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How bank plans to hit back at Guptas

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Standard Bank will today rap the Guptas on the knuckles for resorting to a political campaign instead of legal recourse after it closed their company’s bank account.

Vincent Maleka SC, representing Standard Bank in a matter between Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan and the Gupta-owned Oakbay Investments before the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria, yesterday gave a glimpse into what his argument would be.

Gordhan wants the court to give a declaratory order that, as finance minister, he does not have the power to interfere in the banks’ decision to close down accounts belonging to Oakbay.

Gordhan arrived at the High Court in Pretoria yesterday before it adjourned, amid speculation that he would be fired by President Jacob Zuma.

When asked if he was still finance minister he replied: “I am still the finance minister, that’s why I am here [at court] to listen to how the application is going,” he told journalists.

Gordhan had attended a meeting at Luthuli House earlier in the day after arriving back from London.

He referred questions about why he was called back from the investor roadshow in London to Zuma.

The country’s big four banks shut down Oakbay’s accounts last year, citing reputation risk.

Maleka said the Guptas effectively agreed that closure of their accounts was legal. But, they then mounted a public and political campaign against the decision.

“But the Oakbay group of companies has orchestrated an unprecedented public campaign, they have solicited political support in order to reverse the very decision that they accept,” Maleka said.

“They have done so without recourse to the courts, which is the only institution that would be entitled to resolve this .”

Advocates Cedric Puckrin and Francois van der Merwe, for Oakbay, are expected to argue that Gordhan can intervene and get the banks to reverse their decision .

Arguing on Gordhan’s behalf, Advocate Jeremy Gauntlett said his client was right not to interfere in the banks’ decision. – Additional reporting by Genevieve Quintal