Bloemfontein - The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) was expected to put up a bold fight in the high court in Bloemfontein on Friday morning to ensure that the preservation order on Atul Gupta’s bank account with the Bank of Baroda (BoB) is sustained.
This is after lawyers representing Gupta, the bank and several companies owned by the controversial family took turns on Thursday to try to discredit the case, saying the State had done a shoddy job and had misrepresented facts in court.
The bank, represented by Luc Spiller, hit out at the NPA following the freezing of R30million of its money after authorities accused it of helping move money earmarked for a dairy project in the Free State to the Guptas.
The NPA successfully applied for the preservation order in January, but the bank says the State failed to prove the frozen funds were indeed the proceeds of criminal activity.
The bank argued that the money, which was deposited in 2013, had already been withdrawn and the attachment of a similar amount in the bank now compromised the bank’s balance sheet and was “unsustainable”.
“The R30m deposited in a bank account several years ago cannot be the same amount that has been frozen now,” said Spiller.
He said the bank was a non-clearing bank and the deposit had gone into a pool account before being transferred to other financial institutions, as it belonged to the bank’s clients.
“The money from the dairy project was first deposited into the accounts of Standard Bank and FNB, but no one is trying to freeze money in those accounts,” Spiller argued.
Michael Hellens, who is representing five Gupta-owned companies believed to have benefited from the illicit transactions, was more scathing and described the papers prepared by the NPA as a “national embarrassment” due to being shoddy and incoherent.
“Should this order have been granted? We say no,” said Hellens.
Hellens is representing Aerohaven Trading (Pvt) Ltd, Oakbay Investments (Pvt) Ltd, Westdawn Investments (Pvt) Ltd, Annex Distribution (Pvt) Ltd and Islandsite Investments 180 (Pvt) Ltd.
“There is fundamentally flawed thinking in this case. It’s an incompetent order. There is no proof of money going into the Estina or Oakbay accounts. It’s just money going in the Bank of Baroda. We ask that the entire order be set aside,” said Hellens.
Rafik Bhana, for Atul Gupta, said the court had not been presented with the facts when the application was made, and therefore the order should cease to exist.
“The Estina bank account has not been picked out as the source of the funds deposited into the Bank of Baroda.
“The NPA has failed to provide proof to back this. They approached the court with incomplete papers. We want a punitive costs order for the NPA,” said Bhana.
The State, led by Thato Ntimutse, was expected to argue in response this morning.
At the high court in Pretoria, 12 Gupta-linked companies, including Oakbay Investments, face closure over the BoB’s decision to close its South African arm.
The bank informed the Reserve Bank that it would be winding down its businesses in South Africa on March31.
This prompted the affected Gupta-linked companies, including seven others under business rescue, to file urgent papers in the high court in Pretoria on Thursday, to block the bank’s exodus.
The Gupta-linked companies asked the court to block Baroda’s move, saying that it would cause irreparable harm to their businesses.
Judgment was reserved.