Over 20 banks linked to Gupta companies

17 November 2017 - 06:40 By BusinessLIVE
Brothers Ajay and Atul Gupta. File photo.
Brothers Ajay and Atul Gupta. File photo.
Image: MARTIN RHODES

More than 20 banks sent or received money to Gupta-linked companies, an investigation by the Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Project found.

"Led by HSBC, these banks also included National Westminster in the UK, Wells Fargo in the US, India's state-owned Bank of Baroda, Habib Bank, Standard Chartered Bank, and a dozen Chinese banks like Bank of China and China Citibank," the report said.

The project investigated the flow of $321-million in "commissions" promised to Salim Essa by China South Rail after it was awarded a $1.5-billion contract by Transnet.

Much of this money was paid to Regiments Asia and Tequesta, two firms established on the same day, June 20 2014, which shared the same Hong Kong address.

The project said it had information that Regiments Asia was founded by Trillian's former owner, Essa, and its current owner, Eric Wood - though Wood responded by saying he "unequivocally and categorically'' states that he has no knowledge of Regiments Asia.

"China South Rail sent the locomotive deal 'fee' to Regiments Asia and Tequesta in chunks ranging from $100,000 to several million dollars. The bank data shows that, whenever Regiments Asia received a credit to its account, it was always from China South Rail - suggesting that the firm had been established precisely for this deal. Tequesta records show a similar pattern, with 90% of its money coming from China South Rail," the report said.

"Banking records obtained by the OCCRP trace a total of $75-million paid out by China South Rail after the contract was signed and $39.8-million in the three months prior to that. OCCRP did not have access to all records to track the full $321-million in payments," its report said.

"The documents show that the money went first to Gupta-associated companies and then on to a series of small shell companies where much of it disappeared. But some is traceable to payments on everything from coffee to luxury cars."

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