Banks re­buff cab­i­net bid to re­open frozen Gupta ac­counts

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - NEWS -

ing in­dus­try”.

The out­come of the re­port would be com­mu­ni­cated “in due course”, the cab­i­net said.

The three min­is­ters were given the task in April of speak­ing to the banks af­ter they de­cided to close the ac­counts of Gupta firm Oak­bay In­vest­ments, cit­ing risks to their rep­u­ta­tions af­ter al­le­ga­tions of in­ter­fer­ence by the Gup­tas in cab­i­net ap­point­ments – an ex­clu­sive pre­rog­a­tive of the pres­i­dent.

But initial at­tempts by Zwane to meet Absa were re­buffed, and a meet­ing be­tween he and Oliphant and Stan­dard Bank was in­con­clu­sive.

Gord­han, who was out of the coun­try when the cab­i­net made the de­ci­sion to ap­proach the banks, did not at­tend th­ese meet­ings.

The Bank­ing As­so­ci­a­tion of SA sup­ported the de­ci­sion of its mem­bers, say­ing they had to com­ply with reg­u­la­tions re­lat­ing to the Fi­nan­cial In­tel­li­gence Cen­tre Act and money laun­der­ing.

The cab­i­net said in April it was con­cerned about po­ten­tial job losses and the im­pact on would-be in­vestors of the de­ci­sion by the banks.

Oak­bay’s au­dit­ing firm KPMG and spon­sor Sas­fin Cap­i­tal have also sev­ered ties, though it has since ap­pointed SizweNt­salubaGo­bodo Inc in place of KPMG.

Gord­han was caught by sur­prise on talk ra­dio sta­tion Pow­erFM last month when three Oak­bay ex­ec­u­tives called in to quiz him about progress in talks with the banks.

Oak­bay has said though it has ac­quired the ser­vices of a for­eign bank with op­er­a­tions in South Africa, it may have to re­trench work­ers if its ac­counts are closed.

Its claim that 7 500 jobs are at risk has been dis­puted by Africa Check, which put the fig­ure at closer to 4 900, ex­clud­ing the New Age news­pa­per staff.

Atul and Varun Gupta and Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma’s son Duduzane re­signed as di­rec- tors of the firm in a bid to res­cue its op­er­a­tions but the move had lit­tle im­pact..

Yes­ter­day, Absa said it had not dis­cussed its clients’ ac­counts with any­one, in­clud­ing rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the gov­ern­ment and would not do so in fu­ture..

“Our re­la­tion­ships with clients are con­fi­den­tial,” an Absa spokesper­son said.

Ned­bank said its po­si­tion on the mat­ter was “un­changed”.

“Ned­bank has always en­joyed a very pos­i­tive re­la­tion­ship with gov­ern­ment,” said spokes­woman Esme Arendse.

“We would have ap­proached any meet­ing in a spirit of con­struc­tive en­gage­ment but would not dis­cuss the bank­ing re­la­tion­ships of any of our clients, due to banker-client con­fi­den­tial­ity, un­less we re­ceive client con­sent,” she said.

Oak­bay had not re­sponded to re­quests for com­ment by the time of go­ing to print.

craig.dodds@inl.co.za

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