Estina dairy farm: New accused to be added in fraud and money laundering case

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Former Transnet board member and Gupta associate Iqbal Sharma during his appearance for a bail application at the Bloemfontein Magistrate's Court on 7 June 2021.
Former Transnet board member and Gupta associate Iqbal Sharma during his appearance for a bail application at the Bloemfontein Magistrate's Court on 7 June 2021.
Mlungusi Louw/Gallo Images, Volksblad
  • The criminal case against alleged Gupta associate Iqbal Sharma and his co-accused, including senior officials from the Free State government, has been postponed to 8 October.
  • The State asked for the postponement to add two new accused to the matter.
  • The accused face charges of fraud relating to millions paid by government for a study, but allegedly diverted to a company owned by the Guptas.

The criminal case against alleged Gupta associate and former Transnet board member Iqbal Sharma and his co-accused has been postponed for the expected addition of two new accused in the matter.

On Monday, the Bloemfontein Magistrate's Court, sitting virtually, heard that the State wanted to have the matter postponed as two more people would be formally charged.

It is understood that the two new accused are businesspeople.

Prosecutor advocate Nazeer Cassim also placed it on record that a new indictment had been formulated and would be served on the accused during the course of Monday.

Sharma, along with Nulane Investment employee Dinesh Patel, former heads of the Free State Department of Agriculture and Rural Development Peter Thabethe and Limakatso Moorosi, as well as former departmental chief financial officer Seipati Dhlamini are facing charges of fraud and money laundering.

READ | Key Gupta lieutenant Iqbal Sharma arrested in connection with failed Estina dairy project

The former government officials also face a charge of contravening the Public Finance Management Act.

The court heard that pre-trial meetings would go ahead in Gauteng and Bloemfontein to narrow down the disputes and have the matter trial-ready by the next court appearance.

The defence teams agreed to the postponement, but one believed there had been an unreasonable delay on the part of the State in completing its investigations.

The matter was postponed to 8 October, when it was likely to be transferred to the Free State High Court for trial.

Meanwhile, a process is under way to have the Gupta brothers, Atul and Rajesh, and their wives, Chetali and Arti, deported back to South Africa to stand trial in the same matter, News24 previously reported.

READ | NPA asks Interpol to help with arrests, deport Guptas to SA

The Gupta brothers fled the country in 2018 and are reportedly in the United Arab Emirates.

The matter relates to the alleged procurement fraud involving R24.9 million paid between November 2011 and April 2012 by the Free State government to Nulane Investment, owned and controlled by Sharma.

From there, the money was allegedly diverted to Islandsite Investments, a company owned and controlled by the controversial Gupta family.

According to the National Prosecuting Authority's Investigative Directorate, the money was paid to Nulane Investment to conduct a feasibility study for the Free State's flagship Mohoma Mobung project.

The now infamous Estina dairy farm was one of the programmes included in the Mohoma Mobung project. 

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