No reaction to justice minister’s comments on time taken to act.
The door is closing on the fugitive Gupta family’s Dubai bolthole as the United Arab Emirates (UAE) gave notice yesterday that it is committed to implementing legal cooperation and an extradition agreement with South Africa.
The agreements on mutual legal assistance in criminal matters and extradition between South Africa and the UAE were signed in 2018 but because the country is a federation of emirates, full ratification of the agreements was only ratified on 11 April this year, meaning they can now be acted upon.
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At the same time, the UAE is a full member of the international policing organisation, Interpol, which has been contacted by the South African National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) and asked to issue “red notice” warrants of arrest for the Guptas and other fugitives associated with them.
The UAE would be obliged to act on the red notices and if arrests and subsequent extraditions are carried out, they will be done in terms of the agreements.
The Guptas were reported previously to have settled in Dubai, which is also the country in which many of their myriad front companies are registered.
The agreements between the two countries could enable the NPA to act against those companies, in terms of freezing their assets in Dubai.
UAE’s ambassador to South Africa Mahash Alhameli said yesterday that “these agreements have been and remain key to the UAE in promoting judicial and legal cooperation with South Africa and strengthening bilateral relations between law enforcement institutions and partners on both sides”.
He added that the agreements were aimed at strengthening cooperation in combating serious crimes – including organised crime – and ensuring that criminals were not denied justice.
The fact that the embassy issued the statement is an indication the UAE is not happy with utterances by Justice Minister Ronald Lamola, in which he expressed concern that the UAE may have been dragging its feet over implementing the agreements.
Lamola, at one stage, suggested that South Africa might be forced to go to the United Nations to force the UAE to honour its obligations.
The statement, though, shows clearly that the UAE believes it could not act sooner because the agreements had not been ratified. The embassy did not respond to questions from The Citizen.
Chrispin Phiri, Lamola’s spokesperson, said they were unable to comment on “what is believed to be unhappiness of the UAE government”.
He said the governments communicated to each other via diplomatic channels.
“To the best of our knowledge, we have not received a communique which suggests that there is unhappiness,” Phiri said.
“Minister Lamola has on many occasions expressed a view that the level of cooperation on matters of mutual level assistance can improve.”