Guptas won’t harm Bank of Baroda’s reputation‚ says family’s lawyer

08 September 2017 - 13:44 By Kyle Cowan
Ashu Chawla (Middle) - Sahara Computers Chief Executive, at Pretoria High Court for Gupta companies vs. Bank of Baroda case.
Ashu Chawla (Middle) - Sahara Computers Chief Executive, at Pretoria High Court for Gupta companies vs. Bank of Baroda case.
Image: Abigail Javier

The Bank of Baroda has failed to prove that it is suffering reputational harm by a continued association with Gupta family businesses‚ it was argued in the high court in Pretoria on Friday.

Legal counsel for 20 of the Gupta family businesses‚ who are applying for an urgent interdict to prevent the closure of bank accounts at the end of September‚ argued that Baroda had declared the Gupta family accounts as high risk 18 months prior to providing notice of termination of the accounts.

This‚ the court heard‚ meant the reputational harm the bank cited as a reason for the closure‚ had already incurred.

The urgent application was brought‚ it emerged in court‚ because the main application for an interdict launched in August can only be heard on 7 December – at which time the bank accounts would already have been closed.

The Gupta family businesses are now seeking interim relief to stop the closures up until they have been granted a fair trial.

The heads of arguments and annexes of both parties cannot be ventilated fully when an urgent application is brought; the court papers may not exceed 500 pages.

This‚ counsel argued‚ was the reason for the urgent application ahead of the main application in December.

“The relief sought today is the applicant’s [Gupta businesses] right to a fair trial‚” counsel for the Gupta family‚ Philips Daniels told the court.

“Our case is simple. If we are not heard and find redress now‚ and find a way to protect our clients’ rights before December 7‚ we would have effectively been denied through the legal process the right to a fair hearing‚” he continued.

“[By] 7 December … the horse would have bolted. You can’t gain an interdict after accounts have already been closed.”

Daniels further argued that Baroda had so far failed to produce contracts that allowed for the termination of accounts relating to the loan agreements and transactional account agreements signed by the directors of the Gupta family businesses.

“There is not an iota of evidence before you that the applicants have caused the Bank of Baroda any reputational damage‚” Daniels submitted‚ adding that the banks’ argument it would suffer any further was “nonsense”.

He said Baroda had extended the deadline for account closures three times previously and it was a reasonable expectation that they could do so again‚ to allow the issues to be fully ventilated in December’s matter.

Bank of Baroda will present its argument after lunch.