Ajay and Atul Gupta File picture: Independent Media
Plans by the business rescue practitioners to sell two Gupta-owned mines - Optimum Coal and Koornfontein Coal - were scuttled following their failure to overturn a preservation-of-funds order against them.

Last month, the National Directorate of Public Prosecutions obtained a court order to preserve the two mines' rehabilitation funds, held by India's Bank of Baroda.

In their application, which was granted, the National Prosecuting Authority asked the court to make an order in which the funds, which amounted to almost R2billion, were to be kept in Nedbank accounts pending the finalisation of a forfeiture application.

The court order states that if anybody or any entity wanted to access the funds, they must do so through an application to the authority and the Department of Mineral Resources.

The order was granted on March 8 in accordance with the Prevention of Organised Crime Act.

Yesterday, the business rescue practitioners made an urgent application in the high court, asking it to reconsider its preservation order, but their plans were thwarted after the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa) asked the court to be included in the proceedings.

Advocate Mike Hellens, counsel for the business rescue practitioners acting on behalf of Optimum, and advocate Rafik Bhana opposed Outa’s application on the grounds that they had filed their papers late.

Both Hellens and Bhana agree that in complicated court matters such as that of the Guptas, which attracted national and international attention, interested parties were allowed to participate in court proceedings, but within the prescripts of the law.

Hellens said Outa had filed its application on Wednesday - on the eve of its clients' application to overturn the preservation order.

Judge Bill Prinsloo disagreed, saying the lawyers representing the Gupta-owned mines had failed to furnish him with legal authorities or previous court rulings which would bar him from allowing Outa to participate in the case.

In September last year, Outa received an interim ruling in the high court which prevented the Gupta-owned companies and the Bank of Baroda from allowing cash belonging to the controversial family to leave the shores of South Africa.

Due to that ruling, Judge Prinsloo found that Outa was an interested party in the matter. The case was postponed to May 31 for arguments.

Political Bureau