Absa declines ministerial invite to discuss Gupta company bank accounts

BARCLAYS Africa Group’s Absa declined an invitation to meet Mineral Resources Minister Mosebenzi Zwane to discuss the closure of bank accounts related to companies controlled by the Gupta family, who are friends of President Jacob Zuma and in business with his son.

“We have respectfully declined on account of client confidentiality,” the Johannesburg-based lender said in an e-mailed response to questions on Wednesday. “As a bank we cannot discuss any past, present or prospective clients in such forums.”

SA last month established a team that includes Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan and Labour Minister Mildred Oliphant to contact the banks which dropped the Gupta’s Oakbay Investments as clients.

FirstRand’s First National Bank, Standard Bank and Nedbank have also said they have shut the company’s accounts. Oakbay CEO Nazeem Howa described the step as unprecedented, that it threatens jobs and comes even though no wrongdoing has been proved against the company or Guptas.

‘Client consent’

“Nedbank has always enjoyed a very positive relationship with government,” CEO Mike Brown said in an e-mailed response to questions. “We would approach any meeting with government in a spirit of constructive engagement, but would not discuss the banking relationships of any of our clients, due to banker-client confidentiality, unless we receive client consent.”

Standard Bank declined to comment in an e-mailed response to questions. FirstRand was not immediately able to comment. The Cabinet is scheduled to meet on Wednesday and typically has a briefing the next day. The task team has met with the banks and will submit its report to Cabinet, Ms Oliphant told journalists in Cape Town on Tuesday.

The banks acted separately and independently when deciding to stop offering services to the family, the Banking Association SA said in a statement last month. Banks must comply with laws, such as money laundering rules, and need to ensure that their clients abide by these regulations, the association said.




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