BCCI creditors given renewed hope: Touche Ross agrees to support call for meeting with DTI and new Chancellor

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The Independent Online
AN OFTEN bitter meeting of BCCI creditors held at London's Wembley arena yesterday ended with new hopes of compensation from the Government and Bank of England.

The meeting was peppered with criticism of Touche Ross, BCCI's liquidators, for their high fees and slowness in paying out creditors. Keith Vaz, the Labour MP who has campaigned on behalf of BCCI's UK creditors and employees, led the attacks from the floor, but ended by shaking the hand of Christopher Morris, the liquidator chairing the meeting.

Mr Vaz said he was 'delighted that there was a new spirit of goodwill' after Mr Morris agreed to support Mr Vaz's call for a meeting between the Department of Trade and Industry and the new Chancellor in order to settle the matter of the writ served by the liquidators on the Bank of England on Monday.

The meeting at Wembley was the first in which all 55,000 of BCCI's UK creditors were entitled to attend and vote for a formal liquidation committee to advise the liquidators on the winding up of the scandal-hit bank. In the event fewer than 1 per cent - only 524 - turned up, although Mr Morris said the 105 journalists present would help to carry the message to those absent.

The main purpose of the meeting was to vote in a new creditors' committee to replace the current informal committee. The existing committee includes Adil Elias, a US-based BCCI creditor who has held up settlement between the liquidators and BCCI's majority shareholders, the emirate of Abu Dhabi, in the Luxembourg courts.

The settlement, which would pay creditors 30-40 per cent of their claims, was repeatedly attacked by depositors at the meeting, including Dr Elias. Many pointed out that Abu Dhabi would be contributing only 12- 15 per cent of this total, and that the liquidators would be better off suing Abu Dhabi, as they had done with the Bank of England and BCCI's auditors, Price Waterhouse and Ernst & Whinney (now Ernst and Young).

Mr Morris stuck to his theme: 'The only alternative to the settlement with Abu Dhabi is litigation against them. This would last into the next century, would be very expensive, and might end up using all the liquidation's assets, with no guarantee of success.'

The creditors preferred to clap and cheer those who urged suing Abu Dhabi, but when Mr Morris closed the meeting after three hours for the vote on who should form the committee, most went away at least mollified. The results of the ballot will be known in about two weeks.

The Bank of England's deposit protection board may be liable for up to pounds 10m in payments to depositors in Equatorial Bank and a further pounds 6.3m for Roxburghe Bank, both of which are in administration. The annual report said the board paid out pounds 71m in the year to February, pounds 66.5m of it to BCCI depositors, leaving an pounds 8.8m deficit. This compares with a pounds 29m deficit in 1992.

(Photograph omitted)