The Financial Intelligence Centre (FIC), which has become central to the public protector’s adverse findings against President Cyril Ramaphosa, did not find any evidence of money laundering related to the president.
In July, Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane found that Ramaphosa deliberately misled parliament when responding to a question about a R500,000 donation to his 2017 ANC presidential campaign.
Mkhwebane recommended that the campaign be investigated for money laundering.
But Ramaphosa has taken that report on review and has argued that Mkhwebane overstepped by expanding her investigation from the R500,000 donation to the financing of his entire campaign.
At the centre of that dispute is the FIC, which gave Mkhwebane information on the bank accounts concerned.
Earlier this month, News24 reported that, in court papers, Ramaphosa’s lawyers accused the FIC of acting unlawfully because they allegedly gave Mkhwebane more information than what she needed to investigate the donation.
The FIC has now entered the fray directly and, in an affidavit filed at the South Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg on Friday, FIC director Xolisile Khanyile denied that the centre had acted unlawfully.
Khanyile also said in her affidavit that the FIC had told the public protector’s staff that it had not found evidence of money laundering – adding that this was not the FIC’s mandate, nor was this finding in any way conclusive.
“The FIC maintains that it, at all times, acted in good faith, entirely neutrally, and in accordance with the FIC’s standard operating practice. The FIC has been at all times scrupulously neutral,” Khanyile said in her affidavit.
The FIC wants the court to allow it to intervene in the review application and the matter will be heard on October 3.
Khanyile set out a chain of communication with Ramaphosa’s lawyers in which the FIC was accused of obtaining information unlawfully. The FIC then decided that the dispute should be ventilated in court.
In her affidavit, Khanyile also said that, in the process of obtaining the information Mkhwebane sought, the FIC encountered a number of “regulatory” reports into the bank accounts in question. This was done in terms of legislation which requires banks and businesses to report suspicious transactions to the FIC.
It was on this basis that the FIC expanded the scope of the information it eventually gave to Mkhwebane, Khanyile said.
“The FIC denies that it acted unlawfully in providing the information it provided to the public protector.”
She added that the FIC does not provide “evidence”, but provides “intelligence” – an issue which is of “fundamental importance”.
The FIC provides analysis of the information it provides, and is not just a “post box” for information it receives and passes on, she explained.
“The requesters might as well just subpoena the banks and be done with it, … there would be no analysis, no value add provided by the FIC…” she said.
After the FIC handed its report to the public protector in April, the FIC analyst who compiled it asked via e-mail to see the investigator at the public protector on the case, Rodney Mataboge.
According to Khanyile, this is a normal step taken to ensure that the recipients of its reports understand the contents thereof.
“At that meeting, Mataboge specifically asked for confirmation on whether or not evidence of money laundering was found,” Khanyile said.
“Muller informed him that he could find no indication of money laundering as he could not identify any predicate offence from which the monies could have been proceeds of.”
Khanyile said that she wanted to “emphasise” that the FIC does not have investigative powers.
“It collects information, interprets and analyses it for the purposes of assisting the legislated entities which have such powers to conduct their own investigations.
“In this regard the FIC’s findings on the existence or not of the predicate offence are not conclusive as it did not investigate whether or not such predicate offence existed. The conclusions were solely based on the fact that the amount of R500,000 came from sources that appeared to be lawful,” Khanyile said.
She said the public protector was “duty bound” to do her own investigations after receiving the FIC report.