Britain urged to probe HSBC, StanChart over Gupta links, FT reports

Philip Hammond, UK chancellor of the exchequer, speaks during a news conference in London, UK, on Oct 17, 2017. PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

HONG KONG (BLOOMBERG) - Britain has asked financial enforcement agencies to probe possible ties between HSBC Holdings and Standard Chartered to South Africa's Gupta family, the Financial Times reported.

Finance Minister Philip Hammond said that he had passed on concerns from 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. Zuma and the Guptas have denied any wrongdoing.

Hain did not accuse HSBC or Standard Chartered of wrongdoing but, in a letter to 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, Hammond said that he had contacted the Financial Conduct Authority, Serious Fraud Office and National Crime Agency in the UK, 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". Spokesmen for HSBC and Standard Chartered declined to comment.

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