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Lord Hain seeks probe into Barclays’ Gupta-linked accounts

Peter Hain, a member of the House of Lords in the United Kingdom, has requested an “immediate investigation” into bank accounts held in London by South African state owned enterprises.

During a speech at the House of Lords on Wednesday, Hain, a South African born anti-apartheid activist, said that evidence before the Eskom inquiry in Parliament showed that the Gupta family was using its network in state-owned companies to syphon “billions” of rands via various banks, which included London banks.

He said that evidence showed that former South African Airways chairperson and Zuma ally Dudu Myeni had assisted the Gupta family in looting state coffers.

His speech on Tuesday was the first time Hain publicly named Barclays and Santander as being complicit in illegal transactions linked to the Gupta family since he first requested an investigation by UK authorities in September. He had previously named Standard Chartered, HSBC and the Bank of Baroda.

“In the UK, Barclays Bank, which has a significant South Africa and Africa presence, together with Santander, which also has a global footprint, should be given [a] red flag warning to check their exposure to Gupta money laundering – both direct and indirect. It is essential that all UK banks refuse to have anything to do with the Guptas or Zumas,” Hain said.

It was also the first time Hain has asked London police, metropolitan police and UK financial regulatory authorities to investigate all bank accounts held in London “by any South African state owned company”.

In November, former Eskom chairperson Zola Tsotsi stunned MPs at the parliamentary inquiry when he revealed that Dudu Myeni had been behind the suspension of executives at the power utility. According to Tsotsi, Myeni called him into a meeting with Zuma before the three top executives were suspended.

On Wednesday, suspended Eskom chief financial officer and Gupta associate Anoj Singh was sent packing by parliament’s portfolio committee on public enterprises without uttering a single word. Singh showed up late to the meeting after drowning MPs in 400 documents in the past two days.

The MPs sent Singh away, saying they did not have enough time to read the documents and prepare for the meeting.

Testimony at the Eskom inquest has left the power utility reeling with allegations of corruption and state capture. According to Hain, money laundered from state owned entities by the Gupta family moved out of South Africa through UK-based banks.

Hain credited “well-placed South African whistle-blowers” for some of the information he received.

“The British government must not permit any UK-based financial institution to be complicit in the plundering of state owned companies in foreign lands, especially when that plunder affects the poorest of the poor,” Hain said.

Gupta-linked banks such as Standard Chartered, HSBC and the Bank of Baroda are currently being investigated by the FBI in the United States and the Financial Conduct Authority in the UK.

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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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