Cape Town - In an apparent about-turn the Oakbay group of companies on Wednesday said South Africa’s finance minister had “declined the offer to withdraw” an application that they had welcomed earlier as a chance to clear the companies’ names and those of their owners, the Gupta family.
Wednesday’s statement said their attorneys, Van Der Merwe Associates (VDMA), had called on Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan on Tuesday afternoon to withdraw the application and tender costs by Wednesday afternoon.
A statement on Tuesday, released on behalf of the Gupta family and Oakbay Investments, had said they were “delighted” to have been cited as respondents to the application filed by the minister over suspicious transactions, allegations they described as “undiluted nonsense”.
It had continued: “At last, the Gupta family and Oakbay can begin to formally clear their names”, and thanked Gordhan for “this opportunity”.
Wednesday’s statement, however, said their attorneys had written to the minister, also on Tuesday, describing claims in the affidavit as “uncalled for, malicious and nothing but vexatious”.
Tuesday’s statement, much more measured in tone, had said the finance minister’s application was being considered by lawyers for the family and Oakbay and that “each and every entry would be dealt with in full”.
Saying that initial analysis showed fundamental flaws in the application and the 72 transactions flagged as suspicious, the statement pledged full disclosure once the analysis had been completed.
“To reiterate, we are delighted to have received this application. The truth always comes out in the end and we look forward to clearing our name in court,” the statement concluded.
The purpose of Wednesday’s statement, however, was to “offer the minister of finance the opportunity to save taxpayers money”.
Wednesday’s statement added: “To spend taxpayers’ money in ‘a reckless and inappropriate manner’ would constitute a contravention of the provisions of the Public Management Act, No.1 of 1999 – which would warrant ‘further action against those officials responsible for same’.”
VDMA did, however, add that its clients would like to put their formal version before court “since the minister of finance has chosen that forum … the matter must proceed and we will gladly do the necessary in order to restore the misrepresentation created by the papers”.
The statement concluded by noting that the attorneys for the minister of finance had on Wednesday “declined the offer to withdraw the application and tender costs”.
In a response to a query from African News Agency (ANA) on Wednesday afternoon about this apparent change of mind, Oakbay said: “[We] can assure there has been no change of mind at all. As the statement says VDMA’s clients would like to go to court.
“However, as the finance minister’s action with regard to this particular legal process is being funded by ordinary taxpayers – and given its content is nonsense – VDMA’s clients wanted to give the finance minister one last chance to save taxpayers money.”