Absa Group CEO Maria Ramos. Picture: MARTIN RHODES
Absa Group CEO Maria Ramos. Picture: MARTIN RHODES

Absa says a leaked public protector report on an apartheid-era bail-out for Bankorp creates an incorrect impression.

The bank said on Friday that it would make “further submissions … to correct several factual and legal inaccuracies that are contained in the provisional report” by Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane regarding an unlawful apartheid-era bailout.

It also said the leak of the report was “regrettable” and creates “an incorrect view that Absa Bank Ltd was the beneficiary of undue assistance”.

The Mail & Guardian reported that the bank could be forced to pay R2.25bn if Mkhwebane’s suggested remedial actions “remained unchanged”.

“The government‚ through the South African Secret Service represented at the time by Billy Masetlha‚ contracted Ciex to investigate large-scale looting of the state under the apartheid government‚” the newspaper said.

Masetlha was a former head of the National Intelligence Agency before being fired by then president Thabo Mbeki in 2006‚ while‚ according to the M&G‚ Ciex is a “covert UK asset recovery agency”.

Ciex probed how “R1.5bn was offered to the Bankorp group of banks as a distressed bank ‘lifeboat’”‚ the paper reported.

Absa‚ which has until Monday to make submissions to Mkhwebane‚ said it would do so.

“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. These submissions will correct several factual and legal inaccuracies that are contained in the provisional report‚” spokesperson Phumza Macanda said oin Friday.

Reserve Bank governor Lesetja Kganyago told 702 on Friday that the Bank was checking the provisional report for factual accuracy, and would give “extensive comment” to the public protector, Reuters reported.

Co-operation

Macanda said the bank had “fully co-operated” with the probe “since it began and we will continue to do so”.

“Following an interview with senior executives of Absa in June 2016‚ the public protector accepted our written offer for her to inspect confidential documents in our possession that are very pertinent to the successful finalisation of the investigation. The public protector accepted this offer in writing but never actually took it up. This offer remains open.

“These documents pertain to‚ among others‚ due diligence performed by Absa prior to acquiring Bankorp. Bankorp started receiving SA Reserve Bank assistance in 1985. Absa acquired Bankorp in April 1992 at fair value. All the obligations pertaining to the SA Reserve Bank’s assistance were discharged in full by October 1995.”

Macanda also said it was “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 was the beneficiary of undue Reserve Bank assistance”.

The Davis panel of experts appointed by former Reserve Bank governor Tito Mboweni found that Absa’s shareholders did not derive any undue benefit from the Reserve Bank’s intervention and as such no claim of restitution could be pursued against Absa.”

TMG Digital

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