The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) on Monday confirmed it intended to shortly serve a freezing order on multinational consultancy McKinsey and local company Trillian to safeguard assets worth R1.6-billion in terms of racketeering laws.
But whether or not assets of the Gupta family itself would be likewise preserved — and whether family members face arrest — was not immediately clear.
City Press on Monday afternoon reported that this would be the case, in an article that sparked the related but different confirmation from the NPA.
“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,” that newspaper reported.
“City Press understands that the process was meant to be accompanied by the arrests of members of the Gupta family,” it said.
However, the NPA said the R1.6-billion amount related to freezing orders against the two consultancy companies. That is the same amount of money Eskom has demanded from the two companies, in a claim revolving around undue payments.
City Press also said police were targeting minerals minister Mosebenzi Zwane, who appears to have played a central role in securing for the Gupta family their purchase of the Optimum coal mines, which supply Eskom power stations.
The Asset Forfeiture Unit is tasked with securing for the state the proceeds of crime. In some circumstances it can move to freeze assets even before criminal prosecution is initiated. Such assets are then independently managed, or preserved, until a criminal verdict is reached.
The extraordinary payments by Eskom to the consultancy companies came at a time when they were linked to Salim Essa, a close business associate of the Gupta family, which is in turn historically close to President Jacob Zuma and his family.
City Press said the NPA had waited until the ANC elected its new president, Cyril Ramaphosa, in order to have a political environment more conducive to prosecuting alleged crimes linked to the Gupta family. However, the NPA said it had secured freezing orders before the conclusion of the ANC’s elective conference in December.
This is a developing story.