Mahtani Holding Title Deeds to State Newspapers
Finance Bank Chairman Rajan Mahtani allegedly holds the title deeds to both the Times of Zambia and the Zambia Daily Mail, the country’s two government-sponsored newspapers, a source informs Zambia Reports.
The deeds were offered by the publications as collateral on loans from Finance Bank. According to a senior source within the Patriotic Front party, the Zambia Daily Mail took out a loan with Finance Bank to purchase the computer used for the plate printing machine.
The Times of Zambia, which has had notorious problems making payroll, took out the loan in order to pay salaries of its workers.
This news follows recent revelations that Mahtani via Finance Bank had seized a property belonging to ZNBC, which had also taken out loans to pay salaries.
Finance Bank has denied taking over the ZNBC property, issuing a statement declaring “FBZ will not be drawn into discussing the affairs of its client in the press but will hasten to mention that no such steps have been taken against ZNBC.”
According to the source informing Zambia Reports of the loans to the two state media publications, Mahtani allegedly is aiming to exercise an option to seize ownership of the collateral instead of waiting for repayment of the debt.
“The Zambia Daily Mail may manage to pay back the loan, but the Times of Zambia is in a tough position,” the source said. “Mahtani is determined to get all the buildings for Times of Zambia in Ndola.”
Mahtani has a controversial history of taking over the assets of borrowers. He is currently fighting in court against the original owners of the Zambezi Portland Cement company who accuse him of an unlawful corporate raid, and also recently prevailed against the owner of the Radisson Blu Hotel in Lusaka, taking over ownership of the property that his bank had originally helped to finance.