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regular-article-logo Tuesday, 28 May 2024

South Africa says Gupta brothers arrested in UAE

The Indian-born businessmen stand accused of being at the center of a massive web of state corruption in South Africa

Our Bureau And PTI Dubai Published 07.06.22, 07:18 AM
Atul Gupta and his brother left South Africa after former President Jacob Zuma was ousted in 2018

Atul Gupta and his brother left South Africa after former President Jacob Zuma was ousted in 2018 Deutsche Welle

Indian-origin fugitive businessmen Rajesh and Atul Gupta, who were among South Africa's most wanted suspects in a corruption case that led to the removal of president Jacob Zuma from office, have been arrested by the Dubai Police, according to an official statement on Tuesday.

The Interpol had issued red notices against Rajesh, 51, and Atul Gupta, 53, -- two of the three Indian-origin Gupta brothers -- who fled South Africa with their families amid investigations into their alleged looting of billions of rands from state-owned enterprises during the presidency of Zuma, 80.

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In a statement, the Dubai Police said that Rajesh and Atul have been arrested in connection with money laundering and criminal charges in South Africa.

Dubai Police made the arrest after receiving a red notice for the Gupta brothers by Interpol. The force has also coordinated with the authorities in South Africa regarding the extradition file to complete the legal procedures, the statement said.

The Interpol is currently headed by the UAE.

It was not immediately known if the third brother, Ajay Gupta, 56, was arrested.

The arrests came as an investigation was concluded into the massive plundering of state institutions during former president Zuma's era. Zuma was South African President from 2009 until 2018 when he was forced to resign.

The Gupta brothers are accused in South Africa of using their relationship with former president Zuma to profit financially and influence senior appointments, charges that they have vehemently denied.

In 2018, the Gupta family went into self-exile in Dubai after looting billions of rands from parastatal institutions in South Africa, authorities in Johannesburg said.

The ministry of justice and correctional services confirms that it has received information from law enforcement authorities in the UAE that fugitives of justice, namely Rajesh and Atul Gupta have been arrested, the South African Department of Justice and Correctional Services said in a statement on Monday.

Discussions between various law enforcement agencies in the UAE and South Africa on the way forward are ongoing. The South African government will continue to cooperate with the UAE, it added.

Interpol had issued Red Notices to the Gupta brothers, who had also been declared persona non grata by the US and the UK.

Red Notices are issued for fugitives wanted for the prosecution to alert law agencies globally to arrest such persons pending extradition.

The family fled South Africa in 2018 when the net closed in on them as huge public protests eventually led to the African National Congress (ANC) removing Zuma and appointing Cyril Ramaphosa as the Acting President.

Earlier, South Africa had also appealed to the UN to get the Guptas back to South Africa when negotiations with the UAE did not yield results because there was no extradition treaty between the two countries.

The treaty was ratified in June 2021, when South Africa immediately began the process of requesting the extradition of the Guptas.

In 2019, the US Treasury Department imposed sanctions on the three Gupta brothers, accusing them of being "members of a significant corruption network."

The Guptas told the Commission of Inquiry into State Capture in 2018 that they were not prepared to return to South Africa to testify after a number of witnesses implicated them and Zuma in corrupt cases.

The brothers called the South African authorities recklessly incompetent' in their affidavit to the commission.

A number of witnesses testified the role of the Guptas in looting huge amounts and also influencing the appointment of Cabinet ministers during the nine-year tenure of Zuma as the South African president.

Although the arrests were widely welcomed, analysts cautioned that the public should not expect a quick resolution to the case against the Guptas, as this could even take a few years while they exhaust all the avenues available to them to fight their extradition.

Wayne Duvenhage, CEO of the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse, said their investigations had revealed that almost 15 billion rands were looted by the Guptas before they fled the country.

The Gupta family, originally hailing from Saharanpur in Uttar Pradesh, entered South Africa by setting up a shoe store in the early 1990s.

They soon expanded to include IT, media and mining companies, most of which have now been sold off or closed.

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