Minister of Finance Tito Mboweni. Picture: ESA ALEXANDER
Minister of Finance Tito Mboweni. Picture: ESA ALEXANDER

Neither the Treasury nor the SA Reserve Bank has evidence that any bank has taken part in currency manipulation, finance minister Tito Mboweni says.

In a written reply to a question by the EFF in parliament, which was published on Monday, Mboweni said the Treasury does not have any evidence of any form of currency manipulation and is thus unable to assess the effect of any alleged manipulation of illicit financial flows. 

“The Treasury has also checked that the SA Reserve Bank likewise does not have such evidence, and would like to invite the Honourable Member [EFF MP Hlengiwe Mkhaliphi] to provide any such evidence if she has any,” Mboweni said.

Mboweni said the Treasury was aware that the Competition Commission was investigating a case of price fixing and market allocation in the trading of foreign-currency pairs involving the rand, which it has referred to the Competition Tribunal for prosecution. 

In 2015, the Competition Commission began investigating market manipulation in currency pairs involving the rand by a host of local and international banks, including Bank of America Merrill Lynch, BNP Paribas, JPMorgan Chase, Investec, Standard New York Securities, HSBC, Standard Chartered, Credit Suisse Group, Standard Bank, Nomura, Macquarie, Absa and Barclays.

Citibank has been the only bank locally to plead guilty and paid an "administrative penalty" of R69.5m.​

Earlier in 2019 the Competition Commission said it would use a recent settlement between British banking group Standard Chartered and US authorities to strengthen its case of currency manipulation by local and international banks.

Standard Chartered recently reached an agreement with the New York state department of financial services after it admitted that it manipulated currencies, including the rand, between 2007 and 2013. In terms of the agreement reached in New York, which has subsequently become a court order, Standard Chartered will pay a fine of $40m. It is also required it to take remedial action, including disciplinary procedures against employees guilty of the contraventions.

In his reply, Mboweni said the currency market was a deep and liquid market, and it was difficult to determine any material or long-lasting effect of any one transaction on the level or value of the currency.

“It is also important to differentiate between the impact of any transaction on consumers and the impact on the value of the rand — current cases before the Competition Commission appear to be related more to the conduct of bank traders towards clients, rather than providing evidence of affecting the actual value of the rand, but let us await the outcome of that investigation before making any conclusions,” Mboweni said.