BIAOBanque Internationale pour l'Afrique Occidentale (French: International Bank of Western Africa)
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ING Barings, many times voted the best emerging market bank world-wide, once even envisaged taking over the Meridien BIAO network, but pulled out of the negotiations because it was interested only in selected African countries (at the time, Cameroon, Egypt, Ghana, Kenya and Uganda).
One by one, central bank authorities in Zambia, Kenya, Swaziland, Tanzania, Gabon, and Burundi announced the closure or took over the management of their local Meridien BIAO as a liquidity crisis engulfed the group.
Meridien BIAO is the result of a 1991 merger between the Meridien group's banks started by Mr Andrew Sardanis, a Cypriot born Zambian, and a network of 11 banks he bought from the French liquidator of Banque Internationale pour L'Afrique Occidental (BIAO).
Registered in Luxembourg, although it has never operated there, Meridien BIAO is 74% owned by Meridien International Bank Ltd (MIBL), which had a banking licence in the Bahamas.
In February, rumours of difficulties at Meridien BIAO led to a run on deposits in Zambia, forcing the Central Bank to step in and provide liquidity and by mid March the authorities claimed to have poured more than Kwacha 40bn into the bank.
It was in Swaziland that the next signs of trouble appeared when the local Meridien BIAO with three branches and a representative office in Johannesburg, ran into liquidity problems.
Days later Kenyan authorities shut down Meridien BIAO in Nairobi citing large foreign exchange exposure positions, but the biggest blow came two weeks later when Central Bank authorities in Zambia, where the group was started and was now headquartered finally decided to take over Meridien BIAO Bank Zambia, split it from the rest of the Meridien BIAO group and appointed Mr John Cruickshank, a former senior partner at KPMG in Zambia as interim Chairman.
In the last week of April, the board of Meridien BIAO met in Paris along with several of the group's country managers, summoned to the meeting to give a detailed breakdown of the liquidity situation in their respective countries.
On day two of the meeting news came through that Meridien Bank International (MIBL) 74% controller of Meridien BIAO, had been placed into liquidation by the Bahamas Supreme Court following an action initiated by a claim for the Central Bank of Swaziland.
The new team included Mr Nfor Susungi, The ADB's representative on the Meridien BIAO board who said: "All we know is that deposits from the various banks found their way to the Bahamas.