Bank of Baroda on Saturday said it was cooperating with the police in South Africa in all investigations relating to corruption under former President Jacob Zuma involving the powerful Gupta business family, reported The Times of India.
A South African police unit raided branches of Bank of Baroda in Johannesburg and Durban on Friday and took documents showing bank transactions involving state firms, spokesperson for the police unit, Hangwani Mulaudzi, told Reuters.
“We are of the view that Bank of Baroda was used as a conduit for the transfer of illicit funds,” Reuters quoted Mulaudzi as saying. “The raids are happening as part of ‘state capture’ investigations,” he said, using a phrase coined to describe alleged influence-peddling under Zuma.
The bank, meanwhile, said in a press statement that the “search and seizure operation” was not an investigation on Bank of Baroda. “This requisition by the Hawks [police unit] is in relation to the continuing ongoing investigation of the Gupta family,” the statement said. It said the documents which have been requested by the police are account opening, account statements and supporting vouchers.
The bank further said that it had initiated closure of all accounts related to the Gupta family in 2017 and ceased all banking operations in South Africa on April 1.
In March, the South African government claimed that the Bank of Baroda’s local unit possessed “proceeds of crime” linked to a dairy farm project involving the politically influential Gupta family. The bank is accused of having transferred public funds meant for a state-owned farm to the Indian-born Gupta brothers – Ajay, Atul and Rajesh. Part of the money meant for the dairy project is still in a current account with the bank and is said to be illegal
The Gupta family has close ties to Zuma, and they have often been accused of influencing government business and appointments – allegations they deny. The crackdown on the dairy farm project came soon after Cyril Ramaphosa replaced Zuma as the leader of the ruling party in December 2017. In February, Zuma quit as president amid corruption allegations, and was replaced by Ramaphosa.