The South African Supreme Court of Appeal has ordered the South African Reserve Bank (SARB) to pay back USD $22.28-million (250-million Rands) to tech entrepreneur and multi-millionaire Mark Shuttleworth following several months of legal battle between the two parties.
Mark Shuttleworth is a South-African-born tech entrepreneur and venture capitalist who is renowned for being the first-ever African in space and the second self-funded “space tourist”, made his fortune when he sold his internet security company, Thawte Consulting to VeriSign for about USD $575 million.
Shuttleworth sold the company in 1999 and in 2001 emigrated to the Isle of Man, a British Crown dependency and a tax-efficient jurisdiction.
South Africa’s exchange control regulations (promulgated in terms of the Currency and Exchanges Act 9 of 1933) had the effect of blocking the expatriation of Shuttleworth’s assets from the country upon his emigration on 23 February 2001.
The aggregate value of Shuttleworth’s blocked loan accounts was USD $382-million (4.28 billion Rands).
Shuttleworth says he emigrated in order to free up funds to invest outside South Africa. He claimed that he emigrated due to the system of exchange control in South Africa, which he asserted was severely restrictive and rendered investments outside our borders prohibitive,” read the Supreme Court statement on the ruling.
He decided to transfer his remaining assets out of South Africa and applied to the South African Reserve Bank for permission to do so. At the time of his emigration, Shuttleworth who has dual citizenship with South Africa and the United Kingdom, transferred the assets out of the country in 2008 and 2009, each time subject to the payment of a ten per cent “exit charge”.
He subsequently “approached the North Gauteng High Court for relief, principally against the imposition of the exit levy, which he contended was unconstitutional” and which he characterized “as a rigid application of policy.”
Shuttleworth’s wealth is said to be now split between the United Kingdom and The Isle of Man, where he now resides. He announced the landmark legal victory and that the returned funds would be placed into a trust to “underwrite constitutional court cases on behalf of those who’s circumstances deny them the ability to be heard where the counterparty is the State,“ Shuttleworth said.