South Africa's Zuma attacks banks over currency rigging charges

Fri Feb 17, 2017 7:49am GMT

By Joe Brock and Tiisetso Motsoeneng

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - South Africa will come down hard on financial market abuse, President Jacob Zuma said on Thursday, following accusations that more than a dozen local and foreign banks had rigged rand currency dealing.

The Competition Commission said on Wednesday it had found the banks, including U.S., European, Japanese and Australian lenders, had colluded to coordinate their trading activities when dealing in the South African and U.S. currencies.

With the banks already a target for public anger, Zuma piled on the political pressure. "Government is ready to act against market abuse, price fixing and collusion in the private sector in order to protect our country's economy," he told parliament.

South Africa's economy, which has hardly grown since emerging from a recession in 2009, remains largely in the hands white minorities more than two decades after the fall of apartheid. Of the four biggest lenders, which control more than 90 percent of the country's banking market, all but Standard Bank have white chief executives.

The ruling ANC party on Thursday called for the toughest possible sanctions against the banks.

"The African National Congress takes an extremely dim view of the activities of the listed banks. These acts of corruption have crudely exposed the ethical crisis in the South African banking sector," the party said in a statement.

"It is further an indication of how the markets are and can be manipulated by dominant oligopolies to cripple its functioning to suit their nefarious agendas."

The National Treasury said it viewed the report seriously and that if found guilty the banks should be sanctioned accordingly.   Continued...

South Africa's President Jacob Zuma after speaking to members of the Twelve Apostles' Church in Christ at the Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban, South Africa, December 4, 2016. REUTERS/Rogan Ward
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