Gupta-linked fight for Optimum Mine quashed

2019-03-25 11:00

A court battle that has seen a Gupta-linked company in Bermuda intervening in the business rescue of the Optimum Coal Mine to protect its R1 billion payout has, for all practical purposes, been quashed.

The rescue practitioners and Eskom have brought interlocutory applications, which will only be heard in August before the initial court application from Centaur Ventures can go ahead.

Centaur was seeking a court order that the rescue be temporarily frozen until it is provided with a list of documents about a proposed financing deal that would’ve seen the mine recapitalised and reopened.

The funder is a consortium led by the state-owned mining company African Exploration, Mining and Finance Corporation, and Lurco, a local coal trader.

The downside for Centaur is that this post-commencement financing would dilute its own claim of about R1 billion on Optimum, which stems from prepayments for coal.

Read: The Guptas’ last heist – taking R1bn out of SA

Lawyers for the rescue practitioners have, in a letter to Centaur, alleged that these prepayments flowed immediately from Optimum to other Gupta companies in South Africa, making the coal mine a conduit for funds in a scheme amounting to “reckless and/or fraudulent trading”.

All of this might now be “academic”, said a source close to the rescue process.

By the time the interlocutory applications are heard and the Centaur case actually has a chance of proceeding, the funding for Optimum will already have been procured and the mine may possibly have already been sold.

The African Exploration, Mining and Finance Corporation consortium had also negotiated a management contract at Optimum alongside an injection of R1 billion that could see workers, who have not been paid since October, receive wages and return to work.

The Gupta family’s acquisition of Optimum has become the emblematic case of state capture as the family allegedly enlisted the help of former minister of mineral resources Mosebenzi Zwane to pressure Glencore to sell it and then got Eskom to help pay for the acquisition on short notice.

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January 26 2020