Dr. Rajan Mahtani, the Zambian tycoon, and founder of Finance Bank Zambia (FBZ), has been portrayed as an honest individual who acted in good faith at all times during the High Court proceedings against Atlas Mara, a company linked to disgraced banker Bob Diamond.
Dr. Mahtani, 75, initiated legal action against Atlas Mara, alleging breaches of the acquisition agreement that led to the takeover of FBZ. The tycoon, along with co-claimants including former business partner Joan Craven, seeks up to $100 million (£80m) in damages.
George Spalton, KC, representing Dr. Mahtani, delivered the closing speech, emphasizing his client’s integrity. The court heard that Dr. Mahtani agreed to the acquisition by Atlas Mara to secure the future of FBZ, as his daughters showed no interest in running the bank, which had become one of Zambia’s most successful over three decades.
The crux of the legal dispute revolves around Atlas Mara’s alleged breach of the acquisition agreement. Mr. Spalton argued that Atlas Mara harbored ill-will towards Dr. Mahtani from the beginning, influencing their approach to negotiations and subsequent attempts by Dr. Mahtani to repurchase FBZ.
Referring to internal emails presented in court, Mr. Spalton claimed that Atlas Mara displayed a disregard for Dr. Mahtani’s ability to raise funds, impacting their treatment of the contractual obligations. He argued that Atlas Mara did not take Dr. Mahtani seriously, leading to a flawed approach to the sale.
The defense questioned Dr. Mahtani’s credibility, citing events during the sale process, including an alleged ‘ambush’ of an Atlas Mara executive with a Bank of Zambia report on FBZ’s financial health. Mr. Spalton countered, stating that Dr. Mahtani’s actions were transparent and reflective of his honesty.
Regarding a sale and purchase agreement (SPA) sent to Atlas Mara for the repurchase of FBZ, the defense questioned its receipt and timing. Mr. Spalton argued that Dr. Mahtani’s proactive disclosure of the SPA demonstrated his commitment to clarity, refuting claims of dishonesty.
In response to the defense’s suggestion that Atlas Mara would forego a potential $55 million profit to oust Dr. Mahtani, Mr. Spalton contended that Atlas Mara doubted Dr. Mahtani’s ability to raise funds and sought his removal from the business.
The proceedings concluded with Mr. Spalton asserting that ample evidence existed to support Atlas Mara’s desire to remove Dr. Mahtani, and their skepticism about his fundraising capabilities.
Justice Butcher questioned the motivation behind Atlas Mara’s alleged aversion to Dr. Mahtani, considering the substantial profit they stood to gain if the earn-out target was met. Mr. Spalton argued that Atlas Mara’s doubt in Dr. Mahtani’s fundraising ability and their desire to eliminate him from the business drove their actions.
Source: Nick Forbes,
Central News, Press Room, Central Criminal Court, LONDON