President Jacob Zuma might be sitting back comfortably as Thuli Madonsela’s state capture report gathers dust, but opposition politicians aren’t resting in their campaign to bring the corrupt and the captured to book. Parliamentarians have special rights when it comes to getting answers to tricky questions put to state entities and anything said in Parliament can be published without the usual legal sensitivities. This week, the Democratic Alliance (DA) was successful in gaining clarity on the banking activities of Gupta-linked company, Homix. This firm – essentially little more than a legal vehicle with an address – has been highlighted in investigations by independent journalists working for amaBhungane. Homix is a company that has allegedly been used to facilitate the flow of funds from South African state entity Transnet to a Gupta-owned company that publishes The New Age newspaper. The Guptas are a family with close ties to Zuma and have been named in the state capture report as central figures in irregular financial transactions involving taxpayers’ funds. Replying to the DA question, the South African Reserve Bank (Sarb) has revealed that Homix tried to circumvent foreign exchange controls by presenting false documentation to Mercantile Bank. The Sarb blocked the withdrawal of funds when this discovery was flagged in the banking system. Slowly but surely all the pieces of the Zupta puzzle are coming together, regardless of Zuma’s resistance to the efforts of his critics who would like to clean up government and excise his questionable friends from any meaningful involvement in the economy. – Jackie Cameron
By Matthew le Cordeur
Cape Town – The letterbox firm Homix, which allegedly has links to the Guptas, contravened Exchange Control Regulations by presenting false documentation to Mercantile Bank when it tried to send nearly R14.5m to an account in Hong Kong.
That is according to the South African Reserve Bank (SARB) in a Parliamentary reply this week to a question posed by Democratic Alliance MP Natasha Mazzone.
Furthermore, an investigation completed by FinSurv for SARB in December 2016 showed “that Homix had unlawfully transferred foreign currency from the republic on numerous occasions”, the SARB revealed.
For more than a year, amaBhungane investigated how Homix “secreted away hundreds of millions; apparent kickbacks from companies doing business with Transnet, the state-owned transport operator”, according to Huffington Post, which published the investigative story on December 8.
Three days later, Reserve Bank deputy governor Kuben Naidoo signed an order forfeiting money Homix held in Mercantile Bank to the state. The order was published in the government gazette on December 30 2016, the day the money – R14 472 075 – and any interest was seized.
In its Parliamentary response, SARB said it reported the matter to the South African Police Service “for further steps deemed necessary from a criminal prosecution point of view”.
— amaBhungane (@amaBhungane) December 8, 2016
The Financial Surveillance Department of SARB issued an order on May 29 2015 prohibiting the withdrawal of all funds standing to the credit of Homix in an account held with Mercantile Bank, it explained.
“At the relevant time, Homix had made an application to Mercantile Bank for the transfer of foreign currency to Morningstar International Trade Limited in Hong Kong, ostensibly for the purposes of paying for previously imported goods.
“The balance in the account amounted to R14 472 075 at the time in question. The relevant order was issued on suspicion that Homix had contravened the Exchange Control Regulations in that it had presented false documentation to Mercantile Bank in support of, inter alia, these pending foreign exchange transactions.”
Mercantile Bank is aware of the notice gazetted by the SARB, it said in a statement responding to questions by Fin24 in January.
— amaBhungane (@amaBhungane) October 3, 2016
“Mercantile complies fully with the South African Reserve Bank and Financial Services Board rules and regulations governing financial institutions and will comply with the order of forfeiture, in compliance with the applicable provisions of the Exchange Control Regulations.”
It added that as a bank, it is bound by client confidentiality rules which prohibit the divulging of client information.
Stefaans Brümmer, Susan Comrie and Sam Sole of amaBhungane reported that papers filed in the high court in Johannesburg provided direct evidence of Gupta involvement in Homix.
“After Homix was exposed, a seemingly round 10% of the first year’s fee on another big Transnet contract flowed to Gupta-owned TNA Media,” they explained.
“The amount, R17.1m, was allegedly laundered through two companies on the strength of a backdated contract and bogus invoices before arriving at TNA, which publishes The New Age, court papers show.” – Fin24