Zupta colours? Sarb says ‘number of errors’ in PP’s ‘R2.25bn Absa pay back’ leaked report

By Matthew le Cordeur and Lameez Omarjeee

Cape Town – SA Reserve Bank (Sarb) governor Lesetja Kganyago said there are a number of errors in the public protector’s leaked preliminary report that recommends that Absa should pay back R2.25bn it received as part of an unlawful apartheid-era bailout.

Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane used a 1997 report by Ciex, a British company founded by ex-British spies that approached the democratic South African government to help it recover “billions” looted from state coffers during apartheid, according to Huffington Post.

Ciex “sold an operation called ‘Spear’ to government, which claimed it can recover an amount of R3.2bn from Absa, between R3bn and R6bn from Sanlam and the then-Rembrandt Cigarette Company and up to R5.5bn from Aerospatiale/Daimler-Chrysler,” Huffington Post’s Pieter du Toit explained.

Three years after the Ciex report, the Davis Panel of experts appointed by former Sarb governor Tito Mboweni found that Absa’s shareholders did not derive any undue benefit from the Sarb’s intervention, and as such no claim of restitution could be pursued against Absa, according to the bank.

On Friday, Kganyago told Radio702 that the Sarb is going through the Public Protector’s interim report with their lawyers.

“We are checking it for factual accuracy,” he said. “We have already spotted a number of errors. We are going through the report with our lawyers and we are grateful that the Public Protector has given us an extension.”

Jabulani Sikhakhane, head of communications at Sarb, confirmed the governor’s radio statement on Monday.

SA Reserve Bank governor Lesetja Kganyago

Mkhwebane said her report was only preliminary and she was still waiting for feedback from the implicated parties, which might change the contents of the report drastically, the Mail & Guardian, which leaked the report, said.

The timing of the report’s release has brought into question whether Absa is being challenged over closing Gupta-linked accounts.

“There is no doubt that when the ANC struggles in a highly factionalised environment, a report which puts political opponents in a disadvantage will be leaked,” said political analyst, Dr Somadoda Fikeni.

“The leakage itself has political implications,” he told Fin24 by phone.

The ANC Women’s League, seen as a close ally of President Jacob Zuma, on Saturday called on the Public Protector to conduct a full investigation into the alleged looting of state resources during apartheid.

Busisiwe Mkhwebane

It may be too soon to make final conclusions, though, as Mkhwebane is yet to receive submissions from Absa.

Indeed, Absa said in a statement last week, it “is regrettable that the public protector’s report has been leaked before further submissions and finalisation, because in its current form it perpetuates an incorrect view that Absa Bank was the beneficiary of undue SA Reserve Bank assistance”.

Absa said the public protector has been invited to inspect confidential documents in its possession pertinent to the successful finalisation of the investigation.

“We have written to the public protector informing her that we accept her invitation to make further submissions in terms of the Public Protector Act,” the bank said.

“These submissions will correct several factual and legal inaccuracies that are contained in the provisional report. This will be done on or before the deadline of February 28 2017.”

“These documents pertain to, among others, due diligence performed by Absa prior to acquiring Bankorp.” – Fin24

Source: http://www.fin24.com/Companies/Financial-Services/absa-report-has-a-number-of-errors-sarb-governor-20170116-2

Absa report leak may be politically motivated

By Lameez Omarjee and Matthew le Cordeur

Johannesburg – The leaked report on Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane’s investigation into Absa may be perceived as being part of an extended political agenda, according to analysts.

The Mail and Guardian on Friday revealed that the preliminary report by the public protector recommends the bank pay back R2.25bn for an unlawful apartheid era bank bailout.

The outstanding R2.25bn pertains to the bank’s acquisition of Bankorp in 1992. Bankorp started receiving assistance from the South African Reserve Bank (Sarb) in 1985. In a statement, Absa indicated that all obligations to the Sarb had been discharged in full by October 1995.

The timing of the report’s release has brought into question whether Absa is being challenged over closing Gupta-linked accounts.

“There is no doubt that when the ANC struggles in a highly factionalised environment, a report which puts political opponents in a disadvantage will be leaked,” said political analyst, Dr Somadoda Fikeni.

“The leakage itself has political implications,” he told Fin24 by phone.

Professor Daryl Glaser, head of political studies at Wits University, said it is inevitable that people would assume the probe may be politically motivated.

“The signal sent out suggests the public protector wants to turn the attention away from corruption in high places, such as government and towards different objects of public complaint.”

However, instead of investigating “everyday” citizen complaints, these developments suggest there is an extended political agenda to target the enemies of President Jacob Zuma and the Guptas, said Glaser.

Glaser added that it is difficult to draw conclusions this early, and it is important to see how the process is handled going forward. “It will be useful to see how the public protector takes into account the comments submitted by Absa to ensure that the final report is fair,” he said.

“So far the public protector has done nothing to reassure citizens that she is willing to tackle complaints of corruption in high places,” he said.

Mkhwebane is yet to receive submissions from Absa, before the report can be finalised.

“We have written to the public protector informing her that we accept her invitation to make further submissions in terms of the Public Protector Act,” Absa said.

“These submissions will correct several factual and legal inaccuracies that are contained in the provisional report. This will be done on or before the deadline of February 28 2017.”

The bank added that the Davis Panel of experts appointed by former Sarb governor Tito Mboweni in 2000 found Absa shareholders did not derive any undue benefit from the Sarb’s intervention, and as such no claim of restitution could be pursued against Absa.

Former SA Reserve Bank governor Tito Mboweni

As such, Absa said it “is regrettable that the public protector’s report has been leaked before further submissions and finalisation, because in its current form it perpetuates an incorrect view that Absa Bank was the beneficiary of undue SA Reserve Bank assistance”.

Absa was one of the four major banks in South Africa which closed the accounts of Gupta-linked business Oakbay and its subsidiaries, in February 2016.

The bank recently put forward reasons for closing the accounts in an affidavit filed at the North Gauteng High Court. Among these include the classification of Gupta-owned companies as politically exposed people  following a review of the accounts. – Fin24

Source: http://www.fin24.com/Economy/absa-report-leak-may-be-politically-motivated-20170115-2

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