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A large South African bank has taken on the country’s president and most senior ministers following calls for a judicial inquiry into why it has refused to do business with a family at the centre of state capture allegations. Standard Bank has gone to court to stop President Jacob Zuma or any other ministers from bullying it into doing business with Gupta-linked businesses. It has taken a while for Standard Bank to publicly signal its unhappiness with the way the state capture scandal has been unfolding in South Africa. There are concerns within the banking sector about the Gupta source of funds and whether these contravene anti-money laundering regulations. Standard Bank’s move follows legal action by Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan, who approached the court for a ruling indicating that he doesn’t have the authority to interfere with whom banks choose as clients. Indian immigrant Atul Gupta has swiftly risen up the ranks of South Africa’s wealthiest, with allegations of financial irregularity and political interference linked to his business activities. It seems that the courts are becoming the avenue of last resort for politicians, business players and others who are struggling to stand their ground in the face of corruption and self-enrichment. State capture controversies have impacted negatively on economic growth and investor sentiment. – Jackie Cameron
By Renee Bonorchis
Bloomberg – Standard Bank Group asked the North Gauteng High Court to prevent President Jacob Zuma and any of his ministers from intervening in its decision to close accounts of companies associated with the Gupta family.
The appeal goes a step further than an order sought by Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan, who in October approached the court for a ruling that he doesn’t have the authority to interfere with whom banks choose as clients.
Gordhan took the steps after the Guptas – who are friends of Zuma, in business with one of his sons and employed one of his wives – repeatedly tried to pressure him into getting the banks to overturn their decision.
Ministerial threats to review South Africa’s banking regulations and comments from Zuma that he is considering requests for a judicial commission of inquiry to investigate the Gupta account closures have no “legal basis,” Standard Bank’s general counsel said in an affidavit filed in the Pretoria High Court on Wednesday.
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