Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan on Friday revealed he had met with Oakbay Investments CEO Nazeem Howa in May this year and told him he could not intervene in a dispute with the country’s major banks who had severed ties with the company, owned by the controversial Gupta family.
In a written reply to a parliamentary question, Gordhan said Howa requested the meeting in two letters dated in April to ask the Treasury to intervene in the dispute and any job losses that could occur at the holding company and its associated companies because of the decision by the banks to close Oakbay’s bank accounts.
The minister said he informed Howa that legally he could not intervene.
“There are legislative and regulatory impediments to any registered bank discussing client-related matters with the minister of finance or any third party,” Gordhan said in the written reply.
“The minister of finance does not have the power to intervene in a bank-client relationship (and I pointed out that I am advised by legal opinion in this respect).”
Gordhan said if Oakbay has nothing to hide it should approach the courts.
“I pointed out that the best, and only, course of action for any corporate client would be for the company to approach a competent court to seek the reasons for the closure of their accounts, and to establish its rights and to deal with any alleged transgressions of the law or of the Code of Banking Practice, which cover the process that banks have agreed to when closing accounts.”
Gordhan’s revelations follow a statement by Mineral Resources Minister Mosibenze Zwane on September 1 that a judicial investigation into banks would be conducted because of their refusal to continue doing business with the Gupta family.
A day later, President Jacob Zuma issued a statement distancing Cabinet from Zwane’s announcement.
The presidency said the comments made by Zwane on the work of the inter-ministerial task team established to consider the implications of the decisions of certain banks and audit firms to close down the accounts and withdraw audit services from Oakbay Investments, was made in his personal capacity.
Opposition parties, and ANC alliance partners, have since called for Zwane’s head.
– African News Agency (ANA)