TWO of the country’s three top banks accused by chief rabbi of South Africa, Warren Goldstein, of providing funding platforms for Palestinian militant group Hamas, yesterday distanced themselves from the allegations.
Following the International Court of Justice’s (ICJ’s) ruling on Friday ordering Israel to take action to prevent acts of genocide as it fights Hamas in Gaza in the case brought by the South African government, Goldstein publicly repeated claims first reported by The Jerusalem Post.
The newspaper, citing research it had conducted, reported last week that banking giants Nedbank, Standard Bank and Absa were being used to channel funds to Hamas through the Al-Quds Foundation, which is under US sanctions and is outlawed in Israel.
Goldstein said he has written to the chief executives of the banks and have given them the opportunity to come and see him and provide assurances and proof that these allegations are without merit, failing which, he has warned them that there are numerous local criminal and international anti-terror laws that they might be contravening.
”And I will personally pursue this case in every possible forum to hold them to account,” he said.
However, in its response, Nedbank stated that it had noted several unsubstantiated allegations on different media platforms related to alleged financing of terrorist activity.
”We strongly deny these allegations and we want to assure our stakeholders that Nedbank has a comprehensive risk management and compliance programme in place which is aligned with international standards to combat money laundering, terrorist financing and proliferation financing,” the bank explained.
In addition, Nedbank said it strictly adhered to sanctions and related legislation and is confident that its risk management controls and reporting obligations are robust.
”Should we become aware of any illegal or suspicious activity in client accounts we do not hesitate to take the necessary actions in terms of our processes and in line with the relevant legislation.
“Nedbank is, however, a regulated bank which is bound by banker/client confidentiality and can therefore not publish nor provide client information to third parties,” the bank added.
Standard Bank acknowledged Goldstein’s comments and said it welcomed his request for engagement, and regularly meets with stakeholders from various organs of society in South Africa and in the countries in which it operates.
”Standard Bank abides by the laws of the jurisdictions in which it operates, including anti-money laundering and counter-terrorist financing regulation.
“The bank is bound by these laws as well as customer confidentiality, which prohibits the disclosure of clients' details,” the bank said.
It added that it takes its duty of care with regards to compliance extremely seriously and is committed to executing its mandate with respect to the management and monitoring of its clients’ bank accounts.
In a 14-minute video posted online, Goldstein said the list of countries which supported South Africa’s ICJ application are almost exclusively dictatorships who feel threatened by free democracies.
”But we also have enemies in free democracies like the ANC here in South Africa. We stand tall and strong with Israel and oppose the naked prejudice and aggression of the ANC government against the Jewish state,” he said.
Goldstein added that the ANC is not the people of South Africa and that in the same way Jews have been betrayed by the governing party, millions of other South Africans have been betrayed by the ANC corruption and incompetence.
”So deep is the betrayal that in urban areas support for the ANC has fallen to around 30% and it is the values, religious and political, of most South Africans that make the ANC’s diplomatic assault on Israel a betrayal of this country,” he said.
According to Goldstein, just over 59 million of just of the total of 60 million South Africans are Christians and most are from evangelical churches who support Israel.
”Millions of South Africans want to see a close relationship between Israel and South Africa. The ANC’s support for Hamas betrays millions of Africans who have been murdered and persecuted by Al-Shabaab, Boko Haram and Isis (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria), the jihadist brothers in arms of Hamas, Hezbollah and Iran.
“This is happening next door across the border in Mozambique and the ANC’s support for anti-western despotic regimes also betrays the values of the South African people,” said Goldstein.
On Tuesday, while closing the ANC national executive committee’s two-day lekgotla in Boksburg, Ekurhuleni, President Cyril Ramaphosa warned that the fight back from the aftermath of the ICJ judgment may also focus on the country’s domestic politics and electoral outcomes in order to pursue a regime change agenda.
Absa had not responded to questions by late yesterday.