Home » Cameroonian businessman accuses South African bank of misleading justice in $235-million property seizure

Cameroonian businessman accuses South African bank of misleading justice in $235-million property seizure

by Mfonobong Nsehe
Baba Ahmadou Danpullo

Baba Ahmadou Danpullo, a prominent Cameroonian businessman and one of the country’s wealthiest men, has accused the Johannesburg-based financial services conglomerate, First National Bank (FNB), of deliberately misleading the justice system in its decision to seize and liquidate all of his properties in South Africa.

Danpullo, the founder of Baba Ahmadou Group, a Cameroonian conglomerate, is the owner of Ndawara Tea Estate, the largest privately-owned tea estate in West Africa. He also holds a significant stake in Nexttel, a joint venture between Viettel Global Investment JSC and Bestinver Cameroun SARL, and Marble Towers in Johannesburg, one of Africa’s tallest buildings.

In 2017, the Cameroonian businessman took out a loan of R520 million ($30.6 million) from FNB to purchase the 1 Thibault building in Cape Town, with a repayment plan of R10 million ($590,000) per month spread out over 10 years, including interest. 

In 2020, FNB seized and liquidated Danpullo‘s properties, valued at R4 billion ($235.4 million), to settle the debt. Danpullo stated that the decision was unjustified as he has been paying every month, as per the agreement between him and FNB.

“South African justice, which I respect, has been misled by FNB, and it is not too late to do the right thing, because nowhere in the world assets of more than $235.4 million would be liquidated to recover the sum of $30.6 million. The liquidation was not justifiable because my companies were able to pay this sum of R520 million,” Danpullo said.

Despite having lived in South Africa for over 35 years and investing in the country, the Cameroonian business tycoon expressed disappointment in the treatment he received from FNB. 

His treatment by FNB has sparked outrage among Cameroonians and has become a topic of debate in parliament and government. Civil society activists in Cameroon want to protest South Africa, but Danpullo has stated that he believes the issue can be resolved diplomatically.

The court in Cameroon has granted Baba Danpullo the authority to seize the bank accounts and assets of Chococam and MTN, subsidiaries of the Public Investment Corporation (PIC) which also holds shares in FirstRand Bank, the parent company of FNB. 

The Cameroonian businessman is willing to reverse his decision if FNB is open to negotiations. He added that the Cameroonian Embassy and Cameroonian President Paul Biya have requested South African President Cyril Ramaphosa’s intervention in the matter, but so far there have been no responses. However, he remains hopeful for a positive outcome from South African officials in the near future.

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