Guptas to prove conspiracy claims on January 20 - report

Cape Town – The Guptas plan to reveal “how they are victims of a planned, concerted and politically driven smear campaign” on January 20, when they file responding court papers to Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan’s 2016 court application.

That is according to an interview the Guptas' lawyer - Gert van der Merwe - had with eNCA, published online on Tuesday.

“The application is a superfluous application, it should never have been brought, it was just a means to an end goal: and that was to smear," he said.

"My instructions are that this campaign, executed in choir, all the same voice, and for some even overwhelming, [is] with one purpose and that is to eliminate the business of the Gupta family and to gain obvious political achievement, of which we read every day,” he told the television news channel.

eNCA said that “Van der Merwe says the family will prove their conspiracy claims in court documents due to be filed in just over a week”.

South Africa’s top four banks closed Gupta-owned business accounts in 2016 amid allegations of state capture and corruption that stem from a close relationship to President Jacob Zuma.

"Three judges (are) expected to decide (the) court battle between Gordhan, (the) Guptas and the banks from 28-30 March," eNCA's Karyn Maughan tweeted.

The Guptas have never approached a court to review the matter, like Fana Hlongwane, who is suing Absa for R7m after it closed his business bank accounts in 2013. He was reviewed as a politically exposed person over Arms Deal allegations.

Instead, the Guptas have allegedly pressurised government to act on their behalf.

Zuma formed an inter-ministerial banking inquiry into the matter in 2016, which saw Mines Minister Mosebenzi Zwane announce a formal inquiry into the banks without approval. The move was subsequently rejected by Zuma.

Under pressure, Gordhan filed papers in 2016 seeking court protection against being forced by the Guptas to intervene in the matter.

All these banks were included as respondents and subsequently filed affidavits, defending their actions to close the accounts.  

In its application in December, Absa said it started its review into the bank accounts linked to the Gupta-owned companies in November 2014 as part of its annual review into politically exposed people. It closed their accounts on February 16 2016.

FirstRand said FNB terminated its business relations with the Guptas due to “associated reputational and business risk”.

Suspicious transactions were among the reasons why Standard Bank Group said it closed the accounts of Oakbay and its associated entities in June 2016.

Banks are required to review customers if adverse information comes to light. Standard Bank listed examples of this. These include media reports of the R2.15bn acquisition of Optimum Coal Mine from Glencore by Tegeta Exploration and Resources, which was alleged to be politically influenced.

Another matter facing court action is former Public Protector Thuli Madonsela’s State of Capture Report’s findings that Zuma launch an inquiry into whether there was political interference in the business conduct of the Gupta family.

Zuma has approached the North Gauteng High Court to set aside the report.

In his affidavit, filed in December, Zuma challenges the recommendation that a commission of inquiry be established, saying it "violates the rule of law that it is inconsistent with the Constitution and breaches the separation of powers principle".

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