As Hawks hunt Guptas, Atul surfaces in court papers
Give me back my R10-million, he tells NPA
As the search for Ajay and Atul Gupta continues, Atul surfaced on Monday in court papers filed at the Bloemfontein High Court.
Atul wants the preservation order obtained by the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) that froze R10-million in his bank account to be set aside.
He mentioned in passing that he is currently outside of South Africa in his affidavit that was signed and sworn at the South African Consulate in Dubai dated February 8.
The R10-million relates to the NPA Asset Forfeiture Unit’s (AFU) investigation in the Estina dairy project in Vrede in the Free State. The project was established in partnership with Gupta-linked company Estina.
Atul denies receiving R10-million from the project.“I categorically deny any such transfer into any bank account owned or operated by me.”
R220-million meant to benefit poor farmers was allegedly siphoned off from Estina to the Guptas and others. The AFU said in court papers only R2-million was spent on the farm.
Atul believes the National Director of Public Prosecutions (NDPP) Shaun Abrahams “failed” to make a case for the relief sought and “misled the court in respect of the evidence supporting the granting of the order”.
He also challenges AFU financial investigator Nkosiphendule Mradla who said in his affidavit the R10-million was paid to Gupta on December 20 2013. He states Mradla put “no evidence whatsoever” to show money was transferred into a bank account that Atul owns.
“He (Mradla) does not put up a single bank statement relating to any of my bank accounts …”
Atul said he is not opposing the preservation order of the farm Krynaauws Lust 275 close to Vrede.
NPA spokesperson Luvuyo Mfaku confirmed receipt of Atul’s affidavit and that it would oppose the matter. It has been set down to be heard on March 1.
The police have arrested eight of the 13 suspects wanted in relation to the dairy project. Police Minister Fikile Mbalula said on Sunday in an interview with the SABC that Ajay’s lawyers initially offered to co-operate with the Hawks and hand him over‚ but since then played “cat and mouse”. Three of the five suspects still being sought are suspected to have left the country and are believed to be in Dubai‚ India or China.
South African citizens over the weekend started offering rewards for finding the Guptas, as an Indian newspaper spotted Ajay at a wedding there. Ajay has officially been declared a fugitive.The Times of India reported on Sunday Ajay attended a wedding before returning to his palatial bungalow in northern India. He reportedly arrived in Dehradun on February 13 and stayed until February 16.
“During his stay in Dehradun‚ the businessman did not leave the bungalow and remained inside‚” The Times of India reported.
The newspaper also reported Ajay was escorted by the police to a helicopter when he left Dehradun. He flew to Jolly Grant Airport before leaving “for an undisclosed location”.
The Times of India said the Gupta brothers were given state security detail whenever they were in India.
If the Gupta brothers remained in their homeland India, they could be extradited to South Africa because there is an extradition treaty on place. They will not necessarily be safe in Dubai either. South Africa does not have an extradition agreement with the United Arab Emirates (UAE), but South Africa can request the UAE to hand over suspects to South African authorities to face the music.
The UAE ratified the United Nations Convention Against Corruption of 2003; and South Africa ratified this convention in November 2004. It contains a comprehensive set of standards‚ measures and rules countries can apply to strengthen their legal and regulatory frameworks to fight corruption.
The convention states that if a state that makes extradition conditional on the existence of a treaty receives a request for extradition from another state with which it has no extradition treaty‚ it may consider this convention the legal basis for extradition. - additional reporting by Ernest Mabuza