CR17 funder could be tried for apartheid-era financial crimes

Paul Ekon, one of the funders of President Cyril Ramaphosa’s CR17 campaign, may soon be in the sights of the National Prosecuting Authority for apartheid-era financial crimes. File Picture: Elmond Jiyane, GCIS

Paul Ekon, one of the funders of President Cyril Ramaphosa’s CR17 campaign, may soon be in the sights of the National Prosecuting Authority for apartheid-era financial crimes. File Picture: Elmond Jiyane, GCIS

Published Dec 21, 2020

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Johannesburg - Paul Ekon, one of the funders of President Cyril Ramaphosa’s CR17 campaign, may soon be in the sights of the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) for apartheid-era financial crimes.

It appears that Ekon was one of the individuals the South African Reserve Bank was protecting from scrutiny by the SA African History Archives (Saha), which is supported by Open Secrets, a non-profit research group headed by Hennie van Vuuren.

Ekon, who was previously under investigation for the smuggling of millions of rand worth of gold out of South Africa, has previously claimed to be linked to former president Thabo Mbeki.

He featured on the list of funders who secretly supported the CR17 campaign.

The funders paid hundreds of millions of rand into the trust account of Joburg law firm, Edelstein Farber Grobler and Linkd Environmental Services.

To date, Ramaphosa has failed to indicate what environmental services he required in the CR17 campaign but confirmed that between December 2016 and February last year, an amount of R308900000 was paid into the Linkd account.

Ekon, who is based in London, was openly asking for funding for the CR17 campaign in the UK. It was not known how much money he received from funders but, according to the leaked CR17 documentation, the contribution ran into millions of rand.

However, the Presidency refuted the link between Ekon and the presidential campaign.

On Sunday night, Presidency spokesperson, Tyrone Seale, said: “The president has never had a conversation with Mr Ekon about CR17.”

In May, the Supreme Court of Appeal found that the decision of the Reserve Bank to refuse access to records after a request in terms of the Promotion of Access to Information Act was unlawful and in conflict with the provisions of the relevant laws.

The documents, which have since been disclosed, show corruption, foreign exchange transactions and gold smuggling under apartheid.

The information sought related to individuals such as Ekon, Vito Palazzolo and Wouter Basson.

In September this year, Open Secrets submitted its findings in the form of a dossier to the NPA where the prosecution of the implicated individuals was sought.

The list of those to be investigated and prosecuted included two European banks.

Kredietbank and Quintet Bank are accused of assisting the apartheid regime in illegal transactions.

Sources inside the Hawks have informed The Star that the criminal investigations into Ekon’s role in the smuggling of unwrought gold two decades ago has been reopened.

“We cannot understand how the case never went to court.

“The evidence is there,” a highly-placed source told The Star.

The Hawks were also investigating the relationship between Ekon and the officer in charge of the gold smuggling investigation, retired Colonel Clement Jackson.

Jackson, after taking early retirement from the police, was paid R8 774 747.44 by Brett Kebble during April 2003 to October 2005 for apparently doing investigations for Kebble. It was reported that Ekon and Kebble had a “cosy” relationship.

It appears the CR17 campaign either failed to do a background check on Ekon before they received money from him, which is a contravention of the standard Fica regulations, or knew who he was and had no issue taking his money.

In a series of tweets, Van Vuuren of Open Secrets said the judgment was a victory for openness, over six years in the making.

The Star

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