Gupta plane: Court asked to strike 'urgent' application off the roll
Johannesburg – Counsel for the Guptas told the South Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg on Friday that there was no urgency in the urgent application brought against the family to ground a Bombadier Global 6000 aircraft it was leasing.
Export Development Canada (EDC), which operates as an export credit agency, and Stoneriver brought the application against the Guptas over a lease agreement relating to the Bombadier jet valued at $41m.
The Guptas have a lease agreement with EDC for the Bombadier Global 6000 aircraft, but are currently engaged in a legal dispute in the courts in the UK over the lease agreement.
EDC has asked the court in South Africa to ground the plane until a final order is made and to prevent its movement while the tracking system switched off.
Advocate Alfred Cockrell, counsel for EDC, earlier told the court they didn't know where the aircraft was.
"Dubai seems to be a popular landing ground for the aircraft. And it has been in India, but we don't know where else it has been," Cockrell told the court on Friday.
Months to finalise case
However, counsel for the Guptas and their Oakbay Investments and Westdawn Investments companies, said that the matter wasn't an urgent one.
Advocate Owen Cook, for Oakbay Investments and Westdawn Investments, said the matter of urgency should be viewed in the context of the case.
He said the courts in the UK had indicated the matter would still take months to finalise.
"The alleged urgency on which the applicants rely is entirely self-created. Having prepared their voluminous application at their leisure, the applicants saw it fit to allow the respondents a mere six clear court days to file their answering affidavit," they wrote in their responding heads of arguments.
"The urgency with which this court has been approached is nothing but a public relations and face-saving exercise without legally cogent or compelling reasons in existence," they wrote.
Cook said the EDC and Stoneriver pegged "their urgency to recent, yet poorly, now well-reported developments against" the Gupta family and the Oakbay Group of companies.
Maintenance of plane
"What are they aware of? What they are aware of are allegations in the media. Nothing has come before a court," he said.
Cook argued that EDC and Stoneriver's argument that a series of "cascading events" led to this application was weak and not true and urged the court to strike the matter off the roll.
Cook further argued that granting the application to EDC and Stoneriver would be detrimental to the aircraft as well.
"The respondents have a direct interest in the maintenance and the upkeep of the aircraft and will not allow it to fall into a state of disrepair. Their interest in doing so is not just financial but is also a question of life and death given that the aircraft is in use," Cook argued.
Cook added that the Guptas offered to buy the aircraft outright, but their offer was rejected out of hand by Stoneriver and EDC.
In responding to the Guptas' argument, Cockrell said it would counter-intuitive to have their order granted only to store the aircraft in a hangar. He said his clients indicated they would be willing to take care of the aircraft's maintenance.
Judgment was reserved. The judge said she would endeavour to have a judgment ready in seven to 10 court days.