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Activist UK lord stalks Guptas

The United Kingdom’s law enforcement agencies’ investigation into banks associated with state capture in South Africa began with a bold request made to British politician Lord Peter Hain by people in the ANC itself.

In a phone interview on Thursday, Hain, a member of the Labour Party, said he was approached by veteran ANC members to ask that UK authorities investigate people and businesses in the Guptas’ illicit financial global network.

“I was asked to do it by ANC veterans and activists and I have readily accepted that request,” he said.

Hain has a long-standing relationship with some people in the ANC. He grew up in South Africa in a family of anti-apartheid activists. “I’m not just a British lord pronouncing on things. I’m originally from South Africa and I have been involved in the anti-apartheid struggle.

“Since 1994, I was working with Nelson Mandela and other ANC leaders to assist South Africa. I became pained about the way Madiba’s legacy is being trashed and is now in danger of being destroyed.”

He has visited South Africa four times this year. Last week, he attended a ceremony at the British high commission to honour ANC leader and struggle veteran OR Tambo.

For his contribution to the struggle against apartheid, Hain was awarded the Order of the Companions of OR Tambo in silver in December 2015. But media reports and court cases relating to state capture have left him disappointed in what the ANC has become.

After ANC “veterans and activists” requested him to encourage investigations to begin in the UK, he met the whistle-blowers, who began feeding him information on the Gupta network. He said they are not politicians but South African experts in the financial world.

They helped him to pen a letter that was sent to the British chancellor of the exchequer, Philip Hammond, on September 25. In that letter, Hain includes a list of 27 individuals and 14 Gupta-linked entities accused of exposing UK-based banks to the family’s illicit financial flows. He has asked that the UK authorities begin an investigation that will return billions of rands to South Africa.

“The letter was compiled with their [the whistle-blowers’] expert assistance. I couldn’t supply that information without them,” he said.

The list of names include President Jacob Zuma, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, four of Zuma’s children (Duduzane, Edward, Duduzile and Mxolisi), the president’s nephew Khulubuse Zuma, two of Zuma’s wives, Bongekile and Thobeka, his brother Michael and Zuma family spokesperson Skhumbuzo Zuma.

The list also includes 11 Gupta family members (brothers Atul, Ajay and Rajesh, Arti, Puneet, Chetali, Varun Deepak Kumar, Shubhangi, Anil and Shivani), Brian Molefe, Salim Essa, Anoj Singh, Iqbal Sharma and Eric Wood.

The list of 14 entities include Trillian, VR Laser Asia and Regiments Asia Limited, all of which have already been linked to the Gupta family’s business interests.

Hain said in his letter to Hammond that two of the UK’s largest banks — HSBC and Standard Chartered — may be knowingly or unknowingly involved in facilitating illicit transactions or benefiting from corrupt financial flows of the “Gupta/Zuma transnational criminal network”. He also included the Bank of Baroda, which has a London office, and which has been forced by the South African courts to keep Gupta business accounts open in South Africa.

On Thursday, it was reported in the Financial Times that Hammond had forwarded Hain’s letter to two British law enforcement agencies — the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) and the National Crime Agency (NCA). The SFO investigates and prosecutes serious crimes related to corruption and fraud, and the NCA is tasked with looking into organised crime. Hammond had also informed the Financial Conduct Authority in the UK of Hain’s allegations.

According to information supplied by Hain’s whistle-blowers, Hong Kong and Dubai are the two main centres through which illegal money is being moved out of South Africa. The HSBC and Standard Chartered have significant business and interests in both cities.

Referring to a list of “suspicious” transactions that were revealed in court papers by former finance minister Pravin Gordhan, Hain said the 14 entities were globally laundering an estimated R7-billion of the Gupta network’s “illicit proceeds”.

Hain has also written a letter to the European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker to ask that EU financial institutions also be investigated. He is expecting the issue to be raised in the European Parliament in the “near future”.

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Raeesa Pather
Raeesa Pather
Ra’eesa Pather is a Cape Town-based general news and features journalist.

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