Gupta execs in ‘turf war’ with rescuers

Ronica Ragavan in the court in Bloemfontein. (Photo: Mlungisi Louw)
Ronica Ragavan in the court in Bloemfontein. (Photo: Mlungisi Louw)

The business rescue practitioners of eight Gupta companies on Friday won a court order against executives who were trying to control their access to the family’s corporate headquarters – the Sandton offices of Oakbay Investments.

Four executives, including Ronica Ragavan and Pushpaveni Govender, who run several of the family’s companies, were slapped with a punitive cost order for opposing the application.

The rescue practitioners include Louis Klopper and Kurt Knoop. They said that, last week, the Gupta executives started forcing them to make written requests to visit the Oakbay offices from where the Gupta companies were all, to some extent, run. This was making it hard to get access to documents and do their job, they said.

The executives claimed that the rescuers were invading Oakbay and its subsidiaries’ right to privacy.

There are court cases pending between the parties and the rescuers might overhear sensitive conversations in the offices, they claimed in court.

Johannesburg High Court Judge Denise Fisher rejected this argument and said no evidence or even a specific allegation of impropriety against the rescuers had been produced – only that they were an inconvenience.

The Companies Act allowed business rescuers to take over the daily management of companies, Fisher said.

The rescuers asked for a punitive order against the four Gupta executives who opposed the application. Among those who were cited but who did not oppose the application was Salim Essa, the Gupta family’s best-known “lieutenant”.

“I agree with the counsel for the applicants that the application should not have been necessary,” Fisher wrote in her judgment.

“That the respondents have opposed the application suggests a vexatiousness which ... should attract the court’s censure.”

She ordered them to pay the rescue practitioners’ costs.

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