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Hennie van Vuuren On Absa: Be Careful Of The Bounty Hunters

"The Ciex report reads much like a failed pitch. It is a superficial document without substantial evidence."

21/06/2017 10:15 SAST | Updated 21/06/2017 13:07 SAST
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An expert on apartheid-era looting says South Africans should be wary of bounty-hunters.

Hennie van Vuuren, Director of Open Secrets and the author of "Apartheid Guns and Money: A Tale of Profit" says it must be remembered that the Public Protector's Ciex report on the lifeboat paid to Absa bank's predecessor by the apartheid state was penned by bounty-hunters who wanted to be paid a commission on recovered apartheid loot.

"The Ciex report reads much like a failed pitch. It is a superficial document without substantial evidence. We need the full report to be produced, especially if the South African public paid 600,000 pounds for it," Van Vuuren told HuffPost SA.

Van Vuuren welcomed the public protector's recommendation that other financial institutions should be investigated -- particularly European banks who allegedly drew massive advantage out of sanctions busting that dwarfs the Absa claim.

But he cautioned there were "other conflicting interests" who were looking to draw financial and political advantage out of the Ciex claims.

Is the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) best-suited to investigate Absa and other financial institutions as per the public protector's recommendations? Van Vuuren thinks not.

Van Vuuren told HuffPost SA if there was a proper basis for it and if there was substantive evidence to prove it, then Absa should be asked to repay the monies in question.

Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane on Tuesday released the report on her investigation into allegations of maladministration, corruption, the misappropriation of public funds and the failure of government to implement the Ciex report and recover funds from Absa bank.

Mkhwebane recommended that Parliament evoke a Constitutional amendment to the South African Reserve Bank's powers and that the Special Investigating Unit seek to recover more than R1 billion in alleged misappropriated public funds awarded to Absa in a series of apartheid-era bailouts. She recommended that the SIU also investigate other financial institutions mentioned in the Ciex report.

But he remained wary that the Special Investigating Unit would be fit for the job.

"The SIU is not the most appropriate body. They do not have sufficient resources or the capacity to take on significant international investigations. They were not designed for this task and are far more effective at investigating important systemic corruption where this directly impacts service delivery," Van Vuuren said.

Van Vuuren said the Hawks would not be able to do the job either.

"The Hawks are captured by conflicting interests. Zuma and his administration have delivered state security institutions which do not have the capacity to investigate significant cases. This again emphasises why we need an independent anti-corruption agency like the Scorpions."

Van Vuuren added that Mkhwebane must explain to the public who the authors are that informed her proposal to challenge the independence of the Reserve Bank.