Rajesh and Atul Gupta arrested in Dubai – but don’t expect them in SA too soon
Rajesh and Atul Gupta, key figures in South Africa’s State Capture project, have been arrested in Dubai. The news will be widely celebrated following years of unsuccessful attempts to apprehend the 'fugitives of justice' – but there are indications that there could be a long road ahead before the brothers are seen again in South Africa.
When News24 broke the news on Monday night that Rajesh and Atul Gupta had been arrested in Dubai, citing anonymous sources, some feared the report was too good to be true.
Initially, local authorities seemed hesitant to confirm the development, with Department of Justice spokesperson Chrispin Phiri telling News24: “There is no confirmation.”
But an hour later, an official statement from the Department of Justice confirmed the report, albeit with a noticeable absence of additional detail.
— Dubai Policeشرطة دبي (@DubaiPoliceHQ) June 7, 2022
“The Ministry of Justice and Correctional Services confirms that it has received information from law enforcement authorities in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) that fugitives of justice, namely, Rajesh and Atul Gupta have been arrested,” the statement read.
“Discussions between various law enforcement agencies in the UAE and South Africa on the way forward are ongoing. The South African government will continue to cooperate with the UAE.”
Two things are revealing about the statement. The first is its terseness, with those three sentences constituting the totality of the announcement. The second is the apparent lack of the sense of jubilation that might be expected from local law enforcement authorities, given that the attempt to have the Guptas apprehended has dragged on for so long with so little success up to now. It was only in 2022 that South African authorities succeeded in having the Guptas placed on Interpol’s Red Notice list, and even then eyebrows were raised at the fact that the Guptas did not appear on the published list of fugitives on Interpol’s website.
It is not clear why remaining Gupta brother Ajay appears to have escaped arrest at this time.
Daily Maverick understands from senior security sources, however, that full-blown celebration at the thought of the Guptas’ imminent appearance in a South African courtroom is almost certainly premature.
While the news of the arrests should be welcomed as a significant and overdue development, there are no guarantees that the Guptas’ extradition from the UAE to South Africa will now proceed swiftly and smoothly.
As Jessica Bezuidenhout has previously observed in Daily Maverick, the Guptas can be relied on to “litigate their guts out” in Dubai courts to prevent their extradition. Attempts to seek comment from the Guptas’ legal team on Monday night were unsuccessful, but Business Day reported shortly after the news broke that the first move from the brothers will be to seek bail later this week.
Daily Maverick also understands that there is some frustration among the security cluster at the manner in which the news of the arrests was broken, as it was felt it would be preferable for the announcement to come from the UAE or Interpol side.
This is due to the very delicate diplomatic egg dance that is ongoing between South Africa and the UAE over the extradition issue, with a strong awareness that the trigger cannot be pulled until all elements are in place.
Daily Maverick has been informed that South African lawyers are already in the UAE to work on the case. One of the trickiest aspects concerns which charges should be brought against the Guptas, which have to both match the requirements of UAE law and prove rock-solid in the face of the Guptas’ legal onslaught against it.
There has been no official confirmation of the charges against the Guptas at this point, although News24 has reported that they will be charged in connection with the Nulane Investment fraud and money laundering case set down for the Bloemfontein High Court in September.
Bezuidenhout warned in May: “The Guptas can’t be brought home on lesser charges in the hope that the final case against them can be fine-turned once they land at OR Tambo International… This extradition application simply has to be the definitive case against the Guptas, one that says: ‘Here it is. State Capture’s ultimate, seminal case’.”
In terms of building a bulletproof case against the Gupta brothers, the findings of the Commission of Inquiry into State Capture (the Zondo Commission) have thus far offered surprisingly little meat.
Guptas arrested: How we got here
- Ten revelations from the #GuptaLeaks that could inform the charges against the Guptas
- Read the editorial that first announced the #GuptaLeaks
- This chapter from our book, We Have a Game Changer, tells the story of how the #GuptaLeaks came to be
- Watch the first meeting of the team who exposed the #GuptaLeaks
The only member of the Gupta family recommended for potential prosecution by the NPA in the Zondo Commission reports to date has been Rajesh “Tony” Gupta, who has been earmarked twice: firstly, for allegedly offering a bribe to former SAA CEO Vuyisile Kona and, secondly, for allegedly offering a bribe to former deputy finance minister Mcebisi Jonas.
The DA’s Siviwe Garube said on Monday night that the party “look[s] forward to more information regarding the arrests and the process that will be followed after these arrests”.
Garube added: “It is of absolute importance that there is transparency on this matter.”
With news of the Gupta arrests briefly succeeding in pushing President Cyril Ramaphosa’s current “Farmgate” woes out of the media spotlight, questions are inevitably being asked, and conspiracy theories busily being forged, about the timing of what must be a highly welcome distraction for Ramaphosa. DM
* This article was updated with Dubai police confirmation on Tuesday, 7 June 2022 at 11.38am.