South Africa agency seeks Interpol Red Notice against Gupta brothers

JOHANNESBURG, June 4: The National Prosecuting Authority here has asked Interpol to issue a Red Notice against Indian-origin businessmen Atul and Rajesh Gupta, their wives and business associates, according to an official.
The move aims at bringing them to South Africa so that they stand trial for their alleged role in a R25 million fraud and money laundering case linked to the failed Estina Dairy Farm project in Free State province.
A Red Notice is a request to law enforcement worldwide to locate and provisionally arrest a person pending extradition, surrender or similar legal action, according to the Interpol website.
Atul and Rajesh, along with their elder brother Ajay, have also been accused of siphoning billions of Rands from the state-owned corporations through their alleged closeness to former South African president Jacob Zuma.
The family, which is from Saharanpur in Uttar Pradesh and controls a slew of South African companies, has denied the allegations.
The Gupta brothers and their family members are believed to be in self-exile in Dubai. Some of their family members are reported to be in India.
Sindisiwe Seboka, a spokesperson for the Investigating Directorate (ID) of the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), said extradition requests have been sent to both the UAE and India.
“South Africa does have an extradition treaty with India. However, with the UAE, we are going to utilise other means like using the UN Convention to get the Gupta brothers back,” Seboka told a TV news channel on Thursday evening.
Seboka said R24 million from the Estina project had ended up in the account of a company in which Atul, Rajesh and their wives Chetali and Arti had full control.
Earlier on Thursday, a close Gupta associate and former high-ranking civil servant, Iqbal Meer Sharma, and three officials appeared in a court on charges related to fraud and money laundering in the Estina case.
ID head Hermione Cronje said in a statement that besides the Guptas and their wives, the NPA wants Interpol Red Notice against Ankit Jain, Ramesh Bhat and Jagdish Parekh, directors of the companies linked to them.
Bank of Baroda (BoB) account signatory Ravindra Nath is also wanted in the case.
After all South African banks blocked the accounts of Gupta-linked companies as details began emerging of their activities in allegedly looting billions of rands from state and parastatal institutions, the BoB opened accounts for them.
The local branch of BoB was subsequently shut down, the head office claiming that this was due to a downscaling of its international operations.
The Guptas tried to stop the closure, which the Pretoria High Court dismissed with costs.
Bank of Baroda’s South African chief executive at the time, Manoj Kumar Jha, said in answering papers in the matter that the bank had earlier reported 45 “suspicious transactions” of about USD 300 million to the South African Financial Intelligence Centre between September 2016 and July 2017.
Witnesses at the Commission of Inquiry into State Capture have testified that the Gupta brothers received a total of over R49 billion in irregular payments from a number of parastatal corporations. (PTI)