Pretoria – Gupta-family owned Oakbay Investments on Tuesday told the Pretoria High Court that it never suggested that Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan was obliged to intervene when four of the major banks closed its bank accounts, it merely asked the minister for help as thousands of people were to lose their jobs as a result.
Advocate Cedric Puckrin, senior council, said it was aware of the legal position that the minister cannot interfere in the private banking affairs of a bank and its private client. But he said if one closely read the relief asked by Gordhan in this case, it is clear that he is only asking for an order in relation to last year’s closure of the Gupta related companies accounts by the banks.
Even if the court did entertain the minister’s application for a declaratory order, it will not have much effect, Puckrin said, as the bank accounts have already been closed.” The horse has bolted,” Puckrin told a full bench of three judges.
He argued this application was moot and academic and questioned why Gordhan approached the court to obtain an affirmation that he may not interfere in the Gupta-owned bank affairs.
“We accept the law, but we say this is an idle, abstract and moot point to take to on an issue which is already a settled issue in law.”
Read also: Guptas' Oakbay to continue to fight Gordhan
While the banks did not oppose Gordhan’s affirmation of the fact that he cannot interfere in their banking relationships with clients, Advocate Wim Trengove SC, acting for the SA Reserve Bank said such an order would be good for economic stability in future.
This is especially so if there is a risk of possible political interference, Trengove said. He said a declaratory order, as asked by Gordhan, would not only benefit the finance minister, but it would also benefit any possible successor.
Standard Bank, in their application, is going a step further and asking the court to expand the order by declaring that not only the finance minister, but in fact the entire executive, including the president, should not be allowed to interfere with the banking affairs of others.
The banks agreed that the line had to be drawn.
Gordhan earlier stated that he was bombard by letters from Oakbay to interfere when the banks closed its bank accounts.