Gupta brothers extradition case in UAE can take several months: Top South Africa prosecutor
Protesters carry a cardboard mock up coffin reading ‘Run Guptas run’ and with the names of the people implicated in the Public Protector “State Capture” report as members and supporters of the South African opposition party, the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), demonstrate against South African president Jacob Zuma and in support of the release of the South African Public Protector “State Capture” report in Pretoria on November 2, 2016.
(Photo by GIANLUIGI GUERCIA/AFP via Getty Images)
SOUTH AFRICA’S top prosecutor has cautioned that the process to extradite two of the three India-born Gupta brothers from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) for their alleged role in a high-profile corruption scandal could take several months.
The head of the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), Shamila Batohi joined justice and correctional services minister, Ronald Lamola, on Monday (25) at a media briefing to confirm that the agency has submitted a formal extradition application to the central authority in the UAE for the wealthy Gupta brothers, Atul and Rajesh.
The two brothers, along with their elder brother Ajay, have been in self-exile in Dubai since the net closed in on them three years ago about siphoning off billions of rands from state enterprises, allegedly by misusing their closeness to former president Jacob Zuma.
In June, the South African government announced that the UAE has arrested Rajesh and Atul, the two of the three wealthy India-born brothers of the Gupta family, who were at the centre of political corruption under Zuma. The Gupta brothers are accused in South Africa of using their relationship with Zuma to profit financially and influence senior appointments, charges that they have vehemently denied.
“The submission of the formal application request for the arrest and extradition of the Gupta brothers is an important milestone in the NPA’s commitment to hold accountable perpetrators of state capture and to uphold the rule of law. It reaffirms our resolve to be the lawyers for the people and to seek collective justice for our country,” Batohi said.
Batohi cautioned that the extradition process could take several months. Batohi was also cautious about the Guptas being convicted, although she said that the NPA would attempt to ensure that justice would be served.
‘Cannot guarantee there will be a conviction’
“We cannot guarantee of course that there will be a conviction, but what we can guarantee is that as the prosecuting authority we will do everything possible to ensure that the prospects of a successful prosecution and conviction are extremely high, that’s as far as we can take it,” Batohi said.
Lamola confirmed that the extradition application had been submitted within the required 60 days, after the Guptas were arrested in Dubai last month. He said several South African ministries had jointly worked on it. The application was reportedly delayed for technical reasons, as it had to be submitted in both English and Arabic, the official language in Dubai. Batohi said if the request was successful, the extradition process could take “several months”, as the case will first go before the Emirati court of appeal to ensure that the requesting state had met all the requirements and then, about 30 days later, be heard by the supreme court.
“Thereafter, the attorney general will submit the matter to the minister of justice in the UAE for the final decision,” she said.
“We understand that it could take a couple of months to finalise.” She said that the Gupta brothers had applied for bail, but were denied, and remain in custody.
Batohi suggested the case could be brought to court soon. Earlier, an Interpol red notice was issued for the brothers, who stand accused of corruption, fraud and money laundering related to a company owned by a close associate, Iqbal Meer Sharma.
Sharma has already appeared in court several times with two senior government officials in relation to an irregular tender worth almost 25 million rands that was awarded to his company Nulane Investments by the Department of Agriculture in Free State province. Prosecutors said that Sharma had paid multinational Deloitte 1.5 million rands for a feasibility study and then paid the rest of the funds to Gupta-owned companies through a money-laundering scheme.
Sharma is currently out on bail of half a million rand and under stringent conditions after he was initially denied bail because he was considered to be a flight risk. Now prosecutors are hoping that the Gupta brothers will join him in the dock when the trial resumes in January next year.
“As this process unfolds, and the extradition application is heard in UAE courts, the NPA will continue to collaborate and support its counterparts in the UAE to ensure that the Gupta brothers are extradited to face justice in South Africa,” the NPA said. 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 information technology, media and mining companies, most of which have now been sold off or closed.