The court has cut through the politics in the Gordhan/Gupta fight straight to the bone.
In a unanimous decision, a full bench of three high court judges struck three sections in the court papers of Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan and Gupta-owned company Oakbay from the court roll.
Judge President Dunstan Mlambo said the sections struck from the record had nothing to do with the crisp legal question before the court: That is whether Gordhan has in law the power to intervene in a bank/client relationship.
These sections struck include Gordhan’s submission of a contentious certificate from the Financial Intelligence Centre. The certificate shows 72 reports of dodgy transactions by the Guptas and their businesses.
Also struck from Gordhan’s papers is the affidavit by Deputy Finance Minister Mcebisi Jonas, describing how Ajay Gupta allegedly tried to bribe him by offering him the job of former finance minister Nhlanhla Nene.
Finally, the judges struck the Guptas’ accusation that Gordhan and the banks conspired and colluded against the family and their businesses.
The Guptas conceded that their accusations about Gordhan and banks colluding in political conspiracy has nothing to do with the legal question before the court and can therefore be struck from the record.
Advocate Cedric Puckrin for Oakbay and the family, however, stood fast on their application that the contentious certificate from the Financial Intelligence Centre must be struck.
Gordhan submitted the FIC certificate to the court in a bid to show the “depth and seriousness” of the problem, his representative adv. Jeremy Gauntlett SC argued.
The FIC certificate details 72 reports of suspicious transactions, totalling R6.8-billion, made by the Gupta family and their companies.
A report of a suspicious transaction is not proof of guilt, but merely a reported suspicion of a transaction flagged at a bank.
Gordhan obtained the FIC certificate after Gauntlett advised that he has no authority to intervene in the banking-client relationship between the banks and the Guptas.
Judge President Dunstan Mlambo and Judge Lebogang Modiba were very critical of this decision by Gordhan, saying it distracts from the real legal issue before them.
Gauntlett, however, said that is “not my job to protect court from the distraction of issues. We wished there were less distraction. But we need to make our case. For me to be here to ask what I’m asking is important”.