Gupta-owned mines' rehabilitation fund case postponed

2018-04-19 20:29
Ajay and Atul Gupta. (Muntu Vilakazi, Gallo Images, City Press, file)

Ajay and Atul Gupta. (Muntu Vilakazi, Gallo Images, City Press, file)

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An urgent court application by the Gupta-owned Optimum and Koornfontein coal mines to reclaim rehabilitation funds worth over R1.7bn, has been postponed. The money was seized by the National Prosecuting Authority's (NPA) Asset Forfeiture Unit. 

Trustees of the rehabilitation funds controlled by the mines approached the North Gauteng High Court on Thursday for the reconsideration of the seizure of the funds. The money is meant to be used to rehabilitate the mines once mining operations have come to an end.

The application was opposed by the NPA.

The court did not hear the merits of the case. However, Judge Bill Prinsloo did deal with arguments as to whether or not the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (OUTA) should be allowed to make submissions on the application. 

Advocate Mike Hellens, SC, for the Gupta-owned mines, argued that if OUTA wanted to join the proceedings, there was a measure and manner in which it could join. He argued that it couldn't merely make submissions and address the court.

"They're either in or not in," said Hellens.

Suspicions funds were irregularly used

Advocate Nazeer Cassim, SC, for the National Director of Public Prosecutions, argued that a sitting judge, in terms of the Constitution, had the power to decide how to run their court and that there was a duty to hear all interested parties to help a court make a judgment.

Prinsloo dismissed the objections and ruled that OUTA could make submissions as it had a direct and general interest in the matter.

"Although there isn't an official joinder application they did in a sense apply to join by making these submissions and explaining why they want to make these submissions," said Prinsloo.

READ: Gupta business rescue practitioners shown the door after questioning suspect transactions

The court then adjourned to allow the different counsels to engage each other. Upon their return, Hellens told the court that all parties involved had agreed to postpone the matter to May 31 and June 1 and that the costs orders are to be reserved.

Prinsloo told the court as he summed up the application that the NPA had expressed a concern that the funds in the trusts had been irregularly used.

Prinsloo said the preservation order, removing the funds from the trustees and placing them in a Nedbank account, was granted in an ex parte application on March 8.

NPA, Hawks 'incompetents'

In a statement released on Wednesday evening by BDK Attorneys on behalf of the Gupta family, the NPA was slammed as having an "appalling lack of understanding of commerce and the true nature of even the very legislation that the NPA works within" with respect to the Prevention of Organised Crime Act, which was used to get the preservation order on the trusts.

"That preservation order will shortly, we are satisfied, be set aside by an equally punishing and disparaging order of court shortly to be presented to court," the statement read.

"Not only have the Gupta companies and the Guptas been attacked by incompetents in the National Prosecuting Authority and the Hawks, but it is blandly stated by a minister of state, by senior prosecutors and senior police officers," the statement read. 

READ: More Gupta-owned companies apply for business rescue

The Guptas have also challenged the Hawks to provide evidence of a warrant of arrest for Ajay Gupta, adding that the Gupta brothers were still overseas for work.

"They look across the world at South Africa and are appalled as to how a democratic state should have fallen into such disrepair that a senior and essential part of the justice system – the NPA – so completely fails in its duty to provide a copy of an arrest warrant to someone whom they publicise as a fugitive from justice."

On Monday, authorities raided the Guptas' Saxonwold compound to seize assets from those implicated in the Vrede dairy farm case.

Several prosecuted

"On 11 April 2017, NPA (Asset Forfeiture Unit) obtained a restraint order at the Bloemfontein High Court in the amount of R250 202 652.00 against the assets of several individuals and entities who were implicated in the offences of theft, fraud and money laundering, in respect of the Vrede dairy project: Estina matter," the NPA said in a statement.

The order was the result of criminal investigations by the Hawks that led to the arrest and institution of criminal prosecution against several people.

Around 20 officials entered through the gates of the compound earlier on Monday while police officers stood outside.

READ: Gupta's Tegeta sale: Amin Alzarooni named director of holding company

Eight people were arrested by the Hawks during raids at a number of Gupta compounds, including their Saxonwold home and one of their offices in Sandton in February.

In January, the Hawks conducted search and seizure operations at former Free State premier Ace Magashule's offices and the provincial office of the department of agriculture.

The Gupta email leaks revealed in 2017 how at least R30m paid to the Guptas, via the farm, ended up funding the family's lavish Sun City wedding in 2013. 

Read more on:    npa  |  optimum coal mine  |  gupta family

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