Transparency International (TI) and Corruption Watch – TI’s chapter in South Africa – have called for a firm approach to be taken to any banks involved in the country’s Gupta scandal.
This follows a recent statement in the UK Parliament that has generated widespread speculation that a major British bank had been involved in the scandal.
TI is calling on all relevant authorities, including those in the UK, the US and South Africa, to follow a five-point checklist to investigation and enforcement, including a thorough investigation by the proper authorities, as well as an internal investigation by the bank or banks concerned; full cooperation between the authorities in South Africa and the UK; the company and any individuals concerned to be prosecuted if there is evidence of wrongdoing; sufficiently strong punishment to act as a deterrent; and the deployment of a full range of punitive and preventive options, such as imprisonment of executives and losing a licence to operate, as well as a financial penalty.
“Time and again it has been established that hiding the proceeds of grand corruption requires the complicity of large establishment banks, auditing and law firms and financial advisers,” Corruption Watch director David Lewis said in a statement.
“The South African experience conforms to this pattern with global companies like KPMG and McKinsey already heavily implicated in the capture of the State by corrupt elements in the public and private sectors. It would come as no surprise were it to be found that one or more global banks is implicated,” he added.
Meanwhile, Lewis noted that the intervention of robust UK and US law enforcement agencies was accordingly welcome and may well represent South Africa’s best chance of finally holding the perpetrators of grand corruption to account.
“Banks are often thought to have got away with it in the financial crisis, and so levels of trust in both banks and regulators are at an all-time low. If British banks have been involved in this most recent scandal, despite promises to clean up their act, then they should reasonably expect to admit the wrongdoing, face the full force of the law, cooperate with prosecutors in bringing their senior executives to justice and give a coherent public explanation about how they are going to learn the lessons and avoid – yet again – a repeat performance,” TI UK director Robert Barrington added.