German banks face apartheid action

German banks Dresdner and Deutsche are next in line to be sued for billions of dollars for allegedly supporting an apartheid regime, lawyers have said.

Ed Fagan, the man behind the successful $1.25 billion Holocaust victims’ case against big business, is focusing on the two big German banks, Reuters news agency reported on Sunday.

His team of lawyers also have IBM Computers and Ford in their sights for allegedly backing the South African apartheid regime.

They have already filed a class action suit last week against two of Switzerland’s biggest banks Credit Suisse Group and UBS AG, as well as U.S.-based Citigroup.

Lawyer Gugulethu Madlanga told Reuters in Johannesburg a class action suit against Dresdner, a unit of German insurer Allianz AG, Deutsche Bank and International Business Machines could be brought next week.

He said a suit against Ford Motor Company was under consideration.

A Deutsche Bank spokesman in Frankfurt declined to comment on the news, while the other companies were not immediately available.

The latest class action suit was expected to be along the lines of the $50 billion case against the Swiss banks.

The case on behalf of four apartheid victims alleges the banks helped finance the violent apartheid regime and made billions in desperately needed loans to further the politically isolated and cash-strapped government’s crimes against humanity.

Credit Suisse said there were “no grounds” for such allegations while UBS declined to comment.

Fagan, who used a press conference in Switzerland to announce his legal suit, was forced to abandon the meeting after locals heckled him.

The U.S. lawyer’s team have been trying to enlist the family of cult anti-apartheid figure Steve Biko as leading plaintiffs in the case.

The black activist, on whom the film ‘Cry Freedom!’ was based, was killed during the apartheid years, but his family told Reuters they have yet to make a decision.

Madlanga, a partner in the South African law firm that is helping to bring the cases, said more than 1,000 South Africans had called a hotline set up to help other people join the apartheid suit that has been filed against the Swiss banks.

The lead plaintiff in the current case is Dorothy Molefi, the mother of Hector Petersen, a 13-year-old boy who was shot by police during a popular uprising against apartheid in June 1976.

The suit alleges the banks conspired to fund technology and equipment that Pretoria used to commit crimes against humanity from 1948 to 1993.

Apartheid officially ended with democratic elections in 1994 won by Nelson Mandela’s African National Congress.

Swiss bankers always said at the time that they disapproved of apartheid but that Swiss neutrality and Berne’s refusal to join international economic sanctions against South Africa prevented them from taking unilateral measures., JuneĀ 23, 2002

Categories: Africa, Odious Debts, South Africa

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