Embattled prosecutions boss Shaun Abrahams on Wednesday denied the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) delayed an investigation into state capture. PHOTO: Chantall Presence / ANA
Parliament - MPs on Wednesday resolved to call the ministers of police and justice to set the record straight on the delay in investigating money laundering in connection with a Gupta-linked company.

Parliament's portfolio committees on justice and police made the resolution after being left dissatisfied with the answers provided by the country's prosecutions boss Advocate Shaun Abrahams over the delay of the arrests of suspects in connection with the Estina dairy farm project. The project allegedly led to millions of rands in funds from the Free State government being siphoned out of South Africa.

"I did not delay any arrests. I do not make the decision on who should be arrested and who should not be arrested," Abrahams protested to MPs in reaction to comments by acting head of the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (Hawks) General Yolisa Matakata last week that a docket regarding the Estina project was handed to the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) in November last year, but the go-ahead for arrests was only given in February this year.

Abrahams claimed the state capture prosecuting team was not satisfied a prima facie case could be made out against identified suspects last year as information was outstanding.

"In December 2017, the prosecution team received a draft financial report from the DPCI. The team raised concerns that the report could not be verified against the bank statements to assist them that a prima facie case could be made out.," said Abrahams.

MPs were not convinced, hammering Abrahams about "perceptions" created in public that certain high-profile politicians were not arrested and that members of the Gupta family were allowed to flee the country and evade justice as a result of the delay.

"It's painfully clear this whole process has been politically driven," said Democratic Alliance MP Glynnis Breytenbach, herself a former prosecutor.

She said the NPA had not taken action while former president Jacob Zuma, who because of his proximity to the Gupta family has been blamed for allowing massive looting of state resources, was still in office.

"As soon as Zuma lost grip on power, as soon as he was no longer the flavour of the month, police flew into action, the NPA flew into action and yet no one of significance was arrested..."

The Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) cited the speed at which the NPA pursued Breytenbach on charges that she contravened the NPA act, and the charges filed against former Finance and current Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan as examples of how the NPA had engaged in "selective prosecution".

Breytenbach was eventually acquitted while charges against Gordhan were dropped after Abrahams said a fraud case against him could not be proven.

"We need supersonic speed on this [Estina] matter because billions of money went out of the country, the docket went into the hands of the NPA in November..., " said EFF MP Thilivhali Mulaudzi.

Mulaudzi's fellow EFF MP Phillip Mhlongo used a stronger analogy to describe the alleged state capture by the Gupta family.

"We are a nation that has been raped standing by only three members of the Gupta family, with the former president holding our arms...," he said.

Abrahams again denied any deliberate attempt to stall the state capture probes and assertions the NPA itself was captured by powerful politicians.

"That is completely incorrect....for anybody to say the NPA is politically captured, they would have to be more specific and provide evidence that so and so is captured..."

In his state-of-the-nation address, Zuma's successor, Cyril Ramaphosa, promised a tougher stance on corruption in government, in collaboration with private sector interests. Abrahams rejected a claim he was sabotaging Ramaphosa.

He said more arrests in connection with the Estina matter could follow as MPs enquired why only officials and not politicians were in the accused dock as yet.

"The matter is still subject to investigation and if the investigation ultimately warrants that more people must be added as accused persons, or be charged separately, then that process will take place," said Abrahams.

"Nobody against whom there is a prima facie case...will be let off the hook in respect of this matter."

Abrahams said a request for mutual legal assistance has been made to eight countries, and he has not ruled out the extradition of suspects.

"Of course the intention is to aply for the extradition of individuals concerned. The challenge when you apply for extradition, if for example you apply for the extradition of suspects in the Estina matter‚ then we are only bound to try them in respect of the Estina matter and we can’t charge them in respect of other matters they are potentially linked to."

Ajay Gupta is currently on the run after a warrant of arrest was issued against him. The Hawks have not divulged which state capture probe he is being sought in connection with, but confirmed it was not with regard to the Estina dairy farm.

The disconnect between the Hawks and the NPA was also probed after Matakata's utterances. On Wednesday she denied "throwing the NDPP (Abrahams) under the bus". Abrahams reciprocated saying the fact that he blamed Matakata for making "unfortunate utterances" was not an attempt to throw her under the bus.

Abrahams said there were eight legs to the state capture probes, including Estina, the alleged attempted bribe of former deputy finance minister Mcebisi Jonas, and Tegeta - a mining company formerly owned by the Guptas and Zuma's son, Duduzane - which had been given given preferential treatment by Eskom.

In February, the Hawks arrested eight people for allegedly misappropriating taxpayers' funds meant for the Vrede Dairy Project, which was set to benefit black farmers in the Free State. The project was run by Estina, a company linked to the Gupta brothers, who are at the centre of allegations of state capture. The Gupta family are close friends of former president Zuma.

Read more stories on the Estina project here

African News Agency/ANA