Estina isn’t the only big case that the NPA has stalled. It’s a bleak picture

Malini Govender and Knorx Molelle
Malini Govender and Knorx Molelle

While senior staff at the National Prosecuting Authority dig dirt and fight with each other, important cases – including those relating to state capture – are stalling.

A briefing report dated May 30, prepared by former acting Specialised Commercial Crimes Unit head Advocate Malini Govender to the former national director of public prosecutions, Shaun Abrahams, which City Press has obtained, paints a bleak picture about the state of several high-profile cases.

These include:

• The case laid by former government spokesperson Themba Maseko, which the report states will only be finalised by October next year, the earliest stage at which a charge sheet can be prepared. The Hawks have identified Ajay Gupta and Duduzane Zuma as possible suspects in the matter.

• The investigation into the irregular or unlawful prepayment by Eskom of R659 million to Tegeta, and the influencing of the sale of Optimum coal mine. The suspects in this case include Tegeta, several private companies and former Eskom board members and some employees. The charge sheet is only expected to be drawn up by October 31 next year

• In the unlawful awarding by Transnet of a deal involving 1 064 locomotives, investigators have revealed that the charge sheet will only be finalised by October next year, despite the fact that there have been three reports by Treasury and two law firms into the matter.

• The case of the unlawful joint venture of Denel and VR Laser Asia is also being hampered by delays. Investigators have identified former Denel board chairperson and now Jacob Zuma’s lawyer, Daniel Mantsha, as a “potential suspect”, and the investigation is only expected to be completed by August next year.

Dubai request sent back

The NPA was also dealt another blow this week when officials from the United Arab Emirates (UAE), where the Gupta family is now believed to be living, sent back South Africa’s request for mutual legal assistance.

The NPA, through the ministry of justice, asked for bank statements detailing transactions undertaken by the Guptas, their companies and their associates as part of the investigation into the failed Estina dairy farm in Vrede, Free State.

The request was sent back, City Press was told by two senior prosecutors, because it was not drafted according to their protocols.

“They have said we need to redo it again the way they want it done before they could consider it,” said one prosecutor familiar with the developments.

“It is not about the request, but they complained about the procedure.”

Read: Here's how under pressure, overworked prosecutors allowed a Gupta winning streak

Another prosecutor, who attended the 23rd International Association of Prosecutors annual conference in Sandton in September, said prosecutions officials from the UAE snubbed them after promising to share information on the sidelines of the conference.

“I realised that we were not going to get any help when they told us to go through the normal diplomatic channels if we wanted any information,” said the prosecutor.

In the request to the UAE for mutual legal assistance, which City Press has seen, the NPA asked its counterparts to assist it “to ascertain whether any proceeds of crime ... to the value of R169 532 392.82 ($14 471 360.98)” siphoned off from the Estina project “and paid into the mentioned bank accounts in your jurisdiction are still located within your jurisdiction”.

The 52-page request stated that South Africa was ready to send the investigating officer to “advise in detail on the form in which evidence should be taken in order to comply with the requirements of South African law”.

The NPA also told UAE authorities that “the investigation is incomplete without such information”, and was “vital” to the case.

Prosecutors in the Estina case, which returns to court on December 4, have been fighting to keep the case on the roll without the information from Dubai.

Among the accused are Gupta nephew Varun Gupta and Gupta executives Ronica Ragavan, Ashu Chawla and Nazeem Howa, as well as three former Free State provincial government officials.

At the last court appearance in August, prosecutor Justice Bakamela asked the court for a three- to six-month postponement because information from Dubai and India was outstanding.

Mfaku declined to comment on the state capture cases and further developments.

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