Canada's state export bank, Export Development Canada (EDC) reportedly went to court in an attempt to ground the Guptas' private jet to prevent the family from fleeing justice, Business Day reported.
In an affidavit filed in the High Court in Johannesburg last week, the bank reportedly said the aircraft could be used "to flee the country or some other illicit purpose, for example taking money out of the country unlawfully."
The EDC reportedly lent the Guptas $41-million (R482-million), 80 percent of the purchase price of the plane. In its court application, the bank said it wanted to force the Gupta's to either return the plane or face having it deregistered, making it illegal for the aircraft to fly anywhere in the world.
The Civil Aviation Authority reportedly said it will not oppose the EDC's bid, and told Business Day that it is of concern if the aircraft's tracker is off.
The bank reportedly became suspicious when it was asked to confirm the aircraft's whereabouts and discovered that the public tracker of the plane had been disconnected. It was last seen in St Petersburg, Russia. Its current location is unknown, according to the bank.
"The switching off of the public tracker and the aircraft's alleged movements fortify the applicant's concern that the aircraft may be flown to various destinations to avoid detection or to destinations where it will be difficult to retrieve," the bank said in court papers.
The Guptas' lawyer Ahmed Gani told Business Day that the family would be opposing the EDC's court bid but said he did not know where the aircraft was.
According to News24, the jet flew from Dubai to Zurich on December 13 and stayed there for six days before flying to EuroAirport Basel Mulhouse Freiburg in Switzerland. It stayed there for a month before leaving for St Petersburg on January 25.
The plane was briefly grounded in December over unpaid bills.
The Financial Mail reported that the EDC instituted legal action against the Guptas for defaulting on their loan payments. The family owed over $20-million (R235-million) on their loan as of October last year.
An ECD spokesman told the Financial Mail at the time,
"EDC monitored the performance of the transaction, as it would for all of its counterparties," Taylor says. "Consistent with EDC's underwriting principles and policies, we exercised our contractual rights and the transaction was terminated."