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Cape Town court dismisses bank's application to prevent satirical journal from publishing information relating to alleged tax fraud scheme

(ARTICLE 19/IFEX) - The following is an ARTICLE 19 press release:

ARTICLE 19 Hails Noseweek Victory

On Wednesday, September 19th, the South African journal Noseweek, a monthly investigative satirical journal with a readership of approximately 50,000, successfully defended its cause of freedom of expression at Cape Town's High Court. The Court yesterday dismissed FirstRandBank's application to prevent the journal from publishing any information relating to an alleged tax evasion scheme, which Noseweek had outlined in its September issue in an article entitled "FirstRand Pirates hit the rock".

The article described how the clients of South Africa's second largest bank spent their funds through purchasing shares in a bogus offshore company named Duisberg Holdings Ltd. The company is alleged to award interest-free loans to a trust set up for this purpose, and is regulated by Ansbacher, a bank notorious for a fraud scandal uncovered in the 90s implicating Ansbacher Ireland. Duisberg Holdings Ltd. would not make any profit from this activity hence FirstRand clients would be exempt from declaring any income. The fraud scheme ultimately allows the client to reacquire all the money outside of the country.

FirstRand's reactions to the publication of the article were prompt; they immediately invoked South African legislation via a pre-publication interdict. The bank attempted to hinder Noseweek from publishing the names of FirstRand's clients implicated in the scheme, as announced by the article in the journal, and expected all related documents to be handed in.

ARTICLE 19 condemns the attempt by the bank to restrict freedom of expression and recalls Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR):

"Everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice."

ARTICLE 19 sees the outcome of the court ruling as a triumph for press freedom and supports the judgment on its decision to allow publication of information that is of great importance to the public interest.

ARTICLE 19 is an independent human rights organisation that works globally to protect and promote the right to freedom of expression. It takes its name from Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which guarantees free speech.

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