Gold Mafia: ABSA Suspends Two Employees In Illicit Tobacco Money Laundering Scandal
Absa, a significant financial service provider in South Africa, has suspended two employees in connection with their alleged involvement in an illicit tobacco money laundering scheme, as exposed by the Gold Mafia, an investigative documentary by Al Jazeera Media Network.
Al Jazeera Media Network claimed in a four-part investigative documentary, Gold Mafia, that Absa, Standard Bank, and Sasfin helped criminals launder millions of dollars of dirty cash in exchange for regular bribes. The report stated that Gold Leaf Tobacco, one of the key money launderers, had well-placed employees in Absa, Standard Bank, and Sasfin Bank on his payroll to facilitate his activities. The report further indicated that the employees assisted Gold Leaf Tobacco launder around R3 billion in illicit cigarette cash and obscure the transactions to stay off the South African Reserve Bank and revenue service’s radar.
Absa has confirmed that it detected alleged illicit tobacco and gold-based money-laundering activities in early 2020 and has been working with law enforcement agencies on this matter. The bank said:
Absa has robust anti-financial crime risk management processes in place, through which it detected alleged illicit tobacco and gold-based money-laundering activities in early 2020.
Subsequent investigations uncovered a broad network, which linked the illicit tobacco trade and gold-based money laundering activities.
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Absa takes the allegations made in Al Jazeera reports published to date very seriously and does not tolerate any untoward conduct on the part of its employees. To this end, Absa has, to date, suspended two employees.
Standard Bank has reaffirmed its zero-tolerance stance on fraud and criminal activity. The bank said it is committed to reporting and cooperating in any lawful investigation. It said it has taken the allegations made by Al Jazeera seriously and is following due process internally.
Sasfin told IOL on Wednesday that it had “identified suspicious transactions regarding Gold Leaf Tobacco and proactively closed the accounts and shared the relevant information with the authorities”.
Tax Justice SA founder Yusuf Abramjee has called for immediate action against Simon Rudland, the Zimbabwean businessman who owns Gold Leaf Tobacco, and his criminal enterprises in South Africa. He urged banks and financial authorities to act urgently against implicated officials and warned of severe economic consequences if no action is taken.
Yusuf Abramjee called on various law enforcement agencies, including the FBI, Interpol, SAPS, SA Reserve Bank, and Sars, to demonstrate their commitment to fighting corruption and crime. He said failure to act against these criminals could lead to South Africa being greylisted, which would lead to reduced international investment and further impoverishment of the country.