Cape Town - The Oakbay Group is currently considering whether or not to oppose Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan's application in the Pretoria High Court to declare that he is not by law empowered or obliged to intervene in the relationship between the Gupta family and South Africa’s four major banks.
Gordhan filed papers with the court on Friday afternoon. In his founding affidavit Gordhan said it had become increasingly clear that the existing dispute between the Gupta family and South African banks was of national importance, adding that it would be prudent to resolve it sooner rather than later.
“In short, Oakbay demanded that on behalf of government I intervene with the banks to achieve a reversal of their decisions," Gordhan's papers read.
Oakbay Group attorney Gert van der Merwe, however, told The New Age in a phone interview on Monday that he and Oakbay are currently considering their position regarding further action and possibly opposing Gordhan's application.
"The relief sought [by Gordhan] is not necessary to ask for in the first place. So, one can only deduct that the application has no merit and no actual relief sought," said Van der Merwe.
At the same time he is glad to now have what he sees as an opportunity to get the banks "to at last give me reasons for closing these accounts. They kept it secret despite us asking for it repeatedly".
Van der Merwe claims it is not true that any transactions are even remotely suspicious. He said over the past four years his clients were never informed by the banks or regulatory authorities about any suspicious transactions.
He said the banks unilaterally decided at once to close all the accounts and that is why his clients approached Gordhan and even opposition parties for help.
"We never said there is an obligation on the minister [of finance] to help us. We [just] asked for help. Now they approached the court to confirm that there is no obligation. It just does not make sense," said Van der Merwe.
Regarding Gordhan raising fears of misuse of R1.3bn that belongs to the Optimum Rehabilitation Trust, Van der Merwe described it as "undiluted nonsense".
"The point is that money was transferred from a bank account which the bank closed. It was then transferred by the business rescue practitioners to a different account also held in the rehabilitation trust," explained Van der Merwe.
He said that is where the money still is.
Van der Merwe also denied that the Gupta firm or the Guptas themselves moved any money for money laundering or tax evasion purposes.
"If there was any proof in that, then the relief would not be the relief sought at the moment. This is the minister of finance...He would ask for judgment and that does not feature anywhere," said Van der Merwe.
* Oakbay Investments on Monday announced the resignation of its chief executive officer Nazeem Howa with immediate effect, siting health reasons.
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