The Gupta family is demanding answers from FNB CEO Jacques Celliers justifying the bank’s decision to close its business accounts.
In a strongly worded statement released on Wednesday, Oakbay Investments hit back at FNB, calling the timing of the bank’s decision “staggering, given Oakbay’s accounts are in excellent financial health and that we have been a loyal and profitable customer for many years”.
“We are already in the process of moving our accounts to a more enlightened institution,” the company said in the statement.
“In December 2015, we also received a similar notification from Absa with no explanation. Interestingly, this remained confidential for over three months until a couple of days ago. We question the timing of Absa making this public.”
Oakbay maintains that the move is clear evidence that the recent state capture allegations levelled against the company, as well as the family as a whole, are “all part of a carefully orchestrated political campaign which tragically involves some of the country’s most senior institutions and individuals”.
“Sadly, those who are against us want to resort to any means necessary, including slanderous, unfounded innuendo. They talk about state capture when only 1% of our business is from government. That is an inconvenient truth for our detractors, but truth it is, as our fully audited financial results show,” the company said.
FNB’s withdrawal from doing business with Gupta-owned companies follows similar announcements by Absa and Sasfin.
Global auditing firm KPMG was the first corporate entity to cut ties with the influential family with the group’s southern Africa CEO Trevor Hoole last Thursday informing employees of the company’s decision in an internal memo that was leaked to the media.
“The recent media and political interest in the Gupta family, together with comments and questions from various stakeholders has required us to evaluate the continued provision of our services to this group,” Hoole told staff in the memo.
“We have decided that we should terminate our relationship with the group immediately.
“I can assure you that this decision was not taken lightly, but in our view, the association risk is too great for us to continue,” he added.
“It is with heavy hearts that we have reached our conclusion and there will clearly be financial and potentially other consequences to this, but we view them as justifiable.”
The move by South African corporates follows Deputy Finance Minister Mcebisi Jonas’s explosive confirmation recently that the Gupta brothers had offered him former Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene’s job before President Jacob Zuma had even fired him.
Former ANC MP Vytjie Mentor was the first to lift the lid on the Gupta’s alleged state capture, claiming that the Guptas had offered her the position of Public Enterprises Minister following former ANC MP Barbara Hogan’s axing in 2010. Mentor declined the offer, which came with conditions, and the job ultimately went to Malusi Gigaba.
The family has come under increasing pressure from opposition parties in recent weeks, which have called for a probe into the state capture allegations.
“It is very disappointing that FNB (and Absa) have allowed themselves to be dragged into the political in-fighting by the campaign’s orchestrators. 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,” the Gupta statement read.
FNB could not be reached for comment.