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Banks still in dark on Gupta talks with ministers

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Oakbay chair Atul Gupta and President Jacob Zuma at a Protea vs India T20 cricket match in Johannesburg in 2012. (Photo: GCIS)
Oakbay chair Atul Gupta and President Jacob Zuma at a Protea vs India T20 cricket match in Johannesburg in 2012. (Photo: GCIS)

Cape Town - At least two of South Africa’s top four banks said they haven’t been approached for a meeting by government to explain the termination of their relationships with the Gupta-owned Oakbay Investments.

On Thursday, Jeff Radebe, Minister of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation caused a stir when he said three cabinet ministers – Mosebenzi Zwane (mines), Mildred Oliphant (labour) and Pravin Gordhan (finance) would meet with the top four banks to find out why they didn’t want to do business with “a certain company”.

Neither Standard Bank nor Nedbank were willing to confirm whether the three ministers had approached them for a meeting, while Absa and First National Bank (FNB) said they haven’t had such requests from government.

According to Radebe, government was concerned that the banks’ move to terminate business relationships with Oakbay could deter future investment in South Africa.

He pointed out though that the decision to meet with the banks had taken place before it emerged that one of the reasons for the banks’ actions could be because they needed to abide by strict anti-money laundering regulations.

Cas Coovadia, CEO of the Banking Association of South Africa, earlier issued a press statement, saying “an array of regulations”, including the Financial Intelligence Centre Act (Fica), compelled financial services institutions to conduct due diligence on clients, “particularly those of a substantive nature and those that are in the public domain”.

“A bank will take these matters into account when considering ongoing relationships with clients, and will take appropriate action, based on the circumstances,” Coovadia said.

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