In a bombshell testimony on Monday morning, Standard Bank’s former head of compliance Ian Sinton testified how state forces were used to intimidate the bank to keep Gupta-linked bank accounts open.
Standard Bank chose to close Gupta-linked bank accounts in early 2016, following a similar decision by Absa.
Sinton told the state capture inquiry how in three separate meetings, one with Gupta-linked Oakbay, another with high ranking ANC officials at Luthuli house, and one with an inter-ministerial committee, Standard Bank was put under immense pressure.
In one instance, the former mineral resources minister Mosebenzi Zwane apparently threatened Standard Bank's banking licence.
Sinton said the bank was asked to comment on perceptions that Standard Bank was taking instructions from business people in Stellenbosch. He said Standard Bank CEO Sim Tshabalala apparently got angry with the line of questioning.
2/2 [STANDARD BANK/ANC MEETING] Standard Bank’s Ian Sinton also says at the meeting with ANC officials they were asked to respond on remarks that they were “taking instructions from... Stellenbosch” by closing accounts? CEO Tshabalala was left visibly “angry”.#StateCaptureInquiry pic.twitter.com/XrCMYET87f— Xoli Mngambi (@XoliMngambi) September 17, 2018
“I think it’s the first time that I’ve seen my boss‚ Sim Tshabalala‚ really angry,” Sinton said.
Here are the 6 people implicated by Sinton’s testimony.
In 2016, current ANC chairperson Gwede Mantashe - then secretary general of the party - was present at a meeting with Standard Bank officials to question them about the closure of Gupta-linked accounts.
The bank found the meeting request inappropriate, Sinton said, but attended out of respect.
Remember that it was then ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe who summonsed the banks to Luthuli House to explain why it had closed the accounts of the Gupta family. It's about the third time Mantashe comes up at Zondo commission as an ennabler. #statecaptureinquiry— Ferial Haffajee (@ferialhaffajee) September 17, 2018
Enoch Godongwana, who previously defended then finance minister Pravin Gordhan against charges from the Hawks, were also in attendance at the meeting between the bank and the ANC, Sinton said.
He said Standard Bank reiterated to the ANC that it cannot discuss the affairs of any customers but could talk more generally about its processes regarding account closures.
The third high-profile ANC member in attendance at the meeting was deputy secretary general Jessie Duarte, Sinton said.
Sinton said Standard Bank explained to Duarte, Mantashe and Godongwana that it had to be extremely careful lest it fell foul of anti-money laundering or anti-corruption laws, and therefore decided to close the Gupta-linked bank accounts.
"Having explained all of that, the meeting did go on to talk about the issue of the closure of the Gupta accounts,” he said.
Sinton said Mzwanele “Jimmy” Manyi, who took over the Gupta’s media outlets The New Age and ANN7 in 2017, was presented as a special advisor when Standard Bank met with an "inter-ministerial committee".
"We asked on what basis he was attending and we were told that he was an adviser to the minister‚" he said.
According to Sinton, Zwane said the committee had been appointed by the cabinet.
#StateCaptureInquiry Standard Bank also summonsed to inter-ministerial Cabinet committee formed to probe Gupta bank account closures - @MzwaneleManyi ; Minister Zwane;Minister Oliphant (Labour). Why @MzwaneleManyi was at the meeting? As advisor, Standard Bank was told.— Ferial Haffajee (@ferialhaffajee) September 17, 2018
Sinton said the "inter-ministerial committee" Standard Bank met with was chaired by Zwane.
He said Zwane was angry that the banks didn’t close the accounts of construction companies who were found guilty of collusion, but chose to close the accounts of a company who has not been found guilty of any wrongdoing.
Zwane suggested the bank should be more responsive to concerns raised by government. He reminded Standard Bank that government licensed banks.
"The meeting was an attempt by two cabinet ministers on behalf of cabinet to persuade us to retract our decision to close the Gupta accounts,” Sinton told the inquiry.
Near end of inter-ministerial committee meeting, Min Mosebenzi Zwane reminded Standard Bank that government licenced banks. (This means a Cabinet minister threatened a bank's licence to service private business interest with which he was associated - definition of capture)— Ferial Haffajee (@ferialhaffajee) September 17, 2018
Labour minister Mildred Oliphant was also in attendance at the "inter-ministerial committee", Sinton said.
The cabinet task team informed Sinton and Tshabalala that the bank should risk non-compliance with the law and keep the Gupta bank accounts open, the Standard Bank official said.
[Sources: Fin24, Netwerk24, EWN and TimesLive]
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