Cosatu slams banks for shunning Gupta family businesses

Atul Gupta. (James Oatway, Gallo Images)

Atul Gupta. (James Oatway, Gallo Images)

The Congress of SA Trade Unions (Cosatu) on Monday accused auditing firm KPMG and three of the country’s big four banks of “political posturing” for unexpectedly cutting ties with Gupta-owned businesses and shutting down their bank accounts.

The move to close the bank accounts came amid allegations that the Gupta family had improper influence over President Jacob Zuma.

“The decision by Absa, FNB, Nedbank, Sasfin and KPMG to stop doing business and associating with the Guptas is nothing but political posturing,” said Cosatu spokesperson Sizwe Pamla.

“This decision will not only negatively affect the gluttonous Guptas, but will badly affect the innocent workers, who have no dog in that hunt.”

Excluding Standard Bank, the big banks cancelled business accounts belonging to the Gupta family’s Oakbay Resources and Energy.

KPMG on Friday resigned as Oakbay auditors “with immediate effect” after 15 years, citing “risk of association.”

Oakbay’s JSE sponsor Sasfin Capital followed suit, and gave the firm notice of their intention to terminate services effective from June 1, saying it was in line with an internally driven strategic review.

Oakbay is an investment vehicle in mining and exploration business. Its vast business interests range from mining to print and broadcast media as well as information technology.

Two Gupta brothers, Atul and Ajay, have since left the country and reportedly relocated to the United Arab Emirates. The Guptas reportedly boarded their private jet at Lanseria Airport on Thursday and departed, according weekend media reports.

Family spokesperson and Oakbay CEO Nazeem Howa reportedly said the entire family was in the process of leaving South Africa.

The “relocation” of the Gupta family has raised concerns about the more than 7000 people employed by the family across its businesses in the country.

In light of threat to jobs and the employees’ livelihood, Pamla said Cosatu has agreed to the family’s request to meet over the impending job losses.

He said even the Guptas deserved to be presumed innocent until proven guilty for any offence. The trade union federation was concerned about possible job losses as a result of the banks’ conduct.

“Cosatu feels that when workers’ jobs are at stake, it was inane and thoughtless of these organisations to play politics with their livelihoods.

“Oakbay, Sahara Holdings and TNA [The New Age] might belong to the unsavoury family like the Guptas, but they employ thousands of innocent workers.

“Thousands of families and their livelihoods are being sacrificed by unprincipled financial institutions to pursue their own narrow agenda.”

In a letter to staff on Friday, Oakbay said the Gupta family decided to step down from all executive and non-executive positions due to “a period of sustained political attack on the family and businesses”.

The firm said the decision was taken as a result of “unexplained decisions by banking partners and auditors”.

The chief executives and executive committees would continue to oversee the day to day management of the family’s business interests.

Zuma’s son, Duduzane, who is the Gupta’s business partner, also resigned from at least 11 directorship positions he held in the family’s businesses. He has also indicated that he intends to sell his shares in the businesses.

The close ties between the Guptas and Zuma have drawn widespread criticism, with accusations the family used its “proximity” to the President to “offer” cabinet positions. – African News Agency (ANA)

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