By Pinky Khoabane
WHAT took Public Protector Thuli Madonsela five years to investigate must be presented this week as her term of office comes to an end. She had promised that she would release it before she leaves.
Madonsela will present the much-awaited report into why former President Thabo Mbeki didn’t collect the R26bn stolen by the apartheid government towards the end of the apartheid era but more importantly whether the money can be recovered. UnCensored has been reliably told that the delay into the investigation came from Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan and former Reserve Bank Governor, Gill Marcus, who wouldn’t co-operate with the investigation.
The theft is detailed in a Ciex report which was compiled by a UK based intelligence agency at the behest of the democratic government.
Ciex details how the apartheid government looted state coffers ahead of the democratic dispensation through various means including corrupt banking and financial systems, illegal lifeboats and subventions by the South African Reserve Bank (SARB).
The first phase of the project was to recover approximately R15 billion; R3.2 billion from ABSA, R3 – 6 billion from Sanlam and Rembrandt now Remgro, and about R5.5 billion from Aerosptiale/Daimler-Chrysler.
The report exposed an “illegal gift” of R3.2 billion to Bankorp which was later bought by ABSA and “dressed up as a lifeboat” organised by then Reserve Bank Governor Chris Stals in concert with Marinus Daling, ABSA’s CEO Danie Cronje and Anton and Johann Rupert”.
The complaint was lodged by Advocate Paul Hoffman who at the time, convinced Madonsela that the R3.2bn lifeboat to ABSA would be quick to recover as it was not contested by the parties and was therefore “low lying fruit”.
And indeed, the question is why it has taken the Public Protector this long since the investigation into the R3.2bn had been thoroughly investigated and found to be unlawful and illegal by three different inquiries. Apart from the Ciex report, a commission by Judge Willem Heath also found the lifeboats to be unlawful and illegal. The Panel of Experts headed by Judge Dennis Davis found the lifeboat to be irregular.
All Madonsela really had to do was to determine why the money wasn’t collected and whether it could still be collected and make a recommendation. In my humble view, I cant see why it couldn’t. ABSA the CIEX report says, had already made provision to repay the money.
So why wasn’t it collected?
Alongside Hoffman’s case is one which has been kept away from the public, not that the entire Ciex report and the investigation has been given the publicity that other investigations by the public protector have received. It was lodged by private forensic investigator Jeff Koorbonally. His is on the corruption and maladministration of both the previous and current governments. He lodged his case with the public protector in 2011 and later joined forces with Hoffman and their cases have become one. Nowhere, until now, had I heard of Koorbonally’s case and I have spoken to the Public Protector and her office on this matter. Koorbonally accuses former Reserve Bank Governor Chris Stals together with his precedessor, Dr Gerhardus De Kock and apartheid-era finance minister Barend Du Plessis of having orchestrated economic or financial terrorism. “This was done ‘economic warfare style’ which is undertaken by states against other states. Economic warfare aims to capture or otherwise control the supply of critical economic resources so that the military and intelligence agencies can operate at full efficiency or deprive enemy forces of those resources so that they cannot function properly,” he says.
The forensic investigator alleges that in December 1984, money from Britain was deposited into Barclays Bank, at the time when it was being liquidated “and for whatever reasons SARB and the apartheid regime accepted the money into the country then blocked and froze it. Between January and June of the following year, they illegally invested it into government bearer bonds,” he says.
Two years later, the apartheid regime amended the Foreign Currency Exchange Act, that would effectively legitimise their illegal conduct. “They referred the funds to the special restricted account Antre code 0000/4444 currently under the custodian of SARB,” he adds.
The bonds were allegedly given to ABSA in 1995/6 to trade with. The investigator says the dormant Antre code dormant account 0000/4444 was traced on Absa’s international Forex environment database at Absa Towers in Johannesburg. Absa he claims, is using it as a trading account on stock market and forex trading.
In emails to Madonsela, Parliament and Treasury, Koorbanally reminds them that he had since 2009 been calling for the full audit of bonds issued from 1985 to 1999 which was the end of Stals’s term of office.
“To date Finance Ministry and Treasury have done nothing about it, why? If they don’t have the resources and have nothing to hide I offer my expertise as a Certified Forensic Auditor at Zero Cost and I can produce a full detailed report within a day or two & have it verified and certified by any auditing firm of their choices”.
In the same email, he names current and previous cabinet ministers and reserve bank governors whom he accuses of being complicit in the cover-up of this money. UnCensored will release the names once the named people have had an opportunity to respond to the allegations.
In another he pleads with the Public Protector to get a statement from Stals, who in an earlier email, he described as one who was “no angel’. To make his point he refers to the Supreme Court Justice HC Nel’s damning report issued in November 1997 on Stals’s reign at the Reserve Bank in which he called for his influence on the South African business community to be “eradicated”.
The Public Protector has always maintained that she couldn’t investigate things that occurred prior to her office hence she couldn’t investigate the apartheid-era theft. But Koorbonally counters: “The source of Corruption/Maladministration in my matter reported to your office was Sovereign Bonds, which were identified by the secret Antrecode dormant account 0000/4444 linked to Absa Forex, of which same is under the custodian of Sarb on behalf of Treasury & these bonds were further revealed to government (Finance Ministry & others) in 1996/7 by the Ciex report on page 25.
“While the irregularities with these bonds originated in the Apartheid Regime era 1985, the more serious aggressions of corruption/maladministration which constituted an illegal act of money laundering into financial markets only took place during the Democratic Era in 1996-2010 & further). This period fell within the scope/jurisdiction of the formation of the OPP (Office of the Public Protector)”. The Bond Exchange of South Africa started trading in financial markets from 1996.
The forensic investigator has taken his matter to many institutions both here and abroad including ABSA, Financial Services Board (FSB), finance ministry and Treasury, Parliament (SCOPA), the Mbeki and FW De Klerk Foundations.
Like those of us who’ve watched and followed the case closely, Koorbonally will be waiting to see if Madonsela forces the looters to payback the money and hold accountable those who chose to turn a blind eye and be complicit to this massive corruption.