Gupta associate, 3 former Free State agriculture department heads arrested
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Johannesburg - A prominent businessman associated with the controversial Gupta family and three former Free State agriculture department heads were arrested on Wednesday.
This was confirmed by the National Prosecuting Authority Investigating Directorate (ID) in a statement. In line with the criminal procedures act, the names of the suspects can only be published once they have appeared in court.
They are expected to appear in court on Thursday.
According to an online news channel, the accused were arrested in connection with the failed R288 million Estina dairy project in Vrede.
“The NPA Investigating Directorate can confirm that a high-profile businessman has been arrested along with three former Free State Department of Agriculture officials this morning,” said Investigating Directorate spokesperson Sindisiwe Seboka.
Seboka said the group were arrested in the Free State, Gauteng, and Mpumalanga and will appear at the Bloemfontein Magistrate’s Court on Thursday at 9am.
“The arrest of a fifth suspect is imminent. The ID enforced the arrest working with the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation, Hawks,” Seboka said.
One of the suspect’s names has surfaced a number of times from witnesses who have testified at the State Capture Commission of Inquiry, chaired by Deputy Chief Raymond Zondo.
According to a witness at the Zondo Commission, the Guptas laundered the R287 million they received from the Free State government for the Estina dairy farm project, which was meant to empower emerging farmers in the area.
In 2018 eight others accused of being involved - former Oakbay CEO Nazeem Howa, Varun Gupta, the nephew of the Gupta brothers, former Sahara Computers CEO Ashu Chawla, Estina director Kamal Vasram and three Free State provincial government officials Peter Thabethe, Sylvia Dlamini and Takisi Masiteng - appeared in the Bloemfontein Magistrate's Court.
The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) later announced it would be provisionally withdrawing the criminal charges after it failed to complete its investigation and prepare a final indictment against the accused in that matter.