News / South Africa

Ilse de Lange
2 minute read
29 Mar 2017
4:52 pm

Gordhan misusing public funds to fight political battles, says Gupta company

Ilse de Lange

The Guptas' representative said Gordhan was an astute politician who had deliberately opened a can of worms about a FIC report.

Atul Gupta. Picture: Gallo Images

The Gupta company Sahara Computers has accused Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan of misusing public funds to fight his personal political battles in court.

Counsel for Sahara, Rafik Bhana argued Gordhan was using his application against the Gupta’s Oakbay group of companies as a platform to air what he regarded as Oakbay’s “dirty linen”.

He said Gordhan was an astute politician who had consciously opened a can of worms about a Financial Intelligence Centre report regarding 72 alleged “suspicious” Oakbay transactions. The court has ruled that any reference to the report must be struck off the record.

Bhana said his client believed the minister had a personal interest in the matter and went public to seek disclosure of documents in the process abusing the court process.

“He used his office and state resources to continue his warfare against the Guptas and to make sure the banks do not come under scrutiny,” he said.

Sahara contended Gordhan was using the application to preempt a proposed investigation into the conduct of the banks.

Gordhan is seeking a declaratory order that he is not legally obliged to interfere in the private banking relationships between the country’s four major banks and the Oakbay group because of the “unrelenting pressure” put on him to interfere.

Savana asked the court to dismiss Gordhan’s application and order him to personally pay the legal costs because of his “unreasonable conduct” and wasting taxpayers’ money.

Counsel for Standard Bank Vincent Maleka said Oakbay had chosen to start a public campaign against the banks – questioning their integrity and accusing them of collusion – and sought to illegally involve politicians in their fight with the banks, which was why the court should order the president and Cabinet not to interfere.

Cedric Puckrin, for Oakbay, argued Gordhan was “bothering” the court with an “idle, abstract and moot point”. Oakbay accepted the minister was not legally obliged to interfere in its relationship with the banks and Gordhan’s application was entirely unnecessary. It would not bind any future finance ministers, he said.

The Reserve Bank maintained it was necessary for greater stability in the international markets for the court to give greater clarity on the powers of the minister to interfere with banks and their clients.

A full bench of the High Court in Pretoria reserved judgment.