FNB closes Guptas business accounts

Oakbay Resources and Energy on Wednesday confirmed that First National Bank (FNB) had become the second bank to cancel its business accounts after Absa had cut ties with the firm earlier this week.

This was the latest in a series of backlashes by corporate South Africa against Oakbay Resources after allegations of “state capture” by the controversial Gupta family, and their alleged influence on the business of government through their close ties to President Jacob Zuma and his family.

Oakbay Resources director Nazeem Howa, in a statement on Wednesday, challenged their detractors, calling them “the purveyors of the numerous false allegations” and said they must provide evidence of wrongdoing against the company.

“We challenge the purveyors of the numerous false allegations made against us in recent months to provide any evidence of wrongdoing. It is time to put up, or shut up,” Howa said in a statement.

Howa said they would approach Jacques Celliers, the Head of FNB, to demand answers for the closing of the Oakbay’s accounts.

But he said Oakbay was already in the process of moving its accounts to “a more enlightened institution”.

“Oakbay has received no reason whatsoever justifying FNB’s actions. We find the timing of FNB’s decision staggering, given Oakbay’s accounts are in excellent financial health and we have been a loyal and profitable customer for many years,” Howa said

Howa said Oakbay had invested more than R10 billion in South Africa and employed more than 4,500 people.

He also said the deal to acquire Optimum Coal Mine, which will supply Eskom with five percent of its coal, would double their staff compliment whose jobs would be jeopardised by these latest developments.

Howa further said the Gupta family detractors were talking about state capture when only one percent of the family’s business comes from government.

Oakbay Resources is an investment vehicle in mining and exploration business owned by the Gupta family, whose vast business interests range from mining, print and broadcast media, and information technology.

KPMG on Friday resigned as Oakbay Resources auditors with immediate effect after 15 years, citing “risk of association”, while banking partner Sasfin Capital gave the firm notice of their intention to terminate services effective from June 1, saying it was in line with an internally driven strategic review.

Last month, Deputy Finance Minister Mcebisi Jonas dropped a bombshell by confirming reports that the Gupta family had approached him to take over as finance minister a few days before Zuma fired Nhlanhla Nene from the post in December.

But in response, Zuma told Parliament that the Gupta family had never appointed any Cabinet minister.

Howa, who earlier in the day spoke at a The New Age business breakfast on “State Capture”, also said Oakbay did not believe that Mark Pamensky, sitting on the Oakbay and Eskom boards, constituted a conflict of interest, nor that it was unusual.

“When there is a discussion about Oakbay at Eskom, I can swear from our side that [Pamensky] recuses himself immediately,” Howa said.

Howa also defended the Gupta family relationship with President Zuma’s son, Dudzane, who is a director in 11 companies owned by them.

FNB declined eNCA’s request for an interview but said in a statement it can confirm that it has no banking account with Oakbay Investments (Pty) Ltd.

“We can further confirm that we have given notice to close various banking accounts of entities that may be associated with Oakbay Investments (Pty) Ltd,” the statement said.

FNB said due to the confidential nature of its customer relationships, it is not in a position to provide any further details.

– Africa News Agency