Dr Iqbal Survé, chair of Independent Media and head of investment firm Sekunjalo, has hit back after a raid by the Financial Sector Conduct Authority (FSCA) on his Waterfront offices on Wednesday morning.
In a statement issued on Wednesday evening, Survé said FSCA officials were accompanied by the police, and described them as "intruders", adding that the day's events were "classic intimidation tactics" by an "increasingly desperate cohort of politically entrenched cronies whose pockets are intrinsically linked to wholesale looting, and corruption of state coffers".
"There are dark forces at play," he added.
He has also alleged a conflict of interest on the part of the FSCA, which he says is linked to the Public Investment Corporation (PIC) through its caretaking commissioner, Abel Sithole.
State-owned asset manager the PIC invested R4.3bn into AYO prior to its listing on the JSE, in a controversial move that dominated headlines during the PIC inquiry. At the time of investment, AYO's assets were reportedly worth considerably less.
The PIC has since attempted to recoup its investment.
In his statement, Survé alleged a conflict of interest on the part of the FSCA, saying: "[T]he caretaking FSCA commissioner is Abel Sithole, who is also the principal officer of the GEPF, whose funds the PIC invests.
"I do solemnly believe this is also an underhanded attempt to obtain information relating to our legal case against the PIC and the GEPF," he said.
'Classic intimidation tactics'
Survé earlier alleged the raid was an attempt "to get information we have on Pravin Gordhan and the president (Cyril Ramaphosa) and which my reporters are about to publish this weekend".
News of the raid was first published on the Business Report website, the financial news division of Independent Media.
The FSCA confirmed the raid, saying it was investigating allegations of market manipulation, but did not specify which company it was investigating, Fin24 reported. In May, the watchdog said it had launched an investigation into transactions in AYO Technology Solutions, in which Survé holds an indirect stake.
In addition to claiming the raid was an attempt to gain sensitive legal information, Survé also claimed it was designed to frame him in a negative light.
Referring to the PIC's earlier court bid to recoup its AYO investment, in line with a compliance notice from the Companies and Intellectual Property Commission, he said: "This was declared null and void by a court of law but served to continue misrepresenting my truth and that of these aforementioned companies via the media.
"The FSCA’s raid is a similar tactic designed to focus yet more negative attention on companies that I am associated to."
'We will shed light on the darkness'
According to Survé, the officers were tasked with confiscating computers and hard drives "on the pretext" of obtaining evidence of irregular trading relating to AYO. Survé said he could not speak for AYO as he is not on the board or management team.
"I can speak for Sekunjalo and categorically confirm that there is nothing untoward in our business practices or ethics," he said.
"Had the FSCA asked, we would have been more than willing to hand over the requested documents."
He added that there was a "concerted and organised effort" to personally discredit him and organisations in which he had a vested interest "in an effort to control [him]".
"There are dark forces at play in South Africa and I want to make it categorically and abundantly clear to all who read this, that I will not be intimidated, Independent Media will not be silenced.
"We will continue to shed light on the darkness," he added.
A spokesperson for Pravin Gordhan, as well as the FSCA, could not be reached for comment at the time of publication.
- Additional reporting by Helena Wasserman, Jan Cronje & Carin Smith