Having received advice from his legal counsel, Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan had no business pursuing the matter further, the North Gauteng High Court heard this morning. And yet Gordhan had gone-on to write a letter to FIC seeking information about the Gupta’s Oakbay Investment accounts.
The finance minister is in court seeking a declaratory order that he cannot interfere in the four bank’s decision to close the Oakbay Investment accounts. It’s almost a year since South Africa’s four major banks decided to close the accounts within days and weeks of each other.
Judge President Dunstan Mlambo said Gordhan’s legal team headed by Advocate Jeremy Gauntlet had advised Gordhan that he had no legal basis on which to intervene in a private matter between the banks and Oakbay. The law was clear and yet Gordhan still went ahead to investigate Oakbay accounts. Mlambo said the goings on in Oakbay accounts had nothing to do with Gordhan. It is this FIC certificate which Gordhan used as proof of ’72 suspicious’ transactions in Oakbay accounts.
It is the same certificate, the relevance of which was contested in court this morning. Advocate Cedric Puckrin in agreement with Mlambo said the certificate bore no relevance to whether the minister had powers to intervene in the decision by the banks to sever relations with Oakbay. Puckrin argued that the certificate should be struck as it is not proof that transactions were suspicious. Oakbay had in turn, sought a forensic report which found only 15 identifiable transactions on the FIC certificate.
The bench quizzed Gauntlet on whether it would be permissible to allow the forensic report and whether the certificate would have been relevant had it found nothing on the Oakbay accounts.
Court has retired until 12:30 to make a decision on the issues before them.