UK to probe banks' possible links to South African graft scandal

HONG KONG • • Britain has asked financial enforcement agencies to probe possible ties HSBC Holdings and Standard Chartered have with South Africa's Gupta family, the Financial Times reported.

Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond said he had passed on concerns from Mr Peter Hain, a former Labour Cabinet minister, that the London-based banks might have handled illicit funds linked to the family via Hong Kong and Dubai, the FT said.

The Guptas are at the heart of a political scandal in South Africa over allegations that they used a friendship with President Jacob Zuma to influence state business.

President Zuma and the Guptas have denied any wrongdoing.

Mr Hain did not accuse HSBC or Standard Chartered of wrongdoing but, in a letter to Mr Hammond, said that they should review transactions due to evidence, including material from whistle-blowers, that hundreds of millions of South African rand were laundered out of the country, according to the FT.

In reply, Mr Hammond said that he had contacted the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), Serious Fraud Office and National Crime Agency in Britain, the paper said.

According to the FT, the FCA said it was "already in contact with both banks named and will consider carefully further responses received".

Standard Chartered closed some bank accounts linked to the Gupta family in South Africa in 2014, a spokesman for the bank said yesterday.

"We are not able to comment on the details of client transactions, but can confirm that after an internal investigation, accounts were closed by us early in 2014," she said via e-mail.

BLOOMBERG, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 20, 2017, with the headline 'UK to probe banks' possible links to South African graft scandal'. Print Edition | Subscribe