UK government worries over fallout of state corruption in SA

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Cape Town - The UK government on Thursday said it was taking allegations of state-linked corruption in South Africa very seriously, as possible links to British banks could sully the reputation of the UK’s financial industry. 

The House of Lords, the UK Parliament’s upper chamber, was debating money laundering and state corruption in SA. 

“We are taking this very seriously because we realise the consequences of not doing so for the reputation of the City of London and the UK,” said the UK Minister of State for the Department for International Development, Lord Bates.

Anti-apartheid campaigner Lord Peter Hain had asked Bates how the UK government was preventing money laundering through British banks by “families and business people linked to the government of South Africa”.

“We realise that London, as the largest financial centre, is a target which can be used for this purpose [corruption], but we are determined to root it out,” said Bates in his response. 

“That is why, when we are provided with information - as when the noble Lord, correctly, wrote to the chancellor setting out that detail - immediate action is taken to refer it to the relevant authorities to ensure that they can pursue the matter and that justice is done, and is seen to be done,” he said. 

Outspoken 

Hain has been outspoken in his criticism of President Jacob Zuma and the Gupta family, referring to them as the “Gupta/Zuma transnational criminal network”. 

Zuma and the Guptas have denied allegations of corruption against them. 

In September, Hain wrote to the UK Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond, asking him to investigate the complicity - “whether witting or unwitting” - of UK financial institutions in corruption in South Africa. 

In his letter, dated September 25, which Fin24 has a copy of, Hain said UK law enforcement and regulatory authorities should investigate 25 people, including various members of the Gupta and Zuma families and 14 Gupta-affiliated companies. 

According to the Daily Maverick, Hammond responded on September 30, saying he had referred Hain’s letter to the UK’s Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) and other UK law enforcement agencies, including the National Crime Agency and the serious fraud office. 

During Thursday’s debate, Labour peer Lord Davies of Oldham said it was important that “action is taken now to make sure that these banks are clear of this corruption and, if they are not, that action is taken against them”. 

In response, Bates said that this was why the banks had been referred to the FCA. He did not give an update on the status of the UK government investigations, nor whether any members of the Gupta or Zuma families were being looked at.   

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