Guptas not out of Hawks woods yet

Cape Town – The Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (Hawks) said while they currently do not have any evidence against the Guptas, an investigation continues.

Hawks head Berning Ntlemeza revealed the South African Police Service (Saps) unit had no evidence of wrongdoing in a letter to Guptas’ lawyer Gert van der Merwe dated January 16.

The letter was part of the Guptas' responding affidavit last Friday to Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan’s high court application on October 14 2016 to obtain legal protection against the Guptas.

Gordhan cited letters by executives of Gupta-owned companies pressuring him to intervene against their dispute with SA’s top four banks, which had blacklisted their accounts in 2016.

He also attached a certificate from the Financial Intelligence Centre (FIC), which referred to 72 suspicious transactions worth R6.8bn.

However, Ntlemeza said they had not received any FIC submission to investigate the transactions.

“This office wishes to confirm that there are no reports nor complaints relating to this matter that were received from the banks or FIC as cited in your correspondence,” Ntlemeza explained in the letter.

It is important to note that it is unclear what the Guptas asked Ntlemeza and which FIC transactions it referred to, as they did not include this letter in their affidavit.

Ntlemeza also referred to the Economic Freedom Front's (EFF's) case against the Guptas, which was filed in Rosebank in October 2016, saying the complaint was being dealt with by the Hawks.

“Presently there is no evidence that implicates your clients,” he said.

An investigation continues

Clarifying the statement, Hawks spokesperson Hangwani Mulaudzi told Fin24 on Wednesday that while there is no evidence yet, an investigation continues.

“It is very simple,” he said. “The Hawks received a letter from the lawyers of the Gupta brothers, who wanted to enquire if there was an investigation into them or their businesses.

“We told them that there is an investigation, but presently there is no evidence linking them. It is simple.”

“The case opened by the EFF is still continuing,” he said.

FIC suspicious transactions

Gordhan said the FIC’s Suspicious Transaction Report, which he attached in his founding affidavit, “does not equate to the FIC reporting one suspicion for investigation”.

"Rather, the FIC may evaluate patterns found across multiple reports made to it before it makes a referral to the law enforcement and other competent authorities for their investigation.

“The FIC uses reports such as these, along with other available information, to conduct its analysis and produce financial intelligence reports,” he said in response to a Parliamentary question this year.

The FIC is not allowed by law to reveal publicly whether they have submitted suspicious transactions to the Saps, and in November 2016 criticised media reports that said it was not cooperating.

“It is in the media also, that because of the lack of cooperation from the FIC, an investigation by the Hawks has had ‘to grind to a halt’," the FIC said in a statement. "This claim is clearly nefarious, mischievous and totally without basis.”

“The supposed lack of cooperation by the FIC is in relation to reports on transactions mentioned in a certificate attached to a founding affidavit filed by the minister of finance in a high court application.”

The EFF case against Guptas

Regarding the EFF matter, the party said in October that the case related to the prima facie evidence contained in Gordhan’s application filed on October 14 2016.

“The minister's application reveals the information already hinted by the banks that the Gupta family and their businesses are involved in money laundering, racketeering, and gross corruption that is robbing South Africa of billions of rands,” the EFF said in a statement last year.

“The immediate amount that has been confirmed to have been illegally and suspiciously transferred is R6.8bn and it is clear that this amount is just the tip of an iceberg.”

The FIC’s 72 transactions certificate was misplaced, Oakbay acting CEO Ronica Ravagan said in her responding affidavit.

"There is nothing suspicious or untoward about these [72] transactions - they were simply flagged in the ordinary course under the FIC Act, together with millions of other innocent transactions, and any attempt to draw conclusions of the impropriety from the certificate is misplaced," said Ravagan.

Other cases against Guptas

There are other cases against the Guptas filed by the Congress of the People, the Democratic Alliance and former ANC MP Vytjie Mentor relating to allegations the Guptas offered her and Deputy Finance Minister Mcebisi Jonas ministerial positions for money.

Jonas and Mentor have both told their version of the story to former public protector Thuli Madonsela, who called for an independent inquiry into the matter.

President Jacob Zuma is seeking a court ruling to prevent this from occurring.

Madonsela told the Cape Town Press Club this month that if Jonas and Mentor “lied about being offered jobs by members of the Gupta family, then this too must be exposed. But the matter could not be laid to rest just because she had left the office of public protector,” Huffington Post reported.

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