CEO of Gupta’s Oakbay Investments Resigns for Health Reasons

  • Nazeem Howa leaves as Gupta family companies facing probe
  • Ronica Ragavan, company financial director, will act as CEO

Nazeem Howa stepped down as chief executive officer of Oakbay Investments, a Johannesburg-based holding company owned by the Gupta family, citing health reasons.

The announcement came four days after South African Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan filed an affidavit in the High Court implicating the Guptas and companies they control in 72 “suspicious transactions” totaling 6.8 billion rand ($480 million). President Jacob Zuma is a friend of the family and his son, Duduzane, has business ties with them. The Gupta family has also been investigated by the nation’s graft ombudsman over allegedly wielding undue influence on the government. Both Zuma and the Guptas deny any wrongdoing.

“After a period of illness, Mr. Howa has stepped down from his duties at Oakbay due to health issues and medical advice,” Oakbay said in a Monday statement. Ronica Ragavan, the company’s financial director, will act in the role as a replacement is sought.

Howa, who in 2010 joined the company that owns mining, technology and media businesses, has been the most visible executive of Oakbay to respond to criticism of its business dealings. He also resigned as a non-executive director of Johannesburg listed Oakbay Resources and Energy Ltd.

Former Oakbay Resources CEO Varun Gupta and non-executive chairman Atul Gupta resigned from all group companies in April, following what the company described as a “sustained political attack.” Duduzane Zuma also resigned as non-executive director of major subsidiary Shiva Uranium at the time.

Howa said in August that the Guptas had received “cruel and harsh” treatment in South Africa, after the family announced they planned to sell their local businesses.

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