Law enforcement agencies across continents are cracking down on the alleged criminal network of the controversial Gupta family, with the latest raid on the family compound netting the state more than R250 million.
According to the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), its Asset Forfeiture Unit (AFU) obtained a restraint order in the High Court in Bloemfontein for R250 202 652 against the assets of several individuals and entities implicated in theft, fraud and money laundering in respect of the Estina Dairy Farm project in Vrede.
NPA spokesperson Luvuyo Mfaku said in a statement: “The said order is a result of ongoing criminal investigations by the Hawks (DPCI), which led to the arrest and institution of criminal prosecution against the aforesaid entities and individuals.
“The order makes provision for the restraint of several assets to the value of R250 202 652, pending the finalisation of the criminal trial and upon conviction, the AFU will apply for a confiscation order for the recovery of the said amount and or any related amounts.”
Former Free State agriculture head Peter Thabethe, former department’s chief financial officer Seipati Dlamini, former general manager for district services Takisi Masiteng, Kamal Vasram, Oakbay Investments (Pty) Ltd represented by Sahara Computers chief executive Ashu Chawla, former chief executive of Gupta-owned Oakbay, Nazeem Howa, the sole director of Estina, Varun Gupta, and Oakbay chief executive Ronica Ragavan, who also represented Aerohaven Pty (Ltd) all appeared in the Bloemfontein Regional Court in February.
The above appeared on charges of fraud, theft, conspiracy to commit fraud and theft, contravening the Public Finance Management Act, the Companies Act and sections of the Prevention of Organised Crime Act.
Not in court was Estina (Pty) Limited representative Soo Young Jeon.
Mfaku said among the assets forming part of the restraint order were residential and business premises and farms, two aircrafts, a helicopter, vehicles and bank accounts belonging to these entities: Oakbay Investments, Islandsite Investments 180, Confidents Concept (Pty) Ltd, Sahara Computer, Westdawn Investments and Aerohaven Trading.
“The aforementioned action is part of ongoing criminal investigations by the NPA and DPCI, jointly working together with other law enforcement agencies…”
“Other law enforcement agencies” include tax authorities in India where brothers Atul, Ajay and Rajesh have reportedly failed to appear on charges of money laundering and income tax avoidance.
The Times of India reported the probe included a R200 million temple built in honour of their late father in their home town of Saharanpur; the Bank of India and the Bank of Baroda for transferring more than R98 million to a Gupta brother; and 120 properties the Guptas had bought since 2010.
In October, the Financial Times reported the FBI had “opened an investigation into US links to SA’s Gupta family, escalating a political scandal over the three brothers’ alleged use of their friendship with Jacob Zuma to control state business”.
In the UK, the Financial Conduct Authority, Serious Fraud Office and the National Crime Agency were also looking into claims by former Lord Peter Hain that British banks may have handled illegal funds for the Gupta family through Hong Kong and Dubai.