Banks to continue testifying at State Capture Inquiry

The Commission of Inquiry into State Capture will on Tuesday continue hearing evidence from major South African banks about how and why they cut ties with Gupta-linked companies.

On Monday Standard Bank's former group legal counsel Ian Sinton gave evidence to the inquiry, which is chaired by Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo. 

Sinton said that by early 2016 the bank feared it may run afoul of anti-corruption or anti-money laundering laws if it continued to provide Gupta-linked companies with banking licenses.

On April 6, 2016, it gave Gupta-linked companies two months notice that it would be shutting their accounts.

This, according to Sinton, led to the bank being called to ANC headquarters at Luthuli House in Johannesburg, where he and Standard Bank head Sim Tshabalala were asked by top ANC leaders why the accounts were being shut.

Sinton said that the ANC delegation included then-Secretary General Gwede Mantashe, his deputy Jessie Duarte, and the party's head of economic transformation Enoch Godongwana.  

The bank was also asked how it would respond to the perception it was part of White Monopoly Capital and was taking orders from businesspeople in Stellenbosch. Sinton said the bank's leadership - which took the meeting out of respect although they thought it inappropriate - said they could not speak about specific clients. 

The bank also met with Oakbay leadership - who petitioned that the accounts be kept open - and was asked to attend a meeting with an inter-ministerial task-team headed by then Mineral Resources Minister Mosebenzi Zwane. 

READ: State capture and Standard Bank: ANC emerges as the main accused

According to Sinton's testimony, Zwane was accompanied to the meeting by Mildred Oliphant and Mzwanele Manyi. Manyi, the bank was informed, was present in his capacity as an advisor. He later took over the running of the Guptas' former media assets in SA, the New Age and ANN7.

Keep the accounts open 

Sinton said either Zwane or Oliphant - he couldn't remember who - argued the bank should keep the accounts open even if it risked non-compliance with the law.

He added that Zwane, who was replaced as Mineral Resources Minister by Gwede Mantashe in Ramaphosa's first Cabinet, also said that as a member of the ruling party he had the ability to get the law changed, whereby it would become illegal for banks to close accounts. 

On Tuesday representatives of Absa are expected to give evidence starting at 11:30. Absa informed the Guptas that it would cut ties with them in mid-Decemebr 2015 - about two months before Standard Bank - and stopped banking services in mid-February 2016. 

According to the inquiry's programme, Nedbank and First National Bank will also be testifying this week. 

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