The Gupta family, through its business Oakbay Investments, has blasted finance minister Pravin Gordhan for his court application seeking a declaratory order that he cannot intervene in a decision by South Africa’s big four banks to close the Oakbay’s bank accounts.
In court papers filed on Friday, the Guptas have challenged the minister’s application, filed in October 2016, in which he named 72 “dubious and unusual” transactions worth R6,8bn.
Van der Merwe & Associates, Oakbay Investments’ legal firm, has submitted an affidavit to the high court in Pretoria in which it has described Gordhan’s application as “superfluous” and “riddled with factual and legal errors”.
According to Oakbay, Gordhan’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.
According to Oakbay, Gordhan could simply have declined to do anything. “Instead, he has asked the court to confirm that he does not have to do anything. The minister has essentially asked the court to insert itself into the functioning of the executive branch [of government].
“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.”
Oakbay said that if the high 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 judgments”.
“This application is an abuse of court and an effort to involve the independent judiciary to settle political scores.”
Regarding the 72 “suspicious” transactions, which were reported to the Financial Intelligence Centre (FIC), Oakbay said it has “made every attempt and pursued every avenue open to it to gain the information it needs to prove that each and every transaction is legitimate and above board”.
“Nardello & Co, an international investigative firm, was engaged 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,” it said.
“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,” Oakbay contended.
It said the minister’s application supports Oakbay’s “suspicions” that the application is “political motivated” and part of an “ongoing plan to diminish the Oakbay Group and the Gupta family and to damage their hard-earned South African businesses”. — © 2017 NewsCentral Media