S. Africa Regulators Said to Query Baroda Bank Over Guptas

  • Gupta-owned company says it will cooperate with Reserve Bank
  • Baroda bank not suspected of violating any rules, person says

South African regulators are seeking details from India’s Bank of Baroda of accounts belonging to businesses owned by the Gupta family, intensifying scrutiny of the friends of President Jacob Zuma, according to a person close to the bank with knowledge of the situation.

The regulators are asking questions regarding deposits and bank accounts Gupta family businesses hold at Baroda and are not implying the bank violated any rules in any way, the person said, declining to be identified because the information is not public. Bank of Baroda’s Mumbai-based spokesman didn’t respond to an e-mail and two calls to his office seeking comment.

South Africa’s four biggest banks -- Standard Bank Group Ltd., Nedbank Group Ltd., First National Bank and Barclays Africa Group Ltd. -- said this year they would stop doing business with the Guptas without saying why. KPMG LLP stopped auditing Gupta-controlled businesses, ending a 15-year relationship.

The ruling African National Congress and the state graft ombudsman in March started investigations into the Gupta family’s relationship with Zuma, after Deputy Finance Minister Mcebisi Jonas said they had offered him the position of Finance Minister. The family denies approaching Jonas and says it will cooperate with any probe. Zuma also denies any wrongdoing. 

Business Empire

The Johannesburg-based Sunday Times newspaper on Sunday reported that the South African Reserve Bank and the Financial Intelligence Centre, which is overseen by the South African Treasury, asked Baroda to provide documents detailing the Gupta family’s accounts. It cited a government official it didn’t identify. Treasury and central bank officials declined to comment, the newspaper said.

The FIC didn’t immediately respond to a message left by Bloomberg News on the office phone of its communications department. “The South African Reserve Bank does not comment on specific matters of individuals or entities regarding investigations we may be involved in,” Bulelwa Boqwana, chief of staff at the Reserve Bank, said in an e-mailed response to questions.

The Gupta family companies are “happy to work directly with the Reserve Bank to resolve any questions,” Nazeem Howa, the chief executive officer of the Gupta family’s Oakbay Investments holding company, said by e-mailed statement. “We have had no contact from the Reserve Bank or any other institution.”

Since arriving in South Africa from India in 1994, the Gupta family has built a business empire spanning computers, engineering, media and mining. Zuma’s son Duduzane was a shareholder or director in several of their companies. On April 8 he said he would begin a process of exiting his investments because “aspersions were cast on me and my family” because of their links to the Guptas.

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