Gupta extradition process between SA and UAE could stretch over years

Court proceedings between South Africa and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to get the Gupta brothers back in the country likely to be lengthy.

The Gupta brothers. File Picture

Published Jun 8, 2022


Durban - The extradition process between South Africa and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), where brothers Rajesh and Atul Gupta were arrested this week, could be a long and drawn out matter.

Immigration attorney Gary Eisenberg said the arrest was the first step and the extradition process could include various appeals through the UAE courts.

“They have been arrested and they will apply for bail. They have a right to defend themselves and do whatever they can to prevent that extradition from occurring in terms of UAE domestic extradition law.”

Eisenberg said the UAE dealt with many extradition matters, especially with India and the UK.

The process can stretch over years, he said, and once the court process has been exhausted, and if the ruling allows for extradition, it still has to go to a government executive who decides on whether to proceed with the decision or not.

Dubai police said yesterday that the arrest of the Gupta brothers – wanted in South Africa over money laundering and criminal charges – reflects the continuous efforts of the UAE in combating money laundering crimes.

On Monday, the Ministry of Justice and Correctional Services confirmed that it had received information from law enforcement authorities in the UAE that the brothers had been arrested.

“Discussions between various law enforcement agencies in the UAE and South Africa on the way forward are ongoing. The South African government will continue to co-operate with the UAE,” the department said.

On Twitter, Dubai police said: “The force is now co-ordinating with authorities in South Africa regarding the extradition file to complete the legal procedures.

“This is done in co-operation with competent authorities, including the Ministry of Justice, Dubai Public Prosecution, Executive Office to Combat Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing, and the Financial Intelligence Unit.”

The brothers are wanted in South Africa in connection with the R25 million Nulane Investment case in the Free State and other matters related to fraud and corruption.

In the Nulane matter, the NPA’s Investigative Directorate said last year that the matter related to a R25 million feasibility study in 2011 that was irregularly granted to Nulane Investment, a company owned and controlled by Iqbal Sharma.

Last year, Interpol issued red notices against Atul Gupta and his wife, Chetali; Rajesh Gupta and his wife, Arti; former Nulane Investment Bank of Baroda account signatory Ankit Jain; director of Wone Management Ravindra Nath; and the directors of Pragat Investments, Ramesh Bhat and Jagdish Parekh.

It is not clear how the other Gupta brother Ajay was not part of the arrest, with sources saying Rajesh and Atul may have travelled to the UAE for business purposes at the time they were taken into custody.

Suggestions are that the brothers had been living in Kazakhstan.

National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) spokesperson Mthunzi Mhaga said yesterday that the NPA was engaging relevant authorities on the Gupta arrest.

“The National Prosecuting Authority has noted confirmation of the arrests of the two Gupta brothers in the UAE.

“Extradition is a complex process involving many role-players, including the executive. It would therefore not be appropriate for the NPA to discuss the details of that process in the media but we can confirm that we are engaging with relevant authorities in SA and UAE,” Mhaga said in a statement.

He said the NPA has an experienced team of internal and external experts who are working closely with law enforcement and their partners in the criminal justice system on the matter.

Both Atul and Rajesh are accused of paying bribes in order to win lucrative state contracts and influence powerful government appointments in South Africa. The family moved from India to South Africa in 1993.

The brothers fled the country in 2016 and South Africa signed and ratified an extradition treaty with the UAE in 2021.

Welcoming the arrests, civil society organisation Corruption Watch said they came as a result of South Africa’s appeal for mutual legal assistance from the UAE and the issuing of red notices through Interpol.

“The arrests did not come out of the blue, but are the result of persistent efforts to institute a legal process against the brothers. While it is a significant development, it is just one step closer to ensuring that justice is done, and that the Guptas are made to face the full might of the law in this country,” said Karam Singh, executive director of Corruption Watch.