/ 20 September 2007

FirstRand loses court bid to gag noseweek

FirstRand Bank has lost a court bid to prevent noseweek magazine publishing the names of clients involved in allegedly shady offshore tax dodging schemes.

Cape High Court Deputy Judge President Jeanette Traverso on Thursday dismissed the bank’s application with costs, saying she would give her reasons later.

Editor Martin Welz, who represented himself, said he was pleased at the ruling, which signalled a ”whole new change of climate in the courts”.

”The Reserve Bank is allowing people with this sort of morality to run major financial institutions. That’s why we end up with Fidentia. That’s why we end up with Masterbond,” he said.

”They, in fact are corrupting and undermining the morality level of South African business.”

He said noseweek would not be publishing the names of the clients in its October edition, partly because of uncertainty over the outcome of the court case.

He said he also wanted to know whether two participants in the schemes whose names have already been made public, Discovery directors Adrian Gore and Barry Swartzberg, would be allowed to continue running the group.

The schemes, offered to wealthy clients through FirstRand’s former private bank Ansbacher, involved investments in offshore trusts.

FirstRand has previously said in response to criticism that Ansbacher botched the administration of the schemes, but that the underlying structure was legal.

The bank said it was bringing the noseweek application as a class action suit on behalf of its clients.

It said the names were on a list which formed part of the papers in an earlier court case, and which was meant to be kept confidential.

It demanded that noseweek hand over all copies of the list.

Welz has been running articles on the ”FirstRand pirates”, as he calls the schemes’ administrators, since June. – Sapa