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PULLING THE PLUG

Equality Court orders FIC to cough up all Sekunjalo reports to dispel ‘foul smell of racism’ allegations

Equality Court orders FIC to cough up all Sekunjalo reports to dispel ‘foul smell of racism’ allegations
Illustrative image | Iqbal Survé, Sekunjalo Group CEO. (Photo: Gallo Images / Foto24 / Lerato Maduna)

In a somewhat surprising turn, the Equality Court ordered the Financial Intelligence Centre this week to hand over all reports related to Sekunjalo, its subsidiaries, as well as those pertaining to EOH, and Tongaat Hulett.

The Financial Intelligence Centre (FIC), which had opposed the urgent court request on the grounds that there was no factual or legal basis for the “fishing expedition” request, said its legal team was considering the judgment. “No further comments will be made at this stage,” it said in a media release.

Dr Iqbal Survé, chairman of Sekunjalo Investment Holdings, says the ruling is a significant victory for the group as, “we have maintained from the beginning that there has been no basis for any of our accounts to be closed, as there is no wrongdoing by any of our companies”.

Surve has been particularly vocal with allegations that the decisions by numerous banks to close the Sekunjalo group’s bank accounts have been motivated by political interference “and is tantamount to economic sabotage in an effort to destroy the country’s biggest black-owned media house, along with other Sekunjalo-owned entities”.

Ongoing litigation

Sekunjalo is currently suing several of the major South African banks for bias and racial discrimination, and has launched several concurrent lawsuits to support the Equality Court case. As a result, Absa, Nedbank and Standard Bank declined to comment.

Nadiah Maharaj, chief risk officer at FNB, said the bank is committed to ensuring that its bank accounts are managed in compliance with all regulatory and legal requirements.

Investec did not respond to Daily Maverick’s request for comment.

The documents that the FIC has been ordered to hand over include:

  • The risk management and compliance programmes of Investec, Standard Bank, Absa, First Rand and Nedbank.
  • All reports of suspicious and unusual transactions made to the FIC by accounting institutions – related to the applicants.
  • Specifically all reports of suspicious and unusual transactions made to the FIC by accounting institutions — related to Sekunjalo Investment Holdings and all entities associated with the Sekunjalo group.
  • All reports of suspicious and unusual transactions made to the FIC by accounting institutions — related to EOH, KPMG, Steinhoff and Tongaat Hulett.

Reputational risk and risk appetite 

The first applicant, Siphokazi Mdudane, was the sole director of TCQ Fisheries Management. Both Investec and First National Bank (part of FirstRand) terminated their accounts, citing “reputational and business risk”.  The third applicant, Dennis George, had his accounts closed by Absa on the grounds that “his profile did not fit with their internal policy and commitment to complying with all legal and regulatory obligations applicable to anti-bribery laws and regulation both locally and internationally; and he did not fit their risk appetite”.

Documents related to EOH, Steinhoff, Tongaat Hulett and KPMG have been called for on the grounds that Sekunjalo maintains that the banks’ closure of its accounts is racist and discriminatory.

As per the information brought by the applicants and referred to in the ruling this week:

  • Former chief executive of EOH Asher Bohbot was implicated in tender fraud amounting to an estimated R7-billion.
  • KPMG has been called out publicly for working with the Guptas.
  • Steinhoff was fined R190-million by a German financial regulator for breaching financial regulations.
  • Tongaat Hulett’s former executives were charged with fraud and racketeering.

As per the applicants, these “white” companies did not have their banking services terminated and Sekunjalo says the banks’ derisking seems to have been limited to “persons of a certain race and who had no political alliances with the banking institutions and who were often referred to as political elites”.

Handing down his judgment this week, Judge Daniel Thulare noted that, in this case, “the disclosure will help enhance the legitimacy and maintain the integrity of the financial system of our country as it may demonstrate that voluntary compliance and self-regulation is not a cover at the expense of the black majority … Non-disclosure, on the other hand, will allow the foul smell of racism and white superiority to linger around major banks”.

The FIC was ordered to provide the requested documents within 20 days of the date of the order, and to pay costs. DM

Gallery

Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Random Comment says:

    The Iqbal* & Sekunjalo Saga are the best soap opera this country has ever produced!

    *Doctor, Reverend, His Lordship, His Grace, Detective, Advocate, Posthumous Recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, and personal physician to Madiba

  • Geoff Coles says:

    Hard to believe that the Equality Court operates at the same level but I guess there are judges and judges.

  • Paddy Ross says:

    Is Surve black? He claims that Sekunjalo is black owned.

  • dorrienv says:

    One shouldn’t be surprised by these types of rulings from the ‘equality’ court anymore, this kangaroo court has a massive bias. Once it’s taken to an actual court of law it will get overturned on appeal for being a ridiculous decision.

  • Rod H MacLeod says:

    The Equality Court is a Magistrate’s Court extension. Accordingly, Daniel Thulare must surely be a Magistrate, not a Judge? And the Equality Courts are free, designed for litigants unable to pay for superior court actions. So what costs are the FIC ordered to pay here? And how come then are multi-millionaire [allegedly] Survé and cronies doing filing applications here?

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