Plunder probe

2011-07-07 00:00

THE Public Protector (PP) will launch a preliminary investigation into alleged plundering of the Treasury during the closing years of apartheid.

The plunder, involving various companies and prominent businessmen, relates to numerous alleged illegal transactions amounting to as much as R200 billion. The Reserve Bank, Absa, Sanlam, Rembrandt (now Remgro), the KWV and even the Dutch Reformed Church are apparently mentioned in a confidential report, which was compiled by a British forensic investigation firm and handed to the South African government in 1999.

The report surfaced again in parliament last year. The PP, Advocate Thuli Madonsela, said yesterday she has decided to launch a preliminary investigation after having initially felt that the alleged offences fell outside of her mandate and that she had too few resources to tackle the task properly.

Advocate Paul Hoffman, who lodged the original complaint says he is extremely pleased about the PP’s decision. The complaint was based on the content of a report by the British firm Ciex, who carried out a forensic investigation on the instruction of the SA government in 1997 and provided feedback through the secret service.

The Ciex report (of which Beeld has obtained a copy) states that during an unrelated investigation in 1995 an apparently illegal payment of R3,2 billion was made by the Reserve Bank to Absa’s predecessor, Bankorp, in which several prominent businessmen were involved.

The payments were disguised as a lifeline to the local banking industry which the report states was “under the control of the Broederbond”. The then Heath Special Investigation Unit subsequently found in 1999 that the payments by the Reserve Bank to Bankorp/Absa, as well as similar payments to Sanlam, were illegal. This money was not, however, reclaimed, out of fear of damaging the banking industry.

Ciex’s investigation into the Reserve Bank and Bankorp/Absa led to even more revelations about alleged illegal transactions in which money was “moved” from the Treasury to Nedbank and the former Trust Bank; fraud relating to large-scale government purchases; irregularities with regard to gold reserves; and concealed offshore Reserve Bank assets.

Ciex’s services were terminated on 31st December 1998 and its reports ignored by former President Thabo Mbeki’s government. Hennie van Vuuren, a senior researcher at the Institute for Security Studies (ISS), who has researched apartheid corruption, says the Treasury was extensively “plundered” between 1976 and 1994, as the Ciex report shows.

“This does not only go back to (John) Vorster and (P.W.) Botha, but also involves the new elite. This is why it has not yet been properly investigated. The political will simply does not exist.”

 

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