Cash in transit heist
(File photo)
  • The Supreme Court of Appeal has blocked the minister of police from arguing that cash-in-transit company SBV robbed itself of R100 million.
  • Insurers Lloyds of London is claiming that money back from the state, on the basis that police officers were involved in the 2014 heist.
  • The state wanted to introduce a new argument at the beginning of trial in 2019: that SBV should be held responsible because one of its employees was also involved.
  • But the argument completely misunderstood how vicarious liability actually works, the SCA confirmed this week.
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The minister of police will not be allowed to argue that cash-in-transit company SBV robbed itself, the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) has ruled – because that's not how the law works.

The minister, as the head of the SA Police Service (SAPS), is attempting to fend off a R100 million claim by Lloyds of London, which paid out an insurance claim after the April 2014 heist. Lloyds had covered SBV for the theft or destruction of cash it was holding on behalf of major banks.

In October 2019, Lloyds had been due to argue before a court that it should be reimbursed by the state, because two serving police officers had been involved in the robbery. Police have a professional duty to stop robberies – and not to participate in criminal activity – Lloyds says, so the police have vicarious liability for their actions.

But shortly before the case was to be heard, the state tried to introduce a new argument in defence: that SBV had been a party to the robbery because one of its employees, a security compliance officer, had conspired with the two cops, as part of a group of 13 ultimately convicted in the case. This insider involvement, said the minister, precluded Lloyds from claiming on SBVs behalf that the state owed them money, because it was in fact vicariously liable for the loss. 

First the high court, and on Tuesday the SCA, dismissed that as fundamentally wrong in law.

The insurance underwriters may have a claim directly against the two cops, as well as against SBV, said the appeals court. "In the case of the Minister and SBV, the actions for which they are said to be vicariously liable are independent of one another."

SBV was an injured party, said the SCA. In the same way its former employee couldn't fend off a claim from SBV because the police may also be liable, the police can not fend off a claim from SBV on the basis that it is responsible for the actions of its employee.

Ultimately, "SBV cannot be liable to itself for the robbery," said the court.

(Compiled by Phillip de Wet)

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