Justice min­is­ter work­ing on ex­tra­di­tion deal for Gup­tas

The Mercury - - FRONT PAGE - Siyabonga Mkhwanazi and Kai­lene Pil­lay

THE author­i­ties are clos­ing in on the Gup­tas, with the Min­is­ter of Justice, Michael Ma­sutha, ty­ing up some loose ends on an ex­tra­di­tion treaty with the United Arab Emi­rates (UAE) to bring the con­tro­ver­sial fam­ily back to the coun­try.

Ma­sutha told the me­dia in Par­lia­ment yes­ter­day that the ar­rests of the Gup­tas, who are in Dubai, could hap­pen once the deal with the UAE had been sealed.

This comes af­ter Ajay Gupta was spot­ted in In­dia and seen in an in­ter­view deny­ing any wrong­do­ing with re­spect to state cap­ture.

In a video played by eNCA yes­ter­day, he laughed off al­le­ga­tions that he was a fugi­tive from the law in South Africa, that the In­dian govern­ment was in­ves­ti­gat­ing the fam­ily, and that he faces crim­i­nal charges here.

“I am sit­ting in In­dia at this mo­ment and there is no al­le­ga­tion that I know,” he said, adding that he was at­tend­ing a religious fes­ti­val in his home coun­try.

This is the same event be­ing at­tended by his nephew, Varun Gupta, who was granted per­mis­sion by the Bloem­fontein High Court last week to travel to In­dia. Varun is one of the seven ac­cused in the Estina dairy farm project.

Ma­sutha said they were ex­pect­ing to con­clude the ex­tra­di­tion treaty soon, and that the am­bas­sador to the UAE was keen to see the mat­ter fi­nalised.

“On the Gup­tas ques­tion, a few weeks ago I met with the am­bas­sador of the UAE to dis­cuss the need for this (and) to dis­cuss the speed­ing up of the Mu­tual Le­gal As­sis­tance agree­ment and ex­tra­di­tion, where he ex­pressed the de­sire that we put in place the co-oper­a­tion, be­cause of a num­ber of South Africans who are there in the UAE,” said Ma­sutha.

Cur­rently, South Africa has no ex­tra­di­tion treaty with the UAE.

Sub­poe­naed

The Gup­tas and Duduzane Zuma, Pres­i­dent Jacob Zuma’s son, are in Dubai af­ter they left the coun­try in Fe­bru­ary.

This was be­fore the inquiry into Eskom in Par­lia­ment sub­poe­naed them and also shortly be­fore the raid at the Gup­tas’ home in Sax­on­wold, Jo­han­nes­burg, where the As­set For­fei­ture Unit at­tached some of the fam­ily’s prop­er­ties.

Ma­sutha said he would not in­ter­vene at this stage, as he was in touch with the Na­tional Pros­e­cut­ing Au­thor­ity con­cern­ing their work in the mat­ter. The NPA has been work­ing with the SAPS, the Hawks and other law enforcement agencies on these in­ves­ti­ga­tions.

Hawks spokesper­son Bri­gadier Hang­wani Mu­laudzi con­firmed to The Mer­cury that the case against the Gupta fam­ily was still open and be­ing in­ves­ti­gated, while Ajay Gupta was still clas­si­fied a fugi­tive from the law.

“He can go and scream from the top of Ta­ble Moun­tain that there are no al­le­ga­tions and in­ves­ti­ga­tions into him and his fam­ily, but we are the only com­pe­tent au­thor­ity that can make that procla­ma­tion.

“His war­rant of ar­rest is still ac­tive,” Mu­laudzi said.

He said this re­ac­tion and com­ments from Ajay Gupta was a “strat­egy” by the Gupta fam­ily to un­cover the de­tails of the Hawks’ in­ves­ti­ga­tion via the me­dia.

“They want us to open our books, so to speak, to the me­dia so they can de­rive their plan to avoid in­ves­ti­ga­tion and pos­si­ble pros­e­cu­tion here,” he said.

Mu­laudzi said that lawyers rep­re­sent­ing the Gupta fam­ily had ap­proached a Bloem­fontein court last week to force the Hawks to hand over the war­rants of ar­rest to them. How­ever, they had failed in their efforts.

“We don’t deal with lawyers, we deal with the sus­pects. The war­rant is not (in) the lawyers’ names, so we will not re­lease it to them,” Mu­laudzi said.

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