After several postponements, Lobatse High Court Justice Godfrey Nthomiwa next month (7 July) is expected to decide on a case in which FNB Botswana wants Patrick Balopi’s company Bridgetown Resort to be liquidated, alleging that it is failing to pay a loan facility of P37 million given to it by the banker in 2013.
Bridgetown Resort which was established four years ago by the BDP veteran, former cabinet minister and parliament speaker Balopi and property mogul Ahmad Mansur Sidiqui with other investors, is said to have been struggling to be viable since its inception in 2013. It owes FNB a loan facility which is now the subject of a case before the courts.
In the latest application, FNB attempts to petition that Bridgetown Resort be put under liquidation by Justice Nthomiwa since it is unable to pay the P37 million it allegedly owes, including interest. This move is vehemently opposed by Balopi’s hospitality company which challenges the legal basis of the loan agreement and the technicalities involved in the case. Bridgetown also alleges that it has enough assets and cannot be deemed as being unable to pay hence its rejection of the liquidation.“Further, the Respondent(Bridgetown) has been able to demonstrate to the court that it has assets value in excess of P75 000 000. This averment is not disputed by the Petitioner(FNB) and is therefore common cause. The Respondent also has 11 suretyships executed in its favour and in further security for the Respondent’s liability to it. The only liability allegedly attaching to the Respondent which has been placed before the courts by the petitioner is the amount of P32 055 800 which is less than half the value of the Respondent’s aforesaid assets. It is trite that in determining whether the company is unable to pay its debts, the court must take into account the contingent and prospective liabilities of the company, “argued Bridgetown in court papers passed to Nthomiwa for hearing- seen by The Botswana Gazette.
Bridgetown further states that the FNB petition should be rejected by Justice Nthomiwa as it is ill advised, as it was also filed on the face of pending proceedings brought before a different judge. FNB has a case as a Plaintiff where Bridgetown is a Respondent under Gaborone High Court’s Justice Leatile Dambe. In this case which is running concurrently with Justice Nthomiwa’s, FNB demands monies from Bridgetown amounting to P37 872 537 65 which includes interest of 2% per annum starting from 30 November 2015. Bridgetown is contesting this figure before Justice Dambe, pointing to the technicalities in the loan agreement which are allegedly vague and did not explicitly state how or when interest must be paid. Bridgetown will rather pay P32 055 800 as it is what it agreed to in their loan contract according to the court papers of the case in Gaborone court.
In the liquidation case slated for next year, Bridgetown shot down the FNB petition, saying it was the same matter as one brought before Justice Dambe. Bridgetown says for FNB to petition it while there is another matter pending is tantamount to abuse of court process; “This is highly undesirable and warrants censure…. the Petitioner’s conduct amounts to abuse of court process and must be sanctioned with punitive costs.”