Dolphin chief may try to rescue Equatorial

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The Independent Online
KETAN SOMAIA, head of Dolphin International, has emerged as one of the prominent Asian businessmen interested in rescuing Equatorial Bank, which was put into administration last year, writes Peter Rodgers.

It is also thought that the secretive Hinduja brothers, who head an international trading group, have suggested to the administrators Ernst & Young that they could play a role.

There is widespread concern among Asian businessmen that of four Gujarati-owned banks in the UK, three have closed, leading to pressure to revive at least one.

Dolphin International is chaired by Lord Parkinson, the former Conservative party chairman. It recently bought the Kenyan subsidiary of Bank of Credit and Commerce International, changing its name to Delphis Group.

The Independent reported this month that the Kenyan central bank had ordered an investigation of four banks, including Delphis, after complaints about the way the country's banking system is run, emanating from the International Monetary Fund and Western aid donors.

Dolphin recently moved its base to Dubai and its registration from the Isle of Man and Guernsey to Bermuda, an ownership structure that banking sources said could be a serious obstacle to gaining permission to take over a UK bank.

Meanwhile, it emerged that Standard Chartered may sue the administrator of Mount Banking Corporation over dealings with Bhupen Dalal, a Bombay stockbroker charged with fraud in India.

The administrator, KPMG Peat Marwick, is being pressed by Standard for information about the bank's relationship with Mr Dalal, who was a leading figure in the Bombay securities scandal in which Standard lost large amounts of money.

It is claimed Mr Dalal may have used Mount Banking to move funds from his Bombay market dealings. But so far the administrators have found no evidence to substantiate the claim. Standard confirmed it was in discussions with Peat.

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