Businessman Bret Lang rallies behind Sekunjalo in battle with the banks

The Standard Bank building in Rosebank. Businessman Bret Lang has accused Standard Bank and other banks of having committed racketeering by allegedly orchestrating the collapse of his R600 million business 14 years ago. Picture: Chris Collingridge

The Standard Bank building in Rosebank. Businessman Bret Lang has accused Standard Bank and other banks of having committed racketeering by allegedly orchestrating the collapse of his R600 million business 14 years ago. Picture: Chris Collingridge

Published Oct 8, 2023


THE Sekunjalo Group has received full support from a former operator of a now-defunct Johannesburg-based multimillion-rand aircraft company which was allegedly run into the ground by banks through collusion against him.

Bret Lang said he suffered the same heavy-handed business and personal approach that Sekunjalo’s executive chairman, Dr Iqbal Survé, might currently be going through.

Speaking to the Sunday Independent on Thursday, the day he was commemorating a 14-year anniversary, he said “these banks had a secret meeting” on October 5, 2009 to allegedly plot about bringing down his company, Executive Turbine Aviation (ETA).

He said during its prime years ETA operated 33 aircraft, which included Beechcraft 1900D, 1900C, Embraer 120 and King Air Aircraft, and a PT6A engine overhaul facility but went down the drain when the company was liquidated in September 2011.

Lang said he developed sympathy for Survé after reading a number of newspaper articles about how he had been allegedly mistreated by the banks.

“There is no order of court to say that he did something bad, but there was a bank opinion which led to banks deciding that they were going to consider him a reputational risk.

“What reputational risk if there is no court order to say you did something wrong? There is no court order and he has not gone to jail,” Lang said.

Lang accused Nedbank, Standard Bank and Absa, among others, of having committed racketeering by allegedly orchestrating the collapse of his R600 million business 14 years ago.

He said the sequestration also cost him his New Order Vehicle Sales (NOVS) company.

Standard Bank spokesperson Ross Linstrom said the bank had been engaging with Lang for many years.

“Standard Bank did not collude with any other bank(s) regarding liquidation and was not a party to the liquidation of Aircraft Africa Contracts Company (Pty) Ltd or New Order Vehicle Sales (Pty) Ltd as referred to in the (court) documents,” he said.

Linstrom said the bank could not comment further as the matter was currently subject to litigation.

“It would be improper for Standard Bank to reply to the questions asked by you save to state that due process of law was at all times followed by Standard Bank.”

Absa also was unable to comment on the matter as it was legal, “save to say that the claims have no merit and will be vigorously opposed”.

Nedbank spokesperson Annaleigh Vallie said Lang’s allegations had been “ongoing for more than 10 years”.

“The matter has been comprehensively assessed by various regulatory bodies and courts. Nedbank maintains there is no merit to Mr Lang’s claims and will continue to defend any action in the relevant courts. We are unable to comment further as the matter is sub judice,” Vallie said.

Lang said the banks had initially promised to help him rehabilitate his company, which had become unable to service its debts and pay salaries for about 400 staff, including engineers, pilots and flight attendants, and rent by placing it under business rescue, but without his knowledge they allegedly liquidated it and left him penniless.

He said he had spent a substantial amount of money on legal fees trying to overturn the liquidation without success.

“These banks came for my personal sureties and eventually Absa sequestrated me and they wanted a liquidator or trustee to investigate where my money was coming from to pay for lawyers. They took everything that belonged to me,” Lang said.

Drawing similarities between himself and Sekunjalo, Lang said the banks were working on disabling Survé and his Independent Media empire. He said he currently had no bank accounts after the banks “sequestrated me”.

“The banks don’t like the media, they don’t want all of these bad situations to be exposed. Sequestrating a person is the same as liquidating a company.

“They liquidated me. I have no bank account, they shut down all my bank accounts, they took all my money, all my assets. They wanted to cut me off at the knees so that I do not have money to pay lawyers to continue with the investigation into their conduct.

“Iqbal has been saying ‘what have I done wrong? Prove me wrong, go to court with evidence’ but the banks have nothing and all they want is to disable him at the knees, just like me, and keep him away,” Lang said.

He said since he has no accounts he survived through a friend. He suspected that his “bad” divorce was as a result of being denied financial access.

“Some people even commit suicide when these banks take all of their assets with their unlawful actions,” he said.

He said although he could not prove that his wife ran away from him after he fell into financial challenges, the divorce happened when he could no longer provide a “very healthy life” for her.

“When that changed, that is where we got divorced, but I cannot prove anything. There are many people out there who have jobs, buy houses and when things go wrong, the man loses his job, the house gets repossessed, the man loses his credible ego, his pride in the family and the wife leaves,” he said.

He alleged banks “hunt in packs and they all look after each other”.

“The banks want to shut the media mogul’s bank accounts worth billions on the suspicion of probable bad publicity and reputational risk,” he said.

He said he had brought the matter of his business liquidation to commercial and criminal courts, but the banks keep delaying the hearings through “interlocutory applications”.

“If somebody were to make wild allegations about you, and you got your reputation to protect, surely you would want the matter to be heard in court very expeditiously.

“Why is it that these banks don’t want to see me in court? I sent an email to the Nedbank, Standard Bank and Absa saying to them ‘if you have got nothing to hide, why bring lots of interlocutory applications?

“Why not provide your answering affidavits and deal with me very quickly and have me punished for any kind of frivolous, vexatious and defamatory kind of allegation that I have put forward?” said Lang.

During the hearing on an application to extend the suspension of the closure of Sekunjalo’s bank accounts on Thursday, Sekunjalo’s legal representative, Vuyani Ngalwana, told the Competition Tribunal SA that banks were not consistent when dealing with reputational risk.

“FNB, for example, still banks EOH and its subsidiaries.

“EOH is heavily implicated in corruption, bribery claims which were laid bare at the State Capture Commission. There is no dispute that the Sekunjalo group is owned and operated by historically disadvantaged persons and benefits the disadvantaged persons.

“A closure of their bank accounts will result in their exit from various markets in which they trade (and) will have catastrophic consequences for these communities and contravene the purposes of the Competition Act, as set out in Section 2 of the act,” Ngalwana said.