Atul Gupta with former president Jacob Zuma.
Atul and Rajesh Gupta, the kingpins behind state capture during Jacob Zuma’s presidency, have been arrested in Dubai as the result of an Interpol Red Notice issued at the request of the South African government.
The brothers fled South Africa shortly after Zuma, their patron and protector, was recalled as president in February 2018 and took refuge in Dubai, where they were arrested on Friday, four months after the red notice was issued.
On Monday night, Chrispin Phiri, spokesperson for Justice and Correctional Services Minister Ronald Lamola, confirmed the arrest of the two brothers in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Together with Zuma they were identified as the key architects of state capture by the Zondo commission, .
Phiri said the department had been informed of the arrests by law enforcement authorities in the UAE, who were understood to have arrested the brothers on Friday.
It is not yet clear when they will be extradited to South Africa to face charges in a number of state capture cases.
“Discussions between various law enforcement agencies in the UAE and South Africa on a way forward are ongoing,” Phiri said. “The South African government will continue to cooperate with the UAE.”
The UAE, widely considered the rear base and bolt hole of the Gupta brothers, ratified an extradition treaty with South Africa only last year.
In 2020, the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) announced that it had asked Interpol for help in locating the scions of the family implicated in the biggest political scandal of the democratic era.
The brothers are part of the list of accused in the Nulane Investments case in the Free State, in which the provincial government was allegedly fleeced of nearly R25-million that flowed to their Islandsite Investments.
The company was described in testimony to the Zondo commission as the Guptas’ prime money-laundering vehicle.
State capture, with the family at its centre, cost the state many times over the sums involved in the Free State case.
According to testimony to the commission by forensic investigator Paul Holden, the state paid more than R49-billion on contracts tainted by state capture to companies linked to the notorious family.
Witnesses gave evidence about how the brothers influenced cabinet appointments from their Saxonwold mansion using Zuma’s influence over the ANC and government departments to ensure that companies they owned, or were linked to, milked state procurement.
Interpol issued red notices for the two brothers earlier this year. But the NPA is understood to be struggling to obtain the same with regard to their spouses, Arthi and Chetali.