JOHANNESBURG, April (ANA) - South African law enforcement agencies raided the Gupta family home in Saxonwold, Johannesburg, on Monday, to seize assets worth just over R250 million.
National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) spokesperson Luvuyo Mfaku said the Asset Forfeiture Unit (AFU) obtained a restraint order at the Bloemfontein High Court in the amount of R250,202,652 on April 11, "against the assets of several individuals and entities who were implicated in the offences of theft, fraud and money laundering, in respect of the Vrede Dairy Project: Estina matter".
"The said order is a result of ongoing criminal investigations by the [Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation, better known as the] Hawks which led to the arrest and institution of criminal prosecution against the aforesaid entities and individuals," Mfaku said.
"The order makes provision for the restraint of several assets to the value of R250,202,652, pending the finalisation of the criminal trial and upon conviction, the AFU will apply for a confiscation order for the recovery of the said amount and or any related amounts.
"Amongst the assets forming part of the restraint order, include the following; immovable property (residential and business premises and farms), two aircrafts, a helicopter, vehicles and bank accounts belonging to certain entities, namely, Oakbay Investments, (Pty) Ltd Islandsite Investments 180, Confidents Concept (Pty) Ltd, Sahara Computer (Pty) Ltd and Westdawn Investments and Aerohaven Trading."
Mfaku said that the aforementioned action was part of ongoing criminal investigations by the NPA and the Hawks, who were working together with other law enforcement agencies to address fraud and corruption, "more specifically corruption in the private sector and ensuring the recovery of government losses".
On March 9, Judge Fouche Jordan agreed in the Bloemfontein High Court to unfreeze R10 million belonging to controversial businessman Atul Gupta.
The money was frozen by the AFU which suspected that it was part of the more than R200 million meant for the Vrede dairy project in the Free State.
Gupta successfully contested the preservation order secured by the AFU. He was represented by Advocate Rafik Bhana.
Earlier in March, the NPA told the court the funds were part of the millions of rand siphoned from the Free State provincial government meant for a dairy project designed to benefit poor black farmers in the province.
At least eight suspects have appeared in court in connection with these funds. However, Gupta was not arrested. He is known to have left the country but his whereabouts remain unknown.
“Legitimate money was mixed with proceeds of crime,” said Thato Ntimutse, for the AFU, in his arguments to court. He added that millions in ill-gotten money was paid into a pool account held by the Bank of Baroda in order to mix it with clean money and hide what is believed to be illicit transactions.
Michael Hellens, for the Gupta-owned companies, argued that the State was presenting new arguments, as the facts raised by the State were “not part of the files submitted to court”.
Hellens is acting on behalf of Aerohaven Trading (Pvt) Ltd, Oakbay Investments (Pvt) Ltd, Westdawn Investments (Pvt) Ltd, Annex Distribution (Pvt) Ltd and Islandsite Investments One Eighty (Pvt) Ltd.
In February, State officials Peter Thabethe, Sylvia Dlamini and Takisi Masiteng were each granted R10,000 bail, while Gupta-linked accused Varun Gupta, Ronica Ragavan, Nazeem Howa and Ashu Chawla were each granted R200,000 bail. Ajay Gupta is reportedly on the run from authorities. The case against Estina director Kamal Vasram was postponed.
They were arrested in connection with investigations into the Free State Vrede dairy farm project which saw millions of rand meant to benefit local farmers in the Free State siphoned off, allegedly for the benefit of the Gupta family who have a close relationship with former president Jacob Zuma and his son Duduzane.
- African News Agency (ANA)