FNB investigating Mkhwebane's personal bank account - report

Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane at her office in Pretoria. (PHOTO: Tebogo Letsie)
Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane at her office in Pretoria. (PHOTO: Tebogo Letsie)

Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane's personal bank account is currently under investigation by First National Bank for possible exchange control violations, according to a report.

The Mail and Guardian reported on Friday that the violations meant that money was being moved between countries without permission being sought from a bank, and without an explanation for why the money was being moved.

A report by the Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) dropped a bombshell this week, saying Mkhwebane had received a $5 000 (roughly R70 000) payment linked to a broader network involving the Guptas in 2014, News24 earlier reported.

The OCCRP reported that the payment was flagged by multinational bank HSBC as part of its broader internal investigation into Gupta-linked entities.

News24 reported, however, that there was no indication of wrongdoing on Mkhwebane's part, but that the payment was part of thousands of transactions the bank noticed as part of a broader investigation into kickbacks from China North Rail (CNR), that was awarded large tranches of the infamous R50bn locomotive deal by Transnet.

In her statement, Mkhwebane denied that any transfer was made and slammed the report, saying the story was part of a series of events in an orchestrated campaign and concerted effort in political circles, civil society and the media to discredit her.

According to the OCCRP report, the funds were paid from an account of an HSBC subsidiary in Hong Kong, directly into Mkhwebane's First National Bank account in South Africa in June 2014, at the height of the Guptas' state capture reign.

According to the Mail & Guardian, Mkhwebane's account is currently under investigation by a senior bank executive, adding that, if the letter of the law is being followed, it has also been reported to the Financial Intelligence Centre (FIC).

FNB and FIC declined to comment on any activities relating to Mkhwebane's account, the publication reported.

HSBC spokesperson Ankit Patel told the OCCRP that the bank was continuing to investigate any potential links to the Guptas or Gupta-related companies.

'Sensationalised report'

Following reports on the transactions, the Democratic Alliance (DA) described the report by the global anti-corruption journalism organisation as "unfair sensationalism".

The DA's Glynnis Breytenbach told News24 on Wednesday that there was no evidence that the money came from the Guptas.

"The Democratic Alliance's view is simply that there is insufficient information here to make the quantum leap that there is any connection to the Guptas," Breytenbach said.

READ | EXPLAINER: Report does NOT prove Mkhwebane took Gupta cash, but something is brewing

"If the Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Project has information that they believe is suspicious, then they must make it available to the police for investigation and whatever emanates from that, emanates from that.

"But at the moment, there is no suggestion that there is a Gupta link. I think it is a sensationalised report to suggest that there is a Gupta link," she said.

She said, while the DA did not support Mkhwebane and wanted her removed from office, it believed in the principle of being innocent until proven guilty.

Meanwhile, the ANC said it would not be drawn into commenting on the report, saying Mkhwebane had already commented on it.

ANC spokesperson Pule Mabe said the Office of the Public Protector should be allowed to continue to do its work.

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