Plan to buy Sassa bank laid bare

The embattled Gupta family contemplated a takeover of Grindrod Bank – the bank the SA Social Security Agency (Sassa) uses for its monthly payouts of R11-billion of social grants, leaked e-mails show.

Sassa uses Grindrod Bank to provide banking services to over 10 million social grants beneficiaries.

According to documents and e-mails, the family, through investment arm Oakbay Investments, wanted to take over the bank in November 2014.

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In an e-mail titled “Grindrod Bank (Interest from Oakbay Investments)”, sent on November 19 2014, Vim Rajbansi of Oakbay Investments wrote to Rajesh “Tony” Gupta that an exclusive memorandum of understanding Bidvest entered into with Grinrod had ended with no deal being concluded.

She said she was considering a letter of interest, “to see if we can pick this up at the right price”. She said Ajay [Gupta] told her to sign an official interest to start negotiations, but they had missed out when Bidvest put in an offer before them.

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Rajbansi said since then Oakbay had become involved in a bid process for 60% of U Bank – which provides banking services to mine workers – which required the sign-off of the Reserve Bank.

She added: “With Grindrod Bank being opened there are now two banking licences available. This makes the process competitive for us.

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“The high publicity surrounding the Sassa I-Net [presumably Net-1] contract in the Grindrod Bank became a hurdle for Bidvest but not necessarily the case for us. [sic]

“In our risk assessment [we] agreed that government will license Postbank to provide services and Grindrod will have to put a discount on this. We feel these factors make the deal highly negotiable in our favour.

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“We can do a neat deal with Grindrod . at less than half the price.”

“We can do a neat deal with Grindrod . at less than half the price.”

Vunani Capital head Mark Anderson confirmed yesterday that Oakbay had approached it for an introduction to Grindrod. He said no meeting happened. “Public records clearly show that there was no facilitation or sale of this kind.”

Grindrod Bank managing director David Polkinghorne said it was difficult to comment as “there was never an approach”.

Gupta attorney Gert van der Merwe said he would approach the family for a response.

By Graeme Hosken – Tiso Black Star Group

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