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CAPE TOWN - The Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (OUTA) is bringing an interdict against the Bank of Baroda aimed at freezing the Gupta-owned Optimum and Koornfontein coal mines’ rehabilitation trust fund accounts worth a staggering R1.75 billion.

The interdict is being filed in the Pretoria High Court. This follows the dismissal of the Guptas’ application which tried to stop the Bank of Baroda closing their accounts.

The Bank is believed to have been the last bank in the country which had maintained accounts for the Guptas after a number of banks distanced themselves from the apparently illegal banking activities.

OUTA wants to ensure that these rehabilitation funds do not disappear.

“We want to ensure that this money doesn’t leave the country or find its way into the Gupta family’s pockets,” says Ben Theron, Chief Operating Officer at OUTA.

OUTA believes that these trust funds represent more than 90% of the deposits held by the bank in SA.

OUTA recently appealed to Minister of Mineral Resources Mosebenzi Zwane and the South African Reserve Bank to secure these funds, but there was no response.

Julius Kleynhans, OUTA’s Portfolio Manager for Water and Environment said that the funds are meant to rehabilitate environmental damage in and around the collieries. “The purpose of a rehabilitation trust is to ensure that the area is rehabilitated and restored to such an extent that it is useful and safe for future generations to use.”

The Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act and the National Environmental Management Act dictate that the funds in mine rehabilitation trusts cannot be used for purposes other than managing the environmental damage caused by mining activities.

“We started to close the taps on the Guptas’ finances in July 2017 by taking action against their banks. Recent actions by the Bank of Baroda seem to indicate that they are serious about continuing to do business in South Africa, but if it’s serious about cleaning up shop, we trust that it will not attempt to oppose our interdict,” says Theron.