25/01/2017 08:18 SAST | Updated 26/01/2017 13:16 SAST

Hawks Still Deciding If Guptas Are To Be Investigated

The Hawks say no case has been opened against the Gupta family or Oakbay companies.

(Photo by Gallo Images / Sowetan / Antonio Muchave)
Hawks boss Berning Ntlemeza (Photo by Gallo Images / Sowetan / Antonio Muchave)

The Hawks are yet to decide whether or not to pursue a criminal case against the Guptas and their Oakbay company as the battle between the finance minister and the politically connected family continues.

Hawks spokesperson Brigadier Hangwani Mulaudzi says the elite crime-fighting unit has received complaints regarding 72 suspicious transactions related to the family's business bank accounts.

"There is currently only an inquiry. That will determine if there are elements of a crime to be investigated," he says.

This follows a report by the Business Day that Hawks head Berning Ntlemeza has informed the Gupta family through their lawyer, Gert van der Merwe that they were not under investigation.

The publication reported that Ntlemeza's letter was attached to an answering affidavit filed by Oakbay Investments CE Ronica Ragavan in an application brought by Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan. The family has been at the centre of controversy since revelations were made that they had a hand in the appointments of cabinet ministers.

Deputy finance minister Mcebisi Jonas accused the family of offering him the job of finance minister when Nhlanhla Nene was sacked. He claimed they offered him R600 000 in cash with a further R600 million at their home in Saxonworld.

That claim was corroborated by former African National Congress (ANC) member of Parliament Vytjie Mentor who said she too was offered a position by the influential family. Mentor said she was offered the position of Minister of Public Enterprises by the members of the Gupta family at their Saxonwold home in Johannesburg while President Zuma present in the house. The revelations ultimately led to the State of Capture report by former public protector Thuli Madonsela.

That report saw banks distancing themselves from the family's businesses.

Gordhan approached the court in October seeking court protection against being compelled by the family to intervene in the bank's decision to close the family's bank accounts.

News24 reported that in his affidavit, Gordhan accused former CEO Nazeem Howa of pressurising him to negotiate with banks on the matter.

Gordhan listed a Financial Intelligence Centre (FIC) report detailing how the Guptas businesses made R6,8 billion in "suspicious and unusual transactions".

The banks filed affidavits supporting Gordhan and listed concerns about the Guptas. They included concerns over suspicious transactions to the family being politically exposed persons, as well as risks of money-laundering.

The Business Day reported that Ntlemeza's letter to Van der Merwe said there were no complaints relating to the family and the Oakbay group of companies.

"This office also wishes to confirm that there are no reports nor complaints relating to this matter that were received from the banks or the FIC as cited in your correspondence. This office also wishes to confirm that [the case] ... relating to the suspicious transaction reports involving your clients is dealt with by this office, but presently there is no evidence that implicates your clients," he wrote in the letter.

Mulaudzi said the letter was misinterpreted and denied that the Hawks were no longer investigating the family. He said the decision to investigate can only be made once all the complaints that have been submitted are thoroughly looked into.

"We have received all the complaints and we are going through them as an inquiry and if there are elements of a crime that are picked up, that's when we will open a docket. He [Ntlemeza] wrote to the Gupta lawyer to inform them that the is no investigation but an inquiry," said Mulaudzi.