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02 May 2012 23:13

Update on Investec/Auction Alliance investigation: Stephen Koseff - CEO, Investec

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Alec Hogg is a writer and broadcaster. He founded Moneyweb

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    ‘There is no evidence of any wrongdoing.’

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    ALEC HOGG: Investec chief executive Stephen Koseff was hopping mad after the television programme Carte Blanche accused two of his executives of taking kickbacks from Auction Alliance. You remember, that was all to do with the programme where Wendy Appelbaum, the daughter of SAfm mogul Liberty Life founder Donald Gordon had an attempt made to con her out at an auction by Rael Levitt, the founder of Auction Alliance. Levitt has since disappeared, he’s left the country, and there are all kinds of lynch mobs out to try and get Levitt back into the country and perhaps even into jail.
        That’s on the one side. As far as Stephen Koseff's concerned, he’s launched an in-depth investigation which so far suggests that the accusations against the Investec duo might have been off the mark. Here’s Koseff.
    ***

    STEPHEN KOSEFF: We appointed a third party, Deloitte, to do an internal investigation on our behalf to establish whether there was anything untoward in terms of behaviour of our staff or whether any of the accusations pointed at members of our staff had any validity. That investigation has been completed to a point, so they’ve published an interim report which we’ve posted on our website and the fact of the investigation is there is no evidence of any wrongdoing. We’ve asked anyone who has pointed fingers to come forward with documentation, and no one has come forward with documentation. So at this point in time until the completion of the Auction Alliance investigation, which is being done by forensic expert Allan Greyling, and until we get a copy of that, we will not know whether any of the kind of accusations that were appointed are valid. At the moment it appears to us that there is no validity, but clearly we have to await the Allan Greyling investigation because something could crop up in that investigation.

    ALEC HOGG: There were two key accusers, if you like – Fiona Forde, a journalist with Independent Newspapers – and Mr Killick from the MKB Group. Just starting with Fiona Forde, is she one of those who was unable to provide you with information, or just didn’t want to?

    STEPHEN KOSEFF: I’m not sure. The answer probably to that is that they use that confidentiality of source as a defence and saying “we can’t disclose our source”. But we weren’t asking them to disclose any source, we were just asking – because we respect the right of a journalist to protect their sources – we were just asking them if you’ve got any evidence that is hardcore evidence that can help us in this investigation. We asked and Deloitte asked all these parties themselves, come forth with it – and no one came forth with anything.

    ALEC HOGG: So what conclusions can we draw from that?

    STEPHEN KOSEFF: It’s hard to draw any conclusions at this point in time because, as we’ve said, we’ve got a very strong value system; cast-iron integrity is one of our core values. If there was anything untoward, as we’ve said to you before, in terms of behaviour of our staff we will take disciplinary action and we have done that before in circumstances of this type of nature. We have 7 000 people; we can’t vouch for every single one of them and if they behave outside our values we will take action against them. So far there is no documentary evidence that suggests that anyone has behaved in an untoward manner.

    ALEC HOGG: Well, that was from Fiona’s perspective, so she is saying that she wants to protect her sources. Mr Killick was a different matter altogether. There is a legal action going on between Investec and his company, the MKB Group. He wanted to make a deal with you.

    STEPHEN KOSEFF: Ja, he contacted us and said he’s got information that will help us and then when we asked him to disclose the information he said, well, unless I get a quid pro quo I’m not disclosing anything. The quid pro quo, our understanding of it was, well, drop all actions against him – which we can’t do. So it’s not something that we can trade. And if there is information out there, we’ve asked all the relevant parties to provide us with the information and we’ll take the appropriate action. But right now everyone has made accusations and they have not stepped up to the plate by being able to provide any kind of evidence whatsoever.

    ALEC HOGG: What actions do you have against Mr Killick?

    STEPHEN KOSEFF: They borrowed money from us, they failed to repay, and we prosecuted them for repayment and we think that some of the money has been misappropriated and we’ve implemented fraud actions against them. That’s in the ordinary course of our banking business, if you borrow money you have an obligation to repay and some people don’t seem to have that obligation in life.

    ***

    ALEC HOGG: A clearly frustrated Stephen Koseff, trying to get to the bottom of the accusations made against his company. Interesting to hear his side of the story – that Mr Killick made those accusations, according to Koseff, because he wanted to get off fraud charges the bank has laid against him. Wow.

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