Blow to Gupta-owned Oakbay: Court dismisses its bid to have business rescue practitioners fired

The Pretoria High Court has dismissed an application with costs by Oakbay Investments to remove the business rescue practitioners of Tegeta Exploration and Resources.

The judgment was handed down on Friday. If they had been removed, Tegeta would again have had full control of the company until new business rescue practitioners were appointed. 

Oakbay, one of the few cogs of the Gupta family's former extensive business empire still in operation, argued that while business rescue practitioners have a duty to look after shareholders, Knoop and Klopper were on a "Gupta vilifying train", and therefore not independent.

Tegeta, which falls under Oakbay, conceded to the appointment of Knoop and Klopper as business rescue practitioners in 2018, saying it would not otherwise be able to pay debts after its access to banking facilities was cut off. 

But Judge Potterill, in a 51-page judgment, ruled it was not correct to say that the Knoop and Klopper were not independent because they had criticised the Guptas.

"The objective facts are that the Oakbay group cannot be divorced from the Guptas; Oakbay does not trade and the shareholders have fled the country," the ruling reads. "I cannot find that reference to the on-going litigation and to the Guptas and their conduct has per se manifested a lack of independence in the BRP's conduct in the business rescue".

The practitioners, in turn, argued before the court they had been "swamped by litigation" by Gupta and Oakbay-affiliated companies since being appointed. 

Potterill cited numerous examples of Oakbay and Gupta-related companies initiating ligation. She said it was common cause that this "onslaught of litigation" commenced when they attempted to implement new contracts with third parties at the Optinum and Koornfontein coal mines. 

"The on-going litigation in this process needs to stop. Not only for the group itself but also in the public interest."

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