South Africa wants UAE help in repa­tri­a­tion of Gupta broth­ers to face cor­rup­tion al­le­ga­tions

The National - News - - NEWS - GAVIN DU VENAGE Capetown

South African of­fi­cials are in talks with the UAE to se­cure the repa­tri­a­tion of mem­bers of the Gupta fam­ily, who are ac­cused of work­ing with for­mer pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma to loot hun­dreds of mil­lions of dol­lars from state funds.

The In­dian fam­ily re­port­edly fled South Africa for Dubai in 2016 af­ter al­le­ga­tions they used their friend­ship with Mr Zuma to win con­tracts and in­flu­ence gov­ern­ment ap­point­ments.

“Dis­cus­sions are tak­ing place be­tween the UAE and rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the South African Jus­tice Min­istry around the Gup­tas,” Mukoni Rat­shi­tanga, a spokesman for the min­istry, told

“We do not have an ex­tra­di­tion treaty [with the UAE] but are hav­ing talks around mu­tual le­gal as­sis­tance on this mat­ter.”

spoke to Ab­dul Rah­man Mu­rad Al Balushi, di­rec­tor of the In­ter­na­tional Co­op­er­a­tion Depart­ment at the Min­istry of Jus­tice and who is in charge of ex­tra­di­tion and repa­tri­a­tion, who said that he had not re­ceived the case.

Mr Al Balushi said the case could be with In­ter­pol, but that it had not to date reached the Min­istry of Jus­tice.

The Gupta broth­ers – Ajay, Atul and Ra­jesh – are said to have been at the cen­tre of Mr Zuma’s in­ner cir­cle, and their re­la­tion­ship with the for­mer pres­i­dent was so close that two of the three broth­ers – Atul and Ra­jesh – were given South African citizenship.

Mr Zuma’s son, Duduzane, mean­while, was em­ployed in the Gup­tas’ busi­ness em­pire. He, too, fled the coun­try.

Al­le­ga­tions against them in­clude chan­nelling hun­dreds of mil­lions of dol­lars in gov­ern­ment con­tracts to their own busi­ness – a process known as “state cap­ture”.

The coun­try’s power util­ity Eskom Hold­ings, na­tional air­line South African Air­ways, Transnet – the freight rail, port and pipe­lines op­er­a­tors – arms man­u­fac­turer Denel and even a poverty-re­lief campaign are said to have been linked to the Gup­tas and their al­lies.

“We spec­u­lated that 100 bil­lion rand [Dh29.4bn] or more could have been lost to state cap­ture,” said Min­is­ter of Pub­lic En­ter­prises Pravin Gord­han, whose of­fice over­sees state com­pa­nies.

De­spite al­le­ga­tions in lo­cal and in­ter­na­tional me­dia of ram­pant fraud, the Gup­tas were able to avoid an of­fi­cial in­ves­ti­ga­tion be­cause of their close friend­ship with Mr Zuma – who was ousted as pres­i­dent of South Africa in Feb­ru­ary. In 2016, they moved to the UAE as me­dia at­ten­tion grew and civic and par­lia­men­tary groups called for an in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

The Gupta broth­ers al­legedly con­tin­ued to con­duct busi­ness from their place of res­i­dence in The Oberoi ho­tel in Dubai. How­ever, things took a turn for the worse for the Gup­tas when busi­ness­man Cyril Ramaphosa was elected to lead the rul­ing African Na­tional Congress in De­cem­ber last year. Mr Ramaphosa vowed to end cor­rup­tion ahead of the na­tional elec­tions next year, oust­ing Mr Zuma and his al­lies – some of whom also had ties to the Gup­tas. Cor­rup­tion charges have also been filed against Mr Zuma.

A South African ju­di­cial com­mis­sion is cur­rently in­ves­ti­gat­ing the al­le­ga­tions against the Gup­tas and their al­lies.

Nathi Mncube, a spokesman for the coun­try’s ju­di­ciary, said that the com­mit­tee was analysing thou­sands of doc­u­ments and data re­lat­ing to ac­cu­sa­tions and cases that are re­ceived daily.

The State Cap­ture Com­mis­sion of In­quiry is headed by Deputy Chief Jus­tice Ray­mond Zondo.

Mr Rat­shi­tanga said that talks with the UAE per­tained not only to the Gup­tas but to any­one in­volved in state cap­ture.

“The dis­cus­sions will in­volve any­one who South African au­thor­i­ties be­lieve can as­sist in the [in­ves­ti­ga­tion] of state cap­ture,” he said.

Kim Lud­brook / EPA

South Africa’s Hawks po­lice unit raid the Gupta fam­ily’s com­pound in Jo­han­nes­burg, South Africa, in Feb­ru­ary

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