The Reserve Bank has demanded that an Indian bank release documents related to bank accounts owned by the Gupta family.
The demand forms part of a wider investigation into allegations that the Guptas may have been illegally channelling money out of the country.
The Sunday Times has established that the Reserve Bank and the Financial Intelligence Centre have requested the Bank of Baroda to provide documents on deposits into accounts belonging to the family.
The transactions are of concern to the government because the Baroda deposits do not move any further locally, suggesting they are being shifted offshore, with Dubai being the most likely destination, said a highly placed government source with intimate knowledge of the investigation.
The source said teams from two departments had been meeting and collaborating on the investigation.
The SACC has established an inquiry led by the ‘unburdening panel’
“Both the FIC and the Reserve Bank have been trying to get details on the deposits being made by Gupta-owned companies and other private entities in South Africa,” he said.
In April, all of South Africa’s major banks, as well as auditors KPMG, confirmed they would close all accounts related to the family. Gupta-aligned minister Mosebenzi Zwane tried to intervene and wrote to Absa, FNB, Standard Bank and Nedbank requesting meetings after a cabinet decision to set up an interministerial committee to negotiate on behalf of the Gupta family.
KPMG, in a letter to Gupta company Oakbay made public by the family, said the risk of being associated with the family was too great.
The source said: “What you see is money going into their bank, but we don’t see money coming out. In one instance, one company, you see it deposit money into the Bank of Baroda but you don’t see them withdrawing the money.
“The only conclusion you would have is that the money is going to be taken somewhere else. We suspect that these companies pay the Guptas through that bank.”
He said this didn’t start happening when South African banks refused to do business with the Guptas. “The relationship has always been there but it increased after the banks closed their accounts; then you see more movement of the money. What we suspect is that when the money is in the Bank of Baroda, it is making it easy to take money to Dubai and other places,” said the source.
The startling claim comes a little more than two weeks after Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan told parliament he had no knowledge of any probe into Gupta money flows.
This was after several accusations, by opposition party politicians, that the family, close friends of President Jacob Zuma, had moved billions of rand to Dubai. They insisted that this was done with Zuma’s help.
Yesterday, Reserve Bank chief of staff Bulelwa Boqwana said the bank “does not comment on specific matters of individuals or entities regarding investigations we may be involved in”.
Treasury spokeswoman Phumza Macanda said the department was not in a position to comment, and the Gupta family’s spokesman, Nazeem Howa, did not respond to a text message.
The Bank of Baroda, India’s international bank, has two branches in South Africa – one in Durban and one Johannesburg – and is largely owned by the Indian government. When it was contacted for comment yesterday afternoon, the Sunday Times was told that no bank official was available until Monday.
We reaffirmed our position that we have made partly in public, for the president to distance himself from the Guptas
The developments come as the SACP this week told Zuma to his face to distance himself from the Guptas and to stop their companies from doing business with the state.
The Sunday Times was informed that Zuma sat quietly on Monday as SACP leaders told him how unethical it was for the Guptas – who are in business with his son Duduzane – to continue milking government contracts.
SACP leaders, including general secretary and Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande also told Zuma and the ANC’s top six that ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe’s investigation into the Guptas had been badly managed.
The discussion took place during a meeting between SACP and ANC office-bearers that went on until late on Monday.
The four-hour meeting did not result in any agreement other than the need to schedule another before the local government elections.
Zuma’s spokesman, Bongani Ngqulunga, referred queries on the meeting to the ANC.
Acting ANC spokesman Khusela Sangoni confirmed only that the meeting took place but declined to comment on the discussions.
SACP second deputy general secretary Solly Mapaila told the Sunday Times his party had confronted Zuma during the meeting about the Guptas’ perceived undue influence on government affairs and state-owned companies.
“We reaffirmed our position that we have made partly in public, for the president to distance himself from the Guptas. We said it clearly and comradely. We asked him to consider this matter seriously and also deal with the reality that his own son, Duduzane, is part of this grouping.
“And when they do business with state-owned enterprises, it doesn’t look good from an ethical point of view,” Mapaila said.
He refused to discuss Zuma’s response at the Monday meeting, saying doing so would be tantamount to “leaking”.
Mapaila said the SACP made it clear it did not agree with Zuma’s statement – made at the Gauteng provincial general council last month – in which Zuma denied that the state had been captured.
He said Zuma’s remarks contradicted his own political report which he tabled at the alliance summit last month. The report was endorsed by all alliance partners, including the ANC.
Mapaila said the SACP was unhappy with Mantashe’s probe and had told the ANC it would participate in an investigation being conducted by the South African Council of Churches.
“We did indicate the fact that the panel should have been better managed. It could have been given much better guidelines. Our view is how it was handled. It was a factional intervention which doesn’t help the movement.
“We have told the ANC: ‘You have closed your process, we will use this channel. We will decide how to participate in that [SACC] process.'” The SACC has established an inquiry led by the “unburdening panel”. The SACC panel is chaired by its president, Bishop Zipho Siwa, and includes retired Constitutional Court judge Yvonne Mokgoro and former Independent Electoral Commission chairwoman Brigalia Bam.
SACC general secretary Bishop Malusi Mpumlwana said the panel would be assisted by prominent advocate George Bizos, who would provide legal support to those testifying before it. He said they were planning to issue a public report by the end of September, with certain matters being likely to be referred to Chapter 9 institutions such as the public protector and other law enforcement agencies for further investigation.[Source: Sunday Times]