The hunt for Gupta assets around the world has kicked off with a new High Court order against the suspects in the Vrede Dairy Farm case, Daily Maverick can reveal. The State has obtained a Restraint Order under the Prevention of Organised Crime Act order to immediately attach dozens of Gupta-linked assets amid concern that those implicated may dispose of property outside South Africa.
From Saxonwold to La Lucia and Constantia – houses, cars, coal mines and the two private jets of the Gupta empire have come into the clutches of South Africa’s Asset Forfeiture Unit.
The National Prosecuting Authority has succeeded in obtaining a wide-ranging order to attach the assets linked to the accused in the Vrede Dairy Farm case – by extension, the Guptas, before conclusion of the criminal case.
This is the case that made brothers Ajay and Atul Gupta shy to return to South African soil.
The order was obtained by the AFU of the NPA on April 11 and is currently being executed – on various affected sites, including the family’s infamous Saxonwold compound in Johannesburg, NPA spokesman, Luvuyo Mfaku confirmed.
The State was granted an initial preservation order in January, but Atul Gupta and some of the affected companies, denying that the assets in question formed part of the proceeds of crime, had challenged that order. They obtained a revised order on March 9, but the NPA says that it has to date, not been able to secure a copy of that document.
The latest order involves involves key Gupta lieutenants like Ronica Ragavan and Nazeem Howa who are caught up in the Estina criminal case and the assets affected by the order involves the Guptas prized South African loot is now being secured by the Asset Forfeiture Unit.
Howa and Ragavan were among eight people arrested in February on charges including fraud, money laundering, theft, conspiracy to commit fraud and theft and of contravening the Public Finance Management Act.
They have not formally pleaded to the charges.
The purpose of the restraint order is to ensure that a confiscation order of the assets which may follow a conviction, can in fact be executed when that becomes due.
In the case of Ragavan, court papers list assets that include 11 properties, three of those in Saxonwold, around 20 vehicles, among them a Lamborghini Galardo and a Porsche Cayenne.
In the case of another Gupta company, Confident Concepts, investigators list the farm Brakfontein in Mpumalanga from where the Guptas ran a colliery that supplied coal to Eskom, and Westdawn Investments, the owner of the controversial Gupta jet, ZS-OAK.
Court papers also list a string of Baroda bank accounts linked to the suspects and their masters showing that at last check Estina , the company that supposedly owned and ran the diary farm, had but R2 394 in it, Westdawn Investments which own the Gupta jet, ZS-Oak, just over R12million, Islandsite Investments, R34 000, Oakbay Investments, R1.5 million, two Aerohaven Trading accounts held R29 000 and R267 000 respectively while a key Gupta company, Annex Distribution had just over R8-million – part of an estimated R180-million in assets affected by the restraint order.
This latest order handed down by the High Court in Bloemfontein makes provision for Gupta assets held by their lawyers or in trust, to be attached as well.
The papers state that any third party who may be in possession of any of the property sought under the order, is hereby ordered in terms of section 21 of the Prevention of Organised Crime Act to surrender such property into the custody of the curator once served by the Sheriff of the Court.
“Any third party who is in possession or control of any of the property or who acquires knowledge of this order is also ordered to surrender such to the curator within 24 hours of being informed,” papers state.
The order states that the curator is permitted to make contact with financial institutions in SA and abroad that is known or suspected by the curator to be holding money or other property linked to the case and to inform those institutions of this order and make arrangements for the recovery of the assets.
The NPA sought this order amid concern that the arrest of the Estina eight had created an opportunity for some of them to immediately dispose of any realizable property amongst other persons and entities who may have been in the case.
This court order is probably the most significant obtained by the State in the case against the Guptas empire so far.
It obtained a civil preservation order against global consulting firm, McKinsey & Co and the Gupta-linked Trillian Capital Partners in December. Those are seemingly being challenged. DM
Photo: Members of the Hawks special police unit raid the compound of the Gupta family during an early morning raid in Johannesburg, South Africa, 14 February 2018. The Gupta brothers are implicated in massive corruption and state capture with President Jacob Zuma. Photo: EPA-EFE/KIM LUDBROOK