April 5, 2016 / 1:56 PM / 4 years ago

Firm owned by Zuma friends seeks new auditor after KPMG South Africa walks away

JOHANNESBURG, April 5 (Reuters) - Oakbay Resources and Energy, a South African firm owned by friends of Jacob Zuma, has started searching for new auditors after KPMG resigned due to a scandal over their relationship with the president, the company said on Tuesday.

Oakbay, which is owned by the Guptas, a family of Indian-born businessmen, also lost investment bank Sasfin as an advisor in March, two days after a newspaper suggested the Guptas may have had a hand in Zuma’s sacking of finance minister Nhlanhla Nene in December.

Sasfin’s relationship with Oakbay will formally end on June 1 while KPMG stopped auditing the 16 billion rand ($1.1 bln) company’s books from March 29.

“Oakbay Resources is in the process of identifying and appointing a new auditor and sponsor,” the company said in a statement.

After the newspaper report last month, Deputy Finance Minister Mcebisi Jonas said the Guptas had offered him the top job at the Treasury before Zuma fired Nene.

Zuma has denied numerous allegations of the Guptas wielding undue influence. The Guptas have also routinely dismissed reports of their influence, saying they are pawns in a political plot to get Zuma out of office.

Barclays Africa, which runs South Africa’s biggest retail bank, Absa, also confirmed it no longer had a relationship with Oakbay. It is unclear when the unit of Britain’s Barclays Plc cut ties with the company but Absa was listed as Oakbay’s bank in an annual report from last August.

The three Gupta brothers moved to South Africa from India at the end of apartheid in the early 1990s and went on to build a business empire that stretches from technology to the media to mining.

They have also forged a close personal relationship with Zuma, whose son, Duduzane, sits on the board of at least six Gupta-owned companies, according to company registration papers.

Zuma faces a vote in parliament to impeach him after South Africa’s top court ruled he had breached the constitution by ignoring an order to repay state funds used to renovate his private residence. The motion seems likely to fail, however, as Zuma has enough support from the African National Congress. ($1 = 15.0303 rand) (Reporting by Tiisetso Motsoeneng; Editing by Susan Fenton)

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