Absa blocks attempt to attach debtor's book

A Johannesburg businessman on Friday attempted to attach Absa’s entire debtor’s book worth R532-billion.

In September 2008 Rico Bernert won an as yet unconfirmed amount of money in damages in a court judgement against Absa.

While the amount has yet to be proven, Bernert claims it will be well in excess of the initially estimated amount of R180-million.

Absa has since decided to appeal the 2008 judgement, which led to Bernert applying for an attachment order on the bank’s debtor’s book.
Bernert was subsequently awarded the attachment order on Tuesday and attempted to attach the book on Friday.

Bernert applied for the attachment order as security because he believes Absa will prolong the appeals process in order to delay payment.

“Absa is taking me to [the Supreme Court of Appeal] to waste my time,” says Bernert. “The longer Absa takes with the appeal, the longer their debtor’s book will be frozen.” Bernert claims that Absa now owes him “close on R400-million”.

Bernert feels very confident about his case. “I’ve done nine years of ‘street law’,” he says, “and I’m 110% confident that Absa will lose.”

He adds that Absa’s attorneys are appealing the judgement because they “don’t want people to see that you can actually take them on”.

Absa, however, said the attachment had not taken place.

“The sheriff did attempt to serve the writ of execution on Absa. However, the writ is invalid for numerous reasons, including that the High Court has not made an order for payment against Absa. Therefore a writ of execution cannot be legally issued,” the bank said on Friday.

Bernert initially took Absa to court for damages incurred when the bank claimed that a letter of guarantee they had signed for Bernert to receive investment funding from Sheik Abdullah al Fawaz, a member of the Bahraini royal family, was fraudulently obtained.

Bernert required the investment to manufacture his El Macho military vehicle through his close corporation, Rotrax Cars International.

The claim of fraud led the prince to pull out of the potential deal with Bernert and he refused to do business in South Africa again.

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