Going behind arguably South Africa’s biggest economic, financial crime over the last +30 years

0
3638

By: Clyde Ramalaine

On Tuesday, May 4, 2021, Sam & Nicholas Attorneys [SNATT], a Cape Town-based legal practice, again represented its clients [Karima Abdul Razak Tayob Surtie and Edward Jeffrey Koorbanally] in a protracted matter that traces its genesis to the mid-’80s.  SNATT is in the Western Cape High Court to file its Rule 30 application to set aside the PIC’s irregular step since the PIC brought an exception out of time. Given that the matter was postponed on Tuesday for court logistics, SNATT and its client will now await a subsequent court date where it will move to hear the PIC’s exception. The clients represented is Mrs Karima Abdul Razak Tayob Surtie, the recognised executrix of the Estate of the late Abdul Razak Tayob Surtie, a Lesotho Citizen. What then is the claim that Mrs Surtie is in court for as represented by her attorneys since 2019? At the heart of this case is the claim that more than U$36bn, yes you read correctly, that the late Mr Surtie inherited but never received instead became an intricate and meandering tale that details apartheid and democracy entities, Reserve Bank, Public Investment Commissioners / Corporation Barclays Absa and a slew of politicians. 

The main entities implicated in this longstanding injustice and crime of over U$250bn are respectively: South African Reserve Bank (SARB)  in particular Financial Markets Department and Subsidiaries (State–Owned), Public Investment Commissioners / Corporation (PIC), Corporation of Public Deposits (CPD), Barclays Bank PLC and ABSA Group Ltd.

This case equally so has the following as people of interest, against whom the allegations stand that they failed to investigate the matter, which may constitute a claim of a cover-up of the crimes rendering them as complicit in the crime. These are for the periods they served respectively in office: Trevor Manuel Finance Minister in his capacity as sole trustee of the PIC, Pravin Gordhan (Finance Minister ), Tito Mboweni (Governor of the SARB & Finance Minister), Gill Marcus  (Governor of the SARB / ABSA Chairperson), Maria Ramos (DG of Treasury/CEO of ABSA), Lesetja Kganyago (Treasury / SARB), Lungisa Fuzile ( Treasury), Daniel Mminele ( Deputy Governor SARB), Johan de Jager (Head of Legal SARB), Yunus Carrim, (SCOF) Thembo Godi SCOPA Chair) and Baleka Mbete (Speaker of Parliament).

The most recent interactions were in August 2017 in the Policy Conference and Resolution leading to the December 2017, 54th Conference, where the broker/agent of Mrs Surtie confronted Minister of Public Enterprises Pravin Gordhan on the extended outstanding matter. Interesting enough, Gordhan was defended by incoming president Cyril Ramaphosa who also made commitments to resolve this matter.  Four years later and the next ANC conference next year, nothing came of the promises made by South Africa’s president. This was not the first time politicians that were approached committed to doing something about the matter. To appreciate the historical context, it becomes essential to appreciate the documented evidence of interactions across international entities that details at least four sovereign states South Africa, the UK, the USA and Lesotho.

That history is best presented in first witness sense by the account of Mr Edward J. Koorbanally in his deposed affidavit that starts with his appointment as broker and agent with full power-of-attorney to trace the missing offshore inheritance of the late Abdul Razak Tayob Surtie. This inheritance emanates from diamond digging and trade thereof on Share Certificate Portfolio no 7315, which was registered in the name of the late A Steinhardt, formerly of Leribe district British Basutoland.  Koorbanally was appointed by  Abdurahman Machsherry (Surtie).

Koorbanally ‘s investigation started at ABSA with Maria Ramos and Louis Von Zeaner, respectively, CEO and Deputy Bill Swanepoel and Pieter van Tonder  (heads of forensic and the Reserve Bank), the leadership of Tito Mboweni and Gill Marcus. His premise for starting with the respective entities as represented by the individuals mentioned above emanates from a time before his appointment as directed then by Arrol Booysen. Another reason for engaging ABSA stems from the recorded fact that ABSA became part of  Barclays. In this regard, Koorbanally placed himself on record with both entities in September / October 2009 as a broker/ agent assigned with the investigation and requested cooperation and assistance. Koorbanally quickly discovered that there was simply no interest or any cooperation from both entities (ABSA and SARB). As a direct result of the lack of cooperation, the investigation was subsequently escalated to Britain in 2010.

