The two-day hearing into former finance minister Pravin Gordhan’s application around the Gupta bank account saga saw the family’s businesses split into groups with different legal strategies.
Gordhan’s brief appearance in the Pretoria High Court this week was his last public appearance as finance minister.
Most of the family’s businesses abandoned their conspiracy theory argument against the now axed minister, freely submitting to having these far-reaching allegations in their court papers struck off the record.
These allegations had included that Gordhan had instructed leaders of large companies to “clip the wings” of the Gupta businesses by cutting ties with them.
However, Sahara Computers pressed on with the argument that Gordhan had “ulterior motives” and spent its time in court arguing that the whole case was a ploy to embarrass the Guptas.
This belief of Sahara’s still seems to be the Gupta businesses’ position outside of court.
Gordhan’s application was for a declaratory order that he cannot interfere in the relationship between the Gupta companies and their banks.
This followed the “lobbying on steroids” he had been subjected to by the Guptas last year, according to Gordhan’s counsel, Jeremy Gauntlett.
Despite ditching its conspiracy claims legally, Oakbay released a cryptic press release at the end of the hearing contradicting its own case by once again claiming that the minister “made his ulterior motives very clear” in court.
Gauntlett was scathing of this split argument.
“It is a peculiar situation where, at a very late stage, one fragment of the group of companies says it wants to be separately represented and make separate arguments,” said Gauntlett.
“They [Sahara] blithely disregard the effect of the strike-out ... and say this stuff is material.”
With the Gupta’s conspiracy theory against Gordhan now excised from the court record, the Sahara case had no factual allegations to back it up, said Gauntlett.
According to Sahara’s counsel, Rafik Bhana, Gordhan and his lawyers intentionally made a pointless court application just to give the minister and the banks the opportunity to legally release otherwise confidential information on the Guptas.
This includes the letters from Oakbay to Gordhan and, most importantly, the infamous Financial Intelligence Centre (FIC) certificate, which has been the focus of much of the Gupta companies’ damage control.
That certificate was attached to Gordhan’s initial application.
Although it is often said to list 72 suspicious transactions worth R6.8 billion, this is not accurate.
Many of the 72 entries on the list are “multiple transactions” with no monetary value given, so the total is higher than commonly reported.
“It is not an oversight, it is the work of an astute legal team that was using the application as a platform to get out in the public domain what they perceive as Oakbay’s dirty laundry,” said Bhana.
The FIC certificate and other swipes at the Guptas were also struck from the record for being legally irrelevant.
The infamous list was repeatedly called a “can of worms” by lawyers and the three judges hearing the case.
THE ‘TROJAN HORSE’
Oakbay’s counsel, Cedric Puckrin, referred to the banks that had joined the case as the “Trojan Horse respondents”.
They had latched on to a relatively simple application from Gordhan and added enormous volumes of separate court papers.
Most importantly, Standard Bank asked for a far more far-reaching order from the court than Gordhan had asked for.
The bank wants an order that not only the finance minister, but no member of the executive, including the president, can interfere in banks’ decisions around their clients.
This was especially in response to Mineral Resources Minister Mosebenzi Zwane’s campaign against the banks last year.
Much of the hearing centred on why Standard Bank had not joined any other ministers or the president as parties to the case.
Judgment was reserved.