Taking corruption out of corporations
‘This scheme and 90% of the matters we deal with boil down to the Big G – greed’
Rand deliver results. But results aren’t always followed up by clients.
“Our biggest frustration is the apathy of businesses. It’s the biggest contributor to crime in this country,” says Goldblatt. “Some businesses take crime very seriously and have a zero tolerance policy. Other businesses claim to have a zero tolerance policy but do nothing when they could be doing a whole lot more to combat fraud. They only do it retrospectively rather than proactively. Big business’s apathy helps perpetuate the problem, because it simply doesn’t want the aggravation of dealing with it.”
For those clients wanting to take matters further, the group assists with arrests and prosecutions. Hand-in-hand with the South African Police Service, the group can support clients with matters from “the cradle to the grave”, says Marshall.
That partnership between public and private institutions is the future for combating crime, says Goldblatt. “Initially the police believed that in order to accept our existence they had to acknowledge the failure of their system. But that’s not true. Anywhere in the world there’s a limit to resources and OOT OUT CRIME at all costs. That’s the advice from members of the Specialised Services Group (SSG), a private law enforcement agency involved in uncovering some of South Africa’s most infamous corporate scandals. Its recent victory came after a client asked it to investigate a suspicious investment scheme. Through its investigation, SSG was able to expose one of SA’s largest Ponzi schemes, allegedly created by Barry Tannenbaum. Yet that’s just one of its many breakthroughs.
Although the group has only been operating in its current structure for two years, its top management team has been involved in the investigative industry for more than two decades. Throughout that time two things have remained true: every crime can be solved and businesses are often responsible for perpetuating criminal behaviour.
“If you want to fundamentally turn the country around, you have to go balls to the wall – and it starts with corporates,” says SSG group executive Warren Goldblatt. “Businesses have to stop sweeping issues under the carpet.”
Here’s where SSG comes in. “We do anything that’s peripheral to your business, from cleaning and guarding to specialised investigations,” says marketing director David Marshall. “We want to help you run your business more effectively.”
Although the group consists of nine separate divisions, its forensic consultants and business intelligence division are central to helping corporations root our corruption and plug security breaches. In 1997 SSG received its first high-profile client – Vodacom.
SSG has also been involved in investigating various high-profile kidnappings, including the 2004 Leigh Matthews case. It was also pivotal in the Brett Kebble saga. “We’re involved in massive cases,” says Goldblatt. “If you look at some of the biggest cases in this country, you’ll find we’ve been involved.”
Within its intelligence division individuals who are experts in their respective fields are chosen to work together on specific cases. With the help of Memex, a computer program used by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Central Intelligence Agency in the United States, SSG can gather intelligence manpower. And the SAPS is no different.”
Despite its relationship with the police, State mechanisms are another frustration. “We’d like to move faster than mechanisms of State can move,” says Goldblatt. After matters have been postponed numerous times, witnesses disappear, crucial evidence is lost and cases weaken until they’re withdrawn, says group executive Gert Olivier.
But there will always be another fraudster, another client and another mandate. “Society is driven by material goods and getting the next best thing,” says Olivier. “The Tannenbaum scheme and 90% of the matters we deal with boil down to the Big G – greed.”
Says Goldblatt: “If Tannenbaum is found guilty of fraud, then some of his biggest investors are just as culpable. But they kept quiet because of human greed and the need to protect themselves. At some point someone has to be honest and say ‘no more’. Those people are our clients.”
Says Olivier: “A silent justice has already been achieved. Potential investors have been saved.”
From Left to Right: Geoff Schapiro - Linda Moni (sitting) - Warren Goldblatt (sitting) - Funeka Ndungane; Gert Olivier (Ollie) (sitting behind Geoff ) - Mitchell Graaff (white shirt) – David Marshall - Roekshaan Hartley (blue tie) - Paul Simpson.