Gordhan says timing of court bid was not premeditated

Johannesburg – Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan said the court application he submitted in October last year was not strategically timed to be filed ahead of the release of the State of Capture report.

This is according to an affidavit Gordhan filed at the North Gauteng High Court on Monday morning. The affidavit is in response to court papers filed by Oakbay Investments on January 20.

The Gupta-owned company’s affidavit claims Gordhan targeted the family, and that his application to ask relief from the courts in dealing with the closure of Oakbay’s bank accounts was unnecessary.

READ: Gordhan told big business to ‘clip the Guptas’ wings’ – affidavit

In the latest affidavit, Gordhan stated: “My application was not ‘strategically’ lodged ‘a few days’ before the failed attempt to suppress the State of Capture report.”

Gordhan added that the application was filed in response to the “Hawks disaster”. His application was filed on October 14 and the “ill-fated litigation” surrounding the State of Capture report only commenced in November, the affidavit stated.

“I have had no involvement in, nor any knowledge about the litigation at the time,” added Gordhan.

Oakbay claims Gordhan’s application was not “seriously sought”. However, the finance minister highlighted that supporting court papers filed by the four major banks - Standard Bank, FNB, Nedbank and Absa - as well as the Reserve Bank and the Financial Intelligence Centre reflect the seriousness of the matter. “The relief sought is indeed appropriately formulated,” stated the affidavit.

Gordhan pointed out that it is his responsibility as finance minister to “protect the fiscus” and to “monitor the state of affairs in the financial sector”.

Referring to the R1.3bn transaction regarding the Optimum mining rehabilitation fund, which was a finding in the public protector’s report, Gordhan stated: “The public protector’s State of Capture report demonstrates that my concern regarding the risk to tax revenue is indeed well-founded.”

He said this “large transaction” has been reported as “suspicious” and raises questions, this being the recoverable revenue and the burden mining rehabilitation may impose on the fiscus.

ALSO READ: Gordhan denies he tried 'clipping the wings' of the Guptas

Gordhan also pointed out that the decision by the four major banks to close Oakbay Investments' accounts in the first quarter of 2016 and the Bank of China’s decision to do so in September 2016 cannot be attributed to him.

“I did not place 'pressure' on ‘big business’ to ‘clip the wings’ of the Gupta family and their business,” stated Gordhan.

Oakbay also called for courts to dismiss Gordhan’s application with costs. In his responding affidavit, Gordhan stated:  “It is Oakbay’s equivocal opposition which generated unnecessary legal costs to the taxpayer... because Oakbay is responsible for these costs, Oakbay should be held liable for them.”

Oakbay issued a statement responding to Gordhan's affidavit on Monday afternoon, claiming that Gordhan “proactively came after us” and “smeared our name with a flawed list of transactions”.  

“Our bank accounts remain closed and no evidence exists to prove why that is the case. We look forward to clearing our name in court," stated Oakbay. 

The matter between Gordhan and Oakbay is expected to be heard by Tshwane's North Gauteng High Court in March.

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