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Safety deposit box heist lawyers confident of case

By SAMEER NAIK Time of article published Sep 25, 2018

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Lawyers for some of the FNB safety deposit box heist victims are confident of winning their case against the bank.

It was revealed this week that 60 victims of the 2016 safety deposit box heists are suing the bank for R121 million in damages.

Valuables worth millions of rand were stolen during the robberies in 2015 and 2016 at the Sunnypark branch in Pretoria as well as the Randburg and Parktown branches in Joburg.

The clients hit in the heists claim that FNB didn’t implement adequate security measures before the robberies and refused to offer reasonable compensation afterwards.

The clients are being represented by Trudie Broekmann Attorneys in the case which is headed to the high court in Joburg.

According to the law firm, there is evidence that suggests collusion between FNB employees and the robbers.

Broekmann told the Saturday Star the losses were estimated at R200m at the Randburg branch alone, where 360 safety deposit boxes were broken into. Her firm has issued a summons to the bank.

While it may take up to 18 months before the case goes to trial, Broekmann hoped for an early settlement.

“We are confident that the plaintiffs have a strong case. Our firm previously settled a case against Standard Bank with similar facts, and we believe the case against FNB is stronger.”

They are accusing the bank of gross negligence, saying that FNB employees colluded with the criminals in executing the crimes.

“Video evidence from the security cameras in Parktown shows that the FNB employee who was supposed to lock the vault containing the safety deposit boxes on the evening before the robbery simply closed the vault without locking it,” said Broekmann.

“At the Sunnypark branch, there was evidence that a security official of FNB deactivated many of the alarm zones just prior to the robbery.”

In Randburg, there was also concerns that the security of the branch was insufficient.

The terms of the contracts the victims held with the bank have also been criticised, whereby FNB said it took no legal responsibility for any losses or damages to the goods it was supposed to be keeping secure.

Broekmann added that two consumer protection laws made FNB liable if it acted negligently: the Consumer Protection Act and the Financial Institutions (Protection of Funds) Act.

Several high-valued items were pilfered. “We have listed all of the items and their value in a schedule which contains over 2000 items.”

These include Rolex watches, jewellery, Krugerrands and coin collections, many of which were clearly inherited or carefully accumulated over many years.

“There was a process initiated by the bank in terms of which the victims could claim compensation, but in the case of my clients the offers made by FNB were extremely low. One client was not even made an offer.”

Broekmann said her firm’s success in defending a similar case from a heist at Standard Bank’s Kuruman branch in 2015 gave her confidence that the FNB case could have a similar outcome.

FNB has confirmed it had received the summons. “The bank will consider the summons and instruct its attorneys to defend the matter,” said FNB spokesperson Lee-Anne van Zyl.

“FNB further confirms the majority of its customers impacted by safe custody burglaries accepted its settlement offers, which were finalised in 2017.”

The Saturday Star

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