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Lord Hain to Dubai ruler: Why are the Guptas still in t...

South Africa

DAYS OF ZONDO: NEWSFLASH

Lord Hain to Dubai ruler: Why are the Guptas still in the Emirate state?

Archive image: Athul Gupta

The Guptas are hiding in plain sight in Dubai, burning their State Capture loot while South Africa battles to convince the Emirate state to help bring them to justice in South Africa, the Zondo Commission of Inquiry heard on Monday.

Testifying at the State Capture Commission on Monday afternoon, British lawmaker Lord Peter Hain said he believed the Dubai ruler, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, ought to be asked to publicly account for why the controversial family has not been expelled.

It seems to me, either the government under the rule of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum is wilfully sheltering a family that has looted astronomical amounts from South African taxpayers, or the SA authorities don’t have the will or capacity to bring them to book.”

Having earlier testified to the role played by a broad range of global State Capture enablers, including international banks, Hain said while extradition is a tool to get the Guptas back to South Africa, it is astonishing that this has not happened.

The question is, why? Everyone knows where they are.”

It would be helpful if the Dubai ruler would account publicly for why the Guptas have not been sent back, Hain said.

While a mutual legal assistance treaty signed between South African and the UAE last year was encouraging, the Guptas remain free while they’re spending the ill-gotten billions – reducing the amount that could be repatriated to SA.

The mutual legal assistance treaty has taken eight years of negotiation and the Gutpas are free to come and go, and are free to blow their billions.”

In response, commission chairman Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo said he had recently asked the South African minister of justice about this and it seemed “that there were certain challenges”.

Leading Hain’s evidence, advocate Paul Pretorius said he had attended the same meeting referred to by Justice Zondo and was left with the impression that, despite efforts, “cooperation appears to be lacking”.

The Guptas fled from South Africa as the State Capture scandal intensified in late 2015 and moved into a R400-million mansion in the Emirates Hills, where they remain. They are not participating in the State Capture inquiry after failing early on in their bid to testify on their terms, via video link from Dubai.

Hain did not reserve his criticism for the Dubai government only. Having recently written to the British Treasury to encourage sanctions against the Guptas – similar to those imposed by the US government last month – Hain said the response he received from his own government was “very disappointing”.

I named Ajay, Rajesh and Atul Gupta and provided their identity numbers and their address in Dubai and stated that they travel to India and seem to do so quite freely.”

He said he had received a “weak and pathetic” non-reply on 5 November 2019 saying the British government did not have the same powers as the US government to act on his request.

Having been a government minister for 12 years, Hain said he recognised it as a standard civil servant response, one that suggested the UK government was not prepared to make an effort to help SA.

He said South African President Cyril Ramaphosa has been very clear about the intentions to fight corruption but said he needed the help of other countries to do this.

It’s simply not good enough. I think the British government should do better and I have expressed this.”

But, echoing growing public sentiment in SA, Hain said he had been struck at the slow pace of action from local law enforcement where there has not been a single State Capture-linked arrest or civil recovery effort.

I know [South Africa] is emerging from this terrible era of State Capture and institutions have slim resources.”

But, he said, the “crooks” wise up all the time and they act fast, adding that, as a friend of South Africa, he believed decisions needed to be made more swiftly.

However, he was mindful of the sophisticated nature of international money laundering networks and said this required South Africa’s own law enforcement agencies to be capacitated with staff and technology.

I would like to ask if the SA government has asked other jurisdictions (Dubai, Hong Kong and India) to push for sanctions [against those implicated in State Capture].”

I think we deserve an answer. Sanctions are a powerful tool and they should be applied to the Guptas.”

Hain was born to a South African couple who were banned and driven into exile by the apartheid government.

He shared with Justice Zondo the significance of his appearance before him as the deputy chief justice, saying his late mother, while on trial in SA in the 1960s had had Justice Zondo’s predecessor, retired Justice Dikgang Moseneke, on her legal team.

The country remains close to his heart.

Hain provided the commission with a set of recommendations that he believes could strengthen South Africa’s anti-corruption efforts. They include: increased transparency; a stronger programme for auditing and due diligence to ensure full compliance with anti-money laundering legislation; real-time data sharing between banks; and additional penalties at organisation and individual level so banks and professional “enablers” who fail in their duty are held accountable and punished.

He also recommended that greater transparency measures be adopted to ensure that Black Economic Empowerment policies are not subverted for gain by criminals.

The people of SA deserve better than that caused by the looting and corruption.”

The country has had a “corruption near-death experience” and that must be eradicated if South Africa is to fully prosper along the ideals of the Freedom Charter.

The Commission resumes on Tuesday with testimony from Reverend Frank Chikane and Lt General Yolisa Matakata from the Hawks. DM

 

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