CAPE TOWN/JOHANNESBURG – The Financial Sector Conduct Authority (FSCA) raided Dr Iqbal Survé's offices in Cape Town this morning, in what the businessman described as a "fishing expedition" and "an intimidation tactic".
Management and staff said the FSCA, accompanied by police officers, pounced on the offices of Sekunjalo Holdings and African Equity Empowerment Investment (AEEI) without prior notice and tried to confiscate laptops and computer hard drives.
The FSCA team arrived at Sekunjalo's offices near the V&A Waterfront saying they were probing a case of irregularly share trading against one of Survé's companies, AYO Technology Solutions.
They proceeded straight to the desk of Survé's personal assistant, Maude Nyandoro, and demanded her laptop.
Without producing a copy of the court order, they began downloading information from Nyandoro's laptop but stopped halfway through when company lawyers arrived and demanded legal documents authorising the raid.
Video: Ayanda Ndamane/African News Agency (ANA)
Survé, who also owns Independent Media SA, was not in the building when the FSCA team arrived shortly before 9 am.
A staff member at the scene said: "They are in the boardroom and I think Doc (Survé) is addressing them. They arrived here just before 9am. The first thing they did was to go for Maude's laptop and started downloading stuff. They said they had a court order but did not produce it. That's why they could not download stuff anymore. They are waiting until the court order is produced."
Survé has confirmed the raid, saying it was part of an orchestrated campaign against him and his companies for political reasons.
Insisting that "we have no problem giving them information relating to AYO had they simply asked for it," Survé said the FSCA decided to raid his companies in its probe into share trading even though AYO was the official complainant in the matter.
"This is a desperate attempt to stop us from publishing the truth. Ironically, it is Sekunjalo that lodged a formal complaint with the FSCA against certain well-known hedge funds and asset managers that were trying to bring down AYO's share price," Survé said. "Instead of investigating that the FSCA is used to intimidate us into submission."
Earlier this year, the Companies and Intellectual Property Commission (CIPC) issued a Compliance Notice against the board of directors of the PIC to recoup the R4.3 billion investment it made into AYO Technology Solutions in 2017.
This move was declared unlawful by North Gauteng High Court Judge Cornelius van der Westhuizen, who dismissed the case with costs in favour of the PIC and AYO Technology Solutions.
Survé said the raid was part of a "concerted attempt by a cabal" to use state institutions and regulatory bodies such as the SA Revenue Service (Sars), FSCA, CIPC and even the FIC, "working in collusion with others" to try and "find something to intimidate us".
"We are not going to be intimidated by this blatant attempt to use state institutions to drive a political agenda. We are reliably informed of clandestine meetings over the past weekend that took place between individuals from these state regulatory bodies and powerful politicians. They are frustrated that the Mpati commission could not find anything irregular and they are now using the state institutions to go on a fishing expedition to intimidate our companies," he added.
Sekunjalo chairperson Dr Iqbal Survé addresses FSCA officials at the Sekunjalo offices. Picture: Ayanda Ndamane/African News Agency (ANA)
The businessman said the move was the FSCA's underhanded attempt to get inside information on AYO's legal strategy after the technology company made it clear it intended to sue the PIC for billions in damages.
"There is a huge conflict of interest as FSCA commissioner is Abel Sithole who is also the principal officer of the GEPF. This an underhand attempt to get the information relating to our legal case against the PIC and the GEPF."
The FSCA team is said to have intimidated Sekunjalo staff and tried to prevent the media from reporting on the raid.
"This is effectively an attack on media freedom, because of the sensitivity of the information in our possession. Attempt to prevent us from publishing very sensitive information that implicates powerful politicians," he said.
Survé said the court order authorising the raid was issued after the first judge approached by the FSCA rejected their request. "We are aware that they approached two judges and the first judge was hesitant and was not prepared to take part in this politics, hence they went to the second judge."
A lawyer appointed by the court, Zola Mcaciso, the director of Mcaciso Stansfield Inc, said he joined the raid to ensure that both parties complied with the court order. “I’m just here to ensure that everything is done according to the court order so that the investigators do not operate outside of their powers and that those who are being investigated adhere to the court order.”
In a meeting between the parties, Mcaciso reassured representatives of Sekunjalo that whatever information obtained from any of the hard drives would be sealed with the courts until the company launches its own application with the High Court.
This is the latest in a battle between Survé and various state regulatory bodies, in what is believed to part of a wide plan to collapse the business man's companies for political reasons.
He has been accused of not supporting President Cyril Ramaphosa's ANC presidential campaign ahead of the party's Nasrec national conference.
This year alone, Survé's companies, especially AYO and Independent Media, have been at the receiving end of various state regulatory bodies especially CIPC and Sars, as well as the Mpati Commission into allegations of impropriety at the PIC.
The Mpati Commission also turned into an anti-Survé platform, with evidence leader Advocate Jannie Lubbe singling out nine black-owned companies, the majority of them owned by the businessman, for attention. Former Reserve Bank Governor Gill Marcus later stunned the country when she lost her cool and got personal while cross-examining Survé.
In addition, Independent Media was attacked for "not toeing the line", with the PIC's investment in the company and its editorial stance questioned.
The media company has advanced alternative narratives and exposed wrongdoing by President Cyril Ramaphosa's allies including Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan in recent months. It came under sustained attack from the duo men's supporters who accused it of being against the new administration.
Among others, Independent Media's various titles have exposed Ramaphosa's R1 billion ANC presidential campaign funding scandal, wrote about Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane's adverse findings against Gordhan in the Sars rogue unit matter and unmasked former State Security Minister Dipuo Letsatsi-Duba as a former paid spy.
Last week, Business Report revealed that an NGO linked to Marcus had benefited from controversial company Steinhoff International, which cost the government employees pension fund R20 billion when its share price collapsed due to fraudulent accounting.
This has led to accusations that Independent was "fighting" Ramaphosa, with some calling for the media company to be collapsed out of business.