Stop delaying Gupta farm trial, judge tells NPA
NPA has 102 days to prove R250m intended for poor black farmers was siphoned into the bank accounts of Gupta companies
One hundred and two days.
That is how much leeway the National Prosecuting Authority was given by the Bloemfontein Magistrate’s Court on Tuesday to prove its first case against the graft-accused Gupta family – or the landmark “state capture” prosecution will be thrown out of court.
“We are satisfied with the decision, but we are aware that it is giving us a lot of responsibility, considering the fact that we still have a lot of issues that we have to follow up in terms of investigations,” NPA spokesperson Phaladi Shuping told Times Select.
Magistrate Collin Nekosie did not mince his words about the “reprehensible” delays the state had caused in the matter.
But he stopped short of granting the defence its application to have the case struck off the roll.Prosecutors insist they could prove that R250m intended for poor black farmers was siphoned into the bank accounts of Gupta companies, but the NPA has failed twice to secure the freezing of Gupta assets it claims are linked to this alleged criminal scheme.The NPA now has until November 30 to finish its investigations into the Estina diary project and hand over the final docket and indictment to the accused.
Shuping acknowledged this would be no easy task.
“We are dealing with a complex matter, financial statements – especially with regard to foreign companies – it’s starting to become a problem for us.
“But we’ve involved the auditors that are assisting us with the analysis of those statements, so we are very optimistic that come 30 November, all that we are looking for will be available.”He added that the NPA “did not see any challenge in getting all the necessary evidence that we need” from the UAE and India.
Nekosie said the state’s “conduct and decision making had resulted in unreasonable delays in the completion of proceedings which if left unchecked could substantially prejudice the accused.”
He added: “I’m left with the impression that there has been no momentum to the investigation as one would expect in a matter of this nature. This contributes to the delay by the state being even more reprehensible.”
Shuping would not be drawn into commenting on the criticism from the magistrate.
“It’s the view of the court. We can’t be against the view of the court. What is satisfying to us is that the magistrate, despite all the concerns that he was having, he granted us the postponement,” he said.
The matter returns to court on December 4.