Through a network of appointed people based in the UK, Koorbanally established that the Share Certificate 7315 was indeed linked to the deceased Estate managed by Barclays and that a certain amount of money disbursed was paid out to Barclays South Africa and inheritance. Koorbanally was advised to make contact with Michael Oatley since he investigated both ABSA and SARB on behalf of the Government of the Republic of South Africa and his investigation unearthed a slew of irregularities. Koorbanally was only able to meet Oatley in 2010, who supplied him with a copy of the CIEX report. While Koorbanally could not necessarily link his investigation to the CIEX report, he did identify ABSA as an entity of interest for his ongoing research.  This led him in 2011 back to ABSA to attain any information from the banking system that would attest to banking accounts that exist in the name of ART Surtie.

Koorbanally  was aided by former MEC Safety and Security, later MEC Finance and ultimately Premier of the North West Province, Maureen Modiselle, to a black forensics person at ABSA. According to Koorbanally, the particular individual is well known to Ramos, Marcus, Von Zeaner, Swanepoel and Van Tonder since he was one of the political deployees to ABSA. The said gentleman advised Koorbanally to take his necessary documents concerning ART Surtie to a guy called ‘Jonathan’, an ABSA International division at ABSA Towers in downtown Johannesburg, to get him to search for any banking account that might be on the lists of Dormant unclaimed funds.

Using the late ART Surtie’s personal details with his date of birth since he did not have a SA Identity document but a Lesotho British passport, this method would harvest three accounts. Two of the accounts were normal, while the one Koorbanally searched for, which would detail a substantial amount in the region of R467bn, also was confirmed.  Account Category “S” of which the definition was not clear at the time, as the only category ‘Account known in the banking sector is the Bank Treasury Suspense Account. This account reflected the following information.

Screen 1.

Account Dormant Code 000/444, Account preferred centre ABSA Towers JHB, Account Name A (MM) Surtie Transfer inheritance, amount U$ 36bn, with date 1984, December 10, from Barclays UK to Barclays RSA LTD.

Screen 2

She detailed the same precise information as that of Screen 1 except the date and amount. The date on this screen reflected as 1985 June, 7 and the amount was now in ZAR 436bn. Koorbanally understood this difference in amounts due to the money that was exchanged from U$D currency in stages over the period of 180 days ( 6 months) permitted by SARB to keep money in foreign currency. Failure would have resulted that money returned to the sender.

Screen 3 

Equally confirmed, the details as captured on Screen one but had two distinct amounts R436bn in addition to R304bn and R514bn the exact numbers Koorbanally could not exactly confirm but is adamant had been in the region of the amounts cited. 

A further revelation was that of the U$D 36bn to have been made up of several RSA 150 and 153 bonds as the calculated number of the amount totalled 36bn at the end total. Jonathan attempted to print these screens but failed since the account reflected as a high-security account.  He contacted the forensics person to ascertain if printing these out was possible but was told that only the Deputy CEO presided over such access. Koorbanally, perturbed by this revelation, decided to report the matter to State Security Ministry, led by Siyabonga Cwele and SAPS Ministry, led by Nathi Mthethwa. Cwele immediately assigned DG Bob Mhlanga to meet with  Koorbanally, after which the matter was assigned to several DG’s including others at SASS these include DG Nozuko Bam, Stan Noosa (NIA) and Mo Shaik, to mention a few at SASS.

Minister Mthethwa offered to assist upon a criminal be opened, the same Koorbanally at the time could not. In 2012 when a decision to open the case came only in 2012 following Koorbanally ‘s official claim lodged with ABSA in March 2011, the same ABSA first accepted and admitted knowledge of but subsequently denied. Col. Shabangu opened the case in the Mthethwa’s office. The case was assigned to Gen. Anwar Dramat, who had lengthy engagements with Koorbanally, yet in the end, Dramat assigned the case to non-preferred investigators (Col. Van der Merwe and Lt. Kellerman  DPCI). According to Koorbanally, these two refused to investigate ABSA  and claimed a lack of prima facie evidence for a case, instead suggesting the matter had to be referred to Parliament as it was a legislative matter due to the involvement of the Government Bonds. At this stage, Koorbanally would make a definitive link between the CIEX report as identified on page 25. In such former SARB Governor Chris States, in his capacity as director of CPD before his vacation of office, gave trenches of Government Bonds in USD denominations to ABSA, with the following stock numbers.

RSA 150 : 12%, maturity date 28/2/ 2005

RSA 153:  13%, maturity date 31/8/2010.

These are the same bonds that reflected on that secret mentioned account code 000/4444.

