Guptas may be trying to 'steal' another R1bn
A business rescue practitioner has warned that two legal challenges against Gupta mines may be a ruse by the family
Business rescue practitioner Louis Klopper has slammed two legal challenges against Gupta mines under rescue proceedings as “a ruse” by the Gupta family and their associates “to try and steal another R1-billion”.
Two companies, Centaur Ventures Limited and Charles King SA, have within days of one another filed papers asking the court to declare them creditors of Optimum Coal Mine and its parent company, Tegeta.
Centaur, an investment firm registered in Bermuda, claims that Optimum owes it R768-million for coal it paid for in 2016/2017 but never received. It wants to be recognised as Optimum’s single biggest creditor.
Charles King SA wants Tegeta to pay back, or at least agree to pay back, a R64-million “deposit” it paid to Tegeta in September last year.This transaction is being investigated by the Reserve Bank for possible exchange control regulation breaches.
Charles King, a Swiss shelf company with a registered address in Lausanne, and its sole director, Emirati businessman Amin al Zarooni, came under considerable scrutiny by the media in August last year when Gupta flagship company Oakbay announced it was selling both Optimum ad Koornfontein mines to the company.
Times Select reported in March that Charles King had finalised a sale agreement with the Gupta-owned Tegeta for both Optimum and Koornfontein for R2.9-billion, and had written a letter demanding that the BRPs stop negotiating with other potential buyers.
The BRPs informed Charles King in April, however, that it had cancelled the sale agreement – of which the R64-million was paid as “deposit” between it and Tegeta.
According to Klopper, however, the claims are all smoke and mirrors.“The bank account shows they [Tegeta] had a cash flow problem at that stage [September] and they needed R64-million to pay their salaries,” he said. He suspects the funds were in fact used to pay salaries to mineworkers amid a “liquidity crisis in the company”.
“They are looking for a R1-billion payout back into their coffers in Dubai. That is all these people are after. And they are prepared to put a few million rand up towards legal fees, to take a chance,” Klopper told Times Select.
As for the Centaur claim, Klopper pointed out that former public protector Thuli Madonsela found in her State of Capture report that Centaur Holdings had contributed R800-million to the Guptas’ purchase of Optimum in early 2016.
“It’s highly coincidental that they are now claiming almost the exact amount paid towards the purchase of the mine,” Klopper pointed out.
The Gupta family paid a little over R2-billion for Optimum when it purchased the mine from mining multi-national Glencore early in 2016.In court papers seen by Times Select, Centaur denied ever having contributed to the purchase of the mine and asked the court to interdict the creditors’ meeting, that was scheduled for Tuesday, from going ahead.
The meeting would have voted to approve or amend the business rescue plan for Optimum, which was published on April 23 by Klopper and the other BRPs. But the BRPs have refused to recognise either Centaur or Charles King as creditors – which means they would not have been able to object or attend the meeting.
“Centaur Ventures Limited has, to the best of my knowledge, never been mentioned in any public protector report,” Centaur’s director Daniel McGowan said in his affidavit.
“The reference in paragraph 5.45 of the State of Capture report to which the BRPs refer is to Centaur Mining South Africa and to Centaur Ventures Limited’s holding company, Centaur Holdings Limited. The report does not suggest that CVL made any contribution to the purchase of Optimum,” the affidavit continued.
McGowan denied allegations by the BRPs in correspondence with Centaur that it was under the same control as Optimum – in other words, controlled by the Gupta family and their business associates.According to the court papers, Centaur Ventures Limited is 50%-owned by Aakash Garg – believed to be Akash Garg Jahajgarhi, the groom who married the Guptas’ niece Vega Gupta in 2013 at Sun City, and sparked the whole Waterkloof landing scandal.
Klopper and the other BRPs consented to the motions brought by Charles King and Centaur to halt the creditors’ meeting and the court matters will now need to be re-enrolled. The meeting on Tuesday morning was summarily postponed after it was opened.
“It’s a good thing,” Klopper explained. “Now it offers us a two- or three-week window of opportunity where we can actually prepare court cases and put in open court that these guys [Charles King and Centaur] are actually front companies for the [Gupta] family for purposes of international money-laundering.”
The BRPs will be opposing Centaur and Charles King in court.