Investec hits back at debtor's forgery claim

Investec Bank has hit back at Andrew Botha, a former director of a company liquidated by the bank, accusing him of manufacturing claims that his signature was forged.

It dubs his allegations a desperate bid to stave off being held personally liable for a debt of R103-million.

The Mail & Guardian reported on July 7 that Botha, a co-founder of the MKB property group, had gone to court to revoke a 2009 debt judgment against him.

Botha claimed he had discovered that his purported signatures on deeds of surety relied on by Investec had been forged. He cited a handwriting expert in support of the allegation.

Botha also claimed that Investec itself was responsible for the company’s financial woes and subsequent liquidation early in 2009 after the bank pulled the plug on its loans to the group. But in replying court papers submitted at the end of July, Investec’s global risk manager, Kieran Whelan, dismissed the allegations.

In his affidavit, Whelan asks the court to “examine Botha’s motives for making these highly defamatory allegations against Investec more than 27 months after the application was instituted against him and after he had on a number of occasions admitted having signed the six deeds of suretyship”.

In his affidavit, Whelan cites three sworn statements to refute the forgery claims: from lawyer Susan Cross, who dealt with the MKB account for Investec’s attorneys; from Annabelle Currie, an Investec employee who was the consultant for the MKB account; and from Bonita Penny, Botha’s personal assistant at the time.

Second witness

Penny states in her affidavit that the signatures on the deeds were Botha’s. “Once Botha had checked the documents, he would sign them and I would witness them. After Botha had signed the documents, he would hand them back to me to witness and to obtain a second witness.”

Penny continues: “I would never have returned deeds of suretyship to [Investec] which had not been signed by Botha and properly witnessed.”

Cross states that she signed one of the surety documents as the second witness because the document had not been witnessed by two people. “I witnessed this deed of suretyship because I knew and recognised Botha’s signature.”

Cross states that originally both Botha and his partner Jonathan Killik would sign documents at her offices where she was “able to ensure that the signatories and witnesses signed on the correct place on all of the relevant documentation”.

But, she says, during 2007, “Botha and Killik refused to attend our offices to sign and insisted that all documents for signature be delivered to their offices.”

Cross states Botha instructed her to send all such documents to Penny, who would ensure they were returned once they had been signed by Botha or Killik.

Investec has countered Botha’s forgery expert, Johannes Hattingh, with three handwriting analysts of its own, “all of whom confirm that the disputed signatures are those of Botha”.

* Got a tip-off for us about this story? Email amabhungane@mg.co.za

The M&G Centre for Investigative Journalism, a non-profit initiative to develop investigative journalism in the public interest, produced this story. All views are ours. See www.amabhungane.co.za for all our stories, activities and sources of funding.

Sally Evans

Client Media Releases

NWU specialist receives innovation management award
Reduce packaging waste: Ipsos poll
What is transactional SMS?
MTN on data pricing