Prominent individuals including the Gupta family are attempting to lobby President Jacob Zuma to reject a new bank bill that will give banks the right to inspect the wealth of the politically connected in the country.
Sources in the government revealed that the Guptas alongside other affluent South Africans have been using their media outlets to oppose the proposed amendments to the Financial Intelligence Centre Act to deal with “domestic prominent influential persons”
The bank bills were passed by parliament in May as a way of dealing decisively with corruption and money laundering in the country – but the controversial bill has been gathering dust in Zuma’s office for two months.
The bill will also give room for the president and his cabinet ministers, other politicians, judges and prominent business people to be interrogated about the source of their money before they enter into a business relationship with any financial institution.
It also proposes freezing the assets of those suspected of terrorism.
The Presidency Yet to Consider the Bank Bill
A senior government official, who wouldn’t want his name mentioned revealed that the bill has been with the president for some time and the Guptas have run to him to say that he must not sign. But the reality is that the president can only not sign if there is a constitutional objection.”
However, the Presidency spokesman Bongani Ngqulunga reiterated that resident Zuma was “still considering the bill”.
It was revealed that the Reserve Bank and the Financial Intelligence Centre had requested from the Bank of Baroda in India to provide documents on deposits into accounts belonging to the Gupta family who are being investigated amid allegations that they illegally channeled money out of the country.
The transactions are of concern to the government because there are speculations that the Baroda deposits were being shifted offshore, with Dubai being the most likely destination.
Tshepo Kgadima, who last month had through a slot at the Gupta-owned TV station, ANN7, referred to the bank bill as “financial tyranny” saying if the bill gets signed, “tens of thousands of people and entities” would be declared “villains” and excluded from the global financial system.
The president is yet to decide the fate of the bill, however, another senior government source said they had been made aware that the president was being lobbied not to approve the bill and that the major fear was that the banks would “bully” people as they had allegedly done recently to the Guptas.