The Investigating Directorate has asked Interpol to arrest and deport the Guptas to stand trial in South Africa on fraud charges.
The National Prosecuting Authority’s (NPA’s) Investigating Directorate (ID) has applied to Interpol to assist with arrest warrants for, among others, Atul Gupta, wife Chetali, Rajesh Gupta and his wife, Arti.
This is after former Transnet board member and known Gupta business associate Salim Essa, Iqbal Sharma and three former senior Free State government officials appeared in the Bloemfontein Magistrate’s Court on Thursday.
Their appearance was in connection with procurement fraud charges of R24 million paid by the Free State agriculture department to Nulane Investment.
ID head advocate Hermione Cronje said the directorate has asked Interpol to arrest and extradite the Guptas to stand trial in South Africa on fraud charges.
“The modus operandi used in this case appears to have been replicated in other government departments and projects. It is therefore critical that the evidence gathered in this matter is presented to court and a verdict obtained expeditiously.
“It is for this reason that prosecutors have decided to proceed separately against the accused currently in the country and those abroad, as the process of arrest and extradition may unduly delay the trial,” Cronje said in a statement on Thursday.
Cronje said the accused would be handed a final indictment together with the contents of the case docket, on 15 June 2021 in order to facilitate a speedy trial.
The matter then will be postponed to the high court for the accused to plead to the charges, Cronje added.
Other suspects the ID seeks to bring to the country include former Nulane Investment Bank of Baroda account signatory Ankit Jain, director of Wone Management Ravindran Nath and Pragat Investment directors Ramesh Bhat and Jagdish Parekh.
After monies were paid by the Free State government to Nulane, funds were said to have been diverted to Gupta family owned company Islandsite Investments.
The ID said according to the charge sheet handed in at court on Thursday, the state alleges that Sharma and former Free State rural development department head Peter Thabethe, former Free State agriculture department head Limakatso Morose and former agriculture department chief financial officer Seipati Dhlamini colluded to divert the funds earmarked for rural development in the Free State to the Gupta family.
The R24 million was paid to Nulane to conduct a “feasibility study” for the Mohoma Mobung project, with the intention that Nulane had “unique skills” to do the work.
In reality, the NPA has uncovered that Nulane had no employees and subcontracted financial consulting firm Deloitte to produce the report. Deloitte was then paid R1.5 million to say that Paras Dairy was the most suitable implementing partner to develop a milk processing plant in Vrede, Free State.
One of the ways in which the Gupta family have been throttled is related to the Magnitsky Act, a law under which the US punishes foreign government officials implicated in corruption or human rights abuses.
The act is named after Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, who died in pre-trial detention in 2009 amid allegations of mistreatment in a Russian prison.
The act means the Guptas were seen as “international financial pariahs” and have been sanctioned by the US government since 2019.
By Nica Richards & Molefe Seeletsa
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