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Hlongwane sues Absa over closure of arms deal linked accounts

A Gripen over Cape Town.Fana Hlongwane, an advisor to former defence minister Joe Modise, is suing Absa for R7 million for allegedly closing his accounts unlawfully and violating his constitutional rights.

In 2013 Absa closed seven accounts belonging to Hlongwane due to suspicious payments that amounted to millions of rands. The Sunday Times in November reported that the accounts and those of six of his companies were closed in August 2013 after he was classified as a "politically exposed person" and a "high-risk client".

In December Hlongwane filed an application in the Pretoria High Court that said "Absa acted in bad faith, unreasonably, with an improper motive and/or in abuse of his rights" while acknowledging Absa’s right to close accounts where criminal activity is suspected, Business Day reports.

Hlongwane asked the court that his accounts be reopened and each of the plaintiffs – the six companies and himself – be awarded R1 million. The companies include Ngwane Aerospace and Ngwane Defence.

Absa will oppose Hlongwane’s application, saying it acted fairly and within the law.

A number of allegations have been made against Hlongwane over his role in facilitating the 1999 arms deal, including one of accepting R24 million to help secure the contract for 26 Gripen fighter jets from the Gripen International consortium.

In 2015 the Swedish newspaper Expressen, citing the UK Serious Fraud Office (SFO), said that Hlongwane received millions of rand in commission to secure the Gripen contract. According to Expressen, R2 million was paid to Hlongwane in October 1999 via the company Red Diamond. The money then travelled via a Swiss agent into Hlongwane’s company Westunity.

In February 2015 the HSBC leak, according to Swedish Radio news programme Ekot, found 100 million kronor ($12 000) in three Swiss bank accounts belonging to Hlongwane. The programme reported that the money was related to the sale of Gripens to South Africa.


Last year the Seriti Commission into allegations of wrongdoing in the arms deal found nothing untoward had occurred, but the report, commissioned by President Jacob Zuma, was widely dismissed as a whitewash. Zuma himself faces the reinstatement of corruption charges linked to the arms deal.