Bell Pottinger has issued "a full, unequivocal and absolute apology" for its work on behalf of former South African client Oakbay Capital, which is owned by the controversial Gupta family.

The Financial Times reported that BP represented Oakbay as the Guptas were accused of boosting their mining-to-media conglomerate by cashing in on close ties with South African president Jacob Zuma while depicting opponents as agents of "white monopoly capital."

Bell Pottinger Twitter account

In his July 6 statement, BP CEO James Henderson said his firm hired law firm Smith Freehills to view messaging that may have stirred up "racial division" in South Africa.

"We have already been shown interim evidence, which has dismayed us," said Henderson. "Much of what has been alleged about our work is, we believe, not true--but enough of it is to be of deep concern."

Henderson said a BP-developed social media campaign that "highlights the issue of economic emancipation in a way that we, having now seen it, consider to be inappropriate and offensive."

For such a campaign to be carried out in South Africa, "a country which has become an international beacon of hope for its progress toward racial reconciliation is a matter of profound regret and in no way reflects the values of Bell Pottinger."

The firm has dismissed the lead partner involved in the account and suspended three others pending the completion of the investigation

Smith Freehills will complete its investigation during the next few weeks.

BP cut ties with Oakbay in April.