South Africa

South Africa

State Capture: Lord Hain cautions British banks not to threaten SA whistleblowers

Labour Lord Peter Hain, during a UK parliamentary debate this week on the Committee Stage of the Money Laundering Bill, revealed that the Financial Conduct Authorities had made contact with South African whistleblowers with regard to the implication of HSBC in money laundering for the Gupta family. Hain also warned banks that they should not threaten South African whistleblowers who had provided authorities with evidence. By MARIANNE THAMM.

Hain has now placed on record that South African whisteblowers had been contacted by the UK Financial Conduct Authority with regard to allegations of money laundering by the Gupta family through British domiciled banks and financial institutions.

Hain added his name in support of the amendments to the Bill which presses for greater safeguards and extra parliamentary scrutiny of banks.

He said that banks and London had “an appalling record on money laundering – it gives me no great pleasure to say that”.

He added that the UK might pride itself on having “one of the best centres of finance in the world, and it is a tremendous source of employment, which is important. However, there is a record of money laundering that simply requires extra parliamentary scrutiny, which is why this group of amendments is so important.”

His comments came in the wake of an announcement that HSBC has been relinquished of the penalties that could have applied in the United States of America for similar allegations. “That is good news for a British bank that has a global footprint, and for its many employees here in Britain,” said Hain.

He said the initial stance of banks and other British-based companies, like Bell Pottinger, had been to deny allegations of money laundering, then admit and then apologise.

For example, HSBC, discovered several accounts held by the Gupta brothers, who are South African associates of President Zuma’s family, and it has closed them down, which is welcome.”

However there has been “a steady stream of allegations against mainly British companies: Bell Pottinger and KPMG, and then McKinsey, which is an American-based company with a presence here … I caution them that with this disease of money laundering it is better not to deny in the first instance.”

Hain thanked the Financial Conduct Authority for the manner in which it had engaged with the issue.

I can report to the House that at least one whistleblower who has been supplying me with information from South Africa has engaged directly with the FCA — it has been a positive experience.”

He warned financial institutions involved, including HSBC, Standard Chartered and the Bank of Baroda, that “if any witch-hunting of those responsible, or of the brave, courageous people in the South African governmental system who have also been supplying me with information (happens), I will name the institutions involved and identify the individuals as having suffered that persecution.” DM

File Photo: The new Welsh Secretary Peter Hain departs 10 Downing Street following a cabinet meeting in London, 09 June 2009. EPA/ANDY RAIN.