Reserve Bank launches Abil fraud probe

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AFRICAN Bank Investments Limited (Abil), the unsecured lender that collapsed last month after mounting losses, will be investigated by the central bank for evidence of fraud, reckless lending and lack of disclosure. JF Myburgh, a lawyer, would lead the investigation of the bank and would be assisted by Vincent Maleka and Brian Abrahams, the Reserve Bank said yesterday. The probe would take five months, with a written report due a month after that. The probe would seek to determine if “any business of African Bank was conducted recklessly, negligently or with the intent to defraud depositors”, the central bank said. It would also probe any “questionable management practices or material non-disclosures, with the intent to defraud depositors”. Abil collapsed after forecasting a record loss and saying it needed at least R8.5 billion to survive. The central bank stepped in four days later and appointed a curator to save its performing loan book. Senior debtholders were told they would lose 10c on the rand while subordinated debtholders, preference shareholders and ordinary shareholders might lose everything. If management practices were questionable and there was an intent to defraud investors, Myburgh “should indicate whether any person party to such questionable practices has been identified”, the central bank said. Leon Kirkinis co-founded and ran the bank from 1999 until August 6, when he resigned. Chief financial officer Nithia Nalliah was appointed acting chief executive after Kirkinis left. Of the 11 board members detailed in last year’s annual report, seven had no banking experience before joining Abil. Tom Winterboer, Abil’s curator, declined to comment. – Bloomberg


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