South Africa graft scandal: UK Chancellor asks for scrutiny of HSBC and StanChart for possible links

The issue could be raised in the House of Lords today

In a new twist in South Africa’s corruption scandal allegedly involving Gupta family and President Jacob Zuma, the UK Chancellor has now asked financial enforcement agencies to inquire if British banks, HSBC and Standard Chartered, may have “inadvertently” been involved in money laundering.

Lord Peter Hain, whose letter to the Chancellor brought the incident to light, is expected to raise the matter in the House of Lords today.

In his letter to the Chancellor, Lord Hain had stated that a whistle-blower had indicated that the banks may have “inadvertently” been conduits for the corrupt proceeds of money and therefore, they should review transactions involving individuals and companies linked to the Gupta family and President Zuma.

According to the Financial Times, the Gupta family is at the heart of this scandal over allegations that they used their friendship with Zuma to influence state business and to divert funds from state-owned companies. They both have denied the claims.

Following this, the Chancellor contacted the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), Serious Fraud Office (SFO) and National Crime Agency stating that the allegations are being taken ‘extremely seriously’.

“We take allegations of financial misconduct very seriously, and have passed Lord Hain’s letter on to the Financial Conduct Authority and relevant UK law enforcement agencies, including the National Crime Agency and Serious Fraud Office, to agree the right action,” a Treasury spokesman stated.

The Financial Conduct Authority has told media that they are “already in contact with both banks named and will consider carefully further responses received.”

South Africa’s former finance minister, Pravin Gordhan, had told officials that 72 transactions over a period of four years were marked as suspicious by South Africa’s anti-money laundering watchdog. Gordhan was fired by Mr Zuma this year.

South African banks like Standard Bank and Nedbank terminated all their business with Gupta-owned companies in April 2016. The reasons have never been fully publicly disclosed, with banks citing client confidentiality, media reports suggest.

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