Court forces Oakbay to yield finance secrets
Business rescue team wins new order for access to computers
● Determined efforts by the management of Gupta-owned Oakbay to hide potentially incriminating information failed on Friday when a court ordered that business rescue practitioners gain access to the company’s computer servers.
Acting CEO Ronica Ragavan and other executives of Oakbay, in defiance of previous high court rulings, had continued to deny the practitioners access to servers containing financial information relating to the eight Gupta companies under business rescue.
But by Friday afternoon IT specialists had been allowed to download information in terms of the latest order issued by the High Court in Johannesburg.
Oakbay management have until May 22 to provide the court with reasons they should not be imprisoned for contempt of court for defying a previous order issued by the High Court in Pretoria.
Ragavan and nine other Oakbay managers, including key Gupta lieutenant Salim Essa, are all cited as respondents.
On Thursday a full bench of the High Court in Pretoria dismissed an appeal by Ragavan and other senior management and upheld an April 13 ruling by the same court that Oakbay executives stop blocking the business rescue practitioners from entering the Oakbay premises in Sandton.
But they were again denied access to the server on Thursday afternoon — sparking an urgent application to have Ragavan, the other managers and their attorneys declared in contempt of court. The High Court in Johannesburg granted the application on Friday.
A source close to the business rescue team said Ragavan and others were desperate to keep them from accessing financial information. “They thought the business rescue guys would disappear once they had published the plans. But if they knew business rescue, they would know the work has only begun.”
Now that the plans had been published, the source said, the practitioners could start delving into the finances of each of the companies.
Under the Companies Act, business rescue accountants must report any irregularities and evidence of wrongdoing to the police. From court papers and other sources, it appears that issues the Oakbay business rescue team are concerned about include:
At least R180-million in VAT repayments claimed by Optimum that were paid to a third-party company, In House Wages; Oakbay declined to comment on this.
Disparities over coal deliveries as part of the contract between Eskom and Tegeta for the supply of coal to Hendrina power station from Optimum. The mine allegedly undersupplied the power station while selling the coal elsewhere at a higher price; and
Violation of exchange control regulations in connection with a R66-million payment to Oakbay by suspected Gupta front Charles King SA in September — ostensibly as part of a deal for the purchase of Optimum and Koornfontein mines. The transaction is being investigated by the Reserve Bank.
Oakbay management have defended the obstacles they have placed in the way of the business rescue practitioners by saying they did not want them to see sensitive documents relating to companies not under business rescue. But in court papers the practitioners indicated a willingness to access the documents under supervision.
Naushad Gattoo, a lawyer acting for Oakbay, yesterday denied that Charles King was a Gupta front company.
He dismissed allegations that Oakbay management were trying to hide possibly incriminating evidence as untrue.
“The servers have been accessed to the practitioners’ satisfaction.”
But if they knew business rescue, they would know the work has only begun