Johannesburg - A R3.5 million mortgage bond, secured by the Guptas from the Bank of Baroda in favour of one of former president Jacob Zuma’s wives was one of the factors that led to Standard Bank cutting business ties with the family.
This was revealed at the state capture inquiry on Monday after chairman Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo summoned all commercial banks to appear before him and testify about the impact state capture had on their businesses.
The commission heard that the Guptas, through Westdawn Investments, gave surety to pay the mortgage bond for a trust in which one of Zuma’s wives was the sole trustee and her son the sole beneficiary.
These shocking details were given by Ian Sinton, Standard Bank’s former head of legal compliance, on Monday.
Sinton was testifying about the bank’s decision to give notice on April 13, 2016, to terminate the banking services for the Guptas after the bank gathered “sufficient evidence” that the Guptas might be involved in illegal financial activities.
Sinton told the commission that the other reason their banking services were terminated was due to the Guptas’ decision to take a portion of money, meant for the development of Estina Dairy Farm, to Dubai.
Sinton said that a few days after serving notice on the Guptas, they were summoned to Luthuli House to account for their decision.
The bank was also summoned to a meeting to account to the Inter-Ministerial Committee under former mineral resources minister Mosebenzi Zwane who, according to Sinton, tried to persuade them to reverse their decision.
Regarding the ANC invitation, Sinton said: “We found the invitation inappropriate, but nevertheless chose to attend the meeting. Our view was that it would have been disrespectful not to attend.” He said the ANC was represented by its former secretary-general Gwede Mantashe, ANC deputy secretary-general Jessie Duarte and Enoch Godongwana - the head of the ANC sub-committee on economic transformation - who questioned whether their decision “was part of a plan by white monopoly capital to keep black people out of business”. He also said the ANC officials questioned them on whether they got “the instructions to terminate from Stellenbosch”.
“We rejected those claims. It was the first time I saw my boss Sim Tshabalala get really angry,’’ Sinton said.
On the impact the closing of bank accounts would have on employees, Sinton said Tshabalala told the three leaders of the governing party that the bank was complying with the law, that Standard Bank’s 40000 employees were equally important, and that the bank would not be exposed to international sanctions.
He said at the Pretoria meeting, Zwane reminded them that their banking licence was given to them by the government. Zwane apparently told the Standard Bank delegation that the government could introduce laws that would make it impossible for Standard Bank to terminate services to their clients.
* Additional reporting: African News Agency (ANA)