The Commercial Case Law Index is a collection of judgments from African countries on topics relating to commercial legal practice. The collection aims to provide a snapshot of commercial legal practice in a country, rather than present solely traditionally "reportable" cases. The index currently covers 400 judgments from Uganda, Tanzania, Nigeria, Ghana and South Africa.
Get started on finding judgments that are relevant to you by browsing the topic list on the left of the screen. Click the arrows next to the topic names to reveal a detailed list of sub-topics. Most judgments are accompanied by a short summary written by subject-matter expert postgraduate students from the University of Cape Town.
The Financial Intelligence Centre applied to the High Court to freeze the assets of the applicants who were being investigated for trafficking narcotic drugs. The applicant contended that the High Court exceeded its jurisdiction when it dismissed an application to dismiss the freezing of assets, because the law provided that this must be done for one year only; however in this case a year had since lapsed. It was also contended that the High Court had exceeded its jurisdiction to impose directions on how the case should be tried, and more broadly that the freezing of the account was in breach of the rules of natural justice.
The court held that the High Court acted contrary to the law when it did not exercise its jurisdiction to defreeze the assets, as the courts have supervisory jurisdiction. A year had lapsed and hence it was an error of law to not grant the order to defreeze the assets. The court which has supervisory jurisdiction has the power to defreeze assets if the one-year period has lapsed.
The issue was whether the High Court had jurisdiction to order the freezing of the bank accounts of the applicant.
The dispute emanated from an order to freeze the applicant’s three bank accounts after allegations of money laundering by the Financial Intelligence Centre (FIC). The applicant was accused of illegally receiving approximately US$ 43 000 and remittance of US$ 39 000 from a Canadian company. The applicant tried without success to apply to defreeze the bank accounts.
The applicant further applied arguing that the Anti-Money Laundering Act (the act) only allowed the bank accounts to be frozen for one year. It pointed out that the High Court exceeded its jurisdiction when it dismissed the application because the statutory period of 12 months had lapsed. They also challenged the decision to freeze all the accounts including money that was not part of the laundering investigation on the basis that it was an infringement of the right to natural justice.
The FIC argued that that investigation of allegation of fraud, which is criminal in nature, is not affected by time constraints.
The court held that one year was enough for FIC to investigate any alleged wrong-doing. It ruled that High Court lacked the jurisdiction to order the continuous freezing of the accounts of the applicant beyond the one year. It further ruled that moneys which stood in the accounts of the applicants before any alleged illegal transfers into the accounts should not form part of the freezing order.