South Africa has started the complicated process to seek the extradition of Rajesh and Atul Gupta from the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
The Department of Justice confirmed that one of the country’s leading extradition lawyers, Anton Katz SC, and two other advocates, Kessler Perumalsamy and Eshed Cohen, would travel to the UAE to start extradition proceedings against the Gupta brothers.
Rajesh and Atul were arrested this month after the International Criminal Police Organisation (Interpol) last year issued a Red Notice alert for members of the family in connection with money-laundering charges.The Gupta brothers deny any wrongdoing and have fought the application of red notices issued by Interpol. They say they are the victims of a political witch-hunt in South Africa.
Dubai based newspaper, the “The National” spoke to Hassan Elhais, a legal consultant with Al Rowaad Advocates, about the processes involved and he confirmed that in the UAE, a special tribunal of three judges hears matters related to extradition.
Whatever decision the special tribunal on extradition makes, can be appealed before the Court of Cassation, the UAE’s highest court.
The paper further reported that extradition proceedings are covered in private so it is highly unlikely that the media will be allowed to cover the matter.
“The National” reports that the extradition treaty between South Africa and the UAE allows for property to be seized as part of the extradition process – this means the country is entitled to seize all property, articles or documents found in the territory of the UAE which is connected with the offence for which extradition is sought.
South African experts have said that a defence by the Guptas based on the theory that they are victims of a political witch-hunt could complicate the process.
Immigration law expert Professor Andre Thomashausen said this strategy was not surprising as the extradition treaty between the UAE and South Africa specifically stated that extradition could not be granted on political grounds.
“The evidence leader in the UAE will have to show that they are wanted in South Africa on circumstances that constitute normal criminal offences.
“The UAE might rule that the Guptas are foreign residents who did not fully disclose the criminal charges they are facing. Their whole residential status might be questioned.”
Gary Eisenberg, an immigration attorney at Eisenberg and Associates, said the political motivation defence would complicate the process as the treaty between the two countries does not make provision for extradition for political reasons.
“If the charges arise in South Africa from a political foundation, then this could well be an effective defence in the UAE. The treaty is pretty explicit and international law is explicit.”