How NPA deals with Guptas and their acolytes should send strong message to those who are corrupt
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Almost four weeks ago, with their friends cheering them on, Iqbal Sharma and his wife Tarina performed a sultry tango to celebrate her 45th birthday.
Attended by a veritable who’s who of celebrity and media personalities, the party was hosted at the couple’s palatial mansion in Morningside, in Johannesburg’s northern suburbs.
Late last week the gilded lives that the Sharmas had been living caved in when the National Prosecuting Authority’s Investigating Directorate (ID) came knocking.
In no time the mansion, and their other properties worth millions, were seized after the High Court in the Free State granted the ID a restraining order that froze the assets of Sharma, his wife and the Gupta brothers over allegations of fraud, corruption and money laundering. The NPA accuses Sharma, through his company Nulane Investment 204, of siphoning millions after it claimed that it had “specialised skills” to do a feasibility study for the Estina Dairy Project; instead, the company had no employees and the work was subcontracted to Deloitte.
Standing in the dock on Tuesday, a million thoughts must have been swirling in Sharma’s head as his lawyer beseeched magistrate Estelle de Lange to grant him bail.
Eventually, she ruled that with properties in Dubai, he was a flight risk and denied him his freedom.
Sharma’s arrest came at a time when South Africans have been demanding that action be taken, not just against the Guptas and their enablers, but all those accused of corruption.
While President Cyril Ramaphosa has promised to be tough on corruption, and enable the NPA to act, not much action has come about in terms of prosecutions since Shamila Batohi assumed her role as national director of public prosecutions.
And while an Interpol red notice has been placed on the Gupta brothers to facilitate their extradition, that process will take several years to run its course. How the NPA deals with the Guptas and their acolytes should also send a strong message not just to South Africans, but those who contemplate fraud and corruption as a lucrative enterprise, that they will face time behind bars, and possibly lose their ill-gotten wealth.