Some workers at embattled VR Laser, owned by Ajay Gupta’s eldest son Kamal Kant Singhala, claim they have not been paid since March.
And it’s not the first time employees have battled for their salaries from the company, according to National Union of Metal Workers of SA (Numsa) shop steward Lucky Nuleya.
“The company is now falling under business rescue, which is in charge of everything, and VR Laser management has no control,” Nuleya said yesterday.
“Since they took over, we have not received anything. There are employees who are paid weekly and others who are paid monthly. Those who are paid weekly are now going into their third week without being paid,” claimed Nuleya. “No one is helping us and no one is responding to our calls.”
Coronado Consulting Group was in February appointed by the directors of seven Gupta-owned companies to put VR Laser back on its feet.
Since then, eight Gupta companies are under business rescue. These include Confident Concepts (Pty) Ltd, Islandsite Investments 180 (Pty) Ltd, Tegeta Exploration (Pty) Ltd, VR Laser Services (Pty) Ltd, Shiva Uranium (Pty) Ltd, Optimum Coal Mine (Pty) Ltd, Optimum Coal Terminal (Pty) Ltd and Koornfontein Mine (Pty) Ltd.
The biggest issue for most of the companies was the fact South African banks refused to do business with anything Gupta-related, due to “reputational risk”.
The family’s last hope, the Bank of Baroda, pulled out of South Africa after beating a court application by the Guptas to stay. In March, Coronado was reportedly still looking for a bank to handle all the Gupta companies’ needs.
Yesterday, Business Day reported the High Court in Johannesburg found Oakbay directors, managers, their lawyers and company officials in contempt of court “after access to the Oakbay Investments computer server at the heart of the Gupta business empire was blocked for weeks”.
“The High Court in Johannesburg ordered them out of the way of a forensic investigation by business rescue practitioners digging into the financials of eight subsidiaries and to explain why they should not be jailed,” the paper reported.
With business rescue seemingly well under way at most of the other companies with no reported issues, it seemed VR Laser was the only one battling to make bankroll, having missed it in September last year, February this year, and now again.
Coronado’s Louis Klopper did not respond to requests for information.
Also read: Gupta firms to hit the skids