AFU's restraint order deficient - Gupta-linked companies

2018-05-04 15:37
A raid at the Gupta compound in Saxonwold. (News24)

A raid at the Gupta compound in Saxonwold. (News24)

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Gupta-linked companies are expected to challenge a restraint order that targets assets to the tune of R180m in the Free State High Court .

The matter is expected to be heard at 10:00 on May 10.

Luxury vehicles, immovable properties and bank accounts are some of the assets which are subject to a provisional restraint order which the Asset Forfeiture Unit (AFU) obtained in a case against eight people accused of fraud and other charges, related to the multimillion-rand Estina dairy farm project.

The Hawks arrested the eight people during raids at various locations in February, including the Gupta compound in Saxonwold and their offices in Sandton.

READ: Officials raid Gupta properties in Saharanpur - Indian media reports

They are Estina director Kamal Vasram, former directors at the Guptas' holding company Oakbay - Varun Gupta, Ronica Ragavan, Nazeem Howa and Ashu Chawla - and Free State officials Peter Thabethe, Sylvia Dlamini and Takisi Masiteng.

While the criminal case against them is pending, the AFU pounced and went after their assets.

It was the AFU's argument that they benefited from their alleged unlawful activity.

AFU financial investigator Nkosiphendule Mrandla said in court papers that he had access to the docket in the criminal case.

He submitted that, on the basis of the evidence, the respondents received and retained various amounts of money as a result of their alleged unlawful activities.

A provisional restraint order was granted on April 11.

The order states: "The respondents and any other person with knowledge of this order are hereby prohibited from dealing in any manner with the property except as required or prohibited by this order."

A restraint order allows the AFU to preserve assets in order to satisfy a later confiscation order in the event that the respondents are convicted.

However, the Gupta-linked companies are challenging the restraint order.

In an affidavit, Ragavan who is the acting chief executive officer of Oakbay Investments Limited alleged that the National Director of Public Prosecutions' (NDPP's) restraint application was is deficient because it was based on hearsay.

ALSO READ: Guptas linked to R100m VAT scam

She said that while the charge sheet provided details regarding the alleged roles played by various accused in the Estina dairy project, the applicants (companies) were not described as playing a role.

"The NDPP states that the realisable property referred to in the restraint order has an estimated value of R180m. The property of applicants comprises a substantial portion of that property," she said.

An affidavit revealed that the Free State's agricultural department – which was then under the leadership of former mineral resources minister Mosebenzi Zwane – allegedly paid R220m to the Guptas and some of their associates in what the Asset Forfeiture Unit calls a "scheme designed to defraud and steal monies from the department".

One hundred black emerging farmers were promised five cows each as part of the empowerment scheme, but they never received them.

Gifted to the Gupta-linked Estina in 2013 under a free 99-year lease by the provincial agriculture department, the farm has been one of the most scandalous transactions between the Guptas and a government entity.

The GuptaLeaks revealed in 2017 how at least R30m paid to the Guptas, via the farm, ended up funding the family's lavish Sun City wedding in 2013.

Read more on:    gupta family  |  corruption

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