MEMBERS of the Gupta family, who are friends of President Jacob Zuma, have not fled the country following a wave of controversy surrounding their alleged influence over the nation’s leader.
“They are not hiding,” Oakbay Investments CEO Nazeem Howa said on Monday in an interview with Bloomberg TV in Johannesburg. “They’ve not fled the country.”
Rapport newspaper said on Sunday the Gupta family had left the country, citing flight data and an unidentified eyewitness at a Johannesburg airport.
Oakbay Investments is entirely owned by members of the Gupta family. That company owns 80% of JSE-listed Oakbay Resources and Energy.
Atul Gupta and Varun Gupta resigned their positions at Oakbay Resources on Friday after financial-services groups, including accounting firm KPMG and Barclays Africa Group’s Absa unit, dropped the company and other Gupta-controlled businesses as clients, as questions about the family’s influence over Mr Zuma mounted. Mr Zuma’s son, Duduzane, who stepped down as a director of the company’s Shiva Uranium unit, said he was planning to divest from the businesses.
Mr Zuma is facing mounting pressure to resign following a court ruling over his response to the public protector’s report and after allegations by senior officials of the ruling African National Congress (ANC) that the Guptas offered them Cabinet posts in exchange for business concessions. The claims have spurred probes by the party and the public protector. Mr Howa said there was no evidence of corruption against the Guptas.
SA’s four biggest banks had given Oakbay until the end of May before its accounts are closed, Mr Howa said.
“It’s unprecedented for the four major banks to walk away from an institution,” he said.
The Gupta family’s businesses span media, computers, mining and engineering. Mr Howa said 7,500 jobs were under threat because the businesses could not operate without the bank accounts.
While the family was distancing itself from its business, “there’s no indication at this point” that it was planning to divest, Mr Howa said.
Cas Coovadia, head of the Banking Association of South Africa, said the banks didn’t agree among themselves to close Oakbay’s accounts.
“It’s not at all a coordinated effort by the banks, it can’t be. That would be anti-competitive,” he said by phone Monday. “These are individual banking decisions. For a major company, if you don’t have an auditor, then you’re going to have some problems.”
Credit: Business Day