Acting Hawks Head Yolisa Mtakata provided feedback in Pretoria on Friday on the ongoing case against suspects involved in the Vrede dairy farm case.
She clarified that controversial businessman Ajay Gupta is being sought for arrest, but not in the Estina case relating to money allegedly stolen from the Vrede dairy farm community empowerment project. This appeared to contradict an earlier statement by Police Minister Fikile Mbalula.
The Hawks conceded Atul Gupta cannot be considered a fugitive as he was not in the country at the time his warrant was issued. There is also a lack of clarity on whether he will, or can be, extradited from abroad.
She explained that a multidisciplinary task team was still working on the case and they were “confident of a breakthrough”.
She said a “tremendous amount of work”, particularly their financial crimes division, was completed in November and the case was referred to the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) for a decision.
A search and seizure operation was undertaken on 26 January at the Free State department of agriculture and the premier’s office. They obtained numerous documents and electronic files. Witness statements were also taken from intended beneficiaries of the farm project.
Aside from eight suspects already arrested for their involvement, she confirmed a warrant of arrest is active on Ajay Gupta, but it is not related to the farm project, but on a separate case of alleged corruption. She said the Hawks were in communication with his lawyers.
The arrest of the eight was part of a “broader state of capture” investigation and was just the “first phase”.
She also clarified in answering questions that she could not make a pronouncement on former president Jacob Zuma’s son Duduzane being sought for arrest and she could make “no pronouncement” on whether he would be arrested or whether there was a warrant out for him.
She said they would not be influenced by any outside political matters or people.
In their response to a legal challenge brought by Atul Gupta, the Asset Forfeiture Unit (AFU) said on Thursday they had clear evidence the second-eldest Gupta brother was indeed involved in theft and money-laundering linked to an alleged scam involving a farm in the Free State.
They allege he received R10 million as the proceeds of the crime. The R10 million was allegedly deposited into Atul’s personal bank account by Estina before the project was even up and running. He denied this in his affidavit.
Gupta also confirmed that he is out of the country.
Last Thursday, seven of the eight people arrested by the Hawks during raids at the Guptas’ compound in Saxonwold, Johannesburg, were granted bail in the Bloemfontein Regional Court.
Government officials Peter Thabethe, Sylvia Dlamini and Takisi Masiteng were each granted R10 000 bail, while Gupta-linked accused Varun Gupta, Ronica Ragavan, Nazeem Howa and Ashu Chawla were each granted R200,000 bail. The Hawks have officially declared Ajay Gupta a fugitive.
In responding papers on Thursday, the NPA rubbished Atul’s claim that they did not have enough documentary evidence of his alleged involvement in crime. They want a preservation order against him to be enforced.