* Zuma pushes back financial crimes legislation
* Bill targeted accounts of "prominent" people
* Banking industry urges quick passage of law
(Adds banking industry comment, background)
By Ed Cropley
JOHANNESBURG, Nov 29 South African President
Jacob Zuma sent an anti-money-laundering bill that would have
increased scrutiny of the bank accounts of "prominent
individuals", including himself, back to parliament on Tuesday,
saying it might not be constitutional.
In a statement, Zuma's office said the Financial
Intelligence Centre Amendment (FICA) bill was "very important
and pressing" but it was concerned about some of its aspects,
particularly those relating to "warrant-less searches".
The bill, which is meant to bolster the fight against global
financial crime by making it easier to identify ultimate owners
of companies and accounts - including those of "domestic
prominent influential persons" - was passed by parliament in
That left Zuma's signature as the final hurdle to it being
signed into law. In its definition of "influential person", the
FICA bill specified the president and deputy president,
ministers, provincial premiers, judges and generals.
At a meeting with Zuma in September, the Black Business
Council (BBC), a lobby group trying to boost black ownership of
the economy, urged him not to sign the bill.
Its reasons were not made clear at the time although South
African media speculated that its stance might be related to a
fight between the Treasury, which sponsored the legislation, and
the Guptas, a family of controversial businessmen close to Zuma.
South Africa's leading four banks have severed their ties
with the Guptas over the last year. They have refused to make
public their reasons but analysts say their action was probably
prompted by concerns about reputational risk.
A spokesman for the BBC did not respond to email or
telephone requests for comment. Zuma's spokesman denied any
motive on Zuma's part other than his desire to ensure all laws
he signed were constitutional.
The Guptas have also denied any wrongdoing or backroom
Cas Coovadia, managing director of the Banking Association
of South Africa, said the bill was important for the global
standing and integrity of South Africa's banking system, and
urged parliament to pass it again as quickly as possible.
"We will deal with it in parliament again if need be," he
said. "We would like to expedite this."
The bill will now pass back to the parliamentary committee
that drafted it, although it is not yet clear whether they will
(Reporting by Ed Cropley; Editing by James Macharia and