In the latest twist to one of Zambia’s most contentious ongoing corporate raiding cases, a leaked forensic audit report shows that share transfer certificates used by Rajan Mahtani’s Finsbury Investments to take over control of Zambezi Portland Cement (ZPC) were illegal forgeries.
This latest information backs up the claims made by Mahtani’s former lawyer Ms. Zaheeda Essa, who testified before court that under his orders the signatures were forged on the ZPC share transfers, which resulted in the de facto theft of the $160 million cement plant from Antonio Ventriglia & Manuela Sebastiani, the original owners of ZPC.
The forgeries relate to a long-running battle for control of the Ndola-based cement plant, where the company founders say that they were cheated and defrauded by their financier, Mr. Mahtani, who took control of the asset. In 2010, the Supreme Court ruled in favour of Antonio Ventriglia & Manuela Sebastiani and restored ownership, but in 2012, after the election of the Patriotic Front government of President Michael Sata, the same Supreme Court Justice reversed on her own ruling to deliver the company back to Mahtani.
The forensic report, which was originally published in 2008 but is now available publicly for the first time, was authored by Mr. Jannie Bester, a handwriting expert and document examiner who was trained by the South African Police and who served as member of the Money Laundering Forum of South Africa and International Association of Financial Crime Investigators, among other qualifications.
The purpose of the report was to examine the authenticity of two documents titled “Form of Transfer of Fully-Paid Shares In A Company Limited Shares” dated December 12th, 2006, which resulted in 85,000,000 ordinary paid shares being passed from Zambezi Portland Cement Limited to Finsbury Investments Limited, the investment arm of Mr. Mahtani’s Finance Bank, effectively handing over control of the company and leading to the ouster of Antonio Ventriglia and Manuela Sebastiani from Zambezi Portland Cement Ltd.
After examining the shareholding transfer documents against the original signatures of the ZPC owners, the expert forensic report concluded the following: “It is then my opinion that the Antonio Ventriglia signatures on the FORM OF TRANSFER OF FULLY-PAID SHARES IN A COMPANY LIMITED BY SHARES documents, documents mentioned at 2.), 4.), and 5.), were not physically written onto these documents by the writer, but were transferred onto these documents by either electronic or mechanical means.”
Bester’s report concluded “the disputed signatures of both Antonio Ventriglia and Manuela Sebastiani are classified as transferred forgeries. Abovementioned opinions were reached by applying sound scientific document examination principles and utilizing numerous methods of document examination which requires proficiency in the science of Forensic Document Examination.”
Mr. Mahtani has faced other allegations of forgery in the past. During the government of President Kenneth Kaunda, he was arrested and jailed for three months for having illegal Zambian government stamps. In 2010, Mahtani and his lawyer John Sangwa were brought up on criminal charges alleging that they had forged letters bearing the signature of the Deputy Governor of the Bank of Zambia. However, in 2012, these charges were dismissed by the Director of Public Prosecutions Mutembo Nchito. A few months later, Mahtani withdrew a $4 million lawsuit he had against Nchito over unpaid debts.