Global policing authority Interpol has issued red notices against four members of the Gupta family and four of their business associates. The National Prosecuting Authority’s Investigating Directorate head, Hermione Cronje, confirmed the move in a statement on Monday, saying efforts to return the Guptas to South Africa had intensified.
“Interpol has issued red notices against Atul Gupta and his wife, Chetali; Rajesh Gupta and his wife, Arti; Ankit Jain, former Nulane Investment Bank of Baroda account signatory; Ravindra Nath, director of Wone Management; [and] Ramesh Bhat and Jagdish Parekh, the directors of Pragat Investments,” Cronje said.
A red notice is an alert to all Interpol member states that an individual is a wanted fugitive. Although it does not equate to an international arrest warrant, it can be used to support extradition requests.
The eight suspects are wanted in connection with the R25-million fraud and money laundering case connected to the Estina dairy project. The criminal case linked to the project has, meanwhile, been postponed given the impracticality of the suspects appearing in court during the current Covid-19 level-four lockdown restrictions. The Investigating Directorate said the Bloemfontein regional court has moved the matter to 6 September, when it will be heard before the Free State high court.
Warrants will be reissued in due course for Nulane Investment employee Dinesh Patel and three former Free State officials: Peter Thabethe, Limakatso Moorosi and Seipati Dhlamini. Suspected Gupta family associate and former Transnet board member Iqbal Sharma will remain behind bars, after he was denied bail last month.
The news about the red notices for the Guptas and their associates, who are believed to currently be in India and the United Arab Emirates, comes less than a week before a recently ratified extradition treaty between South Africa and the UAE comes into play on 10 July.
Despite these sharp legal tools, national director of public prosecutions Shamila Batohi last month cautioned against South Africans getting overly excited at the prospect of the Guptas’ extradition, warning that the process would still entail lengthy legal proceedings.
“At the end of those legal processes, it becomes a political issue, in that the executive then decides whether to surrender the person to the requesting country. And that very much depends on political will,” Batohi said.
“And so if there was any thought that those who we are seeking to face justice in South Africa would be on the next plane to South Africa, be clear that is a process that will certainly take some time after the arrests of outstanding suspects, wherever they might be in the world.”
The red notices are the latest in notable international censures against the Gupta family. In 2019, the US treasury formally sanctioned Atul, Ajay and Rajesh Gupta, and associate Salim Essa as members of a “significant corruption network in South Africa”. In April, the four were among 22 people the UK slapped with visa bans and asset freezes.