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

Justice Minister Ronald Lamola Photo: Daily Sun
Justice Minister Ronald Lamola Photo: Daily Sun

The confidence with which the US department of treasury announced sanctions against the Guptas should be a boost for the NPA to bring the brothers and their political enablers to book, writes Adriaan Basson.

Yes, it would have been nicer had South Africa made the first move, but the sanctions issued by the United States (US) against the Gupta brothers and Salim Essa are a sign that justice is back on track.

The justice department and National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), that had been captured by Zuma loyalists for a decade, are working closely with their American counterparts to bring the Gupta syndicate to book.

The sanctions, announced by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Thursday, were motivated by the "excellent" cooperation between the two countries.

READ | US sanctions Guptas, but why now?

My understanding is that our local law enforcement agencies have made "significant" progress in the past few weeks in obtaining evidence from foreign jurisdictions with the assistance of the US.

The department of justice, under a rejuvenated, straight minister in Ronald Lamola, had issued requests for mutual legal assistance from the US, India, United Arab Emirates, Canada, Switzerland, Mauritius, Hong Kong and China.

The Guptas, Essa and their associates traded and moved funds that they allegedly plundered from the South African state through these jurisdictions. With the assistance of the Americans, South Africa stands a much better chance to trace the loot and extradite the culprits.

Thursday's announcement is a major sign to the Gupta family, who now lives between India and Dubai, that the net is closing in on them. It is virtually impossible to do business in a global world without dollars and if you are on the Americans' radar, life becomes increasingly hard.

The confidence with which the US department of treasury announced the sanctions should be a boost for the NPA to bring the Guptas and their political enablers to book.

"The Gupta family leveraged its political connections to engage in widespread corruption and bribery, capture government contracts, and misappropriate state assets. Treasury’s designation targets the Guptas’ pay-to-play political patronage, which was orchestrated at the expense of the South African people," said Sigal Mandelker, the under-secretary for terrorism and financial intelligence in the US treasury.

The level of detail mentioned in Mandelker's statement makes it clear that the US is in possession of evidence implicating the ANC, former president Jacob Zuma and provincial politicians in wrongdoing.

"The Guptas and Essa have used their influence with prominent politicians and parties to line their pockets with ill-gotten gains. We will continue to exclude from the US financial system those who profit from corruption," Mandelker said.

Lamola issued a statement shortly after the announcement by his American counterparts, praising their cooperation in the matter. This indicates a willingness by the US to share their evidence with Advocate Shamila Batohi and her team at the NPA targeting state capture.

READ | Justice must not be shackled by boundaries, borders, says Lamola after Gupta sanctions

The US credits Zuma for the expansion of the Guptas' business network. "The family has been implicated in several corrupt schemes in South Africa, allegedly stealing hundreds of millions of dollars through illegal deals with the South African government, obfuscated by a shadowy network of shell companies and associates linked to the family."

Zuma's assistance to the Guptas, directly and through his son Duduzane, is at the centre of the scheme and will take centre-stage when the case moves to South Africa.

America's global reach through aggressive pro human rights legislation makes the country a natural ally for South Africa in fighting state capture and corruption. It is now over to the local authorities to show their intent in bringing justice to a nation hungry for the rule of law.

- Basson is editor-in-chief of News24.

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