Guptas plan to sue Baroda, to avoid joining the ranks of the unbanked
After saying earlier this week they had a new bank lined up, a family spokesperson now says they have not found an institution willing to bank them
The Guptas, whose accounts are being closed down by the Bank of Baroda’s South African unit, have not found another company willing to offer them banking services, according to a spokesman for the family, and their companies plan to sue Bank of Baroda to stop the termination of its services to them.
"No other bank has agreed to offer them alternative banking services," Gary Naidoo, a spokesman for the Gupta family and their group of companies known as Oakbay, said in an e-mailed statement on Wednesday.
"Accordingly, on the closure of their accounts by the Bank of Baroda, the companies will be left effectively without any other banking services available to them."
Bank of Baroda "has unilaterally and of its own volition afforded to these companies an additional time period of until September 30 prior to the closure of their accounts", the statement said.
Bloomberg reported earlier this week that the Gupta family had told the Indian lender they had found another company willing to offer them banking services, according to a person familiar with the matter who asked not be identified because the matter is private.
Companies controlled by the Gupta family are taking legal action against the lender to try to stop the termination.
The Bank of Baroda’s move comes after the big four banks also cut banking services to the family, which is in business with President Jacob Zuma’s son Duduzane.
A number of companies forming part of the Oakbay Group "are presently involved in litigation against the Bank of Baroda concerning its unlawful attempts to close the companies’ accounts, and particularly in light of the unreasonable notice period given", Naidoo said in an e-mailed statement on Wednesday.
The deadline for the closure of the accounts had been extended to the end of September by the India-based bank, he said.
"This has not been afforded by the Bank of Baroda to enable these companies to transfer their banking facilities to a new bank, but rather has occurred in the context of the ongoing litigation between the parties," Naidoo said.
Mines, TV News
The Gupta family controls businesses in SA ranging from coal and gold mines to newspapers, a computer business and a 24-hour news channel.
The family has previously said bank account closures could affect their ability to pay about 7,000 employees.
The family’s businesses lost their other South African banking relationships after the lenders, including Barclays Africa and Standard Bank, said they risked falling foul of regulators and the law by continuing to offer services to the family and their companies.
The Guptas were last year named in former public protector Thuli Madonsela’s State of Capture report on government-linked bribery and corruption.
The former ombudsman said her findings were not conclusive and instructed Zuma to set up a judicial inquiry.
Zuma and the Guptas have denied any wrongdoing.