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Guptas’ ‘pay agents’ undermine job loss cry
Johannesburg - The Gupta family businesses’ new network of “pay agents” – who will apparently take over their banking for them after they lost their last link to the local financial system in Bank of Baroda – consists of three shelf companies that have been activated in the past few months.

City Press tried to contact the listed directors of these companies this week.

One did not answer the phone; another hung up as soon as City Press asked a question; and the third said the deal with Gupta companies detailed in the court record was not yet active, and then hung up.

On Thursday, Judge Hans Fabricius of the Pretoria High Court dismissed, with costs, the Guptas’ application to force the Bank of Baroda to keep their accounts open.

The existence of these pay agents makes the Gupta companies’ constant appeals for the welfare of their employees ring hollow, said Fabricius in a judgment that digressed into lamenting the state of South Africa’s democracy.

The three pay agents identified in the court proceedings are The White Lion, Option Rainbow and Smart City Innovation – shelf companies with no other history.

The 20 Gupta companies that had banked with the Bank of Baroda have until September 30 to clear their debts and close their accounts.

The court record, exceeding well over 1 000 pages, includes immensely detailed documention of the Guptas’ desperate attempt to keep their accounts open – and to open new ones at every bank with a presence in South Africa.

It also includes their contracts with their first pay agent, Trifecta Capital.

Trifecta had been their transfer secretary on the JSE when they listed Oakbay Resources & Energy in 2014.

It has since changed its name to Tiberium.

In an initial deal in the middle of last year, which is included in the court record, Tiberium said: “It is anticipated that the overall expressed requirements by the client can be met.”

These included paying workers and suppliers, and also receiving payments.

In the record, there was a “fund request letter” from July this year, showing how Tiberium was paying the suppliers of the Guptas’ Oakbay Resources & Energy.

The deal with Trifecta/Tiberium expressly mentions the eventuality that the Gupta companies could end up with no bank.

In that case, the document proposes the use of the trust account of Oakbay’s attorneys.

Much of the document deals with the extreme “reputational risk” the work entails – and the corresponding “risk premium”.

This initial deal ran out last month and, in the latest Bank of Baroda case, the Gupta companies said this left them without the ability to pay anyone.

They did not mention new memorandums, signed with a number of shelf companies in July, to do what Trifecta/Tiberium had done.

“The failure to disclose this material fact is highly objectionable,” said Fabricius.

The Gupta companies had appealed to the public interest, saying the loss of their banking facilities would leave them unable to pay their more than 7 500 employees in South Africa and cause a social catastrophe.

This was evidently not true.
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