We stand with SA in fighting corruption – US govt on Guptas, Essa sanctions

The US Treasury Department has accused the Guptas and Essa of using their influence with prominent politicians to illegally pocket billions of rand in South Africa.

FILE: Former President Jacob Zuma (R) and Atul Gupta (L). Picture: GCIS.

JOHANNESBURG - The United States Treasury said it stood with South Africa in rooting out corruption and therefore listed a number of sanctions against members of the controversial Gupta family and their associate Salim Essa effectively, stopping them from operating in the US.

The Guptas, along with Essa, have featured prominently at the state capture inquiry, with allegations that they looted billions of rands from state companies. They have not been convicted of a crime in South Africa since the revelations at the inquiry.

The US on Thursday announced a number of sanctions against them, including a ban on travel and business with the US or its citizens.

The sanctions against them mean they're virtually excluded from the US financial system. The US Treasury accused them of using their positions as close friends of former President Jacob Zuma to steal from state-owned enterprises and the South African people.

The relationship between Zuma and the three brothers - Ajay, Atul and Rajesh - is one of the main areas of focus of a judicial corruption inquiry Zuma was pressured into setting up before he was ousted by his own party in February 2018.

Acting US ambassador to South Africa David Young said: “This is a rigorous part of our sanctions regime. It’s something we’ve been working on for months and it’s a very strong signal of our fight in solidarity with the South African government.”

Zuma and the Guptas deny the corruption allegations and law enforcement officials have yet to nail down a convincing case against the brothers - fuelling public frustration with government attempts to crack down on graft.

“The Gupta family leveraged its political connections to engage in widespread corruption and bribery, capture government contracts and misappropriate state assets,” Sigal Mandelker, the US Treasury’s under secretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, said in a statement.

The state capture inquiry has shocked South Africans with revelations about the brazen way some people close to Zuma allegedly tried to plunder state resources.

This week, Zuma’s son Duduzane, another business partner of the Guptas, appeared at the inquiry and made light of allegations against himself and the Guptas.

South African Justice Minister Ronald Lamola said it was critical that the country confronted corruption.

Additional reporting by Reuters.