A Canadian deal to finance a luxury Bombardier jet for a controversial South African business family has cast a fresh spotlight on secrecy policies at the federal government’s export credit agency.
Critics are asking how the $41-million (U.S.) financing deal was authorized by Export Development Canada, since the borrowers – the politically powerful Gupta family of South Africa – have been surrounded by corruption allegations and investigations for the past seven years. But EDC says it cannot explain anything about the transaction.
The Guptas have been at the heart of corruption allegations swirling around South African President Jacob Zuma and his government since 2010. But when Bombardier Inc. wanted to sell a private jet to the Guptas, the federal agency agreed to finance 80 per cent of the $52-million purchase price.
EDC is a Crown corporation that supports Canadian exports by providing financing and insurance to Canadian exporters and their foreign customers.
The agency says it conducts a careful process of due diligence for every transaction. It’s unclear why the agency decided that the corruption allegations surrounding the Guptas were insufficient to halt the deal.
Activists have tried to get details of controversial or questionable EDC financing deals in the past, without much success. “EDC refuses to provide detailed information about its review process or the steps it takes when a client is under investigation by law-enforcement authorities, citing confidentiality constraints,” said Karyn Keenan, director of Above Ground, an Ottawa-based human-rights group that focuses on the overseas activities of Canadian businesses.