Tech firms named in apartheid lawsuit

A lawsuit claiming billions of dollars from companies that allegedly helped the apartheid South African regime is expected to name Unisys and Fujitsu among its defendants

Fujitsu and Unisys are expected to be named this week in a lawsuit targeting companies that allegedly profited from collaborating with apartheid-era South Africa.

Fujitsu is facing the lawsuit because of alleged actions by two of its subsidiaries: the Amdahl mainframe business and the Fujitsu Services business, previously better known as ICL. At one time ICL was the UK's largest computing company before being bought by the Japanese giant.

Unisys was formed from the merger of mainframe computer manufacturers Sperry and Burroughs in 1986. The lawsuit, filed in federal court in Newark, claims that the South African regime oppressed millions of blacks between 1948 and 1993 with help from a number of multinational companies.

The companies "notoriously violated" United Nations sanctions from 1985 to 1993 by providing South Africa with military equipment and hardware, the lawsuit continues. "US and European computer companies knew full well that their equipment, technology and systems were being used by the apartheid system to violate the basic human rights of South Africa's inhabitants and commit atrocities against the population."

The suit seeks class-action status and unspecified damages, according to the Bloomberg news service. It also asks for the appointment of an independent historic commission, creation of a trust and repayment of illicit profits.

The Observer newspaper reports that Edward Fagan, an American lawyer representing thousands of victims of the racist regime, is to visit London this week to make public a list of British defendant companies in the case. Fagan famously helped Holocaust victims to win $1.25bn in 'Nazi gold' compensation from Swiss banks.

Neither Unisys nor Fujitsu Services immediately returned requests for comment.

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