Estelle Ellis | Daily Maverick | 3 March 2020
The Supreme Court of Appeal on Tuesday heard the appeal by the SA History Archive Trust against a ruling that will allow the SA Reserve Bank to keep records of significant fraud, corruption and gold smuggling under the apartheid government a secret.
In the latest chapter of a six-year showdown over records detailing “significant corruption and fraud” between 1980 and 1995 under the apartheid regime, the Supreme Court of Appeal has been asked to rule on an appeal by the South African History Archive Trust (SAHA) against a decision that allows the South African Reserve Bank (SARB) to keep records and investigations a secret.
The matter started in August 2014. Then, SAHA applied in terms of the Promotion of Access to Information Act for the SARB to release documents relating to investigations into significant fraud, including fraud through the manipulation of the financial rand dual currency, foreign exchange or forging Eskom bonds, gold smuggling or smuggling of other precious metals from 1 January 1980 to 1 January 1995. The request was denied in October 2015.
The SARB claimed that it only held records relating to three of the individuals on SAHA’s list. These were Brigadier Jan Blaauw, a former brigadier in the South African Defence Force who was implicated in arms dealing to circumvent a ban by the UN, Sicilian banker and former South African resident Vito Palazzolo, who was recently released from prison in Sicily where he served time for Mafia-related crimes, and South African businessman Robert Hill, who allegedly fled the country in 1988 after he was implicated in the forgery of Eskom bonds.
In February 2016, SAHA brought an application before the Johannesburg High Court for the release of the records. The case was heard in August 2017. Judge Elias Matojane dismissed SAHA’s application and made a cost order totalling R2.7-million against the organisation.