March 13, 2012 (Page 3 Lead)
AN OCTAGENARIAN has dragged the Merchant Bank to the Commercial Division of the Fast Track High Court for wrongfully withdrawing GHC37,315,106.45 from her account.
According to Mama Adesi, 85, who sued on behalf of her company Mama Adesi Company Limited, the Accra Main Branch of the bank took advantage of her stark illiteracy and withdrew the amount from her accounts without her knowledge and authorization.
She also accused the bank of debiting her account several times but the bank failed to show the recipients of the moneys adding “the habitual debiting of plaintiff’s accounts without the signature of any recipient made such debits void and of no effect.”
The bank has also been accused of honouring withdrawals from the various accounts of the plaintiff on the basis of word-processed letters which were very often dated by hand, amidst alteration of account numbers in pen without any endorsement by the plaintiff made all those transactions null and void.
The plaintiff, who detected the wrongful withdrawal of the money after she had engaged auditors to audit her company’s accounts is accusing the bank of exercising lack of good faith, due care and best banking practices.
A statement of claim filed on behalf the plaintiff by her lawyer, Mr Kwabla Senanu, argued that because of the plaintiff’s illiteracy, the bank made her aware that anytime she wished to withdraw cash to satisfy any need for foreign exchange, she would thumbprint twice on the face of the each cheque and endorse it again by thumbprinting it at the back.
“Accordingly, the plaintiff was issued with cheque books for both cedis and foreign cash withdrawals, but the defendant reneged on all of these to run down the colossal credit balances on the accounts of the plaintiff,” the statement of claim accompanying the writ pointed out.
A writ of summons filed on her behalf by Mr Senanu, is accordingly praying the court to order the bank to pay forthwith to the plaintiff various sums of monies proven as having been withdrawn wrongfully from plaintiff’s various accounts for almost two decades.
It also praying the court to order the bank to refund all amounts of money for which it had no legitimate authorization to withdraw.
The plaintiff is further claiming among others a refund of all interests charged on the withdrawn amount, an order cancelling any loans/overdrafts purportedly granted to plaintiff by the defendant as well as grant general damages and costs.
A statement of claim accompanying the writ of summons stated that the plaintiff’s company, which deals in import and export of goods has been dealing with the bank for the past two decades with eight separate accounts; both in local and foreign currencies.
In March 2011, the plaintiff’s auditors detected the running down of plaintiff’s accounts by the bank.
The auditors found that the bank withdrew various sums of money from the plaintiff’s foreign and local currency accounts between January 22, 2004 and July 16, 2010.
According to the statement of claim, the documents including letters used for the withdrawals were devoid of authority to warrant the payments of those moneys from the plaintiff’s accounts.
It further argued that the defendant took advantage of the plaintiff’s illiteracy to “surreptitiously procure her consent for an overdraft only to gleefully spirit away the overdraft facility through withdrawals not approved of or endorsed by the plaintiff as the sole signatory to the accounts.”
It said the quantum of withdrawals and the rapidity with which the defective withdrawals and banking transactions involving huge sums of cash and were carried out made such transactions null and void.
The statement of claim stated that despite several written demands requesting for plaintiff’s statement of accounts from the period of January 1, 2000 and December 31 2010, the defendant has failed to heed to plaintiff’s request to enable the plaintiff to know the extent to which the bank had wrongfully withdrawn her money.
She also denied owing the bank GHC594,332 and any accruing interest thereon.
The defendant has entered appearance but yet to file its defence in the matter.