News24 Wire
2 minute read
7 Jun 2021
8:29 am

Estina dairy: Gupta ‘lieutenant’ Iqbal Sharma, co-accused to apply for bail

News24 Wire

Sharma is alleged to be one of the kingpins of the Gupta network, which allegedly saw billions looted from SOEs and government departments.

Iqbal Meer Sharma, on November 6, 2003, in Johannesburg, South Africa. (Photo by Gallo Images / Sunday Times / Katherine Muick-Mere)

The Bloemfontein Magistrate’s Court is expected on Monday to hear the bail application of Iqbal Sharma, a key associate of the Gupta family, and Peter Thabethe, the former head of department of the Free State agriculture department.

News24 reported last week that Sharma was arrested in connection with the failed R288 million Estina dairy project in Vrede.

Sharma and Thabethe made their first court appearance on Thursday.

The duo was among 15 accused facing charges related to defrauding the Free State agriculture department, said National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) Investigating Directorate spokesperson Sindisiwe Seboka.

Sharma is alleged to be one of the kingpins of the Gupta network, which allegedly saw billions looted from state-owned enterprises and government departments, News24 reported.

Former head of the province’s agriculture department, Limakatso Moorosi, and chief financial officer, Seipati Dlamini, were also allegedly involved in the fraud and money laundering scheme.

Moorosi and Dlamini were each granted R10 000 bail last Thursday.

The NPA alleged that the four accused colluded to divert funds, which were meant for rural development in the province.

The funds were placed at the disposal of the Guptas, according to the NPA.

The fraud is in connection with a R25 million feasibility study, in 2011, which was irregularly granted to Nulane Investment 204, a company owned and controlled by Sharma.

The company had to provide a report to the department within seven months.

Nulane, however, subcontracted the work to Deloitte Consulting for R1.5 million. Furthermore, it subcontracted the work already completed by Deloitte to Gateway Limited, and paid R19 million.

From there, the funds were diverted to Islandsite Investments 180, a company owned and controlled by the Gupta family.

“The fifth suspect in the matter, Iqbal Sharma’s brother-in-law and a representative of Nulane Investments, Dinesh Patel, will formally appear on 15 June 2021, owing to health reasons,” Seboka said.

The NPA said other accused listed in the charge sheet were currently not in South Africa.