Oakbay CEO Nazeem Howa resigns due to health concerns

The Gupta-owned Oakbay Investments has announced that the company’s chief executive officer, Nazeem Howa, has resigned effective immediately on Monday.

“After a period of illness, Mr Howa has stepped down from his duties at Oakbay due to the health issues and medical advice,” Oakbay said in a statement.

Howa has also resigned from his position as non-executive director at Oakbay Resources. The announcement follows a court application from Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan on Friday.

In his court papers, Gordhan provided evidence from the Financial Intelligence Centre that showed a number of Gupta-owned companies had been involved in “suspicious and unusual transactions” over the past four years, totalling R6.8-billion.

Gordhan’s application also included correspondence with Howa from April 2016 up until September 2016. After four major South African banks took the decision to terminate all business with the Gupta family, Howa made contact with Gordhan seeking the intervention of the finance ministry to force the banks to re-open Oakbay’s accounts.

In the letters between Gordhan and Howa, the now former CEO of Oakbay ensured Gordhan that Oakbay’s correspondence with the banks would be made available to the finance ministry. But according to the letters in Gordhan’s application, Howa failed to provide such information.

“The letter does not indicate why ‘the full file of all the correspondence with the banks’ (as you term it) has not been provided. Every opportunity has been provided for Oakbay to do so since your first approached to me in April,” Gordhan wrote in a letter to Howa in August, in which he referred to Howa’s previous letter from July 25.

Gordhan requested that Howa send the relevant documents electonically by 9am on August 12, but Howa did not comply. Oakbay Investments is the first respondent in Gordhan’s application. 

On Sunday, the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) also laid charges against Howa, the Gupta family, President Jacob Zuma’s son Duduzane Zuma, mineral resources minister Mosebenzi Zwane, and Gupta business partner Salim Essa at the Rosebank police station. According to the EFF’s deputy president Floyd Shivambu, there is evidence of money laundering, racketeering, fraud, theft and violation of financial laws by the Guptas and their businesses. The EFF’s case relies partly on the documents contained in Gordhan’s application. 

Ronica Ragavan, Oakbay’s current financial director, will be acting CEO until the group hires a permanent CEO. 

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Raeesa Pather
Raeesa Pather
Ra’eesa Pather is a Cape Town-based general news and features journalist.

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