* Absa, unit of Barclays Africa, may have to pay $166 mln
* Anti-graft body awaits submissions before ending probe
* Absa says report factually & legally inaccurate
* More apartheid-era finances may be investigated
(Recasts with Barclays Africa, adds details)
By Nqobile Dludla
JOHANNESBURG, Jan 13 South Africa's anti-graft
watchdog has reopened an investigation into whether Barclays
Africa Group benefited from an apartheid-era bailout,
the bank said on Friday.
A preliminary report by the country's Public Protector has
found that the apartheid government breached the constitution by
supplying Bankorp, which was acquired by Barclays Africa unit,
Absa, in 1992, with a series of bailouts from 1985 to 1995, the
Mail & Guardian newspaper reported.
Barclays Africa could have to repay 2.25 billion rand ($166
million) if the finding by Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane
is upheld, the paper added.
A previous investigation in 2000 by a central bank-appointed
panel found that the loans were made to stabilise the banking
system and Absa shareholders did not derive any undue benefit,
recommending no further action be taken.
Former Public Protector Thuli Madonsela instituted the
follow-up investigation after a 2010 complaint by Paul Hoffman
of non-governmental organisation Accountability Now, the Mail &
Guardian newspaper said.
Barclays Africa said it would continue to cooperate with the
Public Protector, but it believes Mkhwebane's preliminary report
has "several factual and legal inaccuracies".
"In its current form it creates the incorrect view that Absa
Bank Limited (Absa), a subsidiary of the Group, received undue
benefits by virtue of the South African Reserve Bank (SARB)
assistance to Bankorp," Barclays Africa said in a statement.
At 0911 GMT, shares in Barclays Africa were down 1.46
percent to 168.50 rand.
Barclays Plc is in the process of trying to reduce
its stake in Barclays Africa to 20 percent from 50.01 percent as
it focuses its business on other markets.
A spokesman for Barclays in London declined to comment on
whether the case had any implications for the bank's plans to
sell its stake in Barclays Africa.
South African Reserve Bank (SARB) Governor Lesetja Kganyago
said on Friday the central bank will also cooperate in the
Public Protector's investigation.
Mkhwebane, whose office did not immediately respond to
requests for comment, has given Absa, the SARB, the national
treasury and the presidency until Feb. 28 to make further
submissions before finalising her investigation, the Mail &
Guardian said, citing a copy of a preliminary report.
In her suggested remedial action, Mkhwebane proposed that
South African President Jacob Zuma should consider a commission
of inquiry to see whether other apartheid-era loans should be
repaid by other institutions, the paper said.
($1 = 13.5279 rand)
(Additional reporting by TJ Strydom, Olivia Kumwenda-Mtambo and
Lawrence White; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore, Joe Brock and