South Africa

FINALLY: THE INDICTMENT

Docket nr 971/02/2021: The State v Iqbal Sharma – and the Guptas 

IN THE DOCK: Accused 1, Peter Thabethe, accused 2, Dr Limakatso Moorosi, accused 3, Seipati Dlamini and accused 4, Iqbal Sharma appear in Bloemfontein Magistrate's Court on charges of fraud, corruption and money laundering on 3 June 2021. (Photo: Supplied)

The National Prosecuting Authority’s Investigative Directorate has gone to Interpol for help to execute arrest warrants for two Gupta brothers and their wives. It has also launched an extradition bid for them amid a low-key criminal case involving a company that extracted nearly R25-million from the Free State government – and which then allegedly lined the Guptas' pockets. 

The National Prosecuting Authority has finally launched its fight against the Guptas – marked by the confirmation of a request to Interpol to help execute their arrests abroad. 

Roughly five years since the #Guptaleaks first emerged, the names of Atul and Rajesh Gupta and their wives, Chetali and Arti, appear on a charge sheet. 

The four Guptas are among a group of 17 accused listed in the indictment presented at the Bloemfontein Magistrates’ Court, where their longtime associate Iqbal Sharma and three former government officials appeared briefly on Thursday, 3 June 2021. 

The production of a charge sheet is a significant development in South Africa’s efforts to bring the Guptas to book for alleged State Capture crimes, and comes as the Zondo Commission enters its final days of public hearings, which began in August 2018. (see article here:  The total(ish) cost of the Guptas’ State Capture: R49,157,323,233.68) 

A charge sheet and the arrest warrants may boost efforts to extradite them from the United Arab Emirates, which has been criticised for its tepid response to those efforts. 

Sharma – a high-flying businessman and former senior official in the Department of Trade and Industry – was arrested on Wednesday, 2 June 2021, along with former Free State government officials Peter Thabethe, Seipati Sylvia Dhlamini and Limakatso Moorosi.

Accused 4, Iqbal Sharma, appeared on charges of fraud and money laundering at the Bloemfontein Magistrates’ Court on Thursday, 3 June 2021. (Photo: Supplied)

The group appeared in court on Thursday morning and Dhlamini and Moorosi were scheduled to bring a bail application later in the day. 

Thabethe and Sharma were remanded in custody pending their respective bail applications on 7 June 2021. 

An official indictment released by the National Prosecuting Authority details charges ranging from contravention of the Public Finance Management Act, to fraud and/or money laundering.

These charges relate to a 2011 contract awarded to Sharma’s company, Nulane Investments 204, to perform due diligence on what would later become the Estina Dairy Project. 

The State’s contention is that there was no valid reason the due diligence deal could not have been procured on the open market since the service offered by Nulane was neither unique nor innovative.

Sharma allegedly outsourced the job to Deloitte for a fee of R1.5-million.

Commenting on the sidelines of the court hearing, spokesperson for the Investigative Directorate, Sindiswe Sekoba, said: “ So, you can also do the math about how much they benefited and profited.” 

Sharma allegedly irregularly landed the deal on the back of an unsolicited proposal and then entered into a subcontract agreement with the Gupta-linked Gateway Limited in Dubai.

Peter Thabethe, Dr Limakatso Moorosi, Seipati Dhlamini and Iqbal Sharma appeared in Bloemfontein Magistrates’ Court on Thursday, 3 June, on charges of corruption, fraud and money laundering. (Photo: Supplied)

No actual services were rendered by Gateway to Nulane, according to the charge sheet.

“In actual fact, this (sub) contract was just a vehicle used to launder money unlawfully derived by Nulane from the department through the company’s bank account to Gateway, it states. 

On 5 October 2011, one of Nulane’s bank accounts had a balance of R89,000 before payments totalling R24.9-million from the department began to flow in.

These payments are deemed to have been the proceeds of unlawful activities under Section 1 of the Prevention of Organised Crime Act.

The cash, once paid to Nulane, was then allegedly laundered and distributed through a scheme of transactions into and through different bank accounts  and companies, including Gateway and the Guptas’ Islandsite Investments One Hundred and Eighty, which is currently in business rescue.  

Sharma is perhaps considered a high-value arrest and the holder of many State Capture-era secrets in view of his long-standing Gupta ties. 

He was a member of the Transnet board and chairperson of its board tender committee during the controversial transaction for 1,064 locomotives, and had partnered with Gupta kingpin Salim Essa on another controversial deal involving Denel and local steel company, VR Laser. 

The extradition request and arrest warrants for the Guptas and their associates come on the back of years of impatience, amplified by revelations of the extent of the Guptas’ influence over senior government officials and how they cashed in on their relationship with the highest office during Jacob Zuma’s term. 

They are believed to be living between Dubai and India, while Atul Gupta has audaciously launched a high court application for a new passport booklet. 

The Guptas and Essa were slapped with sanctions by the US Treasury in 2019 under that country’s Global Magnitsky Act, which makes the world an incredibly small place for them these days. 

Court proceedings continued on Thursday afternoon. DM

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All Comments 12

  • This begins and ends with Elias and Mercedesbenzi too. So when they are added to the charge sheet and it is rapidly expanded in all Estina directions,then i,ll start to rejoice and believe. I personally have great faith in Ronald Lamola and a renewable justice department. If only we could shift a few of the Older Dogmatic imbeciles to pasture.

    • John, I so wish that your faith in Lamola is justified. But after the Mkhize revelations, who was also trusted, I am more than concerned. For starters, Lamola promised that Bukiri will be delivered back to South Africa from Malawi to face his corruption trial. Then, there is the issue of the JSC, where Lamola is a member. The JSC is highly compromised, following their failure (to date) to take action against the president of the WC high court Hlophe. Worse, CASAC is now taking the JSC to court in the way interviews were conducted with judges. By definition, he let himself be rolled over by people like Malema and Mpofu, raising concerns whether he has any real strength, let alone credibility. I for starters will at this stage no put a great deal of faith in Lamola, certainly not after the Mkhise fraudulent behaviour, under the nose of Lamola and Ramaphosa

  • Please nail three down that will spill the beans on Essa in exchange for immunity. If Essa never spends time in a prison here, he will after global sanctions only be able to spend whatever he stole in the currency of some obscure country ending in ‘stan’ and only in that country and only until he gets unlucky.

  • Hope the Guptas are top of the Interpol wanted list! Their brazen and showy lifestyle should make them easy targets! The fact that Atul Gupta has applied for a passport demonstrates his arrogance- he should be forced to come and collect it!

  • No bail for Sharma. He is quite likely going to be a target for a hit. Keep him in a safe house and let him sing for new identity and a new life.

  • In the scheme of things it’s a relatively small case (what’s R25m ?) but the NPA must be feeling pretty confident. However, I don’t think this is going to succeed. And that has dire consequences for the bigger cases looming. It’s all too late, and these fraudsters have the resources to duck ‘ dive for years to come.

    • I agree Patrick….unless Essa and the Gupta’s, as well as Gigaba and ANC members part and parcel of the Vrede Farm project (inclusive of those involved in the Waterkloof Gupta landing), become part of this relatively small case, the case will simply drag on, and on, and on

  • Let the games begin – Stailngrad tactics I am sure – but at least – at long last the dice has been rolled .

  • The tragedy is these people will use our stolen money to pay for the best lawyers. Amazing how many of our best ones actually go to bat for these despicable people their only choice should be a public defender like everyone else. You can say I’m busy you know!