• Banks need to ensure actions don't introduce risk in economy
  • CEO of Guptas' company called bank's action `unprecedented'

South African banks that stopped offering services to companies tied to the Gupta family did so separately and independently, the nation’s banking association said.

Companies controlled by members of the Gupta family, who are friends of South African President Jacob Zuma, were dropped by Barclays Plc’s Absa unit, FirstRand Ltd.’s First National Bank and their auditor, KPMG LLP. The sponsoring broker for their Oakbay Resources & Energy Ltd., which is traded on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange, also ended its services. Other banks, including Standard Bank Group Ltd. and Nedbank Group Ltd., have given the company until the end of May before the accounts of Oakbay Investments will be shut, Nazeem Howa, the company’s chief executive officer, said on April 11.

Each of the lenders acted “with total respect for client confidentiality and all relevant regulations,” the Banking Association South Africa said in an e-mailed statement on Thursday. “Banks are one of the most stringently regulated businesses in the country because they hold public deposits in trust and must conduct business in a manner that does not introduce risks into the economy.”

Banks must comply with laws, such as money laundering rules, and need to ensure their clients abide by these regulations, the association said.

Zuma is facing mounting pressure to resign as president following a court ruling over his response to a graft ombudsman report and after allegations by senior officials of the ruling African National Congress that the Guptas offered them cabinet posts in exchange for business concessions. The claims have spurred probes by the party and the Public Protector.

Howa said there is no evidence of corruption against the Guptas and that it’s “unprecedented for the four major banks to walk away from an institution.”

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