A Bank of Baroda advertisement in Mumbai, India. Picture: REUTERS
A Bank of Baroda advertisement in Mumbai, India. Picture: REUTERS

Gupta-owned companies had very little prospect of success in December, when they try to interdict the Bank of Baroda from closing their accounts because of the ramifications it would have on the institution, Judge Hans Fabricius said in the High Court in Pretoria.

Fabricius dismissed an application on Thursday by about 20 Gupta-owned firms that wanted what they called an “interim-interim interdict” to stop the bank from closing the accounts at the end of September.

The Guptas would still be able to pay staff once Bank of Baroda closed its accounts.

“The respondent has never paid any of the applicants’ employees directly and will never be in a position to do so. The applicants themselves acknowledged that these expenses were paid for by a third party‚ Terbium Financial Services‚ a so-called ‘pay agent’‚” Fabricius said.

The Gupta companies, however, will still have a shot at trying to stop the Bank of Baroda in the main application for an interim interdict on December7.

“I am of the view that the application to be heard in December and the main application has very little prospect of success in the light of the … state of the law in this particular relationship, and the harm that [Bank of Baroda] is very likely to suffer should it be forced, against its will, to continue with the relationship with the applicants,” Fabricius said in his judgment.

He said the Bank of Baroda was subject to a number of statutory provisions that included upholding the integrity of SA’s financial system.

There was also “the well-founded suspicion … that the applicants [Gupta companies] subverted the integrity of the financial system, to put it gently”, Fabricius said.

Considering allegations in the Bank of Baroda’s answering affidavit, he could not help but wonder whether the rule of law and democracy had been “suspended pro tanto [to such an extent]”, he said.

“In our law, there is no recognised cause of action for an ‘interim-interim’ interdict based on requirements other than those recognised at common law for an interim interdict,” Fabricius said.

The application was dismissed with costs.

Following the judgment, the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse lodged an urgent application with the same court to interdict the Bank of Baroda in a bid to secure the Gupta-owned Optimum and Koornfontein coal mines’ rehabilitation fund accounts, which are worth about R1.75bn.

quintalg@businesslive.co.za

 

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