The Gupta brothers and their business associate Salim Essa are the most recent additions to the 1 300-page United States blacklist, which includes familiar names such as Robert Mugabe and former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.
The Mail & Guardian dug through the list of more than 7 000 entries on the US Office of Foreign Assets Control’s (Ofac’s) report, Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons List.
Ajay, Atul and Rajesh Gupta, along with Essa, are on page 468. This follows the US treasury’s announcement last week that they were sanctioned for using their political connections for nefarious ends.
Sigal Mandelker, the under-secretary for terrorism and financial intelligence in the US treasury department, said in a statement: “The Gupta family leveraged its political connections to engage in widespread corruption and bribery, capture government contracts, and misappropriate state assets.”
Ofac said in a statement: “As a result of today’s action, all property and interests in property of the individuals named above, and of any entities that are owned, directly or indirectly, 50% or more by them, individually, or with other designated persons, that are in the US or in the possession or control of US persons, are blocked and must be reported to Ofac.”
The Gupta family and Essa were added to the list of just over 4 000 individuals who have been blacklisted for reasons ranging from drug trafficking to terrorism.
They were sanctioned under the category: Blocking the property of persons involved in serious human rights abuse or corruption.
Only 52 other individuals have been sanctioned under this specific executive order.
South African public interest lawyer Avani Singh says the order prevents US entities from doing business with the Gupta family and Essa or handling their assets.
“This will include, for instance, that they can no longer access the US banking system or any financial accounts that are owned or controlled in the US.
The crux of the order is to close off the named persons from the US financial markets.
This will have broader financial implications, as the named persons will not be able to engage in any financial transactions that involve US financial services, even if the US bank is merely a point of transfer.”
She adds that this action will make it difficult for the named people to travel to the US and has a broader effect on others doing business with the Gupta family.
“This will significantly impede their ability to do business with any US based entity, as well as an entity that conducts their financial activities through the US financial markets. It may also arguably have a chilling effect for anyone currently considering doing business with the family.”
Foreign narcotics kingpin sanctions regulations have been implemented 950 times, followed by global terrorism sanctions regulations (807), Syrian sanctions regulations (402) and narcotics trafficking sanctions regulations (266).
Under the Zimbabwean sanctions are 85 individuals, including Mugabe and the current president, Emmerson Mnangagwa. They were designated in 2008 under the executive order, for “blocking property of additional persons undermining democratic processes or institutions in Zimbabwe”.
Three other South African citizens are on the list: Farhad Ahmed Dockrat, Junaid Ismail Dockrat and Vladlen Amtchentsev.
Amtchentsev was sanctioned in November last year under an executive order to block the property of the government of North Korea and prohibit certain transactions with respect to that country.
The Dockrats are cousins — one a dentist and the other a Muslim cleric. Following US sanctions, initiated in 2007, the American government appealed to the United Nations security council to enforce further sanctions against them.
Ofac said the two had supported al-Qaeda — one by providing funds to the Pakistan-based al-Akhtar Trust, which has funded al-Qaeda, and another by facilitating travel for individuals to train in al-Qaeda camps. — Jacques Coetzee
Jacques Coetzee is an Adamela data fellow at the M&G, a position funded by the Indigo Trust