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Absa reveals two ministerial approaches over Gupta accounts

In an affidavit, Absa’s head of compliance reveals that the bank was approached on two occasions by Mineral Resources Minister Mosebenzi Zwane's secretary.

FILE: Atul Gupta at the New Age Business Briefing in Port Elizabeth. Picture: Kopano Tlape/GCIS

JOHANNESBURG – It has emerged in court documents that Amalgamated Banks of South Africa (Absa) was approached on two occasions by the secretary to Mineral Resources Minister Mosebenzi Zwane to discuss the bank’s decision to sever ties with the Guptas but it declined.

On Thursday, Absa filed an answering affidavit in the High Court in Pretoria in support of Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan’s application for a declaratory order confirming he cannot interfere in the decisions of banks concerning their client relationships.

The minister says some Cabinet colleagues and the Gupta family asked him to intervene after the country’s four major banks closed the accounts of the Guptas’ Oakbay company.

In the affidavit, Absa’s head of compliance reveals that the bank was approached on two occasions by Zarina Kellerman, the secretary to Minister Zwane, requesting a meeting to discuss “certain allegations made against certain financial institutions”.

The document states that the bank’s chief executive Maria Ramos wrote back requesting further information, including the status of the meeting, the treatment of the information to be discussed and the names and positions of who would attend.

In her answer and second request, Kellerman did not address the specific questions and according to the affidavit, Ramos then “politely decline” to attend.

It also states that earlier in April, Ramos was asked to attend a meeting with the African National Congress (ANC), which included the party’s secretary-general Gwede Mantashe, his deputy Jessie Duarte, and ANC economic policy head Enoch Godongwana in which the party raised concerns of whether the banks had colluded in the closure of the accounts.

Absa was adamant that there had been no collusion and invited the ANC to raise its concerns with the banking regulator.

(Edited by Masechaba Sefularo)