Hawks confirm three arrests in Vrede dairy farm probe
Three people have been arrested by the Hawks in connection to the Vrede dairy farm investigation, according to Hawks spokesperson Brigadier Hangwani Mulaudzi.
“So far three people have been arrested and two other suspects are expected to hand themselves over to the Hawks,” Mulaudzi said in a statement on Wednesday.
The specialised crime fighting unit is currently combing through the Gupta family compound in Saxonwold, after closing off the street where their luxury home is located early on Wednesday morning.
A court order in January implicated Atul Gupta in the dairy farm case, saying that he had benefited from the “proceeds of crime” to the tune of R10-million. The Free State high court ordered that Gupta’s bank account, and the bank accounts of 18 other people – including Gupta business associates – must be frozen so the assets can be preserved.
The arrival of the Hawks at the Gupta compound on Wednesday drew surprise after years of inaction against members of the politically-connected family who have been found to be complicit in state capture.
The dairy farm in the Free State was meant to benefit poor black farmers, but under the watch of then-agriculture MEC Mosebenzi Zwane, around R220-million was looted from the project. Zwane said in January that he is unaware the Guptas were involved in the project.
Ace Magashule, who was Free State premier at the time, was also implicated in dodgy dealings during the project. The Hawks raided Magashule’s office in January, but Magashule has been tight-lipped about his involvement in the project.
Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane has released her report on allegations of wrongdoing during the project, but she has been heavily criticised for recommending that Magashule be tasked with heading disciplinary proceedings against those in the Free State agriculture department who she blamed for the project.
Mkhwebane did not make any findings against Magashule or the Guptas. She has been subsequently summoned to Parliament where she will appear before the justice committee to explain the report.
The Hawks investigation into the farm is ongoing. Hawks officials are currently investigating various premises around Gauteng, according to Mulaudzi.