In a statement released late on Friday afternoon, a legal firm contracted to the National Union of Mineworkers alleges that business rescue practitioners for eight Gupta-owned companies are actually illegally linked to the Guptas – and that is why no bank wants to assist them.
Earlier this week, Standard Bank denied a Sunday report in City Press that they were willing to throw a lifeline to the Gupta companies by opening banking facilities for eight Gupta companies, including the Optimum and Koornfontein mines. The bank then said they were taking disciplinary steps against an employee who had acted out of mandate by agreeing to help Johan Klopper and Kurt Knoop in their business rescue attempt, which would focus on saving as many as 7 000 jobs in the eight companies.
The statement on Friday from Ruann Kruger of Kruger & Co Attorneys, on behalf of the union, now says that the NUM will be launching a court application to set aside the resolution taken by the directors of Optimum Coal Mine in a bid to remove the business rescue practitioners who were appointed to administer the business rescue proceedings at Optimum.
“This application will be launched in order to act in the best interest of the National Union of Mineworkers and the 500 employees currently employed at Optimum who are members of the union and whom the union represents.”
The NUM will submit that Knoop and Klopper were allegedly appointed unlawfully contrary to the provisions of the Companies Act of 2008, and “that everything they do now is unlawful and they are aware of this … they are not independent and were appointed as business rescue practitioners in eight other Gupta-linked companies during the exact same period as Optimum’s business rescue proceedings”.
The lawyers said: “Our client is seeking the appointment of a truly independent business rescue practitioner. In fact, in the case of Klopper, his appointment was simply fraudulent.”
They allege a meeting between Knoop and Klopper and Optimum creditors took place in Kempton Park on Tuesday, 6 March, where Knoop and Klopper confirmed their appointment for business rescue for eight other Gupta-linked companies but denied “knowing” the shareholders or members of Gupta family” despite evidence to contrary”.
Kruger claims that the reason Optimum is being denied its applications to open a bank account from major financial institutions is due to these alleged ties between Knoop, Klopper and the shareholders of Gupta-linked companies.
“Without a bank account, the mine currently cannot remain operational, which puts the income of hundreds of mine employees and various contractors at risk. This is why the mineworkers are therefore urgently seeking to approach the court for the appropriate relief to remove the current business rescue practitioners and to appoint alternative business rescue practitioners who will act independently and are not linked to Gupta shareholders or companies.
“The current resolution taken by the directors of Optimum should be set aside and the practitioners be removed on the basis that the resolution taken by the directors to enter into business rescue is unlawful. Section 129(2)(a) of the of the Companies Act of 2008 determines that a resolution to commence business rescue may not be adopted by the board of the company if liquidation proceedings have been initiated against the company.”
Kruger claims this fact was conceded and “admitted to by the practitioners on 6th March during the first creditors meetings of Optimum Coal Mine”.