Extent of Estina, Gupta links revealed in new state capture commission submission

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The Estina dairy farm in Vrede. (Conrad Bornman, Netwerk24)
The Estina dairy farm in Vrede. (Conrad Bornman, Netwerk24)

Estina, the firm tasked with implementing the Vrede dairy farm project, had closer links to the Gupta family than previously thought.

Evidence to this effect is contained in a damning new document, which sheds new light on the links.

The document, a submission by UK-based investigative outfit Shadow World Investigations to the state capture commission of inquiry, was released to the public this week.

READ | New evidence ‘implicates Zwane, Magashule’ in Gupta/Free State deals

In the submission, researcher Paul Holden says the document is intended to "assist" the commission in investigating state capture. It is the first of two submissions on the subject, the organisation said.

This submission "focuses on establishing the links between the Estina/Vrede Dairy Project and the Gupta criminal enterprise".

The second submission will deal with the "money laundering systems" used by the Guptas to allegedly "wash funds emanating from Estina".

Scheme

The Estina dairy farm was a scheme intended to benefit black farmers in Vrede in the Free State. Estina, the company charged with executing the project on behalf of the Free State government, was allegedly a Gupta front, and government money allegedly ended up being laundered for the Gupta family. 

In the Shadow World submission it is alleged that former mineral resources minister Mosebenzi Zwane and ANC secretary general Ace Magashule received benefits from overseeing the Estina project. Zwane was Free State Agriculture MEC and Magashule was Free State premier when the Estina deal was signed. 

The documents draw on evidence from the #GuptaLeaks, media reports and court records to show "clear and direct links between the Gupta enterprise and government officials…"

It says Zwane and Magashule accepted benefits from the Guptas for overseeing the Estina project.

"We submit that the consistent favour shown to Estina by Free State government officials in awarding and funding the Estina/Vrede Dairy Project must be seen in this light."

Aided and abetted

The entire Estina project was a "criminal scheme", Holden alleges, aided and abetted by "captured" government officials. These include Peter Thabethe (former head of the Free State Department of Agriculture), Zwane and Magashule.

The submission contains a number of new "discoveries", linking the Gupta family to the Estina project.

These include that:

- The sole director of Estina, Kamal Vasram, had a prior business relationship with the Guptas and invoiced a Gupta company monthly for more than a year before the Gupta project began.

- Estina's "managing director" Sanjeev Gautem, who signed the government contracts on behalf of Estina, had a business relationship with the Guptas before becoming involved with Estina.

- Another Estina employee, Chandrama Prasad, had business dealings with the Guptas before and during the Estina project.

-  The Indian "partner" of Estina, Paras Dairy, relied on Gupta firm Sahara Computers to get visas for trips to South Africa to sign a Memorandum of Understanding with Estina.

Benefits

It is also alleged in the submission that Zwane received at least R500 000 in "benefits" from Gupta companies after signing the lease agreement with Estina, which gave it free use of the land for 99 years. Shadow World says that this and other allegations mean that Zwane must be investigated for violations of the Prevention and Combating of Corruption Act.

It also details allegations that Magashule's office at the time paid a Gupta company for laptops at inflated prices.

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