NPA about to move on Guptas, sets sights on assets worth R1,6bn
The Asset Forfeiture Unit is going after the Gupta family and their associates, and is set to serve a summons on them on Tuesday morning to preserve assets of theirs worth in the region of R1.6 billion.
This move will be the first time the State has taken action against President Jacob Zuma’s friends, who have been at the forefront of capturing the South African state.
The unit falls under the National Prosecuting Authority.
The Asset Forfeiture Unit applied for three separate orders at the high court in Pretoria as well as the high court in Bloemfontein last month, and the ex parte applications seeking orders to preserve the Guptas’ assets were granted.
Three senior officials at the Asset Forfeiture Unit and the National Prosecuting Authority confirmed to City Press that the unit sought to preserve the assets of the Guptas and their associates worth R1.6 billion, which will be placed under curatorship.
The application was brought in terms of the Prevention of Organised Crime Act, which allows assets of defendants in criminal cases – or people who have yet to be criminally charged – to be preserved pending the outcome of their prosecution.
After they have been successfully prosecuted, the assets are then permanently forfeited to the state.
Under the act, the assets in question are alleged to have been acquired with the proceeds of crime.
City Press understands that the process was meant to be accompanied by the arrests of members of the Gupta family, who are also the business partners of Zuma’s son Duduzane, as well as some of their close associates, which include senior politicians.
But exactly which members of the Gupta family this will involve and when the arrests will be effected are not yet clear.
City Press understands from senior sources within the Hawks that they have in their sights Mineral Resources Minister Mosebenzi Zwane, who irregularly helped the Guptas acquire Optimum Coal mine from Glencore.
City Press has been aware of the impending application since October last year, but was unable to report on the matter until the summons had been served.
At the time, City Press was told by a senior prosecutor that the aim of the application against the Guptas was “to preserve the assets while the criminal process unfolds”.
“The assets targeted include money in the banks, and movable and immovable assets worth the amount paid unduly to the Guptas. [It also includes] money in bank accounts both in South Africa and abroad, as well as property,” the prosecutor said.
Although it is currently unclear how prosecutors from the Asset Forfeiture Unit arrived at the R1.6 billion figure, City Press has established that R30 million of that amount relates to the failed dairy farm project through which the Free State provincial government handed a Gupta-linked company called Estina – whose sole director was an IT salesman with no farming experience – a free 99-year lease to a 4400-hectare farm outside Vrede. The Free State MEC for agriculture at the time was Zwane.
AmaBhungane reported last year that the Guptas funnelled R84 million of that money to a company in the United Arab Emirates.
The #GuptaLeaks also showed that a Gupta-owned company called Linkway Trading funnelled R30 million in cash earmarked for the Vrede dairy project to pay for the lavish Sun City wedding of their niece, Vega, and wrote it off as a “business expense”.
City Press was told that the application for a preservation order had taken this long because the Asset Forfeiture Unit had to secure cooperation from foreign governments in countries in which the Guptas have interests.
These “MLAs” – or applications for mutual legal assistance” – took months to secure.
Senior prosecutors also told City Press that the NPA waited for the outcome of the ANC’s leadership conference at Nasrec for a more conducive political environment in which to launch the application.