Maimane pushing for money laundering investigation into Gupta dairy farm project

Maimane, during his visit on Wednesday, said the Estina project had from the beginning been intended to enrich just a few. (David Harrison/M&G)

Maimane, during his visit on Wednesday, said the Estina project had from the beginning been intended to enrich just a few. (David Harrison/M&G)

DA leader Mmusi Maimane is taking the saga surrounding a controversial dairy farm linked to the Guptas global and will ask the International Monetary Fund (IMF), as well as an intergovernmental task force and other corruption watchdogs, to investigate suspicions of money laundering.

The DA is also looking at whether a criminal case can be opened against the Guptas in the United Arab Emirates.

Maimane on Wednesday met those affected by the matter, who he described as “the most direct victims of the corruption and theft… by a small political elite led by the Guptas and Jacob Zuma,”  outside the Estina Dairy Farm in Vrede in the Free State.

“I will also be writing to an array of international corruption watchdogs tasked with investigating cross border money laundering, including the Financial Action Task Force, the Financial Intelligence Centre, and the IMF’s Anti-Money Laundering/Combating the Financing of Terrorism Unit, requesting that they launch investigations into this matter,” he said.

Coincidental ‘Gupta funded trip’
News24 earlier this month reported that an investigation by AmaBhungane and Scorpio revealed how R30-million that was supposed to go to the dairy project was diverted through a web of Gupta-related companies to pay for the wedding of Vega Gupta and Aakash Jahajgarhia in 2013, while Mineral Resources Minister Mosebenzi Zwane was still an MEC in the Free State.

The wedding initially gained infamy when the Guptas’ guests were allowed to use the Waterkloof Air Force base as a port of entry.

Maimane, during his visit on Wednesday, said the Estina project had from the beginning been intended to enrich just a few.

“The community based project, which targeted 80 intended local beneficiaries, was a joint private-public project between the Free State Department of Agriculture and Gupta-controlled company, Estina,” he said.

“And that’s when it became clear the project wasn’t about the community of Vrede. It was about the pockets of the Guptas.”

DA Shadow Minister of Finance, David Maynier, previously laid criminal complaints against Mosebenzi Zwane, Atul Gupta, Ajay Gupta, Rajesh Gupta, Ronica Ragavan and Kamal Vasram, including racketeering, money laundering and submitting false tax returns.

Maimane on Wednesday said the project appeared to be the idea of Zwane who was from Vrede.

“Coincidentally, it was put into motion in early 2013 - just months after Zwane and officials from the Free State Department of Agriculture enjoyed a Gupta-funded trip to India in October 2012. This trip included multiple stays at Oberoi Hotels in India and a dinner at the Guptas’ house.”

‘A lie from the beginning’
Maimane said this was followed by a “clearly corrupt process leading to the Gupta-controlled company Estina ‘winning’ the tender”.

“The Gupta-controlled Estina still sits with R184-million of public money while the beneficiaries are left penniless.
The only beneficiaries have been the Guptas and their ANC stooges.

“The Guptas ended up funnelling money out of the company to launder through their UAE shell corporations, and then bounce back to South African companies. Much of the money was used to pay for their Sun City wedding.”

On top of the criminal complaints previously lodged by Maynier, Maimane said more were in the pipeline.

“We believe that crimes may have been committed in those other countries through which this money was laundered, particularly the United Arab Emirates. We will therefore be exploring criminal charges against the Guptas in the UAE for money laundering,” Maimane said.

He believed all avenues needed to be pursued to recover money meant to benefit Vrede residents.

He said the party had laid a complaint with the Public Protector.

This report, Maimane said, was set to be released within two days.

“I will ensure that those recommendations are implemented without delay, so that those who ought to have benefited from the Vrede Dairy Farm project are held to account and made to pay for stealing the people’s money.”

Maimane said he had also requested a public hearing into the scandal by Parliament’s Committee on Agriculture; and that Zwane, Free State premier Ace Magashule and MEC of Agriculture Oupa Khoabane be summoned before Parliament’s Standing Committee on Public Accounts.

Maimane said some of the farm beneficiaries have reportedly “sold off their own livestock in anticipation of their participation in this project, but have received no dairy cows”.

“They have told me of their pain and anxiety in waiting for a promise that is clearly never coming. It never was coming. Sadly, it was a lie from the beginning.” - News24

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