Court order a significant victory for Sekunjalo

Sekunjalo Group chairman Dr Iqbal Survé. Picture: Armand Hough/ Independent Newspapers

Sekunjalo Group chairman Dr Iqbal Survé. Picture: Armand Hough/ Independent Newspapers

Published Feb 14, 2024


Durban — In a significant victory for the Sekunjalo Group of Companies (Sekunjalo), the Equality Court, sitting in the Western Cape, ruled that the Financial Intelligence Centre (FIC) must hand over all documents pertaining to Sekunjalo, its subsidiaries, as well as those pertaining to technology services firm EOH and Tongaat Hulett, among others.

Judge Daniel Mafeleu Thulare ordered that Absa Bank Limited (Ltd), FirstRand Bank Ltd, Investec Bank Ltd, Nedbank Ltd and Standard Bank of South Africa Ltd issue their programmes within 20 days.

Sekunjalo is suing several of the major South African banks for bias and racial discrimination and has launched several concurrent lawsuits to support its Equality Court case.

The group had asked the FIC on several occasions to provide it with documentary proof that the banks had complied with the Financial Intelligence Centre Act 38 of 2001 (Fica), and submitted information to the FIC relating to concerns over Sekunjalo and how it conducted its business, prior to closing all Sekunjalo-related bank accounts.

As the FIC had not been forthcoming, Sekunjalo had no option other than to compel the FIC.

In a considered judgment handed down on Tuesday, Judge Thulare granted Sekunjalo and its co-applicants, the right to access in terms of section 40(1) (e) and section 41 (d) and (e) of Fica.

In addition to the FIC providing documentation, Sekunjalo will now also have access to the Risk Management and Compliance Programmes of Absa Bank Ltd, FirstRand Bank Ltd, Investec Bank Ltd, Nedbank Ltd and Standard Bank of South Africa Ltd, which are respondent banks or accounting institutions cited in the main Equality Court application.

Further, Sekunjalo is now entitled to receive all reports of suspicious and unusual transactions made to the FIC by accounting institutions in respect of EOH Holdings and its subsidiaries, KPMG Services Proprietary Ltd South Africa, Steinhoff International Holdings NV, and Tongaat Hulett Development.

Judge Thulare said: “I find that the applicants have established their right to the information sought. Fairness and equity, and our constitutional values of openness and transparency, favour that the applicants be granted access to the reports that the respondent banks provided to the FIC as regards reputational and business risk as well as anti-bribery legal and regulatory framework.

“This is part of the portfolio of evidence that is material to determine whether the applicants were unfairly discriminated against, as they allege. The disclosure of this confidential information held by the FIC will help in the proper determination of the issues in the main application.”

This ruling follows evidence in an interlocutory case brought by Sekunjalo, also heard in the Western Cape High Court, in which Judge Hawthorne heard from Nedbank’s counsel that there were no records of any minutes or meetings, nor had any documents been destroyed, pertaining to any misdeeds by Sekunjalo-related entities, that would spark reporting to the FIC.

This reinforces Sekunjalo’s contention that all bank account closures or threats thereof were not based on objective evidence, but rather on subjective desire under instruction, the company said.

Today’s decision reaffirms the necessity for, and correctness of Sekunjalo suing the Presidency and state organs for the sum of R75billion ($4bn).

The foundation of this suit is that the banks had no basis to close the accounts, but were instructed to do so. Sekunjalo believes the FIC documents, or lack thereof, will prove their claims.

Sekunjalo chairman Dr Iqbal Survé welcomed the Western Cape High Court decision compelling the FIC to provide the documents that the company had been asking for.

“This is a significant victory for us as we have maintained from the beginning that there has been no basis for any of our accounts to be closed, as there is no wrongdoing by our companies.

“The decision to close our accounts has been motivated by political interference and is tantamount to economic sabotage in an effort to destroy the country’s biggest black-owned media house, along with other Sekunjalo-owned entities,” Survé said.

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