Johannesburg - Oakbay Investments, the company that is owned by the Gupta family and President Jacob Zuma’s son Duduzane, said on Tuesday that a court application by Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan implicating the firm in suspicious transactions was fundamentally flawed.
The statement comes days after Gordhan revealed in a court affidavit that R6.8 billion in payments made by Ajay, Atul and Rajesh Gupta, companies they controlled and other individuals with the same surname had been reported to the authorities as suspicious since 2012.
The three Indian-born businessmen are the subject of an official investigation into allegations that they had undue influence over Zuma. The president has denied granting undue influence to them and they have denied seeking it.
Oakbay, whose chief executive Nazeem Howa resigned for health reasons on Monday, said all 72 transactions were approved by the banks processing them.
“The application’s detail is fundamentally flawed,” the company said in a statement.
Several banks and companies have cut ties this year with Oakbay, without publicly disclosing their reasons. They included South Africa’s top four banks: Standard Bank, Nedbank, Barclays Africa’s Absa, FNB and Standard Bank.
In April, the government told Gordhan and two other cabinet ministers to contact the banks to discuss their decision to cease doing business with the Gupta companies.
The banks refused to give details, saying their dealings with clients were confidential.
A document from Murray Mitchell, the director of the Financial Intelligence Centre (FIC), listed 72 suspicious transaction reports implicating members of the Gupta family and their companies, some of which comprised multiple entries for which no amount was listed. He did not specify why the transactions were considered suspect.
Gordhan asked the banks to provide confidential reports made to the FIC in an open court, detailing suspicious transactions, to determine if there was any substance to Oakbay’s claim that the banks acted improperly.
Oakbay said yesterday none of the transactions related to it or the Gupta family, the majority shareholder were flagged to the FIC as suspicious.
“To put this in context, the FIC’s own 2015/16 annual report showed that 98 054 transactions in that year alone were flagged as suspicious by the banks.”
One of the largest transactions flagged by finance the minister’s application was the transfer of more than R1.3bn of the Optimum Rehabilitation Trust’s account from Standard Bank to the Bank of Baroda.
Oakbay said it proved in a statement on Monday this was bona fide.
It said: “The Rehabilitation Fund balance was moved from Optimum Mine Rehabilitation Trust’s account with Standard Bank to Bank of Baroda in June 2016. This transfer was due to Standard Bank’s closure of all company accounts. This is the only movement of money from this account. This movement was with the full permission of the joint business rescue practitioners.
“Any suggestions that the Rehabilitation Fund has been drawn down upon are absolutely untrue and defamatory.”
Former public protector Thuli Madonsela had been investigating the Guptas in relation to state capture. The family is alleged to have been involved in the appointment of ministers in Zuma’s cabinet.
However, Zuma served Madonsela with a notice of intention to interdict her release of the draft report. Its release was shelved as a result.
Both applications are now set to be heard on November 1.
* With additional reporting by Reuters