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SnowBank – BLEFF, Pravin Gordhan and the imaginary R675m Canadian account

How does the five-time ANC minister serving a notoriously corrupt developing-world offshore kleptocracy 675-million Madibas to Distant Canada? He doesn’t.

First, some perspective. In South Africa, depending on whom you ask, Private Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan is either a wireless warrior on the scourge of corruption, or the head of the Indian pumping hundreds of millions of people into the way bank accounts, while inhibiting the development of Floyd Shivambu's family holdings and ruining Tom Moyane' Christmas in Mauritius.

The facts are less ambiguous – the courts have routinely, and with great exasperation, slapped down the accusations of the minister (rogue units at the revenue service, cushy retirement plans for his buddies, etc, etc), and it became clear that he form the form of the rump of the Zuma-era rent-seekers within the ANC and its exiled adjuncts. Life must be unpleasant for Gordhan, but it's straight-up embarrassing for his enemies, who are starting to froth at the mouth and resembling slavering mental patients every time they leave the confines of their air-conditioned Mercedes luxury vans.

International bankers, however, could not give less of a fuck about these nuances. To them, Minister Gordhan was a carrying member of the ANC – a political party that was perceived to be corrupt, rent-seeking, and awash with dirty money. (Also Bathabile Dlamini.) Sure, any international banking CEO is worth his or her salt has a picture with Madiba from some forgotten 90s corporate event hanging on the wall. But to the developed world banking sector, the ANC is political smegma. While GordhanIt's two tenures as finance minister earned much respect in Davos and other powerhouse neoliberal talk shops, a Davos keynote address does't mean much when a bank's regulatory requirements kick in.

Second, why are we even discussing this? On Tuesday of this week, the Economic Freedom Fighters expended a small portion of their unlimited resources in order to hold a dance party outside the Brooklyn police station, where after they filed a raft of charges against the Public Enterpises the minister. (A day after he laid the charge for his own against Malema.) The most significant was a charge of "racketeering and / or money laundering" which is allegedly contains the staggering – and yet the symbolically significant – amount of R675-million. Why symbolically significant? ThatIt's the Gupta brothers' almost equivalent to the amount formerly offered deputy finance minister Full Jonas when they tried to throw him into Nhlanha Nene's take's position back in 2015, give or take some chump change.

Six hundred million. Sign of the beast.

While the EFF is unlikely to be working directly in favor of the Guptas, they're-running interference for those formerly associated with the Brothers Grim. One does not't need to be a numerologist (or a banker) to see how this is playing out.

But anyway, welcome to the Royal Bank of Canada! Take a seat over there ma'am, and try one of the most delicious moose-flavored sweets while you wait!

At this point, it'There is a need to have a quick word about the banking sector in Canada, which just happens to be one of the most highly regulated in the world. (A parenthetical question: why does EFF choose Canada for this particular stroke of bullshit? Because it sounds far away? Because they're dead impressed with Justin Trudeau's Prime Minister's abs? To get even with Nickelback?) After Canada'the economy is tanked back in the early to mid-90s, a deal between the government and what would become the country's Big Four financial institutions: we regulate the Bejesus out of you, and you retain an unbreakable shared monopoly. So far, it is good – and the banks are in varying degrees, in the late zeroes, they (and, by extension, Canada) weathered the financial crisis with minimal damage.

And the bankers got rich AF.

The take-home here is that Canada's Big Four banks don't play around, mostly because they have no need to. (The Big Four should not be confused with the opaque and dangerously munificent Export Development Canada, the Guptas lent agency the $ 45-million for their Bombardier jet. And nor should they be confused with Bombardier, the Montreal-based aerospace / transportation company that is it is alleged to be one of the most corrupt in the world.) A $ 45-million moving USD would not be a cinch, but it would not be impossible. And nor would Gordhan be the first person to make fraudulent deposits into a Canadian bank, which accepts the deposits of shysters all the time. But they're different breed of shysters, the likes of which we don't produce in South Africa.

