ANC comes out swinging for harsh punishment for banks fingered in collusion

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South Africa's competition watchdog has accused 17 local and global banks of conspiring to fix the price of the rand over the past 10 years, and recommends fining them 10 percent of their annual in-country turnover, Newsweek reported.

The Competition Commission on Wednesday said banks including Investec Ltd.

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The ANC attacked the banks, which many South Africans view as a symbol of the stark racial inequality that persists 23 years after the fall of apartheid. The banks were also accused of using trading chat rooms to coordinate times for the sale of rands or to stop selling for a time in order to manipulate prices from 2007.

"These acts of corruption have crudely exposed the ethical crisis in the South African banking sector", President Jacob Zuma's ruling African National Congress said in an e-mailed statement. "The fact that some banks may have been partly responsible for the weak and volatile rand through currency manipulation is deeply troubling", the organisation said on Thursday.

The list includes Investec, JP Morgan, BNP Paribas, Credit Suisse Group, Commerzbank AG, Standard New York Securities Inc, Macquarie Bank, Bank of America Merrill Lynch, ANZ Banking Group Ltd, Standard Chartered Plc and Barclays Africa (Absa), part of the Barclays Plc.

Major worldwide banks have had to pay out billions of dollars in fines since a global scandal in 2013 over the rigging of foreign exchange markets.

When delivering his SONA, Zuma acknowledged that South Africa's competition authorities have done excellent work to uncover cartels and punish them for breaking the law.

The left-wing opposition Economic Freedom Fighters said the banks involved should have their trading licenses revoked.

The South African rand lost nearly half its value against the US dollar over the past five years as the country struggled through an economic crisis. He said the financial sector needs new players to diversify, and the government is committed to establishing a state bank.

The Democratic Alliance (DA) claims Gupta linked ANC ministers are waging a war with banks and are willing to use the competition authorities to push a populist agenda of radical economic transformation. It referred the case to an antitrust tribunal, concluding an investigation that began in 2015.

The Commission added that the cases will be brought under anti-trust rules, which effectively limit the class action to South African claimants.

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