đź”’ Gupta sanctions put state capture specialists KPMG, PwC, McKinsey back in spotlight

As tangible action against state capture masterminds, the Gupta brothers and Salim Essa, is taken by US authorities, the world spotlight is back on corporations that have aided and abetted the corrupt in South Africa. Prominent among these is KPMG, a professional services firm that was embedded in Gupta deals involving graft-tainted politicians. KPMG has not yet been punished for its crimes against a fledgling democracy. PwC, another professional services firm, has apologised, while SAP and McKinsey have taken some steps to fix their wrongs. The message lurking between the lines of The Wall Street Journal is that blacklisting Ajay, Atul and Rajesh Gupta and their lieutenant, Salim Essa, could just be the start of a clamp-down by the US. In the meantime, South Africans are wondering why their own authorities are taking so long to bring the corrupt and the captured to book. – Jackie Cameron

US imposes sanctions on individuals linked to South African scandal

Ajay, Atul and Rajesh Gupta, who arrived in South Africa from India in the early 1990s and quickly forged connections within the ruling African National Congress, used their ties to engage in corruption and bribery to get government contracts and misappropriate state assets, the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control said.

The department on Thursday also imposed sanctions on one of the brother’s close business associates, Salim Essa. All four men couldn’t immediately be reached for comment, but have previously denied wrongdoing.

“Treasury’s designation targets the Guptas’ pay-to-play political patronage, which was orchestrated at the expense of the South African people,” said Sigal Mandelker, Treasury undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence. “The Guptas and Essa have used their influence with prominent politicians and parties to line their pockets with ill-gotten gains.”

The U.S. sanctions are the most concrete punishment doled out to the Guptas, whose alleged grip on Mr. Zuma’s government was so strong that it was dubbed “state capture” by South African media and analysts. Although the scandal dominated headlines in Africa’s most-developed economy for several years and forced Mr. Zuma to step down in February 2018, none of the men have been charged in South Africa.

Mr. Zuma has also denied wrongdoing and recently blamed the allegations against him on an international conspiracy.

McKinsey paid back money it received from a major government contract that involved a company run by Mr. Essa and apologised to the South African public for its actions, even as it denied wrongdoing. KPMG, which audited the accounts of several Gupta-owned businesses for years, withdrew sections of a key report on the government revenue service and swapped out its South African leadership, saying it fell short of its standards. SAP reported itself to US authorities, saying it may have broken US anti-corruption laws by making payments to companies linked to the Guptas.

The Treasury statement made no mention of any South African or international companies.

The Guptas’ alleged actions – along with other suspected cases of corruption – are currently being investigated by a commission of inquiry in South Africa. But President Cyril Ramaphosa has come under criticism for local authorities’ slow pace in pursuing criminal charges against the family, its business associates and politicians allegedly involved in the scandal.

– Write to Gabriele Steinhauser at [email protected]

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