PRETORIA – The North Gauteng High Court on Monday ruled that the Bank of Baroda could close its South African operations.
Judge Ntendeya Mavundla dismissed the case by19 Gupta-inked companies who were hoping to compel the bank to continue offering services to them even though it had already indicated that it wants to close its South African branch.
He said, said “the bank’s right to or not to trade supersedes whatever right, if any, the applicants might have.”
The Indian state-owned international bank cited its fading relationship with Nedbank a the reason it wants to close its SA branch.
In January, Nedbank informed the Bank of Baroda that it would terminate their relationship within three months. This means that from 1 April 2018, Baroda would not have banking facilities with Nedbank – on which it relies to provide banking services to its own clients.
As a result of the termination, Baroda announced that it was going to shut down its local branch. It also said it was cutting ties with Gupta-linked companies by 31 March.
During heads of argument at the last court appearance, advocate Owen Cook, representing the companies, said Nedbank was being used as an excuse.
He said Baroda, which was given a notice period, failed to challenge Nedbank’s decision.
Cook said it is imperative for the bank to continue providing banking services to the Gupta family’s companies in order to shield about 7,000 employees.
Legal representative of the bank, Azhar Bham, told the court that it was unfair to make the bank stay in the country just to serve the Guptas. Bham said when other banks in the country closed accounts belonging to Gupta-linked companies “they did nothing”.
The Gupta brothers Ajay, Atul and Rajesh who are close associates of former president Jacob Zuma and his son, Duduzana.
Judge Ntendeya Mavundla said the fundamental question to answer was if the court can keep the bank in the country open and operating against its will.
African News Agency