By Bernard James Former Cabinet minister Andrew Chenge has sued the National Bank of Commerce (NBC), demanding Sh310 million in compensation for alleged unauthorised disclosure of his banking details. Mr Chenge, who resigned as the minister of Infrastructure Development in April 2008, after a British newspaper published a story linking him to a 28 million sterling pound (about Sh58 billion) air defence radar purchase scandal, says the leakage has devastated political and social life. In a suit filed yesterday in the High Court, the Bariadi West MP has accused the bank of giving the information to a Kiswahili weekly, Mwanahalisi, which published a story alleging that Mr Chege, a long serving Attorney-General until he resigned to go into politics, held Sh25 million in his account. In April last year, Mr Chenge was also reported by the UKs Guardian newspaper to have $1 million (about Sh1 billion) in an offshore account in Jersey, which disclosed that detectives investigating the sale of the military radar to Tanzania, had traced the account. Mr Chenge resigned just four days after the publication of his bank account details by Mwanahalisi. In its issue of April 16-22, 2008, Mwanahalisi reported in its lead story that as of April 11, 2008, the former minister had an account balance of Sh25.7 billion. The paper, apart from questioning where the former minister, who has never been known to run any business in his 30 years of public service, had got so much money from, also disclosed the names of nine people to whom payments from his account had been made. This is the first case Mr Chenge has filed in the court after almost two years of reports in the media on his wealth and the $1 million in his offshore bank account. In the plaint, Mr Chenge accuses the bank of failing to strictly keep secret the details of his account, number 011101006950. Reasonable presumption cannot ascribe any other source other than your bank for the disclosure of the information. No stranger from outside the bank could have compiled such a long and accurate list, the minister states. The publication of the plaintiffs information was a major reason for a devastating political and public backlash against the plaintiff, the plaint continues. Mr Chenge says he had hoped to continue occupying his ministerial position until the General Election to be held in October. Through Mr Eric Ngmaryo of Moshi and Mr Deogratius Mwarabu of South Law Chambers of Dar es Salaam, Mr Chenge claims to have suffered special damage from NBCs alleged breach of banking secrecy and that he lost 31 months expected earnings and benefits from his ministerial position amounting to Sh310 million. The lawyers say the disclosure of the information to third parties and the subsequent malicious publication in Mwanahalisi newspaper has had a devastating effect on Mr Chenges political and social life, leading to his untold personal damage, suffering and embarrassment. The plaint adds: There is no doubt that in disclosing that information to third parties, the bank knew, or ought to have known, that it would be published in a press attack against Honourable Chenge. The lawyers argue that the defendant has an ethical, professional and legal duty to ensure secrecy of customers banking information, which extends to employees and that the bank was liable for their breach of duty through unauthorised disclosure of Mr Chenges banking information. The information was directly supplied to Saed Kubenea and Mwanahalisi newspaper by the bank or its employee. The publication of the plaintiffs banking information was politically motivated, the lawyers say. On November 29, 2008, Mr Chenges lawyer wrote a demand letter to the bank, claiming Sh1 billion in compensation for damages over the disclosure of the banking information. NBC denied liability for the breach of secrecy. But the former minister maintains that the bank was responsible for the disclosure of the information, which was in breach of professional ethics and Tanzanias banking law. It is also a breach of fiduciary relationship between the bank and client and is in further breach of your strict contractual obligation to secrecy in handling clients banking information. Mr Chenge was forced to resign after the local media published a story originating from the British newspaper, linking him to the multi-million dollar radar scandal. The disclosure of Mr Chenges foreign bank account was made when he was out of the country, accompanying President Jakaya Kikwete during his State visit to China. Mr Chenge, apparently angered when asked about the source of his fortune, described the $1 million (over Sh1.3 billion) in his offshore account as Vijisenti (pocket change). He uttered the word vijisenti when asked by reporters upon his arrival at Julius Nyerere International Airport, Dar es Salaam, from China, to comment on the allegation by a British newspaper that he had $1 million in an offshore bank account in the UK.