South Africa Police Raid Bank of Baroda Offices Over Corruption Probe
South Africa police raided Bank of Baroda branches in Johannesburg and Durban as part of investigations into alleged corruption involving the Gupta family and former President Jacob Zuma.
The Hawks unit of the South Africa police raided offices of the Bank of Baroda on June 8 in connection with investigations into the alleged fraud involving the Indian-origin Gupta family and former President Jacob Zuma.
The elite police unit raided the branches of the Bank of Baroda in Johannesburg and Durban, and seized documents, Reuters reported. The India-based bank has been under scrutiny since it was the last financial institution that provided banking services to the embattled Gupta brothers — Ajay, Atul and Rajesh — before it announced the closure of its operations in South Africa earlier this year.
The police took away documents related to bank transactions involving South African state firms, the news agency reported, citing Hawks unit spokesman Hangwani Mulaudzi.
“We are of the view that Bank of Baroda was used as a conduit for the transfer of illicit funds. The raids are happening as part of ‘state capture’ investigations,” the report quoted Mulaudzi as saying.
The raids stem “from the allegations that the bank was being used as a vehicle in the alleged theft or misuse state funds by state-owned entities,” Mulaudzi told ewn.co.za. “These funds were transferred to individual entities and other companies that are under investigation in the so-called state of capture investigation that we’re busy with.”
The Gupta brothers, with Atul Gupta at the helm of affairs, are accused of having worked with Zuma to influence state projects, investments and appointments. Zuma resigned in February this year after facing pressure from the ruling African National Congress party.
Bank of Baroda is said to have played a key role in allowing the Gupta family to move hundreds of millions of dollars linked to alleged backroom deals into offshore accounts in Hong Kong, UK, and the United States, according to an investigation by the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) and the Hindu reported in March.
The Bank of Baroda came under probe as it emerged in April 2016 that it was the only bank willing to do business with the Gupta brothers. Four of South Africa’s leading banks – First National Bank, Barclays Africa Group Limited, Standard Bank and Nedbank – stopped their banking services to the Guptas’ companies earlier in 2016.
The Gupta brothers, who gained enormous power in the country over the last two decades since they moved to South Africa from Saharanpur in India, are currently absconding.
The government’s move to freeze the family’s assets worth $20 million was turned down by a South Africa court on May 28, which ruled that there was “no reasonable grounds” to believe that the brothers would be convicted. The same court had overturned the freezing of 10 million rand ($791,000) in Atul Gupta’s personal bank account in March this year.