State’s Estina case is a ‘national embarrassment’: Gupta lawyer
The Asset Forfeiture Unit is preparing to launch a second legal attack to freeze R250-million which it says is the proceeds of crime linked to the controversial Estina Dairy Farm Project.
But based on interviews and court documents‚ it appears the case could be a back-up plan‚ as the state faces the possibility that it may lose its first major court battle in its State Capture prosecution campaign.
TimesLIVE understands that the AFU will launch an application for restraint of the R250-milliion on Friday morning‚ when the Bloemfontein High Court is also expected to rule on Atul Gupta and Gupta companies’ legal bid to reverse the freezing of their accounts.
According to the state‚ Atul Gupta and a number of Gupta companies received millions intended for poor black dairy farmers as part of a money-laundering and fraud enterprise.
But Advocate Mike Hellens‚ representing Oakbay and other Gupta-owned companies‚ has described the AFU's application to freeze his clients' assets as "a national embarrassment". And he strongly suggested there was no direct evidence that Gupta companies received money from the Estina Dairy Project.
The Bank of Baroda is also fighting to reverse the AFU freezing of its current account with Nedbank‚ which it uses to serve its 800 clients‚ 750 of whom are not Gupta-linked.
The state says this account effectively enabled money paid for to the Estina Dairy Project to be siphoned off to Atul Gupta and Gupta entities‚ and argues that it had no other choice but to seek for the account to be frozen as Bank of Baroda does not operate as a "normal" bank.
The AFU remains adamant that it will prove that the Bank of Baroda account was used as part of a money-laundering scheme during the Estina trial‚ scheduled to get underway in six months' time.
But the Bank of Baroda - and a host of Gupta-linked companies - have argued for a reconsideration of the preservation order granted by the Bloemfontein High Court.
They contend it should never have been granted in the first place.
The bank was disparaging in its description of the AFU's explanation for a preservation application against it‚ describing it as farcical‚ unsustainable and incomprehensible.
Clearly aware of the fact that it may lose this round of the Estina battle‚ the AFU has prepared the application for the R250-million to be restrained – which would‚ effectively‚ mean the money is held until the Estina "scam" trial is finalised.