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The Guptas are gone. No one is to blame, everyone did their best. The end

The Guptas are gone. No one is to blame, everyone did their best. The end
Atul Gupta at the New Age offices in Midrand, South Africa on 20 January 2011. (Photo: Gallo Images / Sunday Times / Kevin Sutherland) | iStock

The UAE rejected South Africa's bid to extradite Atul and Rajesh Gupta as far back as February this year but authorities literally only discovered this at 8pm on Thursday, April 6. This was roughly six weeks after a ruling was handed down in the Emirates – and then, SA officials were only handed a summary of a court judgment in Arabic that required urgent translation overnight before local officials could decipher precisely what had transpired.

 The Gupta brothers are free of South Africa. They may be in Switzerland, in Vanuatu or the Central African Republic if recent unattributed media reports are to be believed. 

The South African government does not know and has now confirmed that its mission to extradite Atul and Rajesh Gupta from the United Arab Emirates has bombed.

The country’s request to extradite the brothers from the UAE was quietly turned down following the conclusion of a hearing in Dubai on  13 February 2023. 

The Department of Justice and the National Prosecuting Authority were clueless about this development until 8pm on Thursday, April 6 2023, when it finally received a diplomatic note from the UAE embassy in South Africa. 

And this was only due to an exhaustive recent series of engagements – triggered partly by fresh media reports of sightings of the Guptas in Switzerland and alleged applications for asylum by them to the Central African Republic and Cameroon.

This shocking development comes roughly 10 months after the Gupta brothers were said to have been arrested on Interpol Red Notices in Dubai.  

And, it raises extremely worrying questions about South Africa’s prospects of ever bringing the Guptas – State Capture’s prime suspects –  to book in SA.

On February 24 2023 Daily Maverick asked the department of justice a series of 15 questions relating to the Gupta arrest in Dubai. 

Read more in Daily Maverick: Ten months and counting – no sign of a Gupta and no word from justice department

Those included questions around the circumstances of their arrest, whether any representative of the SA government had physically seen the Guptas in custody or if SA authorities were provided with mugshots of the brothers as confirmation of their incarceration. 

The DoJ never answered those questions, but officials were clearly frantically searching for answers. 

 As it now turns out, by the time the Department received Daily Maverick’s questions, the court in Dubai had already concluded the extradition hearing and possibly even rejected SA’s extradition request. 

It is unclear whether the brothers were released on February 13, the day of the hearing or how soon thereafter. 

But it would take another six weeks before South Africa would officially receive word about what had transpired behind closed doors (extradition hearings in the UAE are not open to the public). 

Effectively the request was turned down because the Guptas could be prosecuted in the UAE on the money laundering charge for which SA had sought their extradition for.

Currently under international financial sanctions, the Guptas are wanted by South Africa in connection with fraud and money laundering charges flowing from a Free State provincial government contract commonly known as the Estina dairy scandal. 

Read more in Daily Maverick: Vrede Dairy project defence advocates tear into the state’s corruption case

Addressing the media via a virtual press conference on Good Friday, Justice Minister Ronald Lamola, announced the UAE’s decision  with “shock” and “dismay” and said any prospect of an appeal remains in the hands of that country’s justice department. 


There was no immediate clarity on what impact the Guptas’ suspected departure from the UAE may have on an appeal process. 

Furthermore, Interpol Red Notices that led to the arrest of the two brothers are also no longer valid so South Africa would have to seek fresh ones should they want to clip their wings abroad – again. 

Lamola said two reasons were given for the Dubai court’s decision: the first was that the money laundering charge for which SA sought their extradition was also an offence in that country and that they could therefore be prosecuted in the UAE. 

The second related to the validity of an arrest warrant submitted as part of SA’s extradition request.  

Shamila Batohi, the national director of public prosecutions, told the media that South Africa’s paperwork for the extradition application had ticked all the right boxes and that there was nothing more authorities could have done. 

She said the UAE court’s issue with the Gupta arrest warrant was not necessarily valid as SA had merely cancelled one to replace it with another that contained all the relevant charges. 

Asked about SA’s chances now of ever bringing the Guptas to book, Batohi quipped:

 “Well, how long is a piece of string?”

Read more in Daily Maverick from our 2022 archives: The questions South African authorities should be able to answer about the Guptas

She said extradition is a complex process and that people set on making sure they don’t get extradited would fight such efforts with all their might.

Also attending the briefing was justice department director general, Doc Mashabane, who said SA only discovered that the Guptas had acquired citizenship of Vanuatu, a small island in the south Pacific, upon getting the diplomatic communication from the UAE embassy on Thursday evening. South Africa would now have to examine all its options in terms of legal instruments applicable to this country. 

He said SA had no immediate information about the accuracy of media reports relating to the Gupta travels to Switzerland or asylum applications to Cameroon and the CAR. 

“We don’t have information ourselves,” he said.

“It does appear clearly that they proceeded with the court case without informing us through the diplomatic channels, which would have been through our embassy.”

