Absa snubs Gupta-linked minister and won’t meet
In a move that could sour relations between the business and the government, Absa Bank has declined an invitation from Minister of Mineral Resources Mosebenzi Zwane to attend a meeting regarding the issue of the Oakbay and Gupta business bank accounts.
“We confirm receipt of an invitation to a meeting from the Office of the Minister of Mineral Resources on behalf of the interministerial committee announced by Cabinet.
“We have respectfully declined on account of client confidentiality. As a bank, we cannot discuss any past, present or prospective clients in such forums,” an Absa spokesperson said.
Zwane, along with President Jacob Zuma, is known to have close ties with the Gupta family.
Sam Moss, a spokesperson for FirstRand, which owns FNB, said she had no update on any meeting with the government ministers.
Previously Moss said that the bank had been informed of the establishment of an interministerial committee to look at the Oakbay issue.
No meetings had been scheduled between any of the group’s businesses and the committee, Moss said previously.
Esme Arendse, a Nedbank spokersperson, said: “Nedbank has always enjoyed a very positive relationship with government. If we were to receive an invitation from any government department, we would approach it in a spirit of constructive engagement ... If such a meeting were to take place, we would, however, not discuss the banking relationships of any of our clients due to bankerclient confidentiality.”
Ros Linstroom, a Standard Bank spokesperson, declined to comment.
Last month, the government assigned Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan, Labour Minister Mildred Oliphant and Zwane to “engage” with the Big Four banks that have either cut ties with the Guptas, or are doing so.
This followed Oakbay losing its auditor KPMG, bankers including Absa and FNB, sponsor Sasfin, and the resignation of Oakbay’s CEO and chairperson.
However, it is not clear if Gordhan will be joining the bid for a meeting with the Big Four banks.
When he was challenged in Parliament about whether he would be part of the intervention, Gordhan did not answer directly, according to the Radio 702 website.
SizweNtsalubaGobodo has since given a lifeline to the JSE-listed Oakbay Energy & Resources, which is 80% owned by Gupta firm Oakbay Investments, when it agreed to be the firm’s auditor.
Minister in the Presidency Jeff Radebe has previously warned that the actions of the Big Four banks might deter future potential investors who may want to do business in South Africa.
Oakbay Resources needs to have its financial results for the financial year to February out by the end of May, but the JSE does provide listed companies with an extra month’s grace once the first three months had expired, after the financial year-end.
However, if, by the end of the fourth month, which will be end of June in Oakbay’s case, the company had yet to produce its results, the JSE would suspend its listing.
Oakbay needs to find a new JSE sponsor by mid-July, or it would be in breach of the listings requirements.
City Press talked to the minister’s spokesperson, Martin Madlala, on the phone and emailed him questions as he requested. He did not reply.
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