By Watchdog reporter

There is panic among customers of Crane Bank who cannot receive money from ATM machines across Kampala, as the bank has switched off the machines amidst rumours circulating that one of the biggest banks in the country was about close down.

The rumour has forced the central bank to make a statement regarding the status of the bank. Bank of Uganda has refuted claims that it was going to close Crane Bank within a week and distanced itself from the circulating rumour asking depositors to withdraw money from the bank which could lead to its liquidation.

“It has been brought to our attention that messages have been circulating on Whatsapp instructing depositors to withdraw their money from Crane Bank within the next week. We wish to categorically state that these messages were not issued by Bank of Uganda,” the central bank posted on its Facebook page. It added, “Messages circulating on Whatsapp instructing depositors to withdraw their money from Crane Bank were not issued by BoU.” BoU however said Crane Bank was free to sell its shareholding in the bank to anyone who is financially sound. However the bank refused to comment on the ongoing negoations between Crane Bank and a prospective buyer.

“The shareholders of commercial banks have the option of selling shares to new investors as they deem appropriate. However, any new investor in a commercial bank must satisfy the regulator that they are fit and proper. The BoU does not comment on any negotiations to sell shares in a bank while these negotiations are ongoing.” BoU however promised to protect the interests of the banking stakeholders. “BoU monitors closely all commercial banks in Uganda and any actions which it takes are motivated primarily by the objective of protecting the best interests of banks’ depositors.”

Crane bank has been in ugly spotlight since it emerged the bank was planning some shareholding in the bank. The bank owned by one of the wealthiest Ugandans, Sudhir Rupaleria, was one of the fastest growing local banks in Uganda.