An independent IT specialist DeWald Blaauw who is also a lecturer of UT Information Systems at Stellenbosch University, firstly confirmed the existence of the account 0000/4444 and secondly uncovered that also linked to this account to Union Bank (UBS AG Switzerland) as well as that the entrecode 0000/4444 had been identified as 0000/4444. This means entry codes created as a unique specific identifier (names) used for high value “STATE” Blocked, Dormant, Inactive/ Active Accounts. These accounts can also be grouped for autonomous accessibility of authorised members (SARB) and all four banks). In which  in this instance, ZERO (0) means “Investments” and Four (4) means “Government Bonds.” These accounts emerged from the amendment of 1985/6 to the Currency of Exchange Act, 1933 (Act 9 of 1933). Furthermore, “Special Restricted Accounts means an account opened with Public Investment Commissioners for the payment into such account of any amount which may un term terms of Regulations 2 not be paid to or in favour of foreign creditor/ citizen.

In this regard, “0000/4444” refers to: “THE EXCHEQUER ACCOUNT OF CORPORATION FOR PUBLIC DEPOSITS (CPD) OPENED WITH SARB BANK IN JUNE 1985 AS PER FOLLOWING ENABLING LEGISLATIONS.”

  • The currency and Exchange Act no 9 of 1933 (As per amendment of 1985/6)
  • The Public Investment Commissioners Act no 45 of 1984 (PIC)
  • The Corporation for Public Deposits Act no 46 of 1984 (CPD)

Upon the uncovering of the information as mentioned earlier, Koorbanally escalated the matter to the Presidency via Luthuli House, to the PA and Mathews Phosa and was also taken to the presidency office (Robert Ngobeni) and additionally taken to Minister of Finance  Pravin Gordhan (DG Lungisa, Humphrey Pringle) and Parliament (SCOF, SCOPA) due to the implications of Government Bonds. Strangely neither the Finance Ministry, Presidency or Parliament in its oversight role to any appropriate steps detailing action to investigate the matter. 

Since there was no energy or interest to launch any investigation from those rightly approached, took refuge to involve the British (Oatley), the Americans (ICE) division of Homeland Security and the USA Federal Bank, which included IOSCO and FATF. Koorbanally contacted these to report the misuse of Bearer bonds for possible money laundering.  Koorbanally was subsequently informed that in terms of the US Securities Act of 1933 governing and regulating the trading of these types of bonds, that these will be on record with BESA. Also, that the RSA Treasury will have everything on record as the owner (issuer) of them as the rules dictate: The requirement to trade with them (bonds), there must be a joint venture partnership agreement between Issuer (Government) and Owner / Investor and the bank assigned to manage the trade ABSA in this instance.  Koorbanally was further requested to furnish information to the  FSB about these alleged violations as it may lead to punitive action against RSA that would detail being struck off the Trading Platform and further exacted exhaustive penalties.  Koorbanally, based on this information, determined to confront and report same to the FSB CEO Advocate Dube Tsidi, who immediately assigned the matter to his deputy Advocate Cuthbert Chanetsa. Chanetsa, in turn, confirmed the following:

The Bonds issued in USD Denominations with stick numbers. Par/ maturity dates – RSA 150: 12% Maturity date February 28, 2005, and RSA 153: 13% maturity date August 31 2010

  • Did exist and traded in various trading platforms, including Switzerland.
  • ABSA was the brokerage favoured and nominated bank to the trade of the same.
  • All PAR (interest) was fully paid on these bonds, including the capital on both maturity dates.

However, Chanetsa did not share with Koorbanally who the beneficiaries were.  Instead, Chanetsa referred Koorbanally  to the National Treasury. National Treasury equally so did not answer the beneficiary of the proceeds as paid out.

Koorbanally, through his USA partners, was able to pick up trading activities being active on the FOREX platform from the same account entrecode 0000/4444 as late as 2016.  SARB Financial Markets Department was identified as the people trading with the so-called dormant account. Koorbanally confronted Deputy Governor David Mminele and his entire financial markets team with this allegation. None of them either responded or denied the levelled claims. Due to this, the matter of ongoing trading beyond the 2005/ 2010 maturity dates as evidenced now in 2016 necessitated an escalation  Governor Lesetja Kganyago and the legal team head Johan de Jager as with the deputy Governor no response came forth nor any denial of the allegations.

