Standard Bank was accused of belonging to WMC lobby at Luthuli House meeting

The ANC questioned Standard Bank’s decision to cut ties with the Guptas, asking its officials if it was part of a campaign by white monopoly capital to drive away black business, said retired Standard Bank official Ian Sinton, at the judicial commission of inquiry into state capture on Monday.

Sinton’s testimony forms part of a series of statements to be heard by the commission this week regarding the closure of Gupta-related bank accounts. Though Sinton is retired, he has been retained by the bank as its general counsel to deal with certain issues, including the closure of the Gupta’s bank accounts.

In 2016, Absa, FNB, Nedbank and Standard Bank unexpectedly cut ties with Gupta-owned businesses and shut down their bank accounts. The move to close the bank accounts came amid allegations that the Gupta family had improper influence over then president Jacob Zuma.

At the time the Guptas owned Oakbay Investments, the holding company for a range of interests including listed Oakbay Resources and Energy, as well as The New Age newspaper and broadcaster ANN7.

Sinton’s testimony dealt with three separate meetings the bank was invited to in the wake of its decision to close the accounts of Gupta-owned companies. Oakbay, the ANC and an inter-ministerial committee all asked to meet with officials from the bank.

The meeting with the ANC, which took place at Luthuli House on April 21, reportedly included ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe, his deputy Jessie Duarte and the head of the ANC’s economic transformation committee, Enoch Godongwana.

Sinton told the commission, chaired by Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, that the bank’s policy is to engage meaningfully with government and that declining to meet with the ruling party would be disrespectful. The bank’s chief executive Sim Tshabalala attended the meeting.

READ MORE: State capture inquiry: Zondo to hear why banks cut Gupta ties

During the meeting the bank’s officials made it clear that they were not in the position to discuss the affairs of any of their clients, but could discuss policy regarding the closure of accounts generally, Sinton said.

Sinton said that at the Luthuli House meeting, the ANC asked the Standard Bank officials to comment on the perception that they were acting on behalf of white monopoly capital to drive black business out of the country. They rejected the accusation, Sinton told the commission.

“It was first time I saw my boss Sim Tshabalala so angry,” Sinton said.

Sinton confirmed that despite these meetings, Standard Bank was not persuaded to reopen the Gupta accounts. At the time the banks cited the need to comply with international banking rules when dealing with customers and concern over their reputations. Members of Zuma’s Cabinet were asked to intervene, with the former president calling the banks’ actions suspicious and saying their action could point to collusion.Then finance minister Pravin Gordhan was asked to stop the banks terminating the accounts, spurring Gordhan to seek a court order stating that he cannot prevent banks from cutting clients. Sinton had filed an affidavit with the Pretoria High Court in the matter.

In the affidavit Sinton alleged that Standard Bank was asked to meet both the ANC as well as the Cabinet inter-ministerial committee, in an attempt to place it under political pressure to reverse its decision.

“It was clear from the inquiries directed by the minister and their adviser … that their main concern was the Oakbay accounts. They wanted to secure an outcome favourable to Oakbay, by using their political and executive power,” said Sinton’s affidavit.

Subscribe to the M&G

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years, and we’ve survived right from day one thanks to the support of readers who value fiercely independent journalism that is beholden to no-one. To help us continue for another 35 future years with the same proud values, please consider taking out a subscription.

Sarah Smit
Sarah Smit
Sarah Smit is a general news reporter at the Mail & Guardian. She covers topics relating to labour, corruption and the law.

Related stories


Subscribers only

Ithala fails to act against board chairperson over PPE scandal

Morar asked to settle with the state and pay back the profit he made on an irregular tender

Vodacom swindled out of more than R24m worth of iPhones

A former employee allegedly ran an intricate scam to steal 8700 phones from the cellular giant

More top stories

Feathers fly over proposed wind farm’s impacts on great white...

The project poses a risk to declining great white pelican population at Dassen Island

Covid triggers crypto collectables boom

These one-of-a-kind digital collector’s items are being sold for unprecedented prices

Crisis response and accountability: Should leaders’ gender matter?

Women leaders are lauded for their handling of the Covid-19 pandemic, but the data is often cherry-picked

ANC North West factions fight on

Premier Job Mokgoro’s hearing begins despite move to stop it by party secretary general Ace Magashule

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…