Gupta extradition: SA has been requesting information from UAE for over three years without success

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Shamila Batohi says that she expects cooperation with the UAE to ensure the fugitive Gupta brothers return to SA.
Shamila Batohi says that she expects cooperation with the UAE to ensure the fugitive Gupta brothers return to SA.
Phill Magakoe, Gallo Images
  • The agreement on mutual legal assistance in criminal matters and extradition between South Africa and the UAE has been ratified.
  • National Director of Public Prosecutions Shamila Batohi says this is a positive development.
  • The ratification will come into effect on 10 July.

National Director of Public Prosecutions (NDPP) Shamila Batohi has said the NPA has been requesting information from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) for more than three years without success and will only "accept" full cooperation from that country once the information is received.

Speaking during a media briefing on Friday morning, Batohi said the UAE ratification treaty with South Africa was a "positive development but we will only know that this is making a difference once our requests for mutual legal assistance are fully executed by the UAE and we get the necessary full cooperation, including evidence from the UAE".

The evidence included financial records, she said.

"As I expressed to the ambassador yesterday (Thursday), we will only accept that there is full cooperation when we receive the necessary information that we have been requesting now for over three years without success," she said.

The briefing came after a statement by the UAE's ambassador to South Africa, saying that the agreement on mutual legal assistance in criminal matters and extradition between South Africa and that country was signed in 2018 and ratified in April this year.

READ | Gupta extradition: UAE confirms signing agreement on mutual legal assistance

The statement was issued just days after the National Prosecuting Authority's (NPA) Investigating Directorate (ID) asked Interpol to circulate an international arrest warrant to have the Guptas deported to South Africa to stand trial on fraud and money laundering charges, News24 previously reported.

The State issued arrest warrants for Gupta brothers, Atul and Rajesh, and their wives, Chetali and Arti, as well as a number of business associates, in connection with R25 million spent on a feasibility study to determine the viability of the failed Estina dairy farm in Vrede in the Free State.

ID head Hermione Cronje has asked Interpol to circulate the red notice. The Gupta brothers fled South Africa in 2018 and are reportedly in the UAE.

"In as much as the UAE ratified the treaty, there was nothing up until this point that precluded cooperation between the two countries," Batohi said on Friday morning.

She said:

The treaty doesn't really change anything because there has always been sufficient, legitimate ways in which we could have cooperated but in the spirit of cooperation, I certainly hope that there will be a change and that there will be a positive response for our requests as soon as possible.

Justice and Correctional Services Minister Ronald Lamola welcomed the finalisation and ratification of the treaties on extradition and mutual legal assistance.

PICS | Guptas' extradition: Civil society stages protest outside UAE embassy in Pretoria

"These treaties are expected to allow for greater cooperation between the two states on legal matters and assist in the investigation and prosecution of crimes," he said.

Lamola said the treaties would come into effect on 10 July.

He said:

It is a common cause that South Africa has persons of interest who frequent the UAE and are believed to be in the UAE. It is worth mentioning that our request for mutual legal assistance to the UAE to date, was not prohibited by the fact that there were no treaties in force between the two states. All of our requests were sent in terms of article 44 of the United Nations Convention against Corruption.

On Thursday, civil society organisations protested outside the UAE embassy in Pretoria, demanding the extradition of the Guptas so that they can be tried in South Africa for their alleged roles in state capture, News24 reported.

The organisations included the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation and the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse.

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