The controversial Guptas switched off the tracking device on their leased airplane so that it could not be traced after a Canadian bank terminated their lease agreement owing to payments defaults.
This was confirmed in the south Gauteng High Court on Friday, where advocate Alfred Cockerell for Export Development Canada (EDC), which is seeking to have the Bombardier Global 6 000 business aircraft registered as ZS-OAK, located and grounded.
Bombardier sold the US$52-million luxury jet to the Guptas, which was partly financed by a US$41-million loan from Canada's export credit agency,
Cockerell asked the court to enforce its right to cancel the lease agreement and have the plane located and placed in a safe place where it can not be used in the commission of a crime.
He said his clients were forced to seek urgent relief from the courts in South Africa owing to the unfolding events surrounding the Guptas.
Cockerell cited the State capture issues involving the Guptas and Eskom and the raid by the Asset Forfeiture Unit (AFU) on their Saxonworld properties over the Vrede dairy fraud matter as having caused his client concern. Millions of rand were allegedly siphoned from the dairy project for the benefit of the Guptas.
The closure of accounts of companies linked to the Guptas by all four major SA banks was another material change which Cockerell said his clients relied on to terminate the lease agreement.
Ten million rand was frozen in Atul Gupta's account on suspicion that it was part of the money allegedly siphoned from the Vrede dairy project.
The Canadian State-owned export-import bank also argues that Oakbay, the company the Guptas used to lease the airplane, has disposed of some of its assets in direct breach of the lease agreement.
"Every day that the Guptas use the aircraft unlawfully is a risk," said Cockerell. He said apart from depreciation, there was a real risk it could be damaged or used for unlawful activities.
He also said his clients, EDC, had real concerns that the Asset Forfeiture Unit could seize the aircraft.