Ajay and Atul Gupta, Duduzane Zuma and Jagdish Parekh (standing) speak to City Press.
PHOTO: Muntu Vilakazi/Gallo Images, City Press
- The agreement on mutual legal assistance in criminal matters and extradition between South Africa and the UAE was signed in 2018.
- According to UAE ambassador to South Africa Mahash Alhameli the agreement was ratified by both countries, with the UAE doing so in April.
- The Investigating Directorate has issued arrest warrants for Gupta brothers, Atul and Rajesh, and their wives, Chetali and Arti, as well as a number of business associates.
The United Arab Emirates’ (UAE) ambassador to South Africa said an agreement between South Africa and that country on mutual legal assistance in criminal matters and extradition was signed in 2018.
The agreement was ratified by both countries, with the UAE doing so on 11 April this year, ambassador Mahash Alhameli said in a statement on Wednesday.
The statement was issued just days after the National Prosecuting Authority’s (NPA) Investigating Directorate (ID) said it asked Interpol to circulate an international arrest warrant to have the Guptas deported to South Africa to stand trial for fraud and money laundering.
These agreements have been and remain key to the UAE in promoting judicial and legal cooperation with South Africa and strengthening bilateral relations between law enforcement institutions and partners on both sides.
The statement also indicated that the extradition agreement was aimed at “preventing crime on the basis of mutual respect for the sovereignty of both countries, strengthening cooperation in combating serious crimes, including organised crime, and ensuring that criminals were not denied bail”.
The agreement was based on the desire of both countries to mutually agree on principles to strengthen their extradition status in accordance with their respective constitutional principles, taking human rights into account.
The ID issued arrest warrants for Gupta brothers, Atul and Rajesh, and their wives, Chetali and Arti, as well as a number of business associates, News24 previously reported.
ID head Hermione Cronje has asked Interpol to circulate the red notice.
The ID wants to try the Guptas in connection with R25 million spent on a feasibility study to determine the viability of the failed Estina dairy farm in Vrede in the Free State.
The Gupta brothers fled the country in 2018 and are reportedly in the UAE.
On Wednesday last week, four people were arrested in connection with a payment of R25 million which the Free State Department of Agriculture made to Nulane, a company controlled by Gupta associate Iqbal Sharma.
The four people are Sharma, Peter Thabethe, Dr Limakatso Moorosi and Seipati Dlamini. Thabethe, Moorosi and Dlamini are former executives of the Free State Department of Agriculture.
They were all charged with fraud and money laundering in connection with the Nulane transaction and appeared in the Bloemfontein Magistrate’s Court.
Sharma was denied bail after the State argued that he was a flight risk and the others were released on R10 000 bail each.
Besides the Guptas and their wives, the NPA is also seeking to arrest Ankit Jain, former Nulane Investment Bank of Baroda account signatory, Ravindra Nath, director of Wone Management (Pty) Ltd, Ramesh Bhat and Jagdish Parekh, the directors of Pragat Investments (Pty) Ltd.
The ID said in the indictment that in 2011, Sharma, Thabethe, Moorosi and Dlamini devised a fraudulent scheme which saw Nulane appointed to conduct a feasibility study to determine if the multimillion-rand Estina dairy farm project was feasible.
According to the ID, the department paid Nulane the R25 million for the feasibility study. However, after receiving the money, Nulane appointed and paid Deloitte Consulting R1.5 million to conduct the study.
The rest of the money was allegedly laundered through a series of accounts, ending in Gateway Limited, a Gupta-owned company in the UAE.
Meanwhile, the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation and the Defend Our Democracy movement plan to stage a picket outside the UAE embassy on Thursday, to call for the finalisation of the extradition of the Guptas.
In a statement, the foundation said it welcomed the charges, as well as a request for Interpol to assist.
However, we believe there is a need to demand that the UAE and SA now finalise the extradition.
“The Guptas must be brought from the UAE, where they currently reside, to SA to account for the litany of allegations of state capture and corruption that they face.”