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Absa report has ‘a number of errors’ – Sarb governor

Jan 16 2017 11:44
Matthew le Cordeur and Lameez Omarjee

Cape Town – SA Reserve Bank (Sarb) governor Lesetja Kganyago said there are a number of errors in the public protector’s leaked preliminary report that recommends that Absa should pay back R2.25bn it received as part of an unlawful apartheid-era bailout.

Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane used a 1997 report by Ciex, a British company founded by ex-British spies that approached the democratic South African government to help it recover "billions" looted from state coffers during apartheid, according to Huffington Post.

Ciex “sold an operation called ‘Spear’ to government, which claimed it can recover an amount of R3.2bn from Absa, between R3bn and R6bn from Sanlam and the then-Rembrandt Cigarette Company and up to R5.5bn from Aerospatiale/Daimler-Chrysler,” Huffington Post’s Pieter du Toit explained.

Three years after the Ciex report, the Davis Panel of experts appointed by former Sarb governor Tito Mboweni found that Absa’s shareholders did not derive any undue benefit from the Sarb’s intervention, and as such no claim of restitution could be pursued against Absa, according to the bank.

On Friday, Kganyago told Radio702 that the Sarb is going through the Public Protector’s interim report with their lawyers.

“We are checking it for factual accuracy,” he said. “We have already spotted a number of errors. We are going through the report with our lawyers and we are grateful that the Public Protector has given us an extension.”

Jabulani Sikhakhane, head of communications at Sarb, confirmed the governor’s radio statement on Monday.

Mkhwebane said her report was only preliminary and she was still waiting for feedback from the implicated parties, which might change the contents of the report drastically, the Mail & Guardian, which leaked the report, said.

The timing of the report's release has brought into question whether Absa is being challenged over closing Gupta-linked accounts.

“There is no doubt that when the ANC struggles in a highly factionalised environment, a report which puts political opponents in a disadvantage will be leaked,” said political analyst, Dr Somadoda Fikeni.

“The leakage itself has political implications,” he told Fin24 by phone.

The ANC Women’s League, seen as a close ally of President Jacob Zuma, on Saturday called on the Public Protector to conduct a full investigation into the alleged looting of state resources during apartheid.

It may be too soon to make final conclusions, though, as Mkhwebane is yet to receive submissions from Absa.

Indeed, Absa said in a statement last week, it “is regrettable that the public protector’s report has been leaked before further submissions and finalisation, because in its current form it perpetuates an incorrect view that Absa Bank was the beneficiary of undue SA Reserve Bank assistance”.

Absa said the public protector has been invited to inspect confidential documents in its possession pertinent to the successful finalisation of the investigation.

“We have written to the public protector informing her that we accept her invitation to make further submissions in terms of the Public Protector Act,” the bank said.

“These submissions will correct several factual and legal inaccuracies that are contained in the provisional report. This will be done on or before the deadline of February 28 2017.”

“These documents pertain to, among others, due diligence performed by Absa prior to acquiring Bankorp.”

Read Fin24's top stories trending on Twitter:

bankorp  |  sarb  |  absa  |  lesetja kganyago
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