Guptas given breathing room on bank account closures

Businesses owned by and linked to the Gupta family have been given breathing room after a judge ordered that their only remaining bank accounts be kept open for another week.

Twenty Gupta-linked companies approached the High Court again on Friday‚ the day before Bank of Baroda were to shut down the family’s accounts‚ again asking for an order that the accounts remain open until the companies can bring their main application against the bank in December.

Pretoria High Court Judge Hans Fabricius in September dismissed the Guptas’ application for interim relief.

Pretoria News reported that the companies again approached the court on an urgent basis‚ appearing before Judge Tati Makgoka.

The Bank of Baroda has argued it would suffer reputational harm should it continue its association with the Gupta family‚ and had reconsidered the relationship after a R11-million fine was levied by the Financial Intelligence Centre for the bank’s incorrect reporting of suspicious transactions.

Senior counsel for the Gupta companies‚ Advocate Rafik Bhana‚ submitted that the matter was so urgent that Judge Makgoka could deliver his judgment immediately and only provide reasons at a later stage‚ the newspaper reported.

Makgoka was of the view‚ however‚ that the nature of the application was such that he would need to reflect on the material issues of the matter.

The companies‚ which included the Guptas’ mining ventures Oakbay and Tegeta as well as arms manufacturer VR Laser‚ have consistently argued that the closures would place at risk the livelihoods of 7‚500 workers.

Makgoka said he required a week to deliberate and deliver his judgment‚ ordering the accounts remain open until he handed down his judgment either on Friday‚ October 6 or Monday‚ October 9.

According to the report‚ Bhana told the court that the true reasons behind Bank of Baroda and other banks ending their relationship with the Gupta family would be explained during the main application in December.

This included “pressure on the banks by third parties”‚ namely the Reserve Bank.

He also explained it would take at least two years for the businesses to wind down their requirements of the bank‚ as the sale of their companies was processed.

Bhana also indicated that arguments by the Bank of Baroda that the family could use the various pay agents they had contracted to pay employees was “absurd”.

During the previous judgment‚ Judge Fabricius had accepted the bank’s argument that the pay agents could be paid from bank accounts overseas.