By Hassan Isilow
Major banks in South Africa have accused the ruling African National Congress (ANC) of pressuring them not to close bank accounts of the influential Indian Gupta family accused of corruption.
A commission of inquiry probing corruption heard Wednesday that former ANC Secretary General Gwede Mantashe had called bank executives for meetings to discuss why accounts belonging to the Guptas were being closed.
“I was very clear, I will not discuss client details,” Nedbank Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Mike Brown told the commission.
The Guptas, close friends of former President Jacob Zuma, are alleged to have influenced him to fire ministers and give them lucrative government contracts.
The commission also heard that they withdrew millions of South African rands for contracts they never undertook.
Brown said former Mineral Resources Minister Mosebenzi Zwane had threatened that their license could be affected if they did not review their decision to close bank accounts of companies linked to the Guptas.
He said they took an independent decision to shut the accounts after sensing suspicious financial transactions where millions meant for executing contracts were being used for other purposes.
Executives of ABSA, a subsidiary of Barclays, Standard Bank, and First National Bank, all testified at the commission accusing the ANC of meddling in the Gupta bank account closures.
“We found the invitation (by ANC) inappropriate but chose to attend and not be disrespectful,’’ former Standard Bank head of legal compliance Ian Sinton told the commission.
He said the Gupta accounts were flagged after they transferred to Dubai funds meant to develop a dairy farm sponsored by the government.
Mantashe told local media they did not pressure the banks but wanted to find out claims they were colluding to frustrate black-owned businesses.
Both Zuma and Guptas have denied any involvement in corruption.