VBS loses court bid to recover R102m from Usaasa

VBS liquidator Anoosh Rooplal last year sued Usaasa to recover a R102 million loan that online marketing firm Leratadima took out to supply parastatal Usaasa with terrestrial set-top boxes as part of the government’s digital migration project.

Mutual Bank VBS in Thohoyandou. Photo: Sethembiso Zulu/EWN

JOHANNESBURG – Scandal-ridden VBS has lost its bid to recover more than 100 million rand. The liquidated mutual savings bank says it is owed by the Universal Service and Access Agency of South Africa (Usaasa).

VBS liquidator Anoosh Rooplal last year sued Usaasa to recover a R102 million loan that online marketing firm Leratadima took out to supply parastatal Usaasa with terrestrial set-top boxes as part of the government’s digital migration project.

The Johannesburg High Court has now dismissed the claim, essentially finding that Usaasa had nothing to do with the deal between the bank and Leratadima.

At the heart of the case is the bank’s position that, in order to make the loan, it had required security in the form of written confirmation from Usaasa that all monies owed to Leratadima would be deposited in its VBS account. and further that Usaasa had in a subsequent letter, dated January 18, 2016, agreed to this, but that R102 million was, in breach of this undertaking, paid into the company’s Absa account instead.

In the High Court ruling delivered late last week, however, Judge Avrielle Maier-Frawley – who drafted it – said that in substance the loan agreement was between VBS and Leratadima and that its terms were not binding on Usaasa.

“As Usaasa was not a party to the facility agreement, it did not incur any obligation to Leratadima or VBS under it,” she said.

“While it is plausible that Usaasa knew of the Settlement Agreement at the time it sent the January 18, 2016 letter, as VBS argued, that is beside the point. is that Usaasa’s letter did not refer to the Settlement Agreement nor did Usaasa consent to be bound by any of the terms of the Settlement Agreement,” Maier-Frawley said.

She said Usaasa did not agree to commit to pay VBS or accept any obligation to pay the bank and no new contract was created to replace VBS as Usassa’s contractor. .

“Therefore, Usaasa and Leratadima remained bound to each other by the supply contract, which they could modify at will by mutual written consent. VBS was not a party to this contract and did not acquire any rights under it. this one.”

She found with Usaasa that her letter was “akin to a letter of comfort to VBS”.

The case was dismissed with costs.

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