Image: Rosebank Killarney Gazette

Two of the Gupta brothers may potentially see themselves being extradited to South Africa from the United Arab Emirates, following their arrest on Monday in that territory’s city of Dubai. The National Prosecuting Authority, however, warns that extradition is a long, complex process, implying that it might be a while before Atul and Rajesh “Tony” Gupta are brought back into the country to face the music relating to money laundering and fraud.

News24 reports that the pair will be charged in connection with the Nulane Investment case set down for the Bloemfontein High Court in September. Gupta associate and former Transnet board member Iqbal Sharma was identified as a director of Nulane, which won a R25-million contract without an open tender process, by the Free State Department of Agriculture, as part of the Mohoma Mobung project, a development programme for small-scale farmers in the province.

Their arrest was confirmed by the Ministry of Justice in a statement on the same day. It comes months after the two brothers were placed on Interpol’s red notice in connection with the charges. A red notice is a global alert enabling law enforcement to arrest a person sought for prosecution or to serve a custodial sentence and detain them pending extradition.

Due to the red notices, the brothers were regarded as fugitives of justice at the time of their arrest. Eldest brother Ajay Gupta was not arrested along with his brothers.

“Discussions between various law enforcement agencies in the UAE and South Africa on the way forward are ongoing,” the statement from the ministry reads.

State capture players

The family has been implicated in state capture in evidence revealed before the state capture commission since 2018. The brothers and their numerous business associates have been placed at the centre of corruption relating to large government contracts, mainly handled in the country’s state-owned entities. The commission, chaired by Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, heard evidence in late 2020 from forensic investigator Paul Holden of London-based Shadow World Investigations, in relation to the movement of millions of rands through a money laundering network involving several of the Guptas’ international associates.

Several other role players in the matter have been charged.

The agriculture department’s former head Peter Thabethe justified to the Zondo commission the decision to appoint Nulane, saying that the department wanted to work with strategic partner Worlds Window Impex India Pvt. Ltd, which in turn identified Nulane as its local partner.

The same modus operandi was used in the more publicised Estina dairy project, which happened on a grander scale. According to Holden, the Guptas used Estina as one of its money laundering vehicles, and roped in Worlds Window, in 2011. Several companies within the network were used to move money around, and from the R280-million paid by the Free State government, the Gupta-centred laundering cabal accumulated additional “interest” that brought the Gupta enterprises’ profits to around R880-million.