Tak­ing cor­rup­tion out of cor­po­ra­tions

‘This scheme and 90% of the mat­ters we deal with boil down to the Big G – greed’

Finweek English Edition - - Openers - JADE MENEZIES ja­dem@fin­week.co.za

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.

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