Capture and corruption: US to provide training and expert advice to NPA, SARS and others

2019-10-13 07:39
National Director of Public Prosecutions Advocate Shamila Batohi. (Felix Dlangamandla, Gallo Images)

National Director of Public Prosecutions Advocate Shamila Batohi. (Felix Dlangamandla, Gallo Images)

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US experts in the combating and prevention of corruption, money-laundering and other cross-border crimes will this week train their South African counterparts when they host a two-day workshop for a range of local law-enforcement bodies.

The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) has accepted an offer from the US Department of Justice and its Office of Overseas Prosecutorial Development and Training to do two workshops with the NPA, its Asset Forfeiture Unit and Investigative Directorate as well as the South African Reserve Bank, the police, the South African Revenue Service (SARS), the Financial Services Conduct Authority and the Independent Police Investigative Directorate.

READ | Guptas will have more difficulty doing business in US, internationally - US Treasury

The US experts also train prosecutors and investigators in that country, with a specific focus on corruption and money-laundering. Bulelwa Makeke, NPA spokesperson, confirmed the NPA's acceptance of the US' offer of assistance.

This comes in the wake of last week's announcement by authorities in the US that they had implemented wide-ranging and crippling sanctions of members of the Gupta corruption ring under that country's Global Magnitsky Act, which seeks to clamp down international corruption and human rights abuse.

Although the South African government's reaction to the sanctions against the Guptas was positive, it is understood that pressure is building on Shamila Batohi, the National Director of Public Prosecutions, to deliver a scalp, with the US actions contrasting with what is happening locally.

READ | How the US law inspired by a Russian tax man is helping close the net on 'international financial pariahs', the Guptas

News24 has also established that the US sanctions on the Guptas was the culmination of a process that started when reports about the Guptas first started appearing in the media.

The US Embassy in Pretoria submitted reports about the Guptas to, inter alia, the US State Department and Treasury, which started tracking the family and their activities and collecting evidence from a range of sources.

'It was quite a process'

According to a US official with knowledge of events "it was quite a process… it took some time; we had to package the evidence. We had to consult many agencies (in the US government) and review the information there before making a decision."

The actions against the Guptas are considered "quite significant" but not new with the sanctions designed to protect the interests of the US, its citizens, financial system and businesses.

READ | Gupta extradition: Here are the 7 other countries SA approached for mutual legal assistance

Both the US and South African governments have praised the two countries' co-operation in the Gupta matter and in general, with Justice Minister Ronald Lamola welcoming the actions by the US Treasury to sanction the Guptas.

"The interests of justice must not be shackled by any boundary or border and justice must be seen to be done without fear or favour," he said in a statement.

A US Embassy official told News24 that Lamola's statement underscores the sentiment shared by both governments to partner in the fight against corruption and crime. The official added that US actions "complement" NPA efforts to crack down on corruption.

COLUMN | Adriaan Basson: Gupta sanctions a sign that justice is back on track

Guptas 'blocked from doing business' in US

The US Treasury on Thursday announced that the three Gupta brothers, Ajay, Atul and Tony, alongside the family's business kingpin, Salim Essa, have been blocked from transacting, doing business or engaging in any financial dealings with any US entity or person. They have now been blacklisted alongside almost 700 other individuals who "commit serious human rights abuse or engage in corruption".

The NPA's acceptance of the US offer of assistance signals a change in relations between the two countries.

Although there are various treaties that govern mutual legal assistance between the two countries, the US has in the recent past struggled to secure the cooperation of South Africa in matters such as extradition.

Embassy officials have welcomed the opportunity to "strengthen co-operation" in law-enforcement matters.

The US has already sponsored a three-day workshop Batohi earlier held with senior officials and prosecutors to chart a way forward.

The offer of assistance comes against the backdrop of the NPA's struggle to ensure court-ready prosecutions and the inability by the Hawks to complete complicated financial investigations.

Read more on:    npa  |  sars  |  gupta brothers  |  state capture
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