Picture: REUTERS/DANISH SIDDIQUI
Picture: REUTERS/DANISH SIDDIQUI

The Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation, also known as the Hawks, raided the Bank of Baroda’s offices in SA as part of its investigations into state capture involving the controversial Gupta family.

Hawks spokesman Hangwani Mulaudzi confirmed that the raid on the bank’s Johannesburg and Durban offices on Friday were part of an investigation into alleged money laundering by the family in relation to state-owned entities.

In February, Baroda announced that it planned to close its operations in SA, after instructions from its headquarters in India. At the time it was the only bank left in SA that was providing services to the Gupta-linked companies.

The decision to move out of SA came after Nedbank terminated its relationship as a clearing bank with Baroda. This meant it was impossible for Baroda to provide transactional banking facilities to its customers. A number of Gupta-linked companies approached the High Court in Pretoria in a bid to force the bank to keep its operations going, but the court dismissed this and Baroda was allowed to shut down at the end of March.

Bank of Baroda chief CE in SA Manoj Kumar Jha also confirmed the raid by the Hawks, saying it was part of the investigation into how the Guptas, including their companies, used their accounts at various banks in the country. He said Baroda had fully co-operated with the Hawks and the recent search and seizure was not part of an investigation into the bank itself.

“This requisition by the Hawks is in relation to the ongoing investigation of the Gupta family,” Jha said.

He said the documents requested by the authorities were account openings, account statements and supporting vouchers, which formed part of the formal books and record of Baroda. “Many of these documents requisitioned by Hawks have been shared with the agency appointed by the SARB [South African Reserve Bank] as a part of their investigation and, further, some of these documents have been subpoenaed and submitted to the investigating agencies,” Jha said.

He confirmed that the bank had ceased all operations in SA as of April 1 and was now in the process of winding down and exiting the local market in close co-ordination with the SARB.

Baroda would continue to have a physical presence in SA, notwithstanding closure of the banking operations, until regulatory investigations were concluded and the bank was informed by the authorities that its physical presence was no longer required.

quintalg@businesslive.co.za