Ajay and Atul Gupta File picture: Independent Media
Durban - The Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa) believes the securing of a preservation order against the controversial Estina dairy project last week is “just the ­beginning”.

The anti-corruption group’s chief operating officer, Ben Theron, said on Sunday that Outa believed Estina was “the start of the entire empire they (the Guptas) built”.

“And we believe there’s still a lot to come, and the people involved in Estina need to be taken on one by one,” Theron said. “As much as a number of people were listed in the affidavit, that’s the tip of the iceberg because this money was used to fund other ventures. If you follow the money, you will find a web.”

According to reports, the Asset Forfeiture Unit (AFU) late last week secured a preservation order against 15 different Gupta-linked individuals and companies, with whom hundreds of millions of rand in government funding - intended for the Estina dairy project - allegedly ended up.

The reports say that from 2013 to 2016, the Free State government gave Gupta-owned Estina more than R220million for the project, which was established as a poverty alleviation initiative for the rural community of Vrede.

Only 1% of the money was actually spent on farming, and the rest was syphoned off to the Guptas and their affiliates.

Read: Future sours for Guptas as dairy farm probe exposes massive graft

Mineral Resources Minister Mosebenzi Zwane and ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule have both been implicated in the scandal.

Theron said on Sunday that Outa was “absolutely ecstatic” that the authorities had moved on Estina.

“And we believe the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) and the Asset Forfeiture Unit (AFU) have decided to act now, under the new leadership of Cyril Ramaphosa and his declaration of a zero-tolerance approach to corruption,” Theron said.

The South African Federation of Trade Unions (Saftu) also welcomed the preservation order.

“Saftu congratulates all those whose relentless pressure forced the AFU to act, and hopes that this court order will be followed by similar action against all those implicated in the looting of public funds,” it said on Sunday.

Meanwhile, DA leader Mmusi Maimane was in Durban’s Ntuzuma on his People’s Forum Tour on Sunday.

Speaking there, he labelled the Estina dairy project “a devious, corrupt scheme” and said the victims were the more than 80 intended beneficiaries from the local community.

Maimane said he visited the farm earlier this year.

Also read: WATCH: 'Mkhwebane ducking and diving with Vrede dairy farm report'

“None of the beneficiaries have had any actual involvement in the project. Some of the beneficiaries told me that they had sold off their own livestock in anticipation of their participation in this project,” Maimane said.

He welcomed the AFU’s intervention, but said it should have come years ago, “when we knew about this, not only now when it’s politically convenient”.

“This must lead to reclaiming the stolen money, and returning it to the intended beneficiaries. And it must lead to legal accountability for Ace Magashule and Mosebenzi Zwane,” he said.

The Mercury