The SA embassy in Abu Dhabi, Mashabane said, had received no information about this hearing. DM





Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Auke Van Der Meulen Van Der Meulen says:

    There is no real commitment to get them back. Behind the scene most likely arranged this dismissal to protect the connected and implicated ones here.

    • Ayanda Nonkwelo says:

      @Auke Van Der Meulen Van Der Meulen – I completely agree with you. They believe we are foolish. If the Guptas had been permitted to testify, the whole ANC Cabinet would have been implicated.

  • Allauddin Thobani Thobani says:

    Adv Shamila Batohi and Adv Andrea Johnson resigned????

  • Steve Stevens says:

    “She said the UAE court’s issue with the Gupta arrest warrant was not necessarily valid as SA had merely cancelled one to replace it with another that contained all the relevant charges.”

    Which begs the question – why didn’t SA include ALL the relevant charges in the initial submission?

    Or at least THINK to consider that a resubmission could upset what is, at the best of times, a precarious legal balancing act and just stay with the original charges some of which could have been made to stick at trial.

  • Jon Quirk says:

    The ANC was never going to allow this to happen; recall they were, in the words of Ramaphosa, Accused number one, and the process of prosecuting the Guptas would have brought down the whole edifice of so many senior ANC.

    • Libby De Villiers says:

      Right you are! A huge sigh of relief from the whole bunch of thugs. Having the best long weekend ever. Now they can start selling us out to that Russian psychopath and trade the country for some vodka on eish.

      • Andrew Gunn says:

        Absolutely, the ANC are literally singing in the streets whilst hopes of a Rainbow coalition to oust them in 2024 are being dimmed by squabbling and politicking amongst the opposition, sad times indeed for South Africa

  • Paddy Ross says:

    Why doesn’t South Africa ban Emirates flights to, and from, and through South Africa? Also, get international justice organisations to pursue the Guptas?

    • virginia crawford says:

      Good idea. Stop property sales to UAE citizens.

    • Alley Cat says:

      What?? So we can fly SAA?? And you think Emirates will give a toss about losing business from our banana republic??

    • David A says:

      You realize that South Africans are also reliant on those flights, right? And that the people they fly in to South Africa spend significant amounts of money here, contributing significantly to the local economy? Your plan would do more damage to us than to the UAE.

  • A Z says:

    South Africans CAN do something about this. Immediately agree on a civilian and corporate boycott of all Emirates and Etihad flights to and from South Africa. Until The Guptas are extradited.

  • Bill Gild says:

    I suspect, but have no evidence or knowledge whatsoever, that the extradition process failed (at least, in part) because the South Africa government realised that a Gupta trial here night have fingered some very high-up ANC/SACP individuals.

  • jcdville stormers says:

    Zumas firepool buddies,were the ANC ever serious about arresting them???Makes you wanna puke!!!

  • Grumpy Old Man says:

    Hardly surprised! Always suspected the UAE Authorities were going through the motions for appearances sake. What I would however suggest (if I could give any advice at all to our Govt) is that they don’t spread the moral outrage on to thick. Our own track record – Omar as-Bashir by way of example – hardly makes us a Poster Child when it comes to upholding International Law , Statutes & those kinds of things. I mean, I wouldn’t be betting on our Govt arresting Putin were he to pay us a visit. That’s the thing; we can’t expect others to respect the Law when we ourselves are flexible in its application

  • Thinker and Doer says:

    This is a terrible setback, it should be further interrogated where the shortcomings that led to this failure of the extradition application arose from- if there were shortcomings in the application and follow up by the National Prosecuting Authority, the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development, these should be highlighted and explanations and further actions demanded to address the failure and ensure that the Guptas do not evade accountability. If there has been poor communication from the authorities in the UAE, then this should be strongly raised at a diplomatic level, and if there should be able to be criminal charges brought by the UAE authorities, they should be pressed to do so. Of course, now the Guptas might now have left the UAE permanently, and seek asylum elsewhere.

    • Kanu Sukha says:

      Didn’t you read the part about them having acquired Vanuatu (is it really a country ?) citizenship ? Probably for the cost of fried chicken (no name brand?) ! And their various applications for asylum in mega profound countries … like in Africa … our ‘neighbours’ ? A pity they didn’t/haven’t tried for the country of Zimbabwe or republic of Nkandla … which are so much closer to the scene of the crimes ! They wouldn’t dare return to the country of ‘origin’ … which may just turn them in, as they did with Hansiegate … if we ignore the fact they are part of the thick as a BRICKS group !

      • John Millar says:

        Citizenship of Vanuatu costs USD130k per person and is issued roughly within one month of application and monies paid; visa-free access to roughly 100 countries around the world

  • Dennis Bailey says:

    Viva, ANC, Viva. The SA justice system is crap, so it gets crapped on by scoundrels like ZUMA and Guptas. And now, apparently, UAE. Viva, Crap-inducing ANC, Viva!

  • Hermann Funk says:

    Either incompetence, stupidity or malