Gupta proxies fight back with a barrage of lawsuits
Business rescue practitioners, wilting under endless litigation, suspect it is a 'well-devised stratagem'
Business rescue practitioners appointed to oversee eight Gupta firms are drowning in a flood of court applications brought by the directors of the businesses. And the practitioners now claim it is an orchestrated attempt to “litigate them into submission”.
According to attorney for the BRPs, Bouwer van Niekerk, there are 36 urgent court matters against his clients – the joint business rescuers Kurt Knoop, Louis Klopper, Juanito Damons and Christopher Monyela.
Van Niekerk and his team – made up of four attorneys and three advocates – are working an average 14 hours a day to keep up with the various applications, he said on Wednesday.
The BRPs are spending as much as four hours a day dealing with their lawyers on the various matters – ranging from liquidation applications, interdicts to stop creditors’ meetings from going ahead and several urgent applications to have the BRPs removed.Knoop, in an answering affidavit filed to an application at the Pretoria High Court by Optimum CEO George van der Merwe to have the BRPs removed, slammed the numerous urgent applications brought by the directors of the Gupta companies against them as a “well-devised stratagem to attempt to litigate the BRPs into submission”.
He also contends that the attorneys were being funded by the Gupta family from overseas.
According to Knoop, Van der Merwe and acting Oakbay CEO Ronica Ragavan as well as Optimum Mine director Pushpaveni Govender commenced with a series of court applications when the BRPs made inquiries from the management over an agreement signed with Swiss shelf company Charles King SA for the sale of Optimum and Koornfontein mines .Charles King is a suspected Gupta front company.
At the same time, the BRPs had also concluded a management agreement with Burgh Group, a well-established coalmining company, which was crucial in securing banking facilities for the mines to resume operations and again export coal and provide coal to Eskom.
“These investigations and the new operational arrangements clearly did not suit the interests of the Guptas and their lackeys,” Knoop states.
The BRPs were also kicked out of Oakbay’s head office in Sandton last month, where they had been stationed since February. They were forced to go to court to regain access to the premises, where computer servers containing financial documents relating to the business rescue companies are kept.Knoop and his attorneys are expected to argue before the court that the multitude of litigation by the Oakbay management is vexatious.
Ragavan, her attorneys and several other managers of the Oakbay group of companies must on May 22 give reasons to the Johannesburg High Court why they should not be imprisoned for 30 days for contempt of court, after ignoring a court order to allow the BRPs access.The following court applications involving the BRPs have been laid by Oakbay group management and company directors:
• Pushpaveni Govender brought an urgent application for removal of BRPs and identified possible replacements for hearing on April 17 – case 24924/18. Attempt to stop BRPs from going ahead with Burgh Group management deal. Govender withdraws application the day before it was to be heard in court.
• Govender also brought a second urgent application for interim relief pending outcome of her first application in case 24924 to be heard on April 11. Matter struck off the roll for lack of urgency.
• Van der Merwe, Optimum and Shiva Uranium CEO, brought an urgent application on April 24 also asking for BRPs’ removal. Van der Merwe attends court on the day of Govender’s second urgent application. This matter before the Pretoria High Court was postponed to today.
• On May 3, Van der Merwe applies for an interdict to stop creditors’ meeting of Optimum Coal Mine on May 8. Matter scheduled for May 7. The BRPs however had consented to another court application by Centaur Ventures Limited asking for the postponement of the creditors’ meeting.
• On April 30, Ragavan and Van der Merwe on behalf of Oakbay Investments file papers seeking an interdict for the creditors’ meeting of Koornfontein mine to be heard on May 8.
• On May 2, Ragavan on behalf of Oakbay Investments files papers seeking interdict to halt creditors’ meeting of Tegeta.• On May 2, Charles King SA files urgent court application seeking court to declare it as a creditor to Tegeta and asking for a postponement of Tegeta’s creditors’ meeting. The attorney briefed by Charles King withdrew, citing reputational risk “due to perceived Gupta link” to the Swiss firm.
• On May 8, Ragavan on behalf of Westdawn Investments, another Gupta company, files urgent application to interdict creditors meeting of Shiva Uranium scheduled for May 11.
• On May 9, Ragavan and Van der Merwe on behalf of Oakbay Resources file urgent application for interdict to also halt Shiva’s creditors meeting.These are over and above applications by third parties the BRPs are also grappling with – most of which were either postponed indefinitely or settled before being heard in court.
Van Niekerk meanwhile agreed the litigation was taking the BRPs away from dealing with crucial work relating to the businesses under rescue.
“The day before yesterday the 36th urgent application dropped. And I don’t think they are finished yet,” he said.