Open Secrets builds legal accountability for private-sector economic crimes by ensuring that our investigations have clear and concrete legal outcomes, through international law, identifying gaps in law, and strategic litigation.

Current Legal Action:

Apartheid Banks

Holding Apartheid’s Banks accountable

The case against KBC and KBL

Open Secrets’ Hennie van Vuuren published Apartheid Guns and Money: A tale of profit in 2017, which uncovered the role of Belgium’s Kredietbank (now known as KBC Group) and its sister bank in Luxembourg (then KBL, now (since 2020) Quintet Private Bank) in aiding and abetting the South African apartheid state in committing the crime against humanity of apartheid. The investigation showed how these banks laundered money to enable the apartheid state to buy weapons in violation of UN arms sanctions. These weapons were essential for the apartheid state’s violent domestic repression, and for the wars and attempts to destabilise other governments and liberation movements in southern Africa. Since 2018, Open Secrets has been working to hold these banks accountable using both international and domestic accountability mechanisms. This includes a complaint to the OECD’s National Contact Points in Belgium and Luxembourg, and the handing over of a criminal “docket” to South Africa’s National Prosecuting Authority (NPA docket).
NPA docketOECD Complaint

Yemen: Arms Regulator Court Application

SALC and Open Secrets v NCACC and the Minister of Defense


Since the outbreak of the conflict in Yemen, South Africa has exported arms to Saudi Arabia and the UAE, two of the countries supplying arms that is fuelling the war in Yemen. The UN Expert Group on Yemen and reports by civil society organisations have accused Saudi Arabia and the UAE of violating international humanitarian law and the human rights of the Yemenis. Despite this, South Africa’s National Conventional Arms Control Committee (NCACC) has been approving arms export licences to both Saudi Arabia and the UAE. It is in this backdrop that Open Secrets and the Southern African Litigation Centre (SALC) launched an application to review the NCACC’s decision to approve export licences.

Lady R Arms Shipment

Open Secrets has challenged both the South African Presidency and the US government to make public details of the mysterious cargo of the Russian vessel Lady R


A sanctioned Russian ship docking in South Africa’s most important naval base rightly set off alarm bells. What was onboarded and was it destined for the war zone in Ukraine or any hot conflict in Africa? We need evidence to substantiate facts — on all sides. Open Secrets has submitted correspondence to the South African presidency that the independent inquiry into the Lady R arms shipment be made public. We have also submitted Freedom of Information (FOI) requests to United States agencies who we believe should have information concerning the Lady R arms shipment to and from South Africa in December 2022.

Arms Deal: The Seriti Commission and the JSC Complaint


This is an information portal on the 1999 Arms Deal and the Seriti Commission established to investigate allegations of corruption in the deal. Here you will find the documents, investigations, and ongoing legal cases on the Arms Deal by Open Secrets and our civil society partners. This portal is the succesor to the defunct Arms Deal Facts website and houses all the documents and information formerly held by that website.

Access to Information | PAIA Tracker

Open the secrets


The Promotion of Access to Information Act, or PAIA, is a piece of legislation which gives effect to the public’s constitutional right to access information held by government and the private sector. We believe that it is vital for open democracy and transparency in governance that the public has access to information that their effects their lives and rights. We use PAIA applications to ensure that government and private actors are held accountable for their actions. The PAIA Tracker, tracks all the PAIA requests submitted by Open Secrets and serves a repository of all the information obtained in them.

Parliamentary Submissions

Our submissions to parliament and parliamentary sub-committees regarding public policy.


So far Open Secrets, has made three submissions to Parliament. The first was on the Conduct of Financial Institutions Bill by National Treasury. The second was a submission to the National Assembly’s Standing Committee on Finance regarding the Auditing Profession Amendment Bill. The third is a submission on the National Prosecuting Authority Amendment Bill.

The Auditing Profession Amendment Bill seeks to amend the Auditing Profession Act of 2005 to address the challenges and limitations that the Independent Regulatory Board for Auditors (IRBA) faces in discharging its regulatory and oversight responsibilities especially in light of current state of auditing and accounting professions.

The National Prosecuting Authority Amendment Bill attempts to make a range of amendments including creating a permanent Investigating Directorate called the Investigating Directorate Against Corruption (IDAC). Our submission raises a number of concerns, these include needing more operational and financial independence for the proposed IDAC, clarifying IDACs scope and purpose as well as discussing broader issues of independence of the NPA as a whole.


Cancelled Pensions Litigation

Open Secrets and the Unpaid Benefits Campaign (UBC), intervene as amici curiae in Liberty’s application to the Court to ‘un-cancel’ certain pension funds.


In December 2021, Open Secrets and the Unpaid Benefits Campaign (UBC), represented by the Centre for Applied Legal Studies (CALS), brought an application in the Gauteng High Court against the Financial Sector Conduct Authority (FSCA). In the spirit of greater transparency and responsiveness to the plight of pensioners, the application asks the Court to remedy the unlawful cancellation of pension funds.

FSCA Appointments

Open Secrets and UBC intervention in secretive FSCA Commissioner appointment process


Open Secrets and the Unpaid Benefits Campaign (UBC), represented by the Centre for Applied Legal Studies (CALS) have applied to the Gauteng High Court (Pretoria) on an urgent basis to ensure a transparent process to select the new Commissioner and Deputy Commissioners of the Financial Sector Conduct Authority (FSCA).

Liberty Amicus Intervention

Open Secrets and the Unpaid Benefits Campaign (UBC), intervene as amici curiae in Liberty’s application to the Court to ‘un-cancel’ certain pension funds.


“On the 15th of April 2021, Liberty’s application to have 23 pension funds that were unlawfully cancelled reinstated was heard in the Gauteng High Court. Open Secrets and the Unpaid Benefits Campaign (UBC), represented by the Centre for Applied Legal Studies (CALS), made an application to join the application as amicus curiae in the public interest. We argued that we should be admitted as amicus because some of the material facts that gave rise to Liberty’s application were missing and which were the subject of our investigation The Bottom Line. Moreover, the right to social security of many pensioners and pension beneficiaries was implicated in this and other future reinstatement applications.

Competition Appeal Court

Babelegi Workwear and Industrial Supplies CC v The Competition Commission


This was the first Covid-19 related case of excessive pricing of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to be referred to the Competition Tribunal. The Tribunal found Babelegi guilty of excessive pricing (“price gouging”) on face masks and issued a fine of R76 000. Babelegi took the decision on appeal to the Competition Appeal Court (CAC). The case was essentially about the application of the amended section 8 of the Competition Act, which was being considered for the first time. The public importance of this case was in setting precedent for protecting the public against exploitation of circumstances like pandemics and national disasters in order to profit at the expense of people’s right to health and other human rights. Considering this public importance, Open Secrets and the Health Justice Initiative (HJI) applied to be admitted as amici along with the Human Rights Commission.

The People's Tribunal on Economic Crime

The Arms Industry: From Apartheid to the 1999 Arms Deal

The first People’s Tribunal on Economic Crime in South Africa was held from 3-7 February 2018 at the former Women’s Jail at Constitution Hill, Johannesburg. As secretariat of the People’s Tribunal, Open  Secrets convened an organising committee comprising of a range of civil society organisations, including the Centre for Applied Legal Studies (CALS), Corruption Watch, the Foundation for Human Rights (FHR), Open Secrets, Public Affairs Research Institute (PARI) and the Right2Know Campaign (R2K).