Ajay and Atul Gupta File picture: Independent Media
Parliament - The extradition treaty between South Africa and the United Arab Emirates, tabled in Parliament for approval as a matter of urgency on Saturday by Justice and Correctional Services Minister Michael Masutha, may force the three Gupta brothers - Atul, Ajay and Tony - to flee Dubai where they have been holed up for months, sources close to the family have said.

The Gupta brothers are accused of wielding undue influence over government officials in the awarding of contracts with government and state-owned entities through their relationship with former president Jacob Zuma.

Department of Justice spokesperson Mukoni Ratshitanga said they wanted Parliament to deal with the matter “as soon as is reasonably possible”.

The acting chairperson of the portfolio committee on justice and correctional services, Madipoane Mothapo, said on Saturday they had noted the treaty and would prioritise it.

“We note that it has been tabled and referred to us. We will then prioritise it,” said Mothapo.

South Africa has been trying to get the Guptas to return to the country after they left early this year. It is believed they are in Dubai, where they have several assets including properties.

The portfolio committee on police has also quizzed the Hawks on their investigation into the matter.

The Guptas indicated to the Zondo Commission of Inquiry into State Capture they would not return to the country because they feared they would be arrested. They offered to give their evidence through video conferencing, an offer that was rejected by Justice Zondo.

However, a source close to the family told Independent Media that the treaty had in fact been signed in September already, specifically to get the Guptas back in South Africa to face the music.

The source said the Guptas wielded influence in high places in Dubai and would never go back to India, their homeland, where their assets were already frozen and where they face arrest and prosecution over the Bank of Baroda debacle, among others.

Asked what the Guptas would do now that they might be extradited back here, the source said they might try to find another country. 

“They will look at another country, or they might sponsor a political rival to the ANC here in South Africa, with their eye on the 2019 elections. One could never know with them.”

President Cyril Ramaphosa has spoken strongly against state capture and called on those responsible to be arrested and the money returned to the fiscus.

The portfolio committees in Parliament have been putting pressure on the Hawks, the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), the police and other law enforcement agencies to act on the allegations of state capture.

The government has also said the law enforcement agencies should not wait for the Zondo Commission of Inquiry to finish its work.

The commission has been allocated further funds by the government to investigate state capture.

This was after Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, who chairs the commission, asked for an extension of two years to look into the allegations of state capture.

The Extradition and Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty tabled in Parliament states that both countries would help each other in arresting and extraditing people wanted for various crimes.

“Upon receipt of the request for extradition, the requested party shall arrest and detain the person sought in accordance with its national laws until the requested party has decided on the request for extradition,” reads part of the treaty.

“If the request for extradition is granted, the detention period shall continue until the person sought is surrendered to the authorities of the requesting party according to the national laws of the requested party,” it says.

The treaty also provides for the provisional arrests of people wanted pending “the presentation of the formal request for extradition and supporting documents”.

In addition, the treaty allows for the seizure of property.

Sunday Independent