Legal and political experts have been commenting on the matter after Judge Philip Loubser on Monday ordered the release of the Guptas’ assets estimated at R250million.
In April, the NPA’s Asset Forfeiture Unit raided the Guptas’ compound and seized luxury vehicles, immovable properties and bank accounts - which the Guptas went to court to demand back.
Judge Loubser ruled that the affidavit prepared by the NPA was lacking and that the allegations made amounted to speculation.
Judge Loubser explained: “There must be reasonable grounds for believing that the defendant may be convicted, that the court may find that the defendant benefited from the unlawful activities and that the court may, therefore, make the exercise of a confiscation order.”
Legal expert Paul Hoffman said this was a major setback in the NPA’s case against the Gupta family but “this is not the end”.
The court’s finding that it was not reasonable to believe that a criminal case against the accused for theft, fraud and money laundering would one day succeed was alarming, he said, as many believed the April search and seizure was the start of the processes to one day seeing the Guptas have their day in court.
“The NPA clearly did not put together a case that impressed the judge. In the criminal case, they would have to prove beyond reasonable doubt that fraud and corruption took place,” Hoffman said.
Legal expert advocate Mfesane Siboto, of the Wits Law Clinic, said the assets forfeiture case was separate from the criminal case against the Gupta family and their companies, but the judgment meant that the NPA would have to work much harder to ensure the criminal case was solid.
Political expert Somadoda Fikeni said the lesson from Judge Loubser’s ruling should awaken the NPA into doing proper investigations and present them well enough.
“This does not have a bearing on the state capture criminal case but it may make them (the NPA) prepare harder,” he said.
Fikeni said the weaknesses in the NPA needed immediate review and this case had caused it serious reputational damage.
However, looking on the positive side, Fikeni said this showed that the judiciary was not persuaded by public opinion and still stood its ground.
At a post-NEC media briefing, ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule responded to questions over the NPA's “bungling” of the Vrede farm probe, saying: “Legal processes are legal processes.”