Atul and Ajay Gupta. Picture: African News Agency (ANA)

Durban - The long arm of the law may stretch to the UAE as possible extradition back to South Africa looms for the controversial Gupta brothers.

On a “good day for South Africans”, the Department of Justice confirmed late on Friday that Minister Ronald Lamola had requested the UAE to finalise the ratification of two treaties concerning mutual legal assistance and extradition.

This comes as the US slapped financial sanctions on the Gupta brothers and their close associate, Salim Essa, under the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty between South Africa and America.

The financial blacklisting was reported across the globe, including in the influential Financial Times.

The Guptas will face increasing difficulty doing business around the world.

The sanctions mean all property and interests of Ajay, Atul and Rajesh Gupta, as well as Salim Essa, “that are owned, directly or indirectly, 50% or more by them, individually or with other designated persons, that are in the US or in the possession or control of US persons, are blocked.”

The SA Justice Department confirmed it had issued requests to finalise the ratification for mutual legal assistance from India, Canada, Switzerland, Mauritius, Hong Kong, China and the UAE - from which they also requested ratification of the Extradition Treaty.

The Guptas have been known to favour Dubai as their bolt hole, where they are believed to have fled from South Africa in about March 2018 after a flood of allegations of corruption and looting.

In a media briefing held from Washington, Under Secretary of the US Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Sigal Mandelker said the US had sanctioned the Gupta family for “widespread corruption and bribery” and that the brothers had been implicated in illegal deals worth “hundreds of millions of dollars”.

While she would not comment on whether the Guptas had assets in the US, Mandelker said: “They (Guptas) will quickly find out that they have a lot more difficulty doing business around the world as legitimate businesses do not want to be enmeshed with these types of individuals.”

This ended a week which provided a glimmer of hope for South Africans that some big strides were being taken to combat the looting of government coffers over the last decade or so.

While the net was being tightened around the Guptas, former president Jacob Zuma and co-accused French arms dealer Thales’ application for a permanent stay of prosecution in the long-running arms deal saga were dismissed with costs in the Pietermaritzburg High Court.

Judges Bhekisisa Mnguni, Thoba Poyo-Dlwati and Esten Steyn spent less than five minutes delivering judgment, setting down Tuesday for the trial to proceed.

In applying for the permanent stay of prosecution, Zuma’s legal team argued that the trial had been delayed for 15 years, and that he should have been charged with his former financial adviser Schabir Shaik, who was convicted of the same offences.

Zuma is also expected to appear before the Zondo Commission into state capture next week.

When asked for comment , Shaik said: “It’s not for me to comment.”

Also in the dock, in the Commercial Crimes Court, was former Durban mayor Zandile Gumede, who appeared for breach of bail conditions.

This followed raids this week by the Hawks and Asset Forfeiture Unit on her home and those of her 11 co-accused in a corruption case related to a R208million tender in the Durban Solid Waste department.

The Hawks had Gumede’s address listed in uMhlanga, but when they arrived there in the early Wednesday morning raid they found it empty.

It subsequently came to light that Gumede had rented the property until a few months ago.

In court, Gumede’s lawyer, Bulelani Mazomba, took the rap for not passing on Gumede’s correct address to the State, saying “he had completely forgotten to write to the investigating officer”.

Corruption Watch director David Lewis described yesterday as “a good day for South Africans”.

“Big steps have been taken this week, that’s for sure. The Durban (Zuma) trial is particularly significant and the National Prosecuting Authority are to be commended for going ahead with this prosecution. It’s really a big deal,” said Lewis.

With regard to the Gupta sanctions, he said: “Those can be very far-reaching, and if the Guptas have been put on the blacklist, there are good grounds for putting Zuma on the blacklist.”

Economist Dawie Roodt said the rand had strengthened slightly yesterday, which could be ascribed to the corruption-busting taking place.

“The Guptas are in serious trouble here and they are going to be under a lot of pressure.

“The rand was a little stronger this morning. The story was carried widely around the world and this strengthens investor confidence.

“Provided the current sentiment prevails, business confidence seems to be picking up a bit,” said Roodt.

He added that strong leadership was needed by the presidency, saying: “The ANC is corrupt to its core, so these are small steps. We have to start acting against the big guys.”

Referring to South Africa retrieving the millions allegedly looted by the Guptas, Roodt said there was “no pot of gold we are going to get back.”

Independent On Saturday