Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan has declined to withdraw his affidavit at the North Gauteng High Gordhan last week, in which he implicates the Gupta family’s company Oakbay Investments for suspicious transactions – or face legal opposition to it with costs.
This is according to a statement by the family’s legal representatives Van Der Merwe Associates (VDMA), in which it said it notified Gordhan’s attorneys of Oakbay’s intention to oppose the court application he issued on Friday.
This would occur “unless the minister of finance withdraws the application and tender costs” by Wednesday afternoon, according to VDMA, adding that this was an effort to “save taxpayers’ money”.
“This morning, attorneys for the minister of finance declined the offer to withdraw the application and tender costs.
“VDMA’s letter noted that the minister of finance’s affidavit implicated its clients in inappropriate and unlawful conduct,” it said.
The affidavit also suggested that VDMA’s clients would “expose the fiscus – not only to loss of tax revenue but also put the burden of mining rehabilitation on the fiscus” – which VDMA noted was “uncalled for, malicious and nothing but vexatious”.
VDMA said their client disproved that earlier this week with evidence of the transfer of the Optimum Rehabilitation Trust Fund from Standard Bank to Bank of Baroda, which followed a request by Advocate Thuli Madonsela on October 4, 2016.
It said it advised its client to oppose the minister of finance’s application, obtain all the necessary information from the relevant roleplayers and ask for punitive costs order against dismissal of the application.
VDMA’s letter also charged that Gordhan’s “letter has been launched with the financial resources of the taxpayer”.
Gordhan’s affidavit states that Oakbay had requested that he intervene in various banks that have cut ties with the company. The company has now not disputed this.
According to VDMA, Oakbay “does not dispute that minister of finance is not by law compelled or obliged to intervene in the relationship between VDMA’s clients and the commercial banks”.
But VDMA noted that to spend taxpayers’ money in “a reckless and inappropriate manner” would constitute a contravention of the provisions of the Public Management Act, No.1 of 1999 – which would warrant “further action against those officials responsible for same”.
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Oakbay’s CEO Nazeem Howa, implicated in Gordhan’s affidavit in making the request, resigned from the company on Monday.
VDMA reiterated that the purpose of its letter was to offer the minister of finance the opportunity to save taxpayers’ money.
It also noted that its clients would like to put their formal version before court since the minister of finance has chosen that forum, so if the application is not withdrawn then “the matter must proceed, and we will gladly do the necessary in order to restore the misrepresentation created by the papers”.
VDMA concluded its letter by noting that the minister had made “defamatory and untrue remarks towards members of the Gupta Family by insinuating that they have been involved in inappropriate conduct” and that “their rights remain strictly reserved”.