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About two months to the day he told South Africans in a press conference on Good Friday morning that the extradition application by South African authorities for the Guptas from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) had failed, Justice Minister Ronald Lamola announced this week the establishment of a task team that would further the work of appealing the decision.

Lamola and his UAE counterpart, Abdullah Sultan Awad al-Nuaimi, met in Abu Dhabi last week to discuss the establishment of prosecution teams from both countries in an effort to make the process simpler, said spokesperson Crispin Phiri in a statement. He also said the plans for the extradition were gaining momentum.

“There were productive, frank and robust discussions between the two ministers, and Lamola outlined his concerns about how the UAE had initially responded to the request. The minister stressed that it did not reflect the level of co-operation that was promised by the bilateral agreements that we have signed.”

Interpol issued red notices for the arrest of the pair in early 2022, but these lapsed when they were arrested in Dubai months later.

Head of the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) Shamila Batohi said in April her team would have to start the process of applying for new notices.

Guptas ducking and diving

The extradition application, which the Dubai Court of Appeal denied in February this year, applies to two of the three Gupta brothers, Atul and Rajesh, for their alleged involvement in state capture. They face charges including fraud, corruption, and money laundering.

At the same press conference, Lamola revealed that the UAE court’s ruling to deny South Africa’s extradition application was based on the two brothers being citizens of the island of Vanuatu, and not South Africa. Their citizenship was indeed confirmed, and reported by the OCCRP last month.

The chairman of the Citizenship Commission in Vanuatu, Robin Kapapa, said authorities in that country will not revoke the citizenship status of the two brothers unless they are convicted. The Guptas fled South Africa in 2018 following the change in government leadership in South Africa. Their relationship with former president Jacob Zuma was one of the main points of investigation by the state capture commission that started hearing evidence later that year.

At the start of the commission, the brothers wrote to its chairperson, Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, requesting that he allow them to give evidence from Dubai. He declined the request. Several witnesses who appeared before the commission testified about the close and inappropriate relationships between the brothers and cabinet ministers and senior government officials.