Individuals and firms that worked and supplied materials toward the construction of a semi-complete housing estate in Gasabo District are demanding that the financial institution that bankrolled the estate surrenders some of the assets left by the developer to clear the debts they are owed.
The developer is controversial DN International, a company whose head, Kenyan-born Nathan Lloyd left the country in 2011, believed to have been fleecing homeowners on another estate.
The government had to intervene to have the owners repossess their houses, surviving a public auction by the bank that had funded the project.
A twist in the controversy concerns Green Park Villas, another estate the developer was constructing and left incomplete.
Green Park Villas was financed by Kenya Commercial Bank (KCB), and after the liquidation of DN International, KCB took possession of the incomplete estate, based in Rusororo Sector, because of the Rwf1.5 billion loan the developer had procured from the bank.
Last week, representatives of the more than 300 labourers and suppliers gathered at St Paul Hall in Kigali and expressed their frustrations over the delayed payment for the different services rendered toward the construction of the estate, whose construction remains on hold.
The labourers demand payment of more than Rwf600 million, and their claim is, since KCB took over the assets, the bank should also take over liabilities, but they claim the bank has been uncooperative.
“It was agreed that the bank would be pay for our services and goods supplied to DN International. The company managers vanished and the bank is not willing to surrender its assets so that we are paid the debts owed to us,” said Madjid Ndahimana, a creditor who demands Rwf35 million for the construction material he supplied.
An evaluation of assets conducted jointly by Rwanda Development Board and Innocent Nzeyimana, an insolvency administrator appointed by the Commercial High Court in January this year, put the DN International assets in the country at Rwf2.5 billion.
The assets consist of 50 housing units that make up Green Park Villas and some houses from Hillside Villas, another estate in Masaka Sector in Kicukiro District.
However, KCB claims the debts owed to the bank alone have accumulated to Rwf 2.1b, and, according to the insolvency administrator, when you add the Rwf640 million the suppliers are demanding, proceeds from the assets will not be enough to pay off all creditors.
Maurice Toroitich, the KCB Rwanda managing director, declined to confirm the figures on the ground, adding that the case is before court.
Call for negotiations
At the St Paul meeting, where KCB was not represented, the insolvency administrator told the creditors to enter into negotiations with the bank to come up with an amicable solution, instead of pushing for a piece on the seized assets as they claim.
“You may lose if legal procedures are to be applied because KCB has possession of the assets and they are the principle creditors. You need to work towards a negotiated settlement,” said Nzeyimana.
“I do not understand how KCB can have priority, because we are all creditors. It is clear that we have never been paid… some put in their entire capital and they have not been working for almost two years. We would rather sue the bank,” said a woman who supplied timber, requesting to remain anonymous.
According to Remy Munyaneza, a lawyer working with Kigali-based MRB Attorneys, in case of liquidation of a company, creditors are ranked depending on the custodian of the collateral, and this is what they call a “secured creditor” who can simply apply for retention of the asset.
The other creditors are secondary, the lawyer said.
This refers to articles 30, 31 and 32 of the organic law relating to commercial recovery and settling of issues arising from insolvency.
The three articles seem to give more advantage to KCB.
However, Doris Leno, a consultant working with Rwanda Development Board, assured the suppliers that there is hope they will get their money.
“KCB will only have priority on two plots and some loss on their side is likely, but you guys should also bear in mind that you will loose something, especially if you do not have supporting documents,” Leno said.
The consultant, however, declined to disclose the value of the plots that should belong principally to KCB.
In a phone interview last week, Toroitich told this paper that legal procedures will be applied.
“As a lender, we are governed by laws and we always abide by the laws of the country. In insolvency, the law is very clear about how the procedures of the liquidation are to be applied. There is no room for unfairness,” he said.
The DN International saga started with Hill View Estate in Masaka Sector, Kicukiro District, where the firm failed to pay back over Rwf1.2 billion it owed Fina Bank.
Fina Bank had threatened to sell off the estate, leaving in the cold some homeowners who had fully paid off their houses.
This was sorted out with government playing a mediation role where B$B Heritage, another estate developer, accepted to buyout Fina Bank’s loan in October 2012.
However, a related problem was not tackled. Early 2010, DN International had acquired another loan from KCB to construct Green Park Villas consisting of 50 housing units valued at Rwf75 million each, in Rusororo, Gasabo District, just opposite their first estate.
Suppliers, labourers and the bank encountered the same problem of a company which does not pay debts.
In August 2011, a warrant of arrest was issued for the chief executive of DN International, Nathan Lloyd, who fled the country days later.
In May 2012, KCB revealed their intention to auction the semi finished units, but the auction that was scheduled to take place in the following month was put on hold.
To explain the motive RDB officials told this paper that the halt aimed at giving more attention to the various people who have their money in the project.
Legal experts say the case is complex because it includes insolvency, a new legal procedure in the country. They say it is not easy to predict when the case will be disposed of.