The South African government has submitted a formal extradition application to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) for Rajesh Gupta and Atul Gupta of the wealthy India-born brothers of the Gupta family, the country's top prosecutor said on Monday, 25 July, but cautioned that the extradition process could take several months.
The two brothers, along with their elder brother Ajay, have been in self-exile in Dubai since the net closed in on them three years ago about siphoning off billions of rands from state enterprises, allegedly by misusing their closeness to former president Jacob Zuma.
The head of the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), Shamila Batohi joined Justice and Correctional Services Minister, Ronald Lamola, on Monday at a media briefing to confirm that the NPA has submitted a formal extradition application to the Central Authority in the UAE for the Gupta brothers, Atul and Rajesh.
The Gupta brothers are accused in South Africa of using their relationship with former president Zuma to profit financially and influence senior appointments, charges that they have vehemently denied.
'Cannot Guarantee Conviction, but Will Ensure That Justice Is Served': Batohi
“The submission of the formal application request for the arrest and extradition of the Gupta brothers is an important milestone in the NPA's commitment to hold accountable perpetrators of state capture and to uphold the rule of law. It reaffirms our resolve to be the lawyers for the people and to seek collective justice for our country,” Batohi said.
Batohi was also cautious about the Guptas being convicted, although she said that the NPA would attempt to ensure that justice would be served.
“We cannot guarantee of course that there will be a conviction, but what we can guarantee is that as the prosecuting authority we will do everything possible to ensure that the prospects of a successful prosecution and conviction is extremely high, that's as far as we can take it,” Batohi said.
Lamola confirmed that the extradition application had been submitted within the required 60 days, after the Guptas were arrested in Dubai last month.
He said several South African ministries had jointly worked on it.
Extradition Application Being Heard in UAE Courts
The application was reportedly delayed for technical reasons, as it had to be submitted in both English and Arabic, the official language in Dubai.
Earlier, an Interpol red notice was issued for the brothers, who stand accused of corruption, fraud and money laundering related to a company owned by a close associate, Iqbal Meer Sharma.
Sharma has already appeared in court several times with two senior government officials in relation to an irregular tender worth almost 25 million rands that was awarded to his company Nulane Investments by the Department of Agriculture in Free State province.
Prosecutors said that Sharma had paid multinational Deloitte 1.5 million rand for a feasibility study and then paid the rest of the funds to Gupta-owned companies through a money-laundering scheme.
Sharma is currently out on bail of half a million rand and stringent conditions after he was initially denied bail because he was considered to be a flight risk.
Now prosecutors are hoping that the Gupta brothers will join him in the dock when the trial resumes in January next year.
“As this process unfolds, and the extradition application is heard in UAE courts, the NPA will continue to collaborate and support its counterparts in the UAE to ensure that the Gupta brothers are extradited to face justice in South Africa,” the NPA said.
The Gupta family, originally hailing from Saharanpur in Uttar Pradesh, entered South Africa by setting up a shoe store in the early 1990s.
They soon expanded to include IT, media and mining companies, most of which have now been sold off or closed.