Chairperson Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo addresses the Commission of Inquiry into State Capture. File picture: Karen Sandison/African News Agency(ANA)

Johannesburg - Had the ANC and Cabinet succeeded in forcing the big banks to keep Gupta-linked accounts open, the consequences would have been dire for the banking sector and the country.

Absa's former head of compliance Yasmin Masithela told the state capture inquiry on Tuesday that nowhere in the world was the executive permitted to interfere in banks' relationships with their clients. 

Masithela told the commission that Absa was invited to meet with cabinet's inter-ministerial committee (IMC), which was chaired by the former minister of mineral resources minister Mosebenzi Zwane,  in 2016 to discuss "recent media reports". 

She said the bank declined to meet with the committee after they were not provided with information regarding who would attend the meeting and there was no clear agenda on the proposed discussions. 

Masithela said the bank declined a second invitation to meet the committee and it questioned the committee's mandate query its relationships with its clients. 

"We did not deem the committee to be the appropriate authority. We did not understand the constitution of the committee and why the committee would be interested in private bank accounts," said Masithela. 

She said if the cabinet had succeeded in interfering in the bank's decision to close Gupta accounts, Absa would have faced sanctions. 

"It would have meant that Absa would allow the risk management processes not to be followed and allow deviations which would then result in a decision that falls outside of our risk framework to be taken and keep clients in the banking system that we would not ordinarily keep," she said. 

"It would have exposed us to sanctions because it would be a clear deviation. There is no legislation in this country or international legislation that allows the executive to interfere in private client relationships," said Masithela. 

Absa was the first bank to cut ties with Gupta related bank accounts in 2016. 

Masithela said the bank took the decision after assessing Oakbay companies' reputational risk regarding media reports and suspicious transactions. 

Masithela also told the commission about a meeting at ANC headquarters at Luthuli House in 2016. Absa CEO Maria Ramos was invited to the meeting by then ANC secretary general Gwede Manstahse. 

Ramos made clear it in the meeting, which included ANC deputy secretary general Jessie Duarte Enoch Godongwana,  that the bank was not willing to discuss client matters.

"The ANC raised the issue of alleged collusion by the banks. We were quite clear that we have our own risk management systems and we do not discuss our clients with any third party including any other bank. We referred Mr. Mantashe to regulatory bodies regarding his serious concerns regarding banking collusion," said Masithela. 

Earlier, officials from FNB and Standard Bank told the commission about similar attempts by the ANC and the IMC to query the banks' decision for closing Gupta related accounts. 

The inquiry continues on Wednesday with testimony from Nedbank CEO Mike Brown.