- After months of legal wrangling, Interpol has issued red notices for Atul and Rajesh Gupta in connection with fraud and money-laundering charges, but refused to issue such notices against their wives.
- Atul and Rajesh Gupta are wanted in connection with the R24.9-million Nulane Investment fraud and money laundering case, which will proceed in the Free State High Court in Bloemfontein in June.
- A red notice is a formal request to members of Interpol to apprehend and hold a suspect pending an extradition process. It will assist the state in its efforts to extradite the brothers to face trial in South Africa.
Interpol has issued red notices for Atul and Rajesh Gupta – despite the brothers at the centre of the alleged state capture project claiming that the National Prosecuting Authority’s efforts to secure their arrests were politically motivated.
Interpol has, however, refused to grant red notices against the pair’s wives, Arthi and Chetali.
Lawyers for the Guptas have confirmed that they had been made aware that the NPA had "temporarily succeeded" in having red notices issued against the brothers, but stated that they would be challenging these notices on the basis of "material misrepresentations by the NPA".
Asked for her response to the issuing of the red notices, which have been the subject of months of legal wrangling between the Guptas and the state, outgoing Investigating Directorate head Hermione Cronje told News24:
"This is my last day at the ID, so getting formal notification that these red notices have been issued - which paves the way for the Gupta brothers to be extradited - is bittersweet. So many people have worked very hard to make this a reality and my sincere [wish] is that their efforts translate, finally, into those allegedly responsible for state capture being held to account."
The ID announced in July last year that it had obtained red notices against the brothers and their wives in connection with fraud and money-laundering charges, but later clarified that these notices were still "under consideration" by the Commission for the Control of Interpol's Files.
The notices sought by the State related to the Nulane Investment fraud and money laundering case, which will proceed in the Free State High Court in Bloemfontein in June. The State alleges that the Free State Department of Agriculture paid R24.9 million to Nulane Investment, a company owned and controlled by former Transnet Board member and Gupta ally Iqbal Sharma, for a fraudulent feasibility study for the Free State’s flagship, Mohoma Mobung project.
When it first applied for red notices to be issued against Rajesh, Atul and their wives in relation to this case, the ID stated that it was confident that Interpol would accept that the notices were not "politically motivated nor of a military, religious or racial character".
The Gupta brothers argued the contrary in submissions made to Interpol, which took seven months to make a call on whether their accusations of political motive against the NPA were a basis not to grant the red notices that the State sought against them. It is now apparent that Interpol was not convinced.
So what does the granting of a red notice actually mean for the Gupta brothers? At this stage, that’s not certain.
A red notice is a formal request to members of Interpol to apprehend and hold a suspect pending an extradition process, but, as yet, it does not appear that either the NPA or the Investigating Directorate have been able to formally apply for the extradition of any Gupta family members.
In a statement released in July last year, the ID said that "attempts to extradite all the accused abroad are under way" and added that "the extradition request in respect of the four Gupta family members to the UAE (United Arab Emirates) is awaiting confirmation of the presence of the family members in the UAE".
In other words, the State’s mooted efforts to extradite the accused Gupta family members was being hampered by its inability to establish where they were. But that may soon change.
While a red notice is not an arrest warrant and Interpol does not have the power to force a country to arrest someone against whom a red notice has been issued, it can limit the ability of suspects to travel – because the movement of someone against whom a red notice is issued is tracked.
And knowing the exact location of the Gupta brothers will make it easier for the ID to seek their extradition.
Justice Minister Ronald Lamola, speaking through his spokesperson Chrispin Phiri, welcomed confirmation that the notices had been issued.
"This is a positive development and we hope to see justice take its course," he said.