South African finance minister may be charged for graft as Gupta family quits | News | DW | 28.08.2016
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South African finance minister may be charged for graft as Gupta family quits

South Africa's Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan could be charged for graft this week according to media reports. The news comes as the powerful Gupta business clan say they are to disinvest from the country.

Over thirty witnesses are lined up to testify against South African Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan and three former officials with the South African Revenue Service (SARS), according to a South African newspaper report released on Sunday.

The report in the City Press newspaper cited senior police sources, the tax service and the National Prosecuting Authority.

Gordhan could be charged as early as next week, the paper reported.

Police summoned Gordhan earlier this week as part of an investigation into a "rogue spy unit" that was established in the revenue service when he was in charge.

The news of the investigation shook the nation's financial markets, sending the Rand currency downwards.

The City Press reported that a special police force known as "the Hawks" delivered the case to the NPA on Friday. Officials at the NPA reportedly did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

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Graft charges

According to the newspaper report, Gordhan will face a graft charge for granting early retirement to a former SARS commissioner, who is also under investigation.

A report from the Sunday Times said that Gordhan told Treasury staff on Friday that both he and his deputy, Mcebisi Jonas, could be removed in a cabinet shuffle. Officials with the Treasury also did not immediately respond when asked to comment.

South African President Jacob Zuma said on Thursday that he supported Gordhan but was unable to stop a police investigation.

South Africa's former Finance Minister Trevor Manuel, has warned of the consequences of an arrest or even the replacement of Gordhan. He said that the damage in this case has the potential to destroy South Africa's economy.

The finance ministry and its head have often been used to gauge the trust of investors in the country. Gordhan is highly respected in the markets and his departure could heavily impact the economy of Africa's most industrialized country.

Opposition politicians have said that the finance minister is being discredited by the ruling African National Congress (ANC), which is aligned with Zuma. Gordhan is known for tackling profligate spending - to the chagrin of some government officials.

Gupta departure

In a separate development over the weekend, the powerful Gupta family issued a statement saying it would dispose of all stakes it holds in South African businesses before the end of the year.

Ajay and Atul Gupta during an interview

Ajay and Atul Gupta during an interview

The Guptas have denied accusations that they have used their friendship with President Jacob Zumato influence his decisions or advance their business interests.

In a statement, the family said "we now believe the time is right for us to exit our shareholding of the South African businesses." The Gupta holdings include stakes in technology, media and mining concerns.

"As such, we announce today our intention to sell all of our shareholding in South Africa by the end of the year. We are already in discussions with several international prospective buyers," the statement said.

South Africa's anti-corruption watchdog said in July it would investigate whether Zuma had allowed the Gupta family to make government appointments.

The family denies any wrongdoing and plans to stay in South Africa.

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rs/jm (Reuters)

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