President Cyril Ramaphosa has accused the Financial Intelligence Centre (FIC) of unlawfully leaking bank account statements linked to his 2017 ANC election campaign that are at the centre of his legal dispute with Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane.

If Ramaphosa’s lawyers can show Mkhwebane obtained financial intelligence about his campaign funding unlawfully, and used it as evidence illegally, they will have powerful grounds to seek the review of her CR17 campaign report, according to Business Day legal writer Karyn Maughan.

Ramaphosa’s lawyers suggested that the FIC provided confidential bank records to Mkhwebane without having a legal basis to do so, and have questioned why it provided information beyond what she had asked for.

Business Day points out the FIC is mandated to identify the proceeds of crime, and combat money laundering and terror financing through the analysis of financial data and provision of financial intelligence to the authorities.

It says the unit is now under pressure to explain how it provided Ramaphosa’s records to the Public Protector and why, or face accusations of legal incompetence.

In a letter sent to FIC director Xolisile Khanyile last week, Ramaphosa’s attorney Peter Harris questioned why the centre provided more than two years’ worth of records to Mkhwebane, when she had asked only for statements linked to the Bosasa donation to the CR17 campaign.

Harris asked that Khanyile clarify exactly which provisions of the FIC Act she relied on, and ‘for what purpose’ to ‘request and receive’ statements from banks for all the accounts linked to Ramaphosa’s campaign funding, notes Business Day.

He also asked that Khanyile confirm whether or not the FIC obtained a warrant for these statements, and whether the unit had ensured that Mkhwebane’s request complied with the law.

Ramaphosa has described Mkhwebane’s report on his campaign funding as legally and factually flawed, and is in the process of challenging its validity in the Gauteng High Court (Pretoria).

A day after the High Court was persuaded to seal the documents, much of that information was leaked to media outlets. In a letter sent to Mkhwebane last week, Harris said as the documents in question were only in the possession of the Public Protector and Ramaphosa’s lawyers, ‘we are extremely concerned that the documents may have been leaked from your office’.

Mkhwebane’s office has consistently denied any wrongdoing and continues to insist she is not the only person who had access to the information.

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