Judge: Absa 'acted in good faith' when severing ties with Hlongwane

Fana Hlongwane
Fana Hlongwane
Sapa File Photo

Cape Town – The High Court in Pretoria upheld Absa’s decision to close the bank accounts of controversial businessman Fana Hlongwane, controversial for his role in the arms deal. 

The Sunday Times reported that Judge Nomonde Mngqibisa-Thusi on Thursday said the bank had acted in good faith and Hlongwane could not force it to supply him with all the documents it used to make its decision.

The court ruling came after Hlongwane had tried to force Absa, under the Promotion of Access to Information Act (Paia), to disclose what information it had taken into consideration when it closed his accounts in 2013. 

Absa closed Hlongwane's accounts, which had multimillion-rand balances, in August 2013 after he was classified as a "politically exposed person" and a "high-risk client".

Hlongwane was of the view that Absa had infringed upon his constitutional rights and had acted unfairly towards him. 

In 2010 the Sunday Times had documents in its possession that showed the businessman had been indirectly paid more than R200-million by British defence company BAE and its agents. It is suspected the cash was used to bribe officials.

At the time, Absa suspected that some of Hlongwane's accounts might have violated the bank’s anti-money-laundering policies.

In court papers, Marthinus Janse van Rensburg, Absa's general counsel for Africa shared services disclosed that the Seriti Commission - appointed by President Jacob Zuma to investigate allegations of fraud and corruption in the arms deal - had requested information from Absa about one or more of Hlongwane's accounts.

In April this year, Zuma released the findings of the Seriti Commission of Inquiry into the 1999 multi-billion rand arms deal, and declared there had been no fraud and corruption involved in the procurement process.

The commission began its hearings in August 2013.

In the arms deal, government acquired, among other items, 26 Gripen fighter aircraft, 24 Hawk lead-in fighter trainer aircraft for the SA Air Force, and frigates and submarines for the SA Navy.

During the release of the findings, Zuma said the commission had concluded that there was no room for it to "draw adverse inferences, inconsistent with the direct, credible evidence presented to it".

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