A Reflection of Atlas Mara’s Date with the Bailiffs
The news of the Bailiffs having pounced on Atlas Mara yesterday was received with a sense of shock and panic by the general public. News carried out indicated that a white man was claiming that the Bank owed him money for 23 years now. Atlas Mara subsequently issued a statement and disclosed the name of the white man as Dimitrios Monokandilos. A stay of execution of Judgment was obtained by Atlas Mara and the goods that were wrongly seized have since been ordered to be returned by the Court pending the outcome of the case in the Court of Appeal. By press time, normal operations had resumed at the Bank.
23 years being a long time, this caught our attention and we decided go back into history and research in order to establish what really happened.
In September 1995 after a poor harvest of maize, the Government of Zambia through the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Fisheries established a Maize Import credit Scheme to fund the importation of maize into the country which was administered by the Bank of Zambia and Commercial Banks. Dimitrios Monokandilos and his business partner Kosmas Mastrokolias approached Finance Bank Zambia Ltd to assist them with a credit facility of about $2.1million to enable them import about 10,000 Metric Tonnes of maize from Tanzania. They used their 2 companies, namely, LM Comert International Ltd which was an offshore company as the recipient of the money for the delivery of the maize, and International Investments & Finance Ltd as the local company borrowing. They signed Personal Guarantees as part of the security for the borrowing. Mr. Monokandilos also opened a joint US Dollar account and deposited money in it as part of the security for the borrowing since his company did not have tangible securities.
Finance Bank then paid Dimitri Monokandilos about $2.1 million dollars for him to bring the maize into the country. The maize was expected to arrive in Zambia on 31st March 1996 and it had also formed part of the security for the borrowing. However, this has never happened to date. The maize did not come into the country and the money was never paid back. This prompted Finance Bank to exercise its right of set-off against Dimitrios Monokandilos’ account on the strength of the Personal Guarantee to recover part of the money which was due. The company was also placed under Receivership, but no recovery was made as it had no money. A Summary Judgment was subsequently entered in favour of Finance Bank for about $2.1 million, and this has never been paid by Dimitrios Monokandilos or his company to date.
Meanwhile, in June 1996 a Congolese company called Generale des Carrieres Et Des Mines which also had dealings with Dimitrios Monokandilos said at Kalymnos, Greece through a Greek newspaper called Argo as well as to various other national daily newspapers and to the Government of Zambia, where Monokandilos had business interests, that Dimitrios Monokandilos was involved in smuggling large amounts of cobalt into Greece with the intention of forwarding the radioactive cobalt to Romania or Bulgaria for the latter’s use in medical care.
It was further reported that Dimitrios Monokandilos had stolen the cobalt from Generale des Carrieres Et Des Mines in Zambia and that he intended forwarding it to the Libyan Government for that country’s use in its nuclear arms development programme.
The public in general, including the Greek and Zambian Governments were informed that Dimitrios Monokandilos was involved in illegal activities. The Zambian Government declared Dimitrios Monokandilos and his business partner Kosmas Mastrokolias illegal immigrants. By Gazette Notices No. 313 and 314 of 1998 published in the Government Gazette dated 10th July 1998, and as reported in the newspapers then, Dimitrios Monokandilos and Kosmas Mastrokolias were deported from Zambia on grounds that they were a danger to good order and peace. In Greece, the Greek Government withdrew its subsidies to the companies in which Mr. Dimitrios Monokandilos held shares.
Further, Generale des Carrieres Et Des Mines laid charges of embezzlement and fraud against Dimitrios Monokandilos with the Police in Athens. The charges also related to the allegations that Dimitrios Monokandilos had smuggled cobalt into Greece and that it was earmarked for illegal use. Dimitrios Monokandilos was kept in custody for 28 days and subsequently went on trial.
However, sometime around 2011, Dimitrios Monokandilos returned into Zambia and commenced an action in Court against Finance Bank for the money relating to his personal account, whilst still owing money to the Bank and delivery of maize in Zambia through his companies. On 29th March 2018 the High Court ruled in his favour in relation to his personal account despite the Personal Guaratee. The Bank appealed to the Court of Appeal against the said Judgment. The Court of Appeal is yet to deliver its Judgment.