Pravin stands firm on Guptas

FINANCE Minister Pravin Gordhan has refused to withdraw his court application against the Gupta family despite a letter from their 
lawyers asking him to do so – or face the family in court.

Gordhan is seeking a declaratory order “in the 
public interest” that he is neither empowered, nor is he obliged to intervene in the relationship between the Guptas, their companies or the banks with which they had been dealing.

South African finance minister Pravin Gordhan gestures in his office in Pretoria, after speaking via video link to a Thomson Reuters investment conference in Cape Town South Africa, October 14,2016. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko. Credit: REUTERS

Gordhan’s application, which was lodged last week in the high court in Pretoria, included a certificate from Murray Michell, the director of the Financial Intelligence Centre.

It listed 72 questionable payments that the banks reported were made by Gupta companies. President Jacob Zuma’s son Duduzane also enjoys a strong business relationship with the Guptas.

At issue are details of transactions amounting to R6.8 billion in the Guptas’ accounts, which the banks and the minister deem suspicious.

These have been attached to Gordhan’s affidavit. They gave an indication for the first time why four of the country’s biggest banks may have closed off the Guptas’ accounts.

The details by the minister have placed tremendous pressure on the Guptas and their allies. More information over their alleged dealings with top politicians is anticipated in the state capture report by the public protector.

The chief executive of their Oakbay business empire, Nazeem Howa, resigned on Monday, the day after it was revealed he had been pressuring Gordhan to intervene in Oakbay’s fight with the banks.

The Guptas’ lawyers, Van der Merwe Associates (VDMA), confirmed yesterday that Gordhan’s lawyers had turned down their demand to withdraw the application.

They said the minister, in his affidavit, had made “defamatory and untrue remarks about members of the Gupta family by insinuating they had been involved in inappropriate conduct”.

“VDMA reiterated that the purpose of its letter was to offer the minister of Finance the opportunity to save
taxpayers’ money.

“VDMA also noted that its clients would like to put their formal version before court since the minister of Finance has chosen that forum.”

If the application is not withdrawn, “the matter must proceed and we will gladly do the necessary to restore the misrepresentation created by the papers”, they said.

Gordhan is also expected in court on November 2 to answer to fraud charges laid against him by the NPA, against
which he has refused to make representations.

● Earlier, Gordhan also stuck to his guns with regards to a summons served on him by the NPA to appear in 
court to answer fraud-related questions.

Responding to an offer from NPA head Shaun Abrahams for him to make “representations”, Gordhan, through his lawyer, Tebogo Malatji, said yesterday they stood by their earlier position that they 
were not prepared to make representations to Abrahams.