BCCI liquidators get new backing from objectors: Repayment plan could be resurrected

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THE liquidators of BCCI have received backing from rebel depositors for a new approach to compensation, which could resurrect a repayment plan funded by the disgraced bank's majority shareholder, the state of Abu Dhabi.

Two years of work by the liquidators and pounds 130m in costs appeared to go down the drain last month when a group of three BCCI depositors had their appeal against the original dollars 1.7bn compensation plan upheld in the Luxembourg courts.

The setback meant that no creditors were likely to receive anything for a decade, and even then legal fees could eat up what remained. Yesterday the liquidators, from Touche Ross, said they had won backing from one of the rebel depositors, Adil Elias, a Florida-based businessman, for a new approach to Abu Dhabi.

The new approach will depend on the willingness of Abu Dhabi to renegotiate what it sees as an already adequate settlement and the agreement of the Luxembourg court, which torpedoed the original plan because it decided that the plan gave Abu Dhabi an unfair advantage over other creditors.

Mr Elias is now on the UK liquidation committee, and he has agreed with the liquidators that a new agreement with Abu Dhabi should be attempted.

Fred Goodwin, a Touche partner assisting the liquidators, said: 'We are talking about talking to Abu Dhabi. They have not indicated whether they are prepared to renegotiate. Any new agreement will be different altogether from the old one.'

Mr Elias and his fellow rebel depositors wanted more money from Abu Dhabi, but Mr Goodwin said that it would be impossible to compare the original deal with any new plan, as they would be so different.

Any new deal would have to go through the same hoops as the original one. It would have to be approved by the creditors as well as UK, Cayman Islands and Luxembourg courts. But at least with Mr Elias supporting the new plan another appeal in Luxembourg would be unlikely, Mr Goodwin said.

The Luxembourg judgment objected to Abu Dhabi being allowed to share in the proceeds of whatever was recovered from the bank. The court also found that the majority shareholders' interests were being put ahead of other creditors.

When the original plan was rejected last month, Chris Morris of Touche Ross, a joint liquidator, said he was 'very surprised and very disappointed' by the court's decision. He pointed out that the compensation scheme had already been agreed by the UK courts, the Cayman courts, the Luxembourg district court and 97 per cent of BCCI's depositors in a referendum.

Mr Goodwin warned that even if Abu Dhabi was prepared to renegotiate, any agreement would take, at best, some months to develop.