Cape Town - DA MPs have accused the Justice and Correctional Services Department of deliberately stalling the signing of an extradition treaty with the United Arab Emirates (UAE), which could have seen the controversial Gupta brothers hauled before courts to account for state capture allegations.
South Africa started negotiations with the UAE on an extradition agreement in 2010. On September 25, Justice and Correctional Services Minister Michael Masutha signed the treaty, raising hopes that the Gupta brothers would be extradited to face corruption charges in South Africa.
On Wednesday the department appeared before Parliament’s portfolio committee on justice and correctional services, where it presented the two agreements: the extradition treaty and a mutual legal assistance on criminal matters treaty.
DA MP Steven Swart told the delegation from the department that there was no political will from the previous administration of former president Jacob Zuma to sign the agreements.
He said he had communicated the urgency of signing the agreement in light of the Gupta family matter and the state capture allegations.
He accused the department of not showing a sense of urgency in dealing with the agreements at the time of negotiating with the UAE.
“We understand the negotiations started in 2010. In this committee in 2016, we signed a double taxation agreement with the UAE. I expressed my concerns, because at that time we were already dealing with matters involving the Gupta family.
“At that stage there could have been a quicker process with both the extradition treaty and the mutual agreement treaty. I don’t understand the delay,” said Swart.
State legal adviser from the department Herman van Heerden, however, told Parliament that the negotiations were between two states, and delays could not be prevented.
“We tried our best to make sure that the treaties were finalised and signed as soon as possible. The treaty was signed on September 25 (and) it is now before the portfolio committee. I am not sure if one could say there is a delay,” said Van Heerden.
The committee also heard that the agreements would apply retrospectively, to crimes committed before they came into force.
The Gupta brothers, Ajay, Atul and Rajesh, are believed to be in Dubai, where they own property and businesses. They left South Africa earlier this year, when Parliament called for them to be investigated for allegations of state capture.
The treaties will enable the two countries to assist each other in the investigation and prosecution of crimes through mutual legal assistance and the extradition of fugitives.