Ajay and Atul Gupta File picture: Independent Media
Johannesburg - More than a dozen officials from several state watchdogs and law enforcement agencies are circling around companies and businesspeople linked to the controversial Gupta family in the hunt for R50 billion allegedly looted from state-owned enterprises.

The National Prosecuting Authority's asset forfeiture and specialised commercial crime units are working with officials from the National Treasury, the Financial Intelligence Centre, the Companies and Intellectual Property Commission and the Hawks.

Specialised Commercial Crime Unit acting head Malini Govender said the team had received state capture dockets in March but prosecutors were then not yet in a position to present case files. "Over 20 people are working on the state capture investigation,” said Govender.

She said there was no truth to claims that arrests were imminent.

Govender said the investigation was more complex than the arms deal and that the team assembled to deal with corruption uncovered during former public protector Thuli Madonsela’s state capture investigation was focusing on seven cases relating to her probe.

Read: Praise as NPA goes after Gupta family

Motlalekhotso Molelle of the Asset Forfeiture Unit said the AFU had obtained preservation orders freezing assets worth R1.6bn belonging to Gupta-linked financial services and management consulting group Trillian Capital Partners and global management consulting firm McKinsey.

According to Molelle, 17 cases were being investigated, worth around R50bn.

Trillian unduly benefited from an illegal contract with Eskom worth R600 million, while McKinsey is accused of netting about R1bn through an allegedly dodgy deal.

McKinsey and other companies have dominated the Eskom consulting scene virtually nonstop since at least 2005, according to the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa).

Molelle said Trillian was co-operating with the NPA after the prosecuting authority obtained the preservation order in terms of the Prevention of Organised Crime Act last month.

The act allows the assets of people accused in criminal cases and those who have yet to be criminally charged to be preserved pending the outcome of their prosecution.

After successful prosecution, the assets are then permanently forfeited to the state if they have been acquired by means of crime.

On Tuesday, McKinsey said it had been ready to pay back the money for two months.

In October, the company said it would pay only if ordered to do so by a court of law.

Molelle said the investigations were not at a stage where arrests could be made or suspects could be summonsed.

He promised that by the end of the next financial year, most of the stolen billions would have been recovered.

Dr Mathole Motshekga, chairperson of Parliament's portfolio committee on justice and correctional services, said the attachment of the companies’ assets should continue without fear or favour.

Motshekga said the committee had been assured that no stone would be left unturned to ensure that criminals were stopped and did not benefit from the proceeds of criminal activities.

“Criminals must know that the law will deal with them in all respects in the harshest possible way,” he added.

Future South Africa, which is headed by former Gauteng finance MEC Mandla Nkomfe, said the preservation orders were a step in the right direction.

“Despite issues at the NPA, the net seems to slowly be closing in on those who have furthered the state capture project.

"We hope that this lays the basis for prosecution and arrests of individuals from both the private sector and state utilities embroiled in the Eskom/Trillian/ McKinsey deal, as well as those involved in the state capture project as a whole,” Nkomfe said.

He said there was enough evidence in the public domain to prosecute in a number of the state capture scandals and called on the country's law enforcement agencies to act.

The SA Federation of Trade Unions, which has laid criminal charges against Trillian and McKinsey, said it was not aware of any arrests but insisted that the criminal prosecution of those implicated in state capture should proceed.

The Star