Gupta associates, ex-govt official arrested for allegedly looting R107m from Optimum, Koornfontein funds

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Ronica Ragavan.
Ronica Ragavan.
Picture: Felix Dlangamandla

Gupta stalwart Ronica Ragavan and several other associates of the controversial family were arrested and appeared in court on charges of fraud and money laundering in relation to R107.5 million in rehabilitation funds for the Optimum and Koornfontein coal mines. 

Ragavan, Pushpaveni Govender - a former director of several Gupta-owned companies - and former mineral resources department deputy director-general Joel Raphela, appeared in the Randburg Magistrate’s Court on Wednesday afternoon. Another accused, Ravindra Nath, was not present and reportedly will be charged in absentia. 

Charges have been brought on 11 counts, which include fraud, money laundering, forgery and perjury.

The role players stand accused of effectively looting the Optimum and Koornfontein environmental rehabilitation funds for uses other than their legally required purpose, which is to remediate land which has been mined. 

According to the charge sheet, Ragavan is accused number one in her capacity as director of the previously Gupta-owned Koornfontein Mines and Tegeta Exploration and Resources.

Govender is accused number two in her capacity as a director of Optimum and a trustee of the Koornfontein rehabilitation trust. Natha, in his capacity as a director of Tegeta, is accused number six, while Raphela is the seventh accused in his personal capacity and as former deputy director-general of mineral regulation at the Department of Mineral Resources at the time. 

Also listed among the accused are three previously Gupta-owned businesses: the Optimum and Koornfontein Mines, as well as Tegeta Exploration and Resources, all of which were placed into business rescue in early 2018.

Ragavan and Govender were released on bail of R20 000 each. The state did not oppose their bail application. Raphela’s bail application was not heard on Wednesday as he seemingly fell ill and was rushed to hospital during the court proceedings. 

Raphela appeared again on Thursday and was granted R20 000 bail as well. 

*This article has been updated to reflect new developments.

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