Durban – Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane on Tuesday night lashed out at a report published by the Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) that stated it was supplied with documentation showing her links to the Gupta family.
Mkhwebane’s spokesperson, Oupa Segalwe, said via a lengthy emailed statement, that the public protector “rejects with contempt” the claims contained in the report, which was published online on Tuesday.
Filed under the OCCRP’s investigations section, the article said that Mkhwebane was “flagged by global banking giant HSBC as having financial links to the infamous Gupta family, according to banking records leaked to OCCRP”.
HSBC flagged a payment of over “US$5 000 into Mkhwebane’s account at First National Bank in South Africa in June 2014, during the height of the Gupta family’s influence over the Zuma government", the records show.
“The money was sent from an account at HSBC’s subsidiary in Hong Kong. First National Bank declined to comment citing client confidentiality,” according to the OCCRP report.
It further said that the flag on the transaction was part of an HSBC “highly restricted” internal investigation trying “to identify a network of Gupta-linked accounts and companies around the world”.
“There is no indication of wrongdoing by Mkhwebane. However, HSBC included the payment among thousands of flagged transactions involving dozens of offshore companies that laundered payments structured as kickbacks from a Chinese rail company in a deal that involved Gupta associates,” said the report.
The payment to Mkhwebane was made a day before she left her work at the SA embassy in China to return to the department of home affairs, said the report.
Segalwe said in his response that Mkhwebane had “absolutely no links with the Guptas” and had heard of the flagging for the first time via the OCCRP on Thursday last week.
He said that by the OCCRP’s own admission, via a written request seeking comment, “there is no indication that the source of the funds were from the Gupta network, simply that she was flagged as part of it by the bank”.
“It is strange that today, the organisation reports that she was ‘flagged’ as having financial ties to the Guptas,” said Segalwe.
He then listed several alleged incidents of Mkhwebane being “targeted” in a “dirty tricks” campaign for her investigations into “powerful people”.
According to Segalwe, those involved in the “dirty tricks” included “some figures and their allies in civil society, political circles and in the media”.
This was an example of the “onslaught” Mkhwebane was facing, said Segalwe.
He said a public protector source had indicated that “foreign expertise” had been brought to the country to look into Mkhwebane’s bank accounts and the death of her husband, who committed suicide.
Other examples of the alleged onslaught that had taken place this year, according to Segalwe, included several media inquiries that appeared to have been prompted by “information peddlers” who sought to discredit Mkhwebane.
“Advocate Mkhwebane sees all of these events as part of an orchestrated campaign and concerted efforts in political circles, civil society and the media to discredit her merely because she has been able to muster enough courage to hold those seen as “untouchable” to account,” said Segalwe.
He added that Mkhwebane would not be discouraged from performing her duties with “renewed vigour, without fear, favour or prejudice”.