Court forces Oak­bay to yield fi­nance se­crets

Busi­ness res­cue team wins new or­der for ac­cess to com­put­ers

Sunday Times - - News Guptas - By KYLE COWAN

● 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

Ron­ica Ra­ga­van

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.