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Guptas' Oakbay Says It Never Asked 'Weak-kneed' Gordhan For Help

The Gupta family owned company Oakbay Investments says Gordhan’s application based on flawed analysis, accuses him of being 'weak-kneed' for approaching court

20/01/2017 12:56 SAST | Updated 20/01/2017 14:08 SAST
Martin Rhodes/Business Day/Gallo Images
Ajay Gupta and younger brother Atul Gupta and Oakbay MD Jagdish Parekh.

Oakbay Investments, the Gupta family owned holdings company has hit back at Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan in the high court in Pretoria over his application regarding the closure of the company's bank accounts.

Gordhan approached the court in October seeking court protection against being compelled by the family to intervene.

In an affidavit filed on Friday, the company's lawyers said Gordhan's intervention was never proposed, and that the minister's application contained errors.

"The minister's reliance on the list of 72 purported 'suspicious transaction reports' is misplaced and the Minister's application is supported by a flawed analysis and a faulty factual record. Oakbay has never suggested that the Minister is required to intervene in the bank-customer relationship. There is no contested legal issue here and there is never any reason for the Minister to bring this application," the company said in a statement.

News24 reported on Friday that in his affidavit, Gordhan accused former CEO Nazeem Howa of pressurising him to negotiate with banks on the matter.

Gordhan listed a Financial Intelligence Centre (FIC) report detailing how the Guptas businesses made R6,8 billion in "suspicious and unusual transactions". The banks filed affidavits supporting Gordhan and listed concerns about the Guptas. They included concerns over suspicious transactions to the family being politically exposed persons, as well as risks of money-laundering.

The company said Gordhan could have declined to do anything when exercising his legal discretion. They questioned why he took the court route.

"The minister has essentially asked the court to insert itself into the functioning of the executive branch. It would be bizarre if every empowered government official receiving a request for assistance or counsel, races to court to seek a declaration that he/she does not have to act on the request," it said.

"If the Court were to countenance the minister's application for guidance, it would open the floodgates for other weak-kneed political officials who are too scared to take positions on sensitive political and policy matters and would make the judiciary a maker of political judgements," the company added.

Oakbay says it has tried to access information reported to FIC over the suspicious transactions in order to prove that they were legitimate and above board. Nardello & Co, an international investigative firm was brought in to review the 72 transactions.

"Nardello's report concludes that there is not enough information about the 72 suspicious transaction reports to identify them in the books and records of Oakbay Group or the personal bank accounts of members of the Gupta family. Two-thirds of the allegedly suspicious transactions occurred after the time when the banks had already decided to terminate their relationship with Oakbay. The FIC's release of this information to the Minister was unlawful in itself. The Court should therefore decline to grant the relief sought by the Minister and dismiss the Minister's application with costs," the company said.

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