NEWS

Oppenheimers Win Court Battle To Keep Luxury Aiport Terminal Open

Allegations surfaced that the Guptas were behind government's decision to block the Oppenheimers.

30/10/2017 07:08 SAST | Updated 30/10/2017 07:08 SAST
Stefan Wermuth / Reuters
De Beers chairperson Nicky Oppenheimer.

In a battle between the Oppenheimers and the Guptas -- both mining magnates -- a high court judgment has ruled against Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba's decision to change his mind after initially granting the Oppenheimers permission to operate a private terminal at OR Tambo International Airport, Business Day reported on Monday.

The Oppenheimers argued that their company, Fireblade, was granted permission by Gigaba, home affairs minister at the time, to operate the terminal in January 2016. The family said Gigaba should not be allowed to change his mind without a good reason.

Gigaba reportedly changed his mind five days after granting permission, after intervention from Denel chairperson Dan Mantsha, who raised security concerns. But the Oppenheimers argued that the change of heart from government was because of the Guptas, who were trying to get in on the deal by being brought on as BEE partners.

Gigaba initially denied approving the Fireblade bid at all, according to News24.

According to Business Day, Denel CEO Zwelakhe Ntshepe reportedly told the court that these allegations were not true and said the company had never had any business dealings with the Guptas.

Judge Sulet Potterill reportedly called the "volte face" (about turn) of Denel "inexplicable and irrational", and said it "cannot negate the minister's decision to grant the approval".

Potterill further ruled that Gigaba's approval "is of force and effect and may not be renounced or revoked without due cause and may be implemented and relied on by the applicant (the Oppenheimers)."

The Oppenheimers and the Guptas have a history, with the Oppenheimers instructing the Guptas to remove their luxury jet from the Fireblade terminal.

City Press reported that in April this year, a Gupta business jet tried to leave the country with diamonds on board, but it was prevented from doing so when a Fireblade security employee asked to inspect a box on board.

Later, the Oppenheimers did not renew the Gupta's lease to have their aircraft stationed at the terminal. One of the factors cited was reportedly "reputational risk".