Attempt to push 'Gupta' practitioners out of Optimum business rescue

Cape Town –  A relatively unknown company is pushing to have the practitioners left in charge of the business rescue of Optimum coalmine out of the process, saying it is aimed at preventing anyone linked to the Gupta family from taking part. 

On Tuesday the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria also determined that the current business rescue practitioners may not pay any further historic debt due before the filing of February’s resolution for business rescue.

An application for this relief was issued on behalf of Andile Qaku, the sole director of a company called Deriko Mining and Exploration, after the National Union of Mineworkers withdrew a similar case. 

This adds another chapter to the Optimum coal mine saga after Tegeta’s operations there went under business rescue because the Bank of Baroda announced that it would be exiting South Africa.

READ: Optimum Coal business rescue court battle looms

Bank of Baroda's exit from SA left Tegeta without banking facilities in SA to pay employees and creditors. 

A statement issued by Ruann Kruger on behalf of Kruger & Co. Attorneys said business rescue practitioners Johann Klopper and Robert Knoop were linked to the Gupta family. The attorneys ask that the court “appoint independent business rescue practitioners” instead.

The statement said the practitioners were appointed unlawfully and in contravention of the provisions of the Companies Act of 2008.

“These interventions by the Gupta companies have made it clear that the Gupta influence and the allegations questioning the independence of the appointed practitioners is not unfounded, and that this is a further ploy to delay and frustrate the outcome of the relief sought in the application,” the statement said.

The statement said the application and the court’s latest ruling has resulted in one major South African bank coming forward to discuss facilitating a bank account for Optimum as long as alternative practitioners are not linked to the Gupta family.

“Up until the application was launched and recognised by the court as urgent, Optimum’s appointed practitioners were denied applications to open a bank account from major financial institutions due to the alleged ties between Knoop, Klopper and the shareholders of Gupta-linked companies,” said the statement.

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