CEO ‘horrified’ to hear reported R3bn ‘laundered’ through Sasfin by Gold Leaf

Bruce Whitifeld talks to Sasfin Holdings CEO Michael Sassoon after Pauli van Wyk reports the extent of the money allegedly moved through the banking group by Gold Leaf Tobacco.

– Sasfin Holdings has placed two employees on on precautionary suspension as it investigates their relationship with Gold Leaf Tobacco Corporation

– Gold Leaf is under investigation by Sars for tax evasion

– Sasfin CEO Michael Sassoon said it was “horrific” to listen a report by investigative journo Pauli van Wyk detailing the extent of the scandal

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Banking group Sasfin Holdings has placed two employees on precautionary suspension as it investigates their relationship with Gold Leaf Tobacco Corporation.

The cut-price cigarette supplier is currently under investigation for tax evasion by the South African Revenue Service (Sars).

Gold Leaf and its directors were slapped with a preservation order last week to prevent the sale of any assets during the probe.

70% of cigarettes consumed in South Africa are illicit, says BATSA

In a statement, Sasfin welcomed the recent Sars action instituted against “alleged participants” within the illicit economy.

The group noted it had closed the accounts of Gold Leaf and associated companies in 2017 following the discovery of suspicious transactions, which it said were reported timeously to the authorities.

Sasfin has cooperated with the relevant authorities, including SARS, with regard to this matter… Sasfin has a zero tolerance for fraud and corruption, and takes the necessary steps to vigorously stamp it out.

Sasfin statement

Bruce Whitfield talks to Sasfin Holdings CEO Michael Sassoon straight after he interviewed investigative journalist Pauli van Wyk who described the Gold Leaf debacle as “a massive story” which even eclipses the current Zuma drama.

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In a nutshell, what happened is that five Sasfin officials were corrupted into helping Gold Leaf boss Simon Rudland and “a massive transnational plunder network” move more than R3 billion in illicit cigarette cash, van Wyk explains.

She says the transactions moving the money to destinations like Dubai, Mauritius and Switzerland took place between 2016 and 2017 without any taxes being paid.

The Reserve Bank was not alerted about any forex movements either, she adds.

“It’s something that we haven’t seen in South Africa EVER, that banking officials started deleting banking transactions.”

In response, Sassoon says it is “horrific” to learn of these facts as related by van Wyk.

I can say that we have, for separate reasons, changed the foreign exchange systems.

Michael Sassoon, CEO – Sasfin Holdings

He reiterates that in 2017 there was no knowledge of any collusion or fraudulent behaviour by any Sasfin staff.

“We closed the accounts of Gold Leaf in 2017 because we saw suspicious transactions taking money out of the country which concerned us. Those reports were all submitted to the relevant authorities.”

“Up until Sars initiated their inquiry earlier this year, we were not in possession of any information which implicated any of our staff, or any allegations even against any of our people.”

…all the information that we had gathered on our people did not result in actionable evidence to dismiss anyone. There is suspicion, and based on the information that Pauli alludes to in the Sars case files, there appears to be far more reason to be suspicious and on the back of that we thought it was appropriate to suspend, pending the full outcome of our own investigation.

Michael Sassoon, CEO – Sasfin Holdings

Sassoon also notes that Sasfin was never Gold Leaf’s primary banker, and were likely not doing full foreign exchange for the tobacco firm either.

The CEO asserts that he is not disputing what van Wyk is reporting.

There does seem to be some credence he says, but adds that he hasn’t seen anything to support the stated number of R3 billion.

Scroll up for the audio of the interview with Sassoon

Pauli van Wyk’s report is contained in the audio clip below (skip to 8:11):

This article first appeared on CapeTalk : CEO ‘horrified’ to hear reported R3bn ‘laundered’ through Sasfin by Gold Leaf

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