Investment gone without a trace

A SOWETO pensioner is battling to get either Standard Bank, First National Bank or Liberty Life to refund her deceased son's money, which was fraudulently withdrawn from his account six years ago.

It's only a matter of time before Jabu Nxumalo, 73, of Dube will find out whether any of these financial institutions will ever refund her son's money. Two of these institutions said they needed more time to trace the money.

Nxumalo, who has tried since last year to recover her son's money, said where the consumer is not the weakest link in the chain of events, financial institutions should be ready to refund them.

When Nxumalo retired in 2002, she decided to invested R40,000 at Liberty Life for her son, Nkosiyabantu, who was in prison at the time, she said.

Nxumalo said it was a good investment because her son was assured a payout of R65,000 after five years, she said.

"I wanted my son to start a business when he was freed from prison," Nxumalo said.

When her son was released in 2004, she accompanied him to Standard Bank to open a savings account.

"Sadly, Nkosiyabantu could not withdraw the money as he was terminally ill when Liberty Life paid out his money," said Nxumalo.

She said Liberty Life deposited the money on May 3, and two days later while Nkosiyabantu was hospitalised, R55,000 was withdrawn from his account without his knowledge or authorisation.

"Standard Bank issued a handwritten bank guaranteed cheque in the name of Momentum Collective Investment and it was later deposited at FNB on May 5," said Nxumalo.

She said the balance was also withdrawn from a different ATM until there was no money left on his account.

"He died a few weeks later and I forgot about his investment," said Nxumalo.

She said last year, as she was clearing her kist, she saw his policy and remembered her son did not get to cash it.

She went to his bank and was told it was withdrawn six years ago.

"On looking at the statement they issued, I realised that his money was withdrawn while he was too ill to even lift a finger," said Nxumalo.

Her only hope was that Liberty Life could trace it from its collective investment, but was shuttered when they told her the investment portfolio had been closed .

"Surely, they must have moved their clients' money into another interest bearing account when they closed that portfolio," said Nxumalo.

Liberty Life said they were investigating the matter and promised to keep Nxumalo updated on a weekly basis on the progress of the investigation.

Lekha Gosia of FNB said the account number into which the cheque was deposited does not exist. "You will need to contact Momentum who will be able to assist," said Gosia.

Ross Linstrom of Standard Bank suggested that Nxumalo lay a charge of theft or fraud with the police.

"We will then be in a better position to assist with this investigation. With the information provided we can only speculate on what has happened," said Linstrom.