News / South Africa

Ilse de Lange
2 minute read
19 Apr 2018
6:59 pm

Gupta-owned mines funds again feature in court

Ilse de Lange

All the stakeholders, including the taxpayer, had major interests in the outcome of the proceedings which had been delayed, the court said.

An urgent application by the trustees of the rehabilitation funds for the Gupta-owned Optimum and Koornfontein coal mines, to overturn a preservation order, will only proceed at the end of May after an agreement with the National Director of Public Prosecutions, Outa and the business rescuers in charge of the mines. 

The parties reached the agreement after Judge Bill Prinsloo yesterday ruled that Outa, which last year obtained an order freezing the R1,72 billion in the trust accounts, had a vital interest in the matter and could make submissions.

Outa was not named as a respondent in the application but sought to place an opposing affidavit before court. 

The trustees sought an urgent court order to reverse the preservation order obtained by the NDPP in March, in terms of which the Bank of Baroda was to transfer the rehabilitation funds to Nedbank for safekeeping pending a forfeiture application, in terms of the Prevention of Organised Crime Act.

Counsel for the trustees, Mike Hellens SC, yesterday submitted they intended to show that the preservation application was “a disgrace and an embarrassment in a court of law” and that the NDPP had no intention of applying for the forfeiture of the funds.

The trustees objected to Outa “wailing from the sidelines”, claiming their application had nothing to do with Outa, and that a court order overturning the preservation order would not affect the safeguarding of the funds.

Nazeer Cassim, for the NDPP, supported Outa’s intervention. He said it was the NDPP’s case that R7,2 million had been withdrawn from Optimum’s rehabilitation trust fund and used “for an untoward purpose”, with the blessing of the trustees. 

The trustees claimed the withdrawal was necessary for rehabilitation purposes, but the NDPP said there was no documentary proof that it had in fact been used for that purpose, and could only be used after the closure of the mines. 

The NDPP and Outa expressed concern that the funds would be dissipated, with Outa especially concerned about an arrangement that the trustees’ attorneys would receive the funds from the Bank of Baroda, which was withdrawing from South Africa. 

Judge Prinsloo said both sides had referred to the Outa application and it would be a sorry day if a court were to close the door to an interested party where all the stakeholders, including the South African taxpayer, had major interests in the outcome of the proceedings.

Also read: Workers at Gupta-owned coal mines not paid for March: NUM

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