Gupta lawyers accuse NPA of delaying tactics in restraint order case

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

Lawyers for Gupta-linked companies have described the NPA's request for a postponement in their restraint order case as lazy and a delaying tactic.  

The companies want to challenge a restraint order that targets assets, to the tune of R180m, in the Free State High Court in Bloemfontein. 

A provisional restraint order was granted on April 11.

On Thursday morning, the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) requested a postponement, saying they wanted advocate Wim Trengove, SC, to handle the case. Trengove was not available to appear in court on Thursday.

READ: Guptas' nephew awaits outcome of application to have bail conditions relaxed

Judge Philip Jacobus Loubser postponed the matter to May 17. He ordered the NPA to pay for the costs. 

Loubser said that granting the NPA a postponement was in the interests of justice. 

Luxury vehicles, immovable properties and bank accounts are some of the assets which are subject to a provisional restraint order, which the Asset Forfeiture Unit (AFU) obtained in a case against eight people accused of fraud and other charges, relating to the multimillion-rand Estina dairy farm project.

The Hawks arrested the eight people during raids at various locations in February, including the Gupta compound in Saxonwold and their offices in Sandton.

'They can't say they were busy'

They are Estina director Kamal Vasram, former directors at the Guptas' holding company Oakbay - Varun Gupta, Ronica Ragavan, Nazeem Howa and Ashu Chawla - and Free State officials Peter Thabethe, Sylvia Dlamini and Takisi Masiteng.

While the criminal case against them is pending, the AFU pounced and went after their assets.

It was the AFU's argument that they benefited from their alleged unlawful activity.

While arguing against the postponement on Thursday, advocate Mike Hellens, who represents some of the Gupta-linked companies, told the court that the NPA was unable to complete a job it had started. 

"They were the architects of the application. They can't say they were busy, we are all busy... I would suggest we continue and not waste the people's money," he said.

Hellens added that Trengove had no previous involvement in the matter. 

"They [NPA] are doing nothing to do the work themselves. Instead of doing the work, they spend time finding someone to handle the case," Hellens said.  

'My clients have rights'

"It is a tactic for delay. It is the fundamental failure of justice. They cannot tell you why they did not do the work themselves."

Advocate Rafik Bhana SC, for Annex Distribution and Westdawn Investments, argued that the NPA had failed to prepare their answering affidavits. 

"Your lordship is not told that [advocate Trengove] is not available to argue the matter today. They are telling you they were very busy with other matters, therefore they cannot prepare the answering affidavit. My clients and Mr Hellens clients have rights.

"Your lordship is not told when we are going to see this replying affidavit. There is no indication when the answering affidavit is going to be produced," Bhana said.

However, following the postponement, NPA spokesperson Luvuyo Mfaku agreed that it was in the interest of justice. 

"The National Director has a prerogative to choose who represents him or who does not represent him and, in this case, our advocate is busy... we have to engage on equal footing," he said.

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