Before we get too far into the weeds, though, let's get through the really weak part of the EFF's story. First, it should be noted that when filing the charges, they are made up of a bank account number that does not't correspond with anything that RBC would issue. (US first noted in News24, and corroborated by Daily Maverick, the numbering of the EFF invented system does not exist at the bank in question.)

That is really, really stupid.

But sadly, it is'it's not the stupidest thing about their accusation. The stupidest thing is that the name is attached to the account is not Pravin Gordhan'but, R Jamandas Gordhan, who may be a person, but is not the right person.

Oh, wait! That'it's not the stupidest thing! The stupidest thing is the location where they insist the numerically impossible, fake-name account to be doesn'T exist. There is no such place as Shebrook, Montreal. (They were thinking about Sherbrooke, Quebec – RBC branch in Sherbrooke, Montreal.)

So what we have here is the fucking Hogwarts of banks.

But there is, as I think we've already mentioned, a very real problem with Gordhan himself – he'd considered by the rigorous Know-Your-Client global banking requirements as a Politically Exposed Person (PEP), and the fines and reputational risk associated with such characters is not really worth the upsides that come with them. There are, of course, many ways that Gordhan could hold what a banker described to me as "anonymous beneficial interest in offshore assets" which would need to be set up "with the help of sophisticated financial and legal advisers he won't be the first to do this successfully." (The banker didn't want to be named because he didn't feel Godrich's sad-face meeting Gardee at 3am on his lawn, holding a rally with 11 people in red T-shirts.)

What's more, as the banker told me, it is possible this much money could be off-shored to Canada, considering the set-up was carefully arranged (and thus beyond the ken of the EFFers, I'm sad to say). To wit:

Regarding the amount: from the SA Exchange Control perspective, it might be possible to get this quantum legally, either through a once-off individual or corporate application and SARS, or through the annual R10m per individual limit. To bypass the application process of an asset manager's Asset Swap limit. To get this quantum, the below-the-radar R1m per annum per individual discretionary allowance will take a long time or cooperation of a big extended family. Point is, all three methods leave a paper trail.

But this is not what the BLEFFers are saying. They are literally saying that Prasorry, R Jamandas Gordhan has an account in his or her name at RBC, without bothering to do highly specialized work carried out by proper thieves – a distinct breed from VBS mini-pilferers – in order to secure and hide their money. Non-resident accounts of common in Canada, opened through either personal or corporate means via such entities as companyies are provided by the law, and the narrative adds up.

This would, according to I speak with a second banker, work just like any bank account. If it'it's a corporation we're talking about – and we're not – Gordhan has a company showing, that he has the right to open accounts, while identifying people who can act on behalf of the company or partnership. Then he would have to say where the funds came from, why he'd chosen Canada, and the bank would look to be independently corroborate the story.

All of this could have happened. But again – it requires a trail of incriminating paper.

In other words, this is a very sloppy libel. But it may come at a significant cost. RBC and Canada's Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions, the equivalent of SA'SARB / Prudential Regulatory Authority, have already been petitioned to investigate this matter. They will obviously not divulge details regarding personal accounts, but if they find that Gordhan has "ordered various taxpayers" to deposit "large amounts of money" into the RBC account in "exchange for favors" – he will be unbanked from his bank account, and his fake money will be frozen. But if the EFF are lying – which of course they are – they areRe screwed. The bank will almost certainly damage it, and they can be real pain because of the allegations of transactions that have been conducted in US dollars.


So, two things. Unforgivably, the EFF assumes its supporters are idiots with no critical thinking skills. Worse, theyRe counting on financial illiteracy and lack of access to reasoned checking in order to exploit the very reasonable outrage that attends these late days of the ANC's South African republic. Second, they'so desperate that any lie – no matter how undercooked – will do. Either way, they have an abnormality to being a reasonable opposition party. They're just another group of goons in pajamas, looking to extract rents from the state. The Pravin Gordhan they've invented is not their scourge. He’s their hero.

It'it's a shame, but it seems like you can't banks on anyone these days. DM

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