Pretoria – The Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa) has welcomed the arrest of the Gupta brothers, describing it as a major step forward in State capture prosecution “that will hopefully lead to more arrests”.
Two of the Gupta brothers, Rajesh and Atul, were arrested in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), a statement from the Department of Justice confirmed late on Monday night.
The Gupta brothers fled South Africa in 2016 amid pressure for their arrest.
“Outa welcomes the news that Atul and Rajesh Gupta, the two brothers charged in the Nulane corruption case in the Free State, have been arrested in Dubai. The charges were brought against the brothers after Nulane Investments Director, Iqbal Sharma allegedly received a R25 million tender to complete a feasibility survey on the Estina Dairy project in the Free State.
“The survey was outsourced to Deloitte for R1.5m and R21m was then paid over to Islandsite Investments – a company in which Atul and Rajesh Gupta and their wives were directors,” said Advocate Stefanie Fick, Outa’s executive director for the accountability division.
Fick said while the arrests have been confirmed by the office of the Minister of Justice and Correctional Services Ronald Lamola, and the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), Outa hopes that South Africa and the UAE will co-operate to expedite the Guptas’ extradition for the controversial brothers to stand trial.
“We've always said that fighting corruption in South Africa requires resilience. That if the rule of law is allowed to take its course, those implicated will eventually get their day in court. It seems like that day is around the corner for the Gupta kingpins,” Fick said.
“This is a major step forward in the prosecution of state capture culprits.”
Rudie Heyneke, Outa’s lead investigator on state capture matters, also welcomed the arrest.
“It put an end to rumours about the Gupta family’s whereabouts, and with their arrest out of the way, we’re hoping that more arrests and swift prosecutions will follow.”
The family fled South Africa after allegations they were involved in grandscale looting, also characterised as State Capture.
The DA said it has noted the arrests of the “State Capture kingpins” in Dubai, but added that more information must be divulged on the process which follows.
“We hope that this is indeed the beginning of arrests and prosecution of those who have – locally and abroad – looted our country for years and are directly responsible for the hardships that millions of South Africans face today,” said DA national spokesperson and MP Siviwe Gwarube.
“The DA has noted the confirmation by the Department of Justice and we look forward to more information regarding the arrests and the process that will be followed after these arrests. It is of absolute importance that there is transparency on this matter.”
The official opposition said it will be monitoring the matter closely.
Meanwhile, the Good Party said the arrest is an important opportunity for the National Prosecuting Authority to restore the faith of South Africans in the country’s criminal justice system.
“The fact that it was the Justice Department making the announcement implies the arrests are connected to our widely-known interests. If this is so, the arrests will allow the South African authorities to commence an application for the notorious brothers' extradition to stand trial,” said Brett Herron, Good’s secretary general and MP.
“This would constitute a major breakthrough in the fight against state capture and corruption. We urge the National Prosecuting Authority to demonstrate both the skills and the desire to see the Guptas stand trial for the myriad crimes they are alleged to have committed.”
The Patricia de Lille-led party said it hopes “a speedy extradition process” follows the arrest.
In July last year, Interpol also issued a red notice for their arrest, former Investigating Directorate head Hermione Cronje confirmed at the time.
Although a red notice is not necessarily an arrest warrant, it allows Interpol member states to negotiate the extradition of wanted criminals from another state.
In a short statement on Monday night, the Ministry of Justice confirmed the arrest of the Gupta brothers.
Ministry of Justice’s spokesperson Chrispin Phiri said: “The Ministry of Justice and Correctional Services confirms that it has received information from law enforcement authorities in the UAE that fugitives of justice, namely, Rajesh and Atul Gupta have 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,” he said.
The Gupta brothers were also fingered as central figures in the State Capture project. Chief Justice Raymond Zondo’s report found that the Guptas used their close relationship with former president Jacob Zuma to score lucrative deals with the power utility Eskom.
Zondo said in the State Capture report: “The evidence proves a scheme by the Guptas to capture Eskom, install the Guptas' selected officials in strategic positions within Eskom as members of the board, the committees of the board and the executives and then divert Eskom's assets to the Guptas' financial advantage.
“Central to the Guptas’ scheme of state capture was President Zuma, who the Guptas must have identified at a very early stage as somebody whose character was such that they could use him against the people of South Africa, his own country and his own government to advance their own business interests — and President Zuma readily opened the doors for the Guptas to go into the SOEs and help themselves to the money and assets of the people of South Africa.”