Guptas ask FIC for more info over ‘suspicious’ R6.8bn

Cape Town – Gupta-owned Oakbay Resources and Energy Limited [JSE:ORL] on Friday requested more information from the Financial Intelligence Centre (FIC) over the 72 transactions worth R6.8bn it identified as "suspicious”.

The FIC told Fin24 on Monday that it received Oakbay’s application for “information further to the documents submitted as part of the founding papers lodged by the Minister of Finance (Pravin Gordhan) in his application to the High Court on Friday, 14 October 2016”.

Gordhan dropped the FIC bombshell on October 14 when he asked the Pretoria High Court to declare that, as finance minister, he is in no way obligated to help the Guptas in their battle with South Africa's largest banks, all of which had terminated their banking relationships with the Guptas and their companies earlier this year.

Oakbay acting CEO Ronica Ragavan indicated in her affidavit on Friday that the company would oppose Gordhan’s application, which is expected to be heard in March 2017.

As determined by section 29 of the Financial Intelligence Centre Act (Fica), the FIC is by law privy to details on all bank transactions that raise concern over the purpose of such transactions.

Such "suspicious and unusual transactions", as defined by the act, include transfers that may relate to the financing of terrorism, the evasion or attempted evasion of the paying of tax, or transfers that have "no apparent business or lawful purpose".

According the FIC report included in Gordhan’s court papers, the first of the red-flagged transactions was a series of transfers to or from an account held by Ajay Gupta between December 2012 and February 2014, totalling just over R80m.

A R1.3bn transaction involving the bank account of the mining rehabilitation fund for Optimum - the coal mine the Guptas and President Jacob Zuma's son Duduzane had bought this year - had also drawn the attention of the FIC.

The Guptas welcomed the application in October, saying they could begin to formally clear their names.

"None of the transactions related to Oakbay or the family, which are over a five-year period, were flagged to the FIC as suspicious. To put this in context, the FIC’s own 2015-16 annual report showed that 98 054 transactions in that year alone were flagged as suspicious by the banks," said Gupta laywers Van Der Merwe Associates.

Following the FIC revelation, former public protector Thuli Madonsela released her State of Capture report on her last day in office on November 2.

In the report, which focused on the purchase of Optimum, Madonsela pointed to the Indian bank that had been looking after the Guptas’ business interests amid their bank blacklisting.

She said the conduct of the Bank of Baroda appeared “highly suspicious in light of the wording of their letter and their tacit agreement for Tegeta to receive more than R2.15bn into its account in at least 32 EFTs over four months without raising suspicion or concern on the part of the bank”.

Madonsela said “it is safe to say that the frequency and amounts deposited should have attracted attention and an investigation by other financial institutions' anti-money laundering departments due to money laundering risks based on the Financial Intelligence Centre’s guidance note concerning the reporting of suspicious and unusual financial transactions”.

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