Address all apartheid-era economic crimes

Open Secrets, through its attorneys the Centre for Applied Legal Studies (CALS) at Wits University, has filed papers to intervene as a friend of the court (amicus) in the review of the Public Protector’s ‘Absa-CIEX’ report. The review proceedings, brought by Absa, the South African Reserve Bank, and Treasury, will be heard in the High Court of South Africa, Gauteng Division, Pretoria. It will be heard from 5 to 7 December 2017.

In June this year, after several years of delay from the office, the Public Protector released a report on the failure of the South African government to implement the CIEX report and recover funds lost to apartheid era economic crimes, including from the Absa ‘Lifeboat’. The report, authored in the late 1990s, is highly controversial and problematic in many aspects. Crucially the Public Protector’s investigation missed an opportunity to ensure a thorough investigation that could expose, and lead to the recovery of the profits of, apartheid era economic crime.

Open Secrets believes that the Public Protector’s focus on Absa in her report is far too narrow and significantly serves to distort our understanding of apartheid era economic crime. As a friend of the court we are not intervening to side with any party in this dispute. Rather, we are asking the court not to close the door on future investigations into far more substantial and arguably more important apartheid-era economic crimes when it makes its ruling. Beyond the Absa/Bankorp bailout, there is significant evidence in the public domain of apartheid-era looting involving domestic and international actors. We ask that the court’s decision takes note of the importance of investigation into these crimes.

The CIEX report names numerous other institutions that Open Secrets believes the Public Protector failed to adequately investigate. This is confirmed by evidence gathered by Open Secrets over the past five years for the book Apartheid Guns and Money: A Tale of Profit. Beyond those named in the report, Open Secrets has identified additional individuals and companies that helped the apartheid government illegally bust UN sanctions. The centre of these networks were banks in Europe. We believe that these actors must be held accountable and that the investigation into apartheid-era economic crime should not be reduced to a discussion of the Absa ‘Lifeboat’ and allegations of funds owing to the state.

Open Secrets believes that investigating and holding to account large international banks and other institutions that profited off apartheid – a crime against humanity – is crucial. Doing so would allow us to join the dots between apartheid era economic crime and the very real threat of ongoing state capture involving the executive and a clique of business elites.

For more information contact:

Open Secrets

Tel: 021 447 2701

Hennie van Vuuren (082 902 1303)

Michael Marchant (082 772 2936)

Centre for Applied Legal Studies (CALS)

Tel: 011 717 1000

Khuraisha Patel (071 944 9990)

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