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Oakbay Investments, owned by the controversial Gupta family, sought Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan to intervene illegally in its dispute with top South African banks, the High Court in Pretoria heard on Wednesday.
Advocate Vincent Maleka, representing Standard Bank, told a full bench of judges that when the dispute arose between Oakbay Investments and the banks, the Gupta-owned entity’s “preferred method” of settling the row was unlawful seeking a member of the national executive to intervene.
Maleka described the dispute as a “private relationship” between the banks and their client. He said South Africa had competition watchdogs would have been the port of call if the financial institutions were acting unlawfully.
Standard Bank indicated on Wednesday that it is seeking an order that would bar members of the executive – Cabinet ministers and the President from interference in the bank/client relationships.
Gauteng Division Judge President, presiding over the matter with two other judges, also stated that the court was also not trying to resolve the wrangle between Oakbay Investments and the banks.
On behalf of Absa, Advocate David Unterhalter requested the court draw a line regarding the exercise of power in the public interest by State officials, and the power of discretion reserved for autonomous institutions in running their businesses.
He said this court case was not limited to the Oakbay Investments’ dispute with Gordhan but had much broader implications.
Unterhalter said the intervention from Gordhan sought by Oakbay Investments was not permissible in law.
Gordhan has approached the court, seeking a declaratory judgment endorsing that he cannot intervene in the dispute between Oakbay Investments and the major banks that closed the company’s bank accounts.
Earlier on Wednesday, Oakbay Investments issued a statement stating that it was not withdrawing from the ongoing court wrangle.
“We will continue to argue in court for this unnecessary application, which is a waste of taxpayers’ money and the court’s time, to be dismissed. As the architect of the application and the campaign to smear Oakbay. If anyone is to withdraw it must be the minister,” read part of the Oakbay statement issued by acting chief executive Ronica Ragavan.
Advocate Vincent Maleka, representing Standard Bank, told the High Court in Pretoria that the intervention sought by Oakbay Investments was unlawful