamhil Sahid Mohamed, owning 60% of the equity. Jamhil now lives in the UK.

According to an order signed by BSL Governor Steve Swarray, "All banking transactions done with IBTI, except for the transfer to Sierra Leone of the bank's funds from abroad, are suspended for a period of six months unless sooner revoked by the BSL." The order was in exercise of the powers conferred upon the BSL by Subsection 3 of Section 19 of the Banking Act of Sierra Leone 1970.

Governor Swarray indicated that the action was taken in order not to allow the confidence the Sierra Leonean populace has in the banking community to be eroded. He disclosed that IBTI had been having trouble meeting its commitments to its customers and its deposit liability. He pointed out that a team of BSL officials had examined the operations of the bank last year and had instructed the IBTI Managers and Board of Directors to strengthen the bank's financial base by outlining recapitalisation requirements for the bank. But despite all these efforts...

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