Consultancy firm McKinsey, software group SAP and accountancy business KPMG have been accused of criminal conduct by South Africa's companies regulator, the Companies and Intellectual Property Commission (CIPC).
The move comes as the South African authorities are cracking down on businesses with ties to the controversial Gupta family. The Guptas, friends of the president Jacob Zuma, brought down PR firm Bell Pottinger last year when a court found a campaign run by their Oakbay Capital business “was potentially racially divisive and/or potentially offensive and was created in breach of relevant ethical principles".
A spokesperson for the CIPC said that criminal complaints against the three companies were filed with South African police towards the end of last year, for contravention of the country's Companies Act.
The charges follow hot on the heels of an announcement from the National Prosecuting Authority in South Africa that it had frozen 1.6bn rand (£94m) of McKinsey's assets.
This flowed from McKinsey's work for state utility business Eskom, which it undertook with Gupta-linked local partner Trillian Capital. A whistleblower accused Trillian of using its influence to funnel contracts at state-owned firms through to international companies.
McKinsey today denied that it had received a court order regarding the freezing of its assets, and urged the authorities to pass the documents on.
"We have no interest in being party to a contract entered into unlawfully by Eskom," a spokesperson said.
Zuma and the Guptas have continued to deny any wrongdoing.