Gold mafia helped Gupta brothers in South Africa state seize | Investigation Information






Certainly one of South Africa’s largest cash launderers was behind three corporations that performed a key function within the nation’s state seize by the controversial Gupta brothers beneath former President Jacob Zuma, Al Jazeera’s Investigative Unit (I-Unit) has discovered.

The three corporations, Varlozone, Zokubyte and Coral Basic Merchants, had been recognized by the Zondo Fee — an investigation arrange by the South African authorities — as conduits used for fraud and the seize of state funds by a small group of South African politicians and businessmen.

But the investigators appointed by the Zondo Fee had been unable to determine who managed these corporations and transferred looted South African cash overseas on behalf of the Guptas.

Now, paperwork obtained by Al Jazeera present that the individual behind Varlozone, Coral Basic Buying and selling and Zokubyte was Mohamed Khan, also called Mo {Dollars}, a well known South African cash launderer.

“That cost was performed by Mohamed,” whistleblower Dawood Khan, Mohamed’s brother and former worker, instructed Al Jazeera.

State seize is a type of corruption the place a small group of individuals influences the decision-making strategy of a state for private acquire. South Africa’s present authorities, beneath President Cyril Ramaphosa, has accused two brothers of the Gupta household of businessmen — which grew to become synonymous with state seize beneath Zuma — of plundering the nation’s funds by a scientific net of corruption. The brothers had been arrested final June within the United Arab Emirates. However final week, the UAE dismissed South Africa’s request that the Gupta siblings be extradited.

The brand new revelation, figuring out Mohamed Khan because the beforehand lacking hyperlink within the Gupta state seize case, is a part of Gold Mafia, a four-part investigative sequence into a number of gold smuggling and cash laundering gangs working in Southern Africa.

A scsreenshot of a Whatsapp conversation showing how money was laundered through Zokubyte and Varlozone.
Whatsapp messages between Mohamed Khan and a bribed financial institution officer, obtained by Al Jazeera, present how Zokubyte and Varlozone had been used to launder cash [Al Jazeera]

Gupta brothers

The Zondo Fee was established in 2018 to research reviews of state seize, corruption and fraud primarily by the Guptas, an influential South African household with Indian roots.

Since their arrival in South Africa in 1993, the Guptas managed to construct an enormous enterprise empire they usually finally got here to wield huge affect within the nation, permitting them to acquire giant quantities of state funds that they laundered offshore.

As their energy grew, the Guptas had been awarded state contracts, allegedly bribed politicians and even had affect over ministerial appointments in Zuma’s authorities. Such was their clout that in 2013, they managed to make use of a South African navy airport to deliver lots of of friends from India for a marriage, sparking a nationwide controversy.

The cash obtained within the state seize was despatched overseas by a community of corporations and finally appeared to fade. Zokubyte, Coral Basic Buying and selling and Varlozone had been all a part of that community, dubbed “the spiderweb” by investigators.

Among the many investigators appointed by the Zondo Fee was Paul Holden, an anti-money laundering knowledgeable. “We had been principally trying on the movement of cash into this community from the state seize and we knew it was going by a cash laundering community,” he instructed Al Jazeera.

A breakthrough got here when the fee was capable of decide a direct hyperlink between the cash from the state seize and the Guptas by transactions from South African firm Varlozone to Dubai-based firm Griffin Line Basic Buying and selling.

Griffin Line Basic Buying and selling was identified to be managed by the Guptas. However the proprietor of Varlozone, Shah Bukhari, was only a frontman. In actuality, the corporate was run by Khan, a prolific cash launderer who has labored for cigarette don and gold smuggler Simon Rudland, serving to him switch greater than $100m overseas. Khan additionally bribed workers in a number of South African banks to assist with the cash laundering operation.

From South Africa to Hong Kong

Paperwork obtained by Al Jazeera present that cash was moved from a number of corporations to the accounts of Varlozone and Zokubyte. Varlozone then moved $1.8m of state seize cash offshore over six months. Zokubyte laundered not less than $600,000 of funds looted from the state. Coral Basic Merchants acted as a pooling account — the place cash from a number of accounts will be saved briefly — for funds to be moved offshore.

The cash was despatched overseas by a course of known as “merchanting”, which entails the creation of pretend invoices to counsel that the switch of funds is an advance cost for items to be imported. No items are literally ever despatched, and firms at each ends of the chain — these invoicing for merchandise meant to be despatched, and people ostensibly shopping for these imports — are managed by the identical people.

The invoices principally got here from Hong Kong-based entrance corporations, a few of which had been owned by Khan as properly.

All three corporations made these funds by Sasfin Financial institution, one of many banks the place Khan had bribed workers, together with Hussain Choonara, who was in control of Sasfin Financial institution’s international trade funds on the time.

WhatsApp conversations obtained by Al Jazeera present Khan asking Choonara how a lot cash might be laundered by the accounts for an upcoming interval.

In keeping with Dawood Khan, Mohamed’s brother, the launderer used the three corporations interchangeably.

“Varlozone, Zokubyte, Coral, all of them performed the identical function,” Dawood instructed Al Jazeera. “You couldn’t utilise the identical account each day. So, you’d unfold your funds throughout completely different accounts at completely different occasions throughout the week or a month.”

In audio recordings obtained by Al Jazeera, Khan admits that he was breaking the legislation.

“Okay, at worst, I get arrested,” Khan will be heard saying, in a dialog with a member of the family. “I’m going to be arrested for the stuff that was performed on Coral and all of that.”

Mohamed Khan audio conversation about how he might get arrested.
In an audio dialog obtained by Al Jazeera Mohamed Khan talks about getting arrested for his involvement with Coral Basic Buying and selling [Al Jazeera]

Al Jazeera approached all these featured on this investigation. Mohamed Khan described all allegations towards him as false and as being based mostly on hypothesis, conjecture, and manufactured and doctored proof. He denied having any involvement in cash laundering, bribery (together with at Sasfin Financial institution) or different prison exercise. He instructed Al Jazeera that he had by no means met the Gupta brothers and denied utilizing any of the businesses recognized above to launder the proceeds of state seize.

Griffin Line Buying and selling denied that it was owned by the Gupta brothers and that it had any relationship with Mohamed Khan. It additionally mentioned it had no involvement within the prison actions revealed by the Zondo Fee.

Sasfin Financial institution instructed Al Jazeera it was taking vigorous motion towards suspended and former workers and purchasers of its international trade unit.

Simon Rudland mentioned that the allegations towards him shaped a part of a smear marketing campaign by an unidentified third get together.

Others talked about on this article didn’t reply.

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