The head of First National Bank Islamic Finance, Ebi Patel, will retire at the end of July after 29 years of service at the bank.
FNB denied that Patel’s departure was linked to an investigation into the misappropriation of funds and conflicts of interest.
However, earlier this year the Mail & Guardian reported that the bank’s sharia banking division was set for major restructuring following a probe that found internal breaches of operational procedure and corporate governance failures.
Documents and expense claims indicated a breakdown in internal risk and management controls. “Special deals, sponsorships and work contracts were arranged for family members, friends and community leaders, the documents show. Although the amounts do not amount to millions, Patel’s behaviour has raised serious governance concerns,” the M&G reported in January.
The newspaper also reported that there had been a mass exodus of members of the sharia board, which is meant to approve products. There were also claims of misappropriation of funds, conflicts of interest, unfair labour practices and mistreatment of staff, board illegitimacy and fraud.
Patel was put on special leave while the probe was conducted. Expense claims showed he had billed FNB to take his family on holiday while he was on a business trip.
At the time, Iris Dempsey, head of FNB Wealth, told the M&G that Patel was reinstated but faced disciplinary action. But following the announcement of Patel’s retirement last Friday, Eric Enslin, head of client engagement at FNB Wealth, said his departure was certainly not as a result of the investigation. “Mr Patel is retiring for personal reasons.
He is taking some time out to spend with his family. FNB wishes to thank Ebi for his commitment and contribution to the bank. He was pivotal in building the Islamic finance team, which has built a successful business that provides alternative products to the Muslim community in South Africa.”
Amman Muhammad, former managing director of Absa’s Islamic banking, will take over in the post from July 1.