A High Court in South Africa’s judicial capital of Bloemfontein has discharged the Indianorigin Gupta brothers and all other accused in the Nulane case related to the allegations of “State Capture” and money-laundering during the tenure of the country’s former President Jacob Zuma.
The Free State High Court on April 21 also observed that the police and the prosecution had been inept in handling the Nulane case, which it termed as the “Comedy of Errors”. The State’s case as presented was stillborn, said the judge.
Speaking to eNews Channel Africa later, Director of Nulane Investments, Iqbal Sharma did not rule out the possibility of suing the state.
The Guptas have always denied the charges. Speaking through their lawyers, the Gupta family told South Africa’s News24 that they welcomed the acquittal in the Bloemfontein High Court. “Justice was done,” they stated.
Court lambasts probe
“Of importance to note is that the court severely criticised the investigation done by state bodies. Had the investigation been done properly, no charges would have been brought in the first place. It is lamentable that people’s lives can be so disrupted by such a poor investigation and such poor decisions,” the family said.
Acting Bloemfontein High Court Judge Nompumelelo Gusha pulled up the state for failing to prove the case against the Gupta brothers and their associates accused in the 24.9-million South African Rand (more than Rs 11.2 crore) Nulane Investments trial.
This comes as a severe blow to the current regime’s intent to bring the Guptas back from the United Arab Emirates, where the brothers are reported to be staying. It follows a court in the UAE dismissing South Africa’s request for the extradition of Atul and Rajesh Gupta.
Failure on extradition
The South African Government is said to have even appealed to the UN to get the Guptas back to South Africa. Following the Dubai court order, South Africa’s Justice Minister Ronald Lamola commented that his Government was “shocked and dismayed” that its request to extradite Guptas to face trial in their home country on fraud and corruption charges had failed. In the Nulane case, Ronica Ragavan (CEO of the Guptas-controlled company Islandsite Investment), Iqbal Meerr Sharma and Dinesh Patel (directors of Nulene Investment Company), and two Government officials were among the accused.
The South African Government had issued a red corner notice to Atul and Rajesh Gupta, declaring them ‘wanted’ and subsequently arrested them in Dubai last year. The third brother, Ajay Gupta, was not arrested. However, this February, the Dubai court dismissed the extradition request as mentioned earlier.
The judge pulled up the state for failing to prove the case against the Gupta brothers and their associates accused in the 24.9-million South African Rand (more than Rs 11.2 crore) Nulane Investments trial
Release granted to all
Judge Gusha also granted release to Gupta associate Ronica Ragavan and the fugitive family’s Islandsite Investment, two former Free State government officials and the directors of Nulane Investments, former Transnet board member Iqbal Sharma and his brother-in-law Dinesh Patel.
Similarly, former head of the provincial departments of agriculture and rural development, Limakatso Moorosi, was acquitted with the court holding that there was no evidence against her as well.
The prosecution had alleged that the two brothers were part of a conspiracy to defraud the Free State government. It wanted to add them to the list of accused if they were to surrender.
According to reports, Andrea Johnson, head of the Investigating Directorate in South Africa’s National Prosecuting Authority, said the Government remained committed to bringing the Gupta brothers to justice, wherever they may be.
Allegation of cronyism
The brothers are accused of using their connections with Zuma during his tenure. Zuma was in power from 2009 to 2018. The Guptas were alleged to have used their clout to win contracts, and even influence Cabinet appointments and decisions, and siphoned off state funds. The former President has also denied any wrongdoing.
The Gupta brothers left South Africa after Zuma was ousted in 2018. Thereafter, an inquiry was initiated to probe various allegations during the period of Zuma’s rule.
From computers, the Gupta brothers expanded their business network, to air travel, energy, mining, technology, and media, significantly contributing to South Africa’s economy. The Gupta controversy took shape in 2016 following allegations from the then-Deputy Finance Minister Mcebisi Jonas. He had claimed that a member of the Gupta family had offered him the position of Finance Minister if he advanced their business interests. The allegation was denied by Ajay Gupta claiming that he had never met Jonas.
Around the same time, former Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan had stated that he held the Guptas responsible for him being fired from the Zuma Government.
Leave a Reply