Update: Varun Gupta ‘not a flight risk’ – Free State NPA
The NPA in the Free State has responded that it does not view Estina dairy case corruption accused Varun Gupta as a flight risk.
“Mr Varun Gupta request(s) the investigating officer to allow him to travel to Dubai for a traditional ceremony. He made a request on 30 April and informed the investigating officer that he will be travelling on 13 May 2018. The investigating officer declined his request because it was not in accordance with the bail condition that was agreed upon when he was released on bail in February. The condition clearly states that he must inform the investigating officer at least six weeks in advance if he wants to travel abroad,” said Free State NPA spokesperson Phaladi Shuping.
Gupta has approached the court to apply for the relaxation of his stringent bail conditions.
While the NPA is opposing that application, Shuping said the prosecuting authority “does not regard him as a flight risk hence he was allowed to travel abroad provided he informs the investigating officer six weeks before his travel date.”
Daily Maverick has reliably learned that Varun Gupta, charged alongside Ashua Chawla‚ Kamal Vasram‚ Ronica Ragavan‚ Nazeem Howa, all of whom worked for the Gupta business empire, has notified the NPA that he intends to apply to have his bail conditions relaxed so that he can leave South Africa.
Gupta apparently has stated he would like to leave the country to attend a religious ceremony.
Gupta’s bail, along with that of Howa, Chawla and Ragavan was set at R200,000 when they appeared in the Bloemfontein Magistrate’s court in February. They were released under strict conditions that they report to police stations where they live twice a day, surrender their passports, not leave the province in which they reside or interfere with any witnesses. The matter was postponed to 17 August this year.
Gupta and his fellow accused face various charges from money laundering to theft, fraud and contravention of the Public Finance Management and the Companies Act related to the Vrede dairy farm heist.
NPA spokesperson Luvuyo Mfaku, after the accused had been granted bail, said the prosecuting authority was certain none of the accused would be a flight risk.
“They all have properties and other ties to South Africa. They will remain here that is for sure,” said Mfaku.
Daily Maverick has contacted Mfaku and asked whether the NPA would be opposing Gupta’s application. No response had been received at the time of writing. A message was sent to to Varun Gupta who had also not replied at the time of writing.
The NPA has confirmed that Varun Gupta has indeed applied to have his bail conditions relaxed in order to leave the country. Gupta, however, did not make the application within the six week prescribed time period required to give notice of such an application.
Daily Maverick has learned that investigating officer in the matter declined to relax conditions, which is why Varun Gupta has approached the court. The case was heard on Thursday and Friday and will resume on Monday. The NPA is opposing the application.
This is a developing story. DM