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Public Protector: Absa-Bankorp bailout probe ongoing

Busisiwe Mkhwebane opened a criminal case in Pretoria on Tuesday over the leaking of the provisional Absa report.

Public Protector advocate Busisiwe Mkhwebane. Picture: Gia Nicolaides/EWN.

JOHANNESBURG - Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane says an investigation into the Absa apartheid bailout is ongoing, adding all parties involved have until the end of next month to make comment before a report can be finalised.

Mkhwebane opened a criminal case in Pretoria on Tuesday over the leaking of the provisional Absa report.

The document links Absa to an apartheid-era bailout worth billions of rand and recommends the bank pay back the R2.2 billion it received from state coffers.

Public Protector spokesperson Oupa Segwale says, “We are soliciting comments from implicated parties on the Public Protector’s provisional findings, which means the investigation is still ongoing.”

Provisionally, Mkhwebane has found that government breached the Constitution and the Public Finance Management Act.

A previous investigation in 2000 by a central bank-appointed panel found that the loans were made to stabilise the banking system and Absa shareholders did not derive any undue benefit, recommending no further action be taken.

Former Public Protector Thuli Madonsela instituted a follow-up investigation after a 2010 complaint by Paul Hoffman of non-governmental organisation Accountability Now, the Mail & Guardian said.

Barclays Africa said it would continue to cooperate with the Public Protector, but it believes Mkhwebane's preliminary report has 'several factual and legal inaccuracies'.

Barclays Plc is in the process of trying to reduce its stake in Barclays Africa to 20% from 50.01% as it focuses its business on other markets.

A spokesman for Barclays in London declined to comment on whether the case had any implications for the bank's plans to sell its stake in Barclays Africa.

South African Reserve Bank (SARB) Governor Lesetja Kganyago said the central bank will also cooperate in the Public Protector's investigation.

In her suggested remedial action, Mkhwebane proposed that President Jacob Zuma consider a commission of inquiry to see whether other apartheid-era loans should be repaid by other institutions, the paper said.

_Additional reporting by Reuters.

(Edited by Shimoney Regter)_