THE BLOG

Oakbay Investments Acting CEO: We Are Ready To Face Pravin Gordhan In Court

We are convinced that a campaign is being waged against our business and we are desperate to be given the opportunity to prove our innocence.

27/01/2017 13:00 SAST | Updated 27/01/2017 13:44 SAST
Muntu Vilakazi / City Press / Gallo Images
Indian businessmen Ajay and Atul Gupta speak to the City Press from the New Age Newspaper's offices in Midrand, Johannesburg, South Africa on 4 March 2011.

Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan is due to file a replying affidavit with the High Court on Friday. He will respond to the affidavit filed by lawyers representing Oakbay Investments and the Gupta family, in which they rejected Gordhan's application for a declaratory order, confirming that he could not intervene in a dispute between Oakbay and four major banks. The banks closed the accounts of Oakbay. - blogs editor.

Oakbay Investments, the holding company for the Gupta family's businesses in South Africa, has been at the centre of a political storm for over a year. Not a day goes by when we are not featured in the headlines somehow – most of the time with the word 'allegedly' running throughout!

We are convinced that a campaign is being waged against our business and we are desperate to be given the opportunity to prove our innocence.

If the people of South Africa believe that a Judicial Commission is required to get to the bottom of the state capture allegations, as recommended by the former Public Protector, Thuli Madonsela, then Oakbay fully supports it. When can we start?

As much of what we say is spun - or conveniently ignored – let's just say that again. Oakbay Investments fully supports a Judicial Commission into state capture.

This may be the only way the South African public will be able to pick through all of the misinformation and obfuscation about our business dealings.

The latest attempt to mislead South Africa is Pravin Gordhan's application to the High Court. The application calls for a declaration that he has no legal responsibility to intervene in the matter of the closure of Oakbay's bank accounts by South Africa's four biggest banks: Absa, Nedbank, FNB and Standard Bank.

This is a tactic being used by the minister to encourage continued negative media reporting of the Oakbay Investments and its majority shareholders around the 72 transactions list.

So desperate are we to prove our innocence we instructed Nardello & Co., an international investigative firm, to review what we know about the 72 transactions. Nardello's report concludes that there is not enough information about the transactions to even identify them in the books.

I can guarantee that each and every one of these transactions is legitimate and above board because we know our business back to front. But we need more information to prove it.

So desperate are we to prove our innocence we instructed Nardello & Co., an international investigative firm, to review what we know about the 72 transactions. Nardello's report concludes that there is not enough information about the transactions to even identify them in the books and records of the Oakbay Group or the personal bank accounts of members of our majority shareholders.

We have asked on countless occasions for the information we need. We even submitted an application to the High Court to compel the Financial Intelligence Centre (FIC) to release the information.

Why can't we have it? The reason is because there is no evidence of any wrongdoing. This allows Minister Gordhan to keep kicking his can of innuendo down the road for another few weeks and months.

We know that Minister Gordhan's application is a campaign tactic to generate yet more unsubstantiated negative media coverage. Why? Because it is totally pointless.

Oakbay has never suggested that the minister is obligated to intervene in the bank-customer relationship, however we have asked him (and many others) for assistance 'if' they are able to provide it. We reached out to a number of ministers, departments and government agencies, because the livelihoods of our 7,500 employees is at risk.

There is no contested legal issue here, so the application should be dismissed.

Minister Gordhan has essentially asked the court to insert itself into the functioning of the executive branch of government. If the court agrees with Gordhan, will other ministers now call on the courts to make their decisions for them? Will the courts now become makers of political judgements?

If the Minister is not able to provide any assistance, he just needs to say. This whole exercise has been a monumental waste of taxpayers' money and the court's time.

We fully expect more information about the 72 transactions to be leaked and drip-fed to the media over the coming weeks and months in a further attempt to confuse the public and cast us as the villains.

It will be impossible for us to counter whatever new 'evidence' comes out as currently we lack the means to even identify the transactions. I hope I'm proved wrong about the leaking and drip feeding, but if I'm not – you heard it here first.

We call on anyone with the power and authority to release the full details of the 72 transactions.

If they do not, you will all know why. Allowing us to clear our name doesn't suit the strategic playbook.