Barclays Africa Group says it has co-operated fully with the public protector’s investigation into the financial assistance Bankorp received from the South African Reserve Bank from 1985 to 1995 and will continue to do so.

The bank was reacting to media reports on Friday regarding a provisional report by the public protector dealing in part with the saga.

The Mail & Guardian newspaper reported that Absa, a unit of Barclays Africa Group, could be forced to pay R2.25bn to the state for an alleged unlawful apartheid-era bank bail-out if the preliminary report by the public protector remained unchanged.

The newspaper, which stated that it had seen the damning preliminary report, said that in Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane’s suggested remedial action she also proposed that the president should consider a commission of inquiry into apartheid-era looting of the state.

"Mkhwebane has provisionally found that the government breached the Constitution and the Public Finance Management Act," the newspaper reported.

Barclays Africa said that, as this was a confidential provisional document released to a limited number of parties for comment and further input, it might change materially following further submissions.

"We have informed the public protector that we accept her invitation to make further submissions within the deadline of 28 February 2017, which will correct several factual and legal inaccuracies contained in the provisional report," the bank said.

However, it said it was "regrettable" that the provisional report was leaked before further submissions and the finalisation of the report because in its current form it created "the incorrect view that Absa Bank ... a subsidiary of the group, received undue benefits by virtue of the [South African Reserve Bank’s] ... assistance to Bankorp".

"Bankorp started receiving [South African Reserve Bank] assistance in 1985. Absa acquired Bankorp at fair value in April 1992. All the obligations pertaining to the [South African Reserve Bank’s] assistance were discharged in full by October 1995.

"The Davis panel of experts appointed by the [Bank] governor in June 2000 found that Absa’s shareholders did not derive any undue benefit from the [Bank’s] intervention and, as such, no claim of restitution could be pursued against Absa. We agree with this finding," Barclays Africa said.

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