SCORPIO NEWS ANALYSIS
Ten months and counting — no sign of a Gupta, no response from justice department
FROM OUR ARCHIVES - As the criminal trial featuring the Gupta enterprise unravels in South Africa, there is a worrying silence about the status of the country’s application to have Atul and Rajesh Gupta extradited from the UAE.
Below are open-source images of the arrest and capture of Italian crime boss Raffaele Imperiale taken during a Swat team raid at his Dubai mansion in July 2021.
The Mafia kingpin had been on Interpol’s Red List until his arrest and the photographs published by The National in the UAE were captioned as having been supplied by Dubai police.
The accompanying article stated: “In a three-minute video shared by police, a team of elite officers raided the Dubai residence where the Italian was hiding on July 30.”
Imperiale was extradited to Rome some seven months later.
To date, no such footage has been released of the arrest of Atul and Rajesh Gupta, who are currently the subject of an extradition request from South Africa.
Some 277 days since their arrest on Interpol Red Notices on 2 June 2022, the precise circumstances around this incredibly high-stakes capture remain a mystery.
Were the Gupta brothers nabbed after a dramatic stakeout, was it a hostile capture?
Or, did they simply get chauffeured from their mansion in the Emirates Hills to a local police station where they announced themselves in the company of their lawyers?
Were they cuffed and processed? Let’s just say there are no mugshots from Dubai.
Just 24 hours after their arrest, Dubai police also arrested British billionaire Sanjay Shah. The Dubai-based hedge fund trader faces extradition to Denmark over a $1.7-million tax fraud scam. Shah’s lawyers, Horizons and Co, could not be drawn on much detail, but they confirmed to Daily Maverick that the first leg of his case was concluded in six months. The firm also said the initial extradition hearing kicked off about two to three months after his arrest on 3 June 2022.
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The actual hearing took place over the course of “about” a month and in September the court rejected the Dubai prosecution’s request for Shah’s extradition.
Following an appeal by the Dubai Attorney-General, the case went before the Court of Appeal with a different panel of judges, and on 29 December the initial decision was overturned.
A media release at the time stated that Shah had 30 days within which to lodge an appeal with the country’s highest court and that the outcome was expected within two months of that.
Although the actual extradition hearings in the UAE tend to be confidential, there is no reason why South Africa does not know such basic information about the Gupta case.
Unless of course the Gupta extradition, one that previously got held up by translation issues, is yet to get out of the starting blocks nine months down the line.
Now, as the State’s maiden State Capture prosecution in Bloemfontein shows signs of trouble, it becomes vital for basic information to be disclosed to the SA public at regular intervals.
Read more in Daily Maverick: “Vrede dairy project – Defence advocates tear into the State’s corruption case”
Valid questions are being asked about the impact that successful applications for section 174 discharges by some of the accused in the Nulane case might have on what is meant to be unfolding in Dubai.
SA authorities have said that this case, with the pending Estina criminal prosecution, informed the application for the extradition of Atul and Rajesh Gupta.
But for now, apart from confirmation of their arrest, submission of an extradition request, mention of an unsuccessful bail bid by the brothers and one request for further particulars from the UAE, South Africans know as little as they did when the Guptas were suspected of doing their fugitive commute between Dubai, India and Uzbekistan.
Questions for the Department of Justice
On 24 February 2023, Daily Maverick asked the SA Department of Justice and the office of Minister Ronald Lamola a set of questions relating to the Guptas.
To date, we have not had acknowledgement of receipt thereof and we have not received a response to the questions. Here we publish them in full.
“The SA government and the UAE confirmed that the Guptas were arrested in Dubai in June 2022. Please could you assist with the following information for an article that is scheduled for publication in the coming days.
- To date, the SA public has no details of the circumstances around that arrest, no details of where Atul and Rajesh Gupta are being held, whether they are in police custody, in a hotel-type detention centre or if they are under house arrest.
- Please state whether the SA Department of Justice asked the UAE for the above information, whether it was provided to you and then, when this happened.
- Given that the above is but mere colour and ought not to impact their formal extradition process, please state what information the DoJ was given with regard to the circumstances around the arrest of the two Gupta brothers.
- Based on reports/accounts provided to you, please state whether Atul and Rajesh Gupta were arrested after a stakeout by Interpol in Dubai or if they simply strolled into a police station in the company of their lawyers?
- Has SA asked to physically see the Guptas, even once, since they were arrested in June 2022? If so, please state whether this request was granted and then, if and when such a site visit took place.
- If not, kindly confirm whether the DoJ was provided with mugshots of Atul and Rajesh Gupta as confirmation of their capture?
- The extradition treaty between SA and the UAE sets out specifics in terms of process. As such, please could you state the date upon which the Gupta brothers’ extradition hearing kicked off in Dubai.
- Please state the number of hearings (specifically for extradition and not bail) that have taken place to date and kindly confirm whether the Gupta brothers have attended any of those.
- Please state whether South Africa has independent representatives present as observers in the extradition hearing and/or whether UAE law/systems do not permit this.
- Please state the number of official reports the DoJ has received about the extradition process — in particular, about the hearing, thus far. And, kindly confirm if this is the DoJ’s only source of information about what is happening in Dubai.
- Please state each of the dates — between 2 June 2022 and 24 February 2023 — upon which the DOJ received official updates from the UAE about progress in respect of the extradition process.
- Please state, for the record, the names of the SA team responsible for the extradition application. Alternatively, kindly confirm if the team assigned (and announced in 2022) remains the same.
- Kindly state if there are any outstanding/additional documents that the UAE has asked for — as at February 2023 — and if so, how has this impacted either the hearing or the start thereof.
- Please could you confirm whether — according to reports submitted to you — this extradition hearing has taken place, if it has been concluded and/or whether there has been a ruling and then, whether there is an appeal pending.
- Can you confirm whether SA would be able to file, afresh, a new extradition request, should the 2022 application be lost on appeal?
In the wake of the section 174 discharge applications, Daily Maverick also asked the NPA how many updates it had received from the DoJ about the Gupta extradition process. We also asked if the NPA could provide a short summary of the status of the hearing and whether it has started and/or been concluded as yet.
The query was forwarded to Lamola’s office and to date no response has been forthcoming. DM
This article was republished on April 3, 2023, and the headline amended from nine months to 10 months. We republish a month later because the Justice department has not yet responded to our list of 15 burning questions. We shall continue to push for answers.
The justice department released a general media statement last week stating the following:
“The Ministry of Justice and Correctional Services awaits an update on the status of its extradition application pertaining to Mr Atul Gupta and Mr Rajesh Gupta from the United Arab Emirates. Minister Ronald Lamola is concerned that following a visit by the Central Authority to the United Arab Emirates to ensure that the application meets the requirements of the UAE authorities, there has not been update on the first court appearance of the fugitives to determine whether there will be a hearing on the application for extradition. To date, the Central Authority has made various enquiries, the latest request is an urgent meeting between the two central authorities and the Minister of Justice and Correctional Services and his counterpart in the United Arab Emirates. The Ministry is pursuing this matter via the diplomatic channels pursuant to the extradition treaty between the two countries.”