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Standard Bank on closing Gupta accounts: We were at risk

Ian Sinton is testifying on Monday about Standard Bank’s decision to close these bank accounts when allegations were emerging about the Guptas.

A screengrab shows Standard Bank's Ian Sinton giving evidence at the Zondo Commission of inquiry on 17 September 2018.

JOHANNESBURG - Standard Bank’s legal representative at the state capture inquiry says a number of suspicious transactions and media reports about the Guptas led to the institution’s decision to close the accounts of the family’s various entities.

Ian Sinton is testifying on Monday about Standard Bank’s decision to close these bank accounts when allegations were emerging about the Guptas.

The commission will be hearing testimony from the country’s major banks this week as it works its way through claims of looting, abuse of power and violations of government processes that allegedly benefitted the Guptas and others linked to former President Jacob Zuma.

Sinton explains that the decision to close the Guptas’ accounts started when another bank closed their accounts.

“It was reported that Absa bank had elected to terminate all banking relations with the Gupta group. We would accept that Absa Bank is bound by the same laws as we are.”

Sinton also explains that they felt the bank was at risk.

“We were at risk if we had continued to deal with those entities of facilitating money laundering or being involved in possible acts of corruption.”

He says reports about the Guptas offering ministerial positions and suspicious transactions, like the purchase of Optimum Coal Mine, were also major factors in Standard Bank’s decision.

INTER-MINISTERIAL MEETING ON GUPTA ACCOUNTS

Sinton says an inter-ministerial committee meeting in 2016 was an attempt by two Cabinet ministers to persuade the bank not to close the Guptas’ accounts.

He says former Cabinet minister Mosebenzi Zwane and Labour Minister Mildred Oliphant - who were ministers at the time - wanted to change their minds about closing the controversial family's accounts.

Sinton says they took a decision to close the accounts of Gupta entities based on a number of media reports, suspicious transactions and the potential risk that the bank could be exposed to.

He says they were called to the ANC's headquarters where they were asked to respond to perceptions that the bank was part of so-called “white monopoly capital” - where he says he saw his CEO Sim Tshabalala getting really angry for the first time.

Sinton also says at the inter-ministerial committee meeting attended by Zwane and Oliphant they were asked why they closed the Guptas' accounts.

Sinton has been excused for now and other banking representatives are due to testify this week.

WATCH LIVE: State capture: Banking reps give evidence on Gupta account closures

(Edited by Shimoney Regter and Thapelo Lekabe)