Reserve Bank fines two banks R77.5m

The South African Reserve Bank in 2017 imposed a total of R77.5m in administrative fines to China Construction Bank and VBS Mutual Bank for failure to comply with the Financial Intelligence Centre Act.

The Bank Supervision Department annual report released on Tuesday indicated that the banks were penalised for "not identifying and verifying their customers' details, not keeping records of customer identification, inadequate controls and working methods pertaining to the reporting of suspicions transactions".

The heaviest fine of R75m was given to the Johannesburg branch of China Construction Bank Corporation -  R20m was suspended for a period of three years.

The Venda-based VBS bank, which made headlines in 2016 when it granted former president Jacob Zuma a R7.9m loan for his Nkandla home, was fined R2.5m, of which R2m was suspended for a year.

The Reserve Bank last year placed VBS under curatorship, as details of its financial management came to light.

The report stated that the decision to impose the sanctions was not based on any evidence that the banks had "facilitated transactions relating to money laundering and/or the financing of terrorism".

Illegal schemes

It revealed that its assessment of financial institutions showed that banks still needed to strengthen their controls when it comes to compliance with the FIC Act. 

Compliance with Pillar 3 disclosure system, which require banks to publish easily accessible information that reflects their financial conditions, performance, risk exposure and corporate governance policies and policies was also a key area of focus.

During the 2017 period, a total of 28 illegal deposit-taking schemes were under review, 21 of them were carried over from the previous years, while 7 were new investigations. There are currently 19 schemes still under investigation, slightly higher than the 21 cases in 2016.

The bank said the regulation of schemes was done to ensure "the safety and integrity of the banking system and to protect the general public".

Market uncertainty 

According to the report, macroeconomic conditions continue to be unsupportive of meaningful and robust growth in credit extension, as appetite for household credit also remains sluggish.

Credit extension to the corporate sector grew modestly.

"Although household debt metrics continue to show signs of improvement, household debt remains persistently high."

The report also noted that market uncertainty was seen throughout the year, both at global and domestic level.

The rand weakened over the period by 1.3%, and bonds also weakened with the depreciation of the currency.

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