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A year ago, on January 28 2016, Nicky Oppenheimer walked into a meeting room at the offices of home affairs minister Malusi Gigaba in Pretoria. Flanking him were Bruce Tillim and Robbie Irons, directors of the Oppenheimer family’s aviation company, Fireblade. For three years Fireblade had been battling to get approval from Gigaba’s department to use its luxury airport terminal, built for international flights. The meeting was meant to be the final hurdle. But what happened next is being fiercely contested in court proceedings that flared up this week — pitting one of SA’s wealthiest families against Gigaba, the Guptas and state-owned arms company Denel. The Oppenheimer terminal, which was built on land leased from Denel at OR Tambo airport, opened for domestic flights in 2014. But the viability of the project hinged on catering for international travellers. The theory was that visiting celebrities and heads of state would pay top dollar to park their jets at the Oppenheimer hangars,...

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