South Africa currently does not have an extradition treaty with the United Arab Emirates (UAE). This effectively entails that, should any citizen of this country choose the oil-rich absolute royal monarchy as their safe haven to avoid doing time in jail, little can be done to bring them back here.
Extradition agreement is a cooperative law-enforcement process. It enables physical custody of a person who is charged with committing a crime or convicted of a crime whose punishment has not yet been fully served to be formally transferred on request.
According to the department of justice and correctional services’ international legal relations division, the two countries currently do not have a signed extradition treaty.
UAE, together with countries such as Mexico and Brazil, are listed on the department’s website as countries wherein a “treaty was negotiated but not signed”. In the case of UAE, a mutual legal assistance (MLA) was also negotiated and expected to form part of the treaty.
A mutual legal assistance (MLA) treaty is an agreement between two or more countries for the purpose of gathering and exchanging information in an effort to enforce public or criminal laws.
Unsurprisingly, in countries where the treaty is nonexistent, local citizens who are incarcerated for mainly drug-related offences battle to negotiate clemency or commuting of their sentences.
Deputy director-general for public diplomacy at the department of international relations and cooperation (Dirco) Clayson Monyela told The Citizen there was “no extradition treaty between SA and UAE”.
The country, where Dubai is, has the seventh-largest oil reserves, with an estimated population of 10 million residents. Eight million of those are expatriates from almost all corners of the world.
A part of #GuptaEmails revealed that the Guptas prepared a letter for President Zuma to ask UAE uthorities to consider his request to make Dubai his second home. The Presidency flatly denied this accusation, with Zuma saying his only home was and remained Nkandla in KwaZulu-Natal.
It would be tricky to get any Gupta-related individuals who may become subjects of an investigation or prosecution to cooperate or be extradited if they are UAE-based.
Hadef & Partners, a leading UAE law firm with offices in Abu Dhabi and Dubai, warns that even where an extradition treaty exists, the monarchy can decline request on certain grounds.
These include, “if the subject person is a UAE national”, the country choosing to use its laws “to give jurisdiction to the competent judicial authorities concerning the crime”.
Another condition of refusal of extradition is “if the crime subject of the extradition request is a political crime or associated with a political crime”.