FNB could face a R50m lawsuit for allegedly discriminating against its black customers by charging them too high interest rates on Saambou home loans.

The Sunday Tribune reports that financial investigator Emerald van Zyl who is threatening to take action, says the bank has failed to apologise.

However, FNB said the claims were false, callous and irresponsible.

The majority of Saambou bondholders were civil servants in the low-income housing category, who were targeted for home loans by Saambou between 1989 and 1993.

The overcharging is related to the period from 1990 to 1999 and it occurred because Saambou calculated interest monthly in arrears before it became a bank in 1990.

This was in contravention of the directives of Usury Act of 73 of 1968, to allow banks to recover a monthly admin fee of R5 (VAT excluded) and that the maximum interest rate as published in the Government Gazette from time to time would be 2% lower on mortgage loans.

Saambou failed to correct its calculation until 1999.

Saambou Bank collapsed and was placed under curatorship when FNB acquired its home loan books in February 2002.

In a letter issued to First Rand CEO Alan Pullinger in January, Van Zyl said that from January 1999, the interest rates were periodically increased up to 3.75% per mortgage loan which means that poor black people with low-cost housing were paying up to 40% more on their monthly instalments.

‘Due to this prohibited conduct, I assisted 179 in stopping the sale in execution of their homes for the reason that these poor black homeowners could not afford these inflated instalments due to inflated interest rates,’ said Van Zyl.

The Sunday Tribune reports that he said FNB also admitted that he was correct that the calculation of interest in advance was against the directives of the Usury Act, Act 73 of 1968, and said that all Saambou Bank mortgage loans would be recalculated.

Van Zyl said FNB announced in June 2006 that it would refund R154m to prejudice Saambou mortgage clients due to the wrong interest methodology.

He said the correctness of these calculations was disputed by himself and forensic auditor Greg Johnson.

Van Zyl said he re-calculated 6000 mortgage accounts, and 3 000 summonses to the value of R200m were served on FNB in the Gauteng High Court (Pretoria).

He claims he was poisoned with arsenic on the eve of the hearing in 2013.

Full Sunday Tribune report