Koorbanally thus, in August 2017, at the occasion of the ANC’s Policy Conference, resorted to confront Pravin Gordhan directly on this what he now concluded was blatant corruption. In this instance, Ramaphosa, among others, defended Gordhan, then deputy president of SA. It was argued the matter needed to be dealt with by Government, and Ramaphosa undertook to meet with Koorbanally after the ANC’s 54th Conference again, as is a notorious pattern of most mentioned in this account no action four years later. After being denied for three years in January 2018, Koorbanally finally met with SA President Jacob Zuma at his Mahlamba-Ndlopfu – Pretoria residence.  Zuma committed to adding this matter into the terms of reference of the State of Commission for investigation.  Koorbanally strangely was never called by the State Commission to present the account of ART Surtie as the beneficiary who until now is yet to access his inheritance albeit in late estate definition as led by Karima Surtie.

A tale of arguably the most extensive economic, financial crimes ever committed by a single country. It details the role of the apartheid regime as the initial engineer and plotter in what may be best understood as economic terrorism since it directly imposed a massive liability to the subsequent democratic Government, Not only prejudicing the owners of the money, the Surtie Family  (Lesotho) it asl Prejudiced RSA citizens primarily poor black people. The estimated value of the crime and the loss to the Surtie Family is U$D 165,9bn. This calculation is predicated only on the interest yield return over 30 year period from 1984- 2014. Cognisant of the interest that would have been earned on the interest paid in conjunction with the period post-2014 to include five more years leading up to 2019, [excluding the periods of 2020 and 2021 calendar years], to date and if reinvested than the total value of the crime is more than U$D 250bn.

This case confirms apartheid era and democratic South Africa officials in cahoots in any circumstance anywhere in the world would be classified as grand scale corruption that details a litany of charges.

Koorbanally concludes his interactions with the PIC leadership immanent in the Chairperson of the board DM Buthelezi and CEO  Dan Matjila. The objective for such interactions was to inform them to tell of a pending claim with the Finance Ministry, potentially wipe out most of the PIC assets. Koorbanally informed the PIC leadership that the transfer of assets from the Commissioner to the Corporation was corrupt since certain assets were deliberately never transferred. He equally referred to the unique restricted account assets, which were never transferred as revealed by a Parliament meeting with the link, https://pmg.org.za/committee-meeting/5501

Engaging this historical account is unfortunately not the luxury of those interested in various themes that vibrate in such, but necessary. There is no doubt that what has transpired hitherto leaves many unanswered questions.  These questions vibrate at different intertwined levels. What is very clear is that South Africans have very little information on how the SARB, PIC and banks operate. South Africans are less informed educated on how SA Bonds trading takes place as a daily occurrence.  At the outset, one must ask where the SA financial journalists are that there was no appetite for this now legal case?  It appeals that SA financial journalism is far removed from things that matter.

Questions concerning why those attached to the listed entities opted to be this reluctant to deal with the Koorbanally requests. At another level, what details the role of a crossbreed of SA Government presidents, ministers, politicians and officials in SARB, Public Investment Corporation, Corporation for Public Deposits (CPD). Equally so, the roles and interests of ABSA & Barclays Bank officials as cited in this grave injustice that may define the heinous crime.

At another level, one must ask what the role of Parliament was and what this means for democracy. There are also questions as it relates to the trading of the SA Bonds beyond the maturity dates? Who were the beneficiaries of the paid-up values, where was this money channelled in the ultimate beneficiary?

What are the legal and financial regulatory provisions for what appears to be the ongoing illegal trading in the unlawful extended Bond 150 and 153, which were changed and camouflaged in 2001, as traced on the FOREX Trading Platform as recent as 2016? Is there still trading or churning taking place for the period beyond 2016 that encompasses 2021.

Do South Africans warrant knowing why consecutive finance ministers saw no need to address the issue? Why had neither Trevor Manuel nor his successor Pravin Gordhan ever reported to account to Parliament on this matter that holds disastrous impact for the existence of the PIC? Why did no Minister as cited herein ever speak on this matter Precisely? What did Deputy President Ramaphosa know, and what did he promise Koorbanally at the ANC’s 54th Conference? 

This is the first instalment of a series of articles published on the matter, essentially focussed on presenting the historical narrative hitherto. Subsequent instalments will engage some of the questions herewith raised. While we keep one eye on the unfolding legal case where the PIC has called for an exception, SNATT now seeks to engage at the next court sitting. We will also look at the legal history immanent in court cases evidencing a peculiar pattern by those cited in this injustice and crime.

We, however, must maintain an open mind as we engage further in the hope that we will finally attain justice for the family concerned and that South Africans will get answers to the myriad of questions buried in this ordeal.

Clyde N. S. Ramalaine
A Lifelong Social Justice Activist Political Commentator & Writer is a SARChi D. Litt.et. Phil candidate in Political Science with the University of Johannesburg. Chairperson of TMoSA Foundation – The Thinking Masses of SA