South Africa: Explainer - Report Does Not Prove Mkhwebane Took Gupta Cash, but Something Is Brewing

Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane (file photo).

On Tuesday, global anti-corruption journalism outfit, OCCRP, dropped a bombshell story about a $5 000 (about R70 000) payment from a Hong Kong bank to Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane's bank account, apparently flagged as part of a Gupta-linked network.

But a deeper analysis of the facts show that the report may not have gotten it quite right.

Mkhwebane's name does appear in a data set stemming from an HSBC bank probe into the Gupta network, but it is not immediately apparent why Mkhwebane was included in the data.

On the face of it, the payment was not from a Gupta-linked entity or person to Mkhwebane, but rather a transfer she made from her own Hong Kong bank account to her own FNB account here at home.

What is muddying the water however, is Mkhwebane denying that any transfer was ever made.

That there was a transfer of funds is factual. The questions surrounding those transfers, really, are broader, News24 has learned.

Such as: why did HSBC run her name through its database and include it in their data which sought to root out a wide-ranging kickback scheme stemming from a R50-billion Transnet locomotive deal, that saw Chinese train builders score billions?

Gupta linked entities scored large 'consultancy' payments, which were nothing but disguised kickbacks, AmaBhungane previously reported.

Confused? Don't be surprised.

The entire Gupta financial network was designed not to fool you or me, but to fool sophisticated financial regulatory systems and tax authorities in South Africa and abroad.

It's not supposed to be easy to decipher.

Mkhwebane's name crops up in a dataset compiled during a large internal probe by HSBC, which sought to identify the elements of the Gupta money machine in Hong Kong and elsewhere.

It is clear HSBC had suspicions about Mkhwebane, but what is not clear is what the basis of those suspicions are, News24 is told.

HSBC was asked to clarify the OCCRP report and interpretation, but had not responded at the time of writing.

HSBC did also not necessarily "flag" the transaction mentioned by OCCRP, or any other transactions for that matter.

The bank did, however, flag Mkhwebane - for reasons still unknown.

A storm is brewing over Mkhwebane's finances and transactions that took place while she was in China.

She was employed with the Department of Home Affairs' National Immigration Service, as the country director for information and co-operative management and was in the country between 2010 and 2014.

Mkhwebane has dismissed the claim that she was paid Gupta-linked cash.

But what is not clear is why she denied that any transfer took place in a statement issued on Tuesday, while earlier tweeting that she "never used FNB account to transfer the allowance I received from China as Diplomat".

Her spokesman, Oupa Segalwe has clarified that she received an allowance from the department of international relations and co-operation, and not the Chinese government - her tweet meant to say "while in China".

What can you take away from this? Just this one, simple point. There is no evidence to suggest that Mkhwebane did in fact receive money stemming from the Gupta-network.

There is however evidence that an investigation into her finances is well underway.

Source: News24

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