Court freezes some of top lawyer Barnabas Xulu's bank accounts in long-running legal fees dispute

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Barnabas Xulu.
Barnabas Xulu.
  • Lawyer Barnabas Xulu had his bank accounts frozen by a court order.
  • A settlement agreement is the subject of a dispute between Xulu and the Environment, Forestry and Fisheries Department.
  • The department secured an order that his bank accounts be frozen, and a house and Porsche secured until the matter is resolved.

Some of well-known lawyer Barnabas Xulu's bank accounts were ordered frozen by the Western Cape High Court in a long-running battle with the Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries over legal fees paid by the department.

Xulu has done legal work for the department, but the validity of the Service Level Agreement (SLA) and a settlement agreement has been the subject of a long-running dispute and internal battles, which have spilled into the high court.

It included fees for handling a complex 7.5 million US dollars restitution payment agreement between US authorities, foreign banking institutions and the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) by a convicted lobster smuggler. 

Xulu's services were to be terminated in August 2018, except for the US case, but the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (before the department was separated into Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries), and Treasury, agreed to settle for an amount of R20 million.

The troubles then escalated over whether the agreement was valid or not.

The parties have been in a battle over who owes who, and whether he should pay the money back.

An order in favour of both departments, dated 12 October, gave notice that Xulu and the company - Barnabus Xulu & Partners Incorporated - should give reasons why he should not pay R20 242 272. 90. 

In the meantime, Incovision (Pty) Ltd, Setlacorp (Pty) Ltd and Xulu were ordered not to allow the transfer, dissipation or withdrawal of funds from their accounts. 

READ | Top lawyer Barnabas Xulu ordered to pay back R20m in legal fees to fisheries department

This includes money received, or to be received in future without leave of the department. Also, First National Bank and Investec Bank were also interdicted from allowing transfer, dissipation or withdrawal of funds from the three accounts, or any entity Xulu has control over. 

Incovision and Xulu were interdicted over a property in Sheffield Beach in KwaZulu-Natal. An inventory of assets at the property must be taken, and no assets may be removed from it.  

The Sheriff in the area was instructed to enter the property for the inventory, taking a locksmith, if necessary, or by force, and the services of Tracker were to be used to trace and secure the Porsche. 

Xulu indicated to News24 that it involves the restitution payment and services rendered to get the money back to the South African government, to make up for the loss of the country’s marine resources in the lobster case.

This agreement also involved a carefully brokered settlement with the accused parties in the US, and banks in other countries. 

"[The] question is, does it have to be done for free or [does] the state have to pay for this sweat," Xulu told News24 in a WhatsApp message when asked for comment. 

"Bxi (Xulu) is being paraded as a criminal not to be arrested, but victimised," he said.

First National Bank and Investec Bank must also give the department bank statements held by Incovision, Setlacorp and Xulu between 1 July 2019 and the date of the order.

The order stands until the matter of the R20 million is heard in full.

Xulu had been ordered in January to pay the money back by April. 

This also comes after an application by the department on 6 October, in which Xulu was to have paid interest by the close of business on 5 October of R3.4 million and R380 000. 

A subsequent order on 15 October also prevented the transfer of shares relating to the Sheffield property's ownership.  

The orders were handed down in the Western Cape High Court, where Xulu, coincidentally, has also represented Judge President John Hlophe on matters running at the Judicial Service Commission. 

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