Finance Bank through its chairman Dr. Rajan Mahtani has demanded One Million United States Dollars (US$1,000,000.00) from Nyasa Times as damages in a defamation claim for a column is published recently.
Mahtani and Finance Bank of Zambia have hired Malawian law firm Mvalo and Company, seeking the damages over an article authored by Lowani Mtonga, saying it “ falsely” stated that in the way of their business that Finance Bank opened ghost accounts and that it is a dishonest bank which engaged in criminal activities .
The lawyers also said the article stated that Finance Bank Chairman, Dr. Rajan Mahtani, is also in trouble in Zambia over malpractices and corruption allegations and that in Malawi he must have also palm – oiled people who make decisions to allow Finance Bank to reopen.
“The article goes further to urge Malawians not to open accounts with Finance Bank, to keep far from it, implying that their money would not be safe with the bank as it would be stolen.”
The article complained about was published on 19th February 2015, titled “Is govt serious to allow Finance Bank to re – open in Malawi?”
But author Lowani Mtonga, former national director Media Institute for Southern Africa (Misa) Malawi chapter, argued that Finance Bank owner is trying to use law to silence critical media, saying whatever is on the internet is public information.
The Reserve Bank of Malawi report is clear about the corrupt activities of Finance Bank and why the Bank was closed it down in the country, Nyasa Times columnist further argued. He said that Finance Bank owner was in trouble in Zambia is also public information and hyperlinks in his article were provided to show the evidence.
He continued that “as a patriotic Malawian, I have my views about the bank. And my view is that Malawians should shun this bank. Whether people agree with my opinion or not is not important. But I have made my opinion. Why should Malawians support a bank that did so much damage to our economy by externalizing forex illegally?
“Secondly, there is nothing wrong to suggest that money might have exchanged hands. In fact, there is strong suspicion that money exchanged hands. The Mail and Guardian actually wrote that story.
“It is the duty of media to question certain decisions made by policy makers. That Finance Bank was involved in corrupt activities is a well-known fact.”
Mtonga stated that to close a bank is a very serious issue. In many countries, they would not allow that a bank that has been closed down to resume operations.
“And the citizens have the right to raise eyebrows, more especially media reports are circulating that there is some fishy going on. Journalists and members of society have the right to voice their opinion on any issue that is of public interest. While Finance Bank is a private institution, it is serving the public. Therefore the public has the right to know how it conducts its business. This includes carrying out background checks. Media as watchdog of society have right question practices.
“Given the fact Finance Bank was involves in corrupt activities before, people have the right to voice their concern opinion even to suggest to boycott its service. For example, in South Africa some NGOs including COSATU have been calling on the business community to boycott buying products from Israel as a sign of protest of her behaviour. There is nothing [wrong] with that.
He added: “When we say Malawians should boycott the bank we are not implying that their money is not safe. But it a sign of displeasure at the way the bank behaved itself that led to its closure. It is our right to express this view. If it were in other countries those involved in transferring forex illegally were going to be charged and jailed.”
He also pointed out that information indicating Finance Bank was involved in corrupt activities is contained in the Reserve Bank report.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :