We will oppose Gupta associate Iqbal Sharma’s bail - NPA’s ID
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Johannesburg - Gupta associate and businessman Iqbal Sharma is expected to spend his second night at the Bloemfontein Bainsvlei SAPS holding cells with his assets seized.
He will only be able to apply for bail on Monday. The National Prosecuting Authority moved on the assets belonging to both Sharma and the Guptas on Friday.
Sharma faces a tall order though since the NPA’s Investigating Directorate has made it clear they intend to oppose his bail.
The Assets Forfeiture Unit (AFU) pounced and seized properties belonging to Sharma in Western Cape and Gauteng on Friday morning.
The Investigating Directorate said the High Court of South Africa, in Bloemfontein, Free State, granted a restraint order to freeze the assets of Sharma, his company Nulane Investments 204 (Pty) Ltd, and Islandsite Investments 180 (Pty) Ltd, which belongs to Atul and Rajesh Gupta and their wives, Chetali and Arti Gupta, respectively.
“Sharma’s assets that form part of the curator’s inventory include his Sandton home valued at over R12 million. The property was featured on lifestyle television programme, Top Billing, and is owned through a UAE-registered company, Issar Global,” said the Investigating Directorate’s Sindisiwe Seboka.
“Other assets include movable property valued at R500 000 and a R1.3m sectional title home in Sandton. Properties owned by Gupta family company Islandsite that form part of the inventory include a house worth R21m in Constantia, near Cape Town, and a R12m house in Saxonwold,” she said.
Video: Henk Kruger/African News Agency (ANA)
Seboka said should the accused be convicted, the National Director of Public Prosecutions (NDPP) will apply for a confiscation order against Sharma and Islandsite to recoup the value of benefits derived from the offences and related criminal activities.
Sharma was arrested on Wednesday morning and appeared at the Bloemfontein Magistrate’s Court alongside three Free State department of agriculture officials.
Sharma is facing charges of fraud and corruption linked to the Estina Dairy Project.
Sharma is also a former senior official in the Trade and Industry Department. His name has been mentioned by a number of witnesses who have appeared at the State Capture Commission of Inquiry, chaired by Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo.
Seboka said the freezing order, granted in terms of the Prevention of Organised Crimes Act (POCA), will be served on Sharma at the holding cells, while Islandsite will be served at its local business address.
She added that the order applies to assets in South Africa which include all property of Islandsite, Sharma and his wife Tarina Patel-Sharma, and any property held by Sharma’s companies, including two registered in the UAE
Seboka said the High Court appointed curator will take control of and preserve the assets pending the outcome of criminal charges for fraud and money laundering offences instituted against Sharma, Nulane, Islandsite, and the four Guptas in the Bloemfontein Regional Court on 3 June 2021.
“Those affected face criminal charges related to a contract concluded between Nulane and the Free State Department of Agriculture in 2011 for which Nulane was paid R24m for a feasibility study that it subcontracted to Deloitte for R1.5m. The study relates to potential farming projects in the Free State to be funded under ‘Mohoma Mobung’, a provincial initiative for rural upliftment and job creation. Nulane recommended an Indian company, PARAS Dairy, for the Vrede dairy project now linked to the Estina fraud investigation,” said Seboka.
Seboka said the fraudulent proceeds of R24.9m paid to Nulane by the department was transferred between Nulane and several companies, including Gupta entities Islandsite and Pragat Investments (Pty) Ltd, to launder the funds ultimately directed to the Gupta family. She said other funds that flowed between the companies as part of the money laundering transactions are presumed proceeds of unlawful activities in terms of POCA.
“A second subcontract was concluded between Nulane and UAE-based Gateway Limited, duplicating the one with Deloitte, in order to transfer R19m offshore. Gateway is linked to the Guptas,” Seboka said.