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Top SA banks question govt 'interference' over Gupta account closures

Representatives from FNB and Absa testified at the state capture inquiry on Tuesday.

A video screengrab of FNB's Johan Burger appearing before the Zondo commission of inquiry on 18 September 2018.

JOHANNESBURG - Two of South Africa's biggest banks questioned government's apparent “interference” in their decision to close the accounts of Gupta linked companies.

Representatives from FNB and Absa testified at the state capture inquiry on Tuesday.

Officials from both banks had been summoned by the African National Congress (ANC) and an inter-ministerial committee, chaired by then mines minister Mosebenzi Zwane to discuss the closure of the accounts.

FNB’s Johan Burger says he asked both the ANC and the inter-ministerial committee what the meetings were about and who would be attending.

Burger says he didn't receive adequate answers and therefore FNB declined both invitations.

Absa did attend a meeting with the ANC, which was limited because it could not discuss confidential client information, but it also declined to meet with the committee.

Absa's Yasmin Masithela explains: “I referred to regulators, the South African Reserve Bank and even the tax authorities – but we did not deem the committee to be an appropriate authority.”

Standard Bank is the only bank so far that attended both meetings and its representative Ian Sinton has implicated former Mineral Resources Minister Mosebenzi Zwane and Labour Minister Mildred Oliphant of trying to get the bank to reverse its decision on the Guptas’ accounts.

Nedbank’s CEO is expected to testify on Wednesday.

(Edited by Shimoney Regter)