Anglo case to start in New York

Johannesburg - The apartheid reparations class action lawsuit, which includes commodity giant Anglo American (Anglo) as a respondent, is set to start May 19 in a New York court, John Ngcebetsha, a partner with South African law firm Ngcebetsha, Madlanga Attorneys, told I-Net Bridge on Monday.

Anglo, along with the world's largest diamond miner De Beers which is 45% held by Anglo, faces a $3.1 to $6.1bn apartheid lawsuit headed by US lawyer Ed Fagan and South African lawyers Ngcebetsha, Madlanga Attorneys.

US construction and engineering group US Fluor Corporation is also facing a claim of between $900m and $1.4bn.

Fluor is facing a suit as a result of the contract it was awarded in 1975 for the construction of South African oil and chemicals group Sasol's plant in Secunda.

Sasol has not been served with any papers and has not been included in the class action lawsuit.

Ngcebetsha said that the litigants wouldn't file a lawsuit against Sasol but the group would be named as an interested party in the Fluor case.

Lawsuits have been filed in New York and Nevada against Anglo plc and papers have been served on Anglo's offices in Johannesburg.

Permission will also be sought for the Nevada suit to be transferred to the New York court, Ngcebetsha said.

Anglo spokesperson Marion Dixon confirmed on Monday that legal documentation was delivered to the group's Johannesburg offices on Friday.

The commodity giant is being included in the class action lawsuit against banks in Switzerland, Germany, France, England and the US, which allegedly profited from apartheid.

Ngcebetsha said the reason Anglo Plc, a British domiciled group, was being litigated against in the US was that the US had the "enabling legislation" in the form of the Alien Tort Claims Act human rights legislation.

Under this act, human rights litigants can bring an action against a foreign company that has operations in the US.

The most notable case involving the Alien Tort Claims Act is the legal action brought against Swiss banks in the US courts by holocaust victims, which settled out of court for $1.25bn.

Like the holocaust-Swiss bank case, US lawyer Ed Fagan is leading the apartheid reparations case.

Anglo's US interests include the US gold mines held by AngloGold (ANG), in which Anglo has a 51.4% stake.

Ngcebetsha said on Monday on radio station SAfm that his firm had attempted to meet with Anglo regarding the lawsuit but the corporation had declined this opportunity.

"There is a strong case against Anglo," he added.

On Friday, Anglo strongly rejected the lawsuit filed against it.

Anglo said the question of whether reparations was an appropriate or effective way to assist in rebuilding South Africa was a matter to be resolved through South Africa's democratic processes.

The move to include Anglo in the apartheid reparations lawsuit in the US follows comments in a Truth and Reconciliation Commission report issued in March that found that there could be a case for reparation against South African mining firms, including Anglo, as a result of their actions under apartheid, Ngcebetsha said.

Department of Justice and Constitutional Development spokesperson Paul Setsetse said on the radio show that the South African government was neither for or against the lawsuit filed against Anglo Plc and would let the lawsuit follow its due course.

Setsetse said the South African government would be holding a one-day workshop this Friday to address the issue of reparations and "national building".

"The big corporations have been invited to the workshop including Anglo, De Beers, banking group Investec, Sasol and petroleum group BP," Setsetse added.

In response to a question on the radio show, Setsetse said the South African government was very much concerned about impact the class action lawsuit would have on the share prices of companies like Anglo, Sasol as well as the rand's exchange rate on the international currency market.

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