Gupta associate Iqbal Sharma back in Bloemfontein court
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Cape Town – Gupta associate and businessman Iqbal Sharma and former Free State agriculture and rural development head, Peter Thabethe are expected to apply for bail in the Bloemfontein Magistrate's Court on Monday.
The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) said it would oppose bail.
The NPA Investigating Directorate (ID) spokesperson Sindisiwe Seboka said Sharma, Thabethe and their 13 co-accused face charges relating to defrauding the Free State Department of Agriculture (FSDoA).
Sharma and Thabethe spent the weekend at the Bainsvlei Police Station cells after their arrest on Wednesday in the Free State, Gauteng, and Mpumalanga.
They made their first court appearance on June 3, where a state official after two other accused were granted bail.
According to an online news channel, the accused were arrested in connection with the failed R288 million Estina dairy project in Vrede.
"The fraud is in connection with a R25m feasibility study in 2011 that was irregularly granted to Nulane Investment 204 (PTY) LTD, a company owned and controlled by Sharma," Seboka said.
"The company had to provide a report to the department within seven months. Nulane, however, subcontracted the work to Deloitte Consulting Pty Ltd for R1.5m."
Seboka said Nulane subcontracted the work already completed by Deloitte to Gateway Limited and paid them over R19m. The funds were then diverted to Islandsite Investments 180, a Gupta-owned company, Seboka said.
The ID alleges that Sharma, Thabethe; former FSDoA head, Limakatso Moorosi; and former FSDoA Chief Financial Officer, Seipati Dhlamini, colluded to divert funds earmarked for rural development in the Free State, Seboka said.
"These funds were then placed at the disposal of the Gupta family."
Moorosi and Dhlamini were granted R10 000 bail each on Thursday, and face charges of fraud, money laundering and contravention of the Public Finance Management Act.
Due to health reasons, Sharma’s brother-in-law and a representative of Nulane Investments, Dinesh Patel, is expected to formally appear in the same court on June 15.
"They are charged together with three companies, Nulane Investment 204 (Pty) Ltd (owned and controlled by Sharma), Wone Management (PTY) LTD, Pragat Investment (Pty) LTD and Islandsite Investments Pty Ltd," Seboka said.
"The balance of accused listed in the charge sheet are not currently in South Africa."
On Friday, ID confirmed the seizure of properties and assets worth millions of rand belonging to Sharma in Cape Town and Johannesburg.
The Bloemfontein High Court granted a restraint order to freeze assets of Sharma, his company Nulane Investments, and Islandsite Investments 180 (Pty) Ltd, which belongs to Atul and Rajesh Gupta and their wives, Chetali and Arti Gupta, respectively.
Seboka said the assets included his R12 million Sandton home which is owned through a UAE-registered company, Issar Global as well as movable property valued at R500 000 and a R1.3m sectional title home in Sandton.
"Properties owned by Gupta family company Islandsite that form part of the inventory include a house worth R21m in Constantia, near Cape Town and a R12m house in Saxonwold,” said Seboka.
Seboka said should the accused be convicted, the National Director of Public Prosecutions will apply for a confiscation order against Sharma and Islandsite to recoup the value of benefits derived from the offences and related criminal activities.