Pretoria – Standard Bank on Wednesday kicked off the second day of arguments in the Gauteng High Court, Pretoria, proceedings in which Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan is asking for a declaratory order that he cannot interfere with the decision of the country’s four major banks not to do business with the Guptas and their companies.
While it is conceded by the banks as well as by the Gupta family’s Oakbay Investments that the minister cannot interfere with the decision of the country’s four major banks not to do business with the Gupta family, it was still necessary for the court to issue a declaratory order in this regard, Gordhan’s advocate, Jeremy Gauntlett told the court on Tuesday.
“No harm can come of this. Only good if affirmation is given by this court,” Gauntlett said. He said such an order would then be binding on certain parties.
He said the case concerned the legal question whether the minister or any member of the executive was authorised or obliges to intervene in banker-client relationships if bank accounts are closed.
Judge President Dunstan Mlambo remarked that all the parties agreed that the minister was not obliged to interfere. “It is accepted by all that he cannot interfere. What do you need from us? To give the final nod,” he asked.
The parties seem adamant to get that final nod, with legal argument mostly pertaining to the law expected to be placed before the court for the duration of the hearing.
The sting was taken out of the application when the court ruled that a certificate issued by the Financial Intelligence Centre (FIC) will no longer form part of the proceedings. The certificate contained 72 suspicious transactions involving the Gupta family and related companies.
It was also ordered that portions of Oakbay’s affidavit suggesting a “political conspiracy theory” by Gordhan, also had to be removed from the proceedings.
Advocate Vincent Maleka SC for Standard Bank will ask for an order declaring that the principle of legality did not permit the Finance Minister, nor any minister in the National Assembly, as well as the president, to interfere in the contractual relationships between banks and their customers, in particular in relation to decisions to terminate banking relationships.
President Jacob Zuma this week withdrew his decision to be cited as an interested party in the declaratory order sought by Standard Bank. His counsel, will, however, keep a watching brief over the proceedings.
The reason Zuma wanted to join the proceedings was that the order Standard Bank is asking would directly affect the president and other members of cabinet, without joining them as parties in the proceedings.