Not just Absa: other companies named in apartheid-era state looting report

 ·16 Jan 2017

The leaked preliminary Public Protector report into the looting of state funds during the apartheid era isn’t only bad news for Absa – it also has implications for the other companies mentioned in the report’s source material.

The report, leaked in part by the Mail & Guardian on Friday, is based on an investigation on the so-called Ciex Report – an almost 20-year-old report compiled by British spies, with the promise that government could recover billions of rands of stolen money.

The government reportedly contracted Ciex in 1997 to investigate the theft of R26 billion of state money during apartheid, and as the findings were never acted on, the public protector’s office was asked to probe the matter.

According to the Mail & Guardian, the Public Protector’s preliminary report on the matter – for now – appears to show that the Ciex report held water and that, subsequently, Absa would have to pay back R2.25 billion for its irregular and unlawful apartheid-era ‘lifeboat’ loan (bailout).

However, Absa is not the only company implicated in the original Ciex report – with other groups such as the Rembrandt group (owned by the billionaire Johann Rupert, now absorbed into Richemont), Sanlam, and even Nedbank and First National Bank named as possible targets for repayment claims.

Should the Public Protector’s final report maintain its current order, it would give credence to the Ciex report, and potentially lead to more orders to reclaim money.

This is who else is implicated in the Ciex report:

  • Sanlam – R3.8 billion for its role in the same Bankorp saga as Absa;
  • Rembrandt (Richemont) – Approximated R2.2 billion also for apparent links to the Bankorp deal;
  • Daimler Chrysler – R5.5 billion (unspecified);
  • Armscor – $14.4 billion, implicated in $2.4 billion moved out of the country over 10 years;
  • Nedbank – R500 million for a R100 million ‘lifeboat’ paid in 1986;
  • First National Bank – similar ‘lifeboats’ were paid to FNB, which could also be recovered.

The report also said that the government could seek international restitution, to claim ‘stolen’ money from countries where the funds were moved to. This includes Germany, Switzerland and France.

In her preliminary report, Public Protector Busisiwe Mkwhebane recommended that a judicial commission be established to investigate other state-looting claims, which means that more claims could be on the way.

There have already been calls from the ANC Women’s League and Black First Land First for a full investigation to be implemented over the Ciex report, and for those guilty of state looting from the apartheid-era to be brought to book.

Public Protector’s report not final

It has to be noted, however, that the Public Protector’s report is not final, and that it is still subject to change following responses from the implicated parties.

Absa has already stated that it will provide extensive feedback on the matter, and has offered to provide confidential evidence showing that it is not liable for the payments – while governor of the South African Reserve Bank, Lesetja Kganyago, is consulting with lawyers over the report.

Speaking to Radio 702, Kganyago said that SARB has already identified a number of errors in the report, which will be highlighted and corrected in its response.

Read: Calls for a full scale investigation into R26 billion in apartheid-era bailouts

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