Court lifts AFU restraint order in Vrede dairy case

Peter Thabethe, Seipati Dlamini, Takisi Masiteng, with Gupta family lieutenants; Nazeem Howa, Ronica Ragavan, and Ashu Chawla as well as Varun Gupta. (Mlungisi Louw/Netwerk 24/Gallo)

Peter Thabethe, Seipati Dlamini, Takisi Masiteng, with Gupta family lieutenants; Nazeem Howa, Ronica Ragavan, and Ashu Chawla as well as Varun Gupta. (Mlungisi Louw/Netwerk 24/Gallo)

The Free State High Court in Bloemfontein has ruled in favour of Gupta linked companies and individuals who challenged a provisional restraint order that targeted assets to the tune of R250-million. 

“The provisional restraint order is discharged with costs,” Judge Philip Jacobus Loubser ruled on Monday afternoon.

Loubser said there were no reasonable grounds to conclude that the companies and individuals received gifts from Estina.

“This issue is neither here nor there. I do not propose that we take it any further,” he said.

“The provisional restraint order in respect of the first and fifth applicant is discharged with costs, which costs include the costs of counsel. The provisional restraint order in respect of the affected parties, namely the sixth and seventh applicant, is discharged with costs, which cost include the costs of two counsel.”

“This issue is neither here nor there. I do not propose that we take it any further,” he said.

Gupta-linked companies and individuals recently challenged the provisional restraint order which the Asset Forfeiture Unit obtained against eight individuals accused in April, while their criminal case is pending.

READ MORE: READ MORE: Atul Gupta challenges court order to freeze R10-million

The eight were arrested during raids at various locations in February, including the Gupta compound in Saxonwold and their offices in Sandton.

They are Estina director Kamal Vasram, former directors at the Guptas’ holding company Oakbay - Varun Gupta, Ronica Ragavan, Nazeem Howa and Ashu Chawla - and Free State officials Peter Thabethe, Sylvia Dlamini and Takisi Masiteng.

READ MORE: The state’s case against the Guptas and co.

Luxury vehicles, immovable properties and bank accounts were some of the assets which were subject to the provisional restraint order.

AFU financial investigator Nkosiphendule Mrandla submitted in court papers that - on the basis of the evidence - the respondents received and retained various amounts of money as a result of their alleged unlawful activities.

In an affidavit, Ragavan who is the acting chief executive officer of Oakbay Investments Limited, alleged that the restraint application was deficient because it was based on hearsay.

An affidavit revealed that the Free State’s agricultural department - which was then under the leadership of former mineral resources minister Mosebenzi Zwane - allegedly paid R220-million to the Guptas and some of their associates in what the Asset Forfeiture Unit calls a “scheme designed to defraud and steal monies from the department”.

One hundred black emerging farmers were promised five cows each as part of the empowerment scheme, but they never received them.

READ MORE: Dairy farm puts Guptas directly in firing line

Gifted to the Gupta-linked Estina in 2013 under a free 99-year lease by the provincial agriculture department, the farm has been one of the most scandalous transactions between the Guptas and a government entity.

The #GuptaLeaks revealed in 2017 how at least R30-million paid to the Guptas, via the farm, ended up funding the family’s lavish Sun City wedding in 2013. — News 24

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