Cape Town - One might assume one’s valuables are safe in a safety deposit box inside a bank. However, that assumption proved false for a Cape Town businessman.
Not even in a room two floors underground, behind three code-protected doors and a security officer were Simon Sun’s life savings and a gold statuette safe.
His safety deposit box at the Absa Adderley street branch was “mysteriously” emptied.
Sun – who owns two reflexology and body massage businesses called “Happy Feet” in Cape Town – was distraught when he accessed his safety deposit box in April only to find the R400 000 he had saved gone.
“When I opened the safety box on April 13, there was nothing, not even a piece of paper.
“The last time I visited the bank on April 2 my money was there. This means that in five working days my possessions were stolen. I am so disappointed,” the 38-year-old said.
Sun walked the Cape Argus through the security procedure at the bank, saying that he had to make an appointment when he wanted to access his safety deposit box.
A security officer and a safety box custodian – who is appointed by the bank – would then accompany him two floors underground. The trio would then proceed through two doors which were code protected.
“The safety officer could not go past the third door. Only the safety box custodian and I could enter there,” he said.
Two keys were needed to open the box. Sun had one key and the safety box custodian had a master key.
“But when I placed my key in the keyhole, it opened with just my key. It should not have opened with one key alone and that already raised my suspicions.”
He said the bank could not explain how R400 000 in rand and foreign currency and a gold Buddha statuette disappeared amid such tight security.
He was advised by the bank to make a case with the police.
Police spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel André Traut confirmed a case was being investigated but said that “the details could not be disclosed”.
The terms and conditions of Absa’s safety deposit box contract state the bank is “not responsible for any theft, damage or destruction of any items, unless it is due to our own gross negligence or fraud. We do not ensure safe custody of articles deposited… “
However, the Cape Argus is in possession of an affidavit signed by the bank’s safety deposit box custodian that verifies that the lock on the safety deposit box was “faulty”.
Sun’s lawyer Gabri Jordaan told the Cape Argus in reference to the Consumer Protection Act, the bank’s indemnity clause was “unfair and unjust”.
Absa denied it was not giving its full co-operation to police, saying the queries posed by the Cape Argus differed from the case but would not disclose how.
“Absa emphasises that it adopts a zero tolerance approach to criminal activity of any nature whatsoever, and to that end has accordingly offered its full co-operation to the police in this investigation. Absa is therefore unable to comment on the ongoing investigation,” the bank’s communications department said in a statement.
Ombudsman for Banking Services Clive Pillay said although he could not discuss the case, it would be difficult for a customer to prove the value of the articles they store in safety deposit boxes because not even banks are privy to what is being stored.
“For instance, I can come back in a week and I can say my wife’s jewellery of R50 000 has disappeared – it would be difficult to prove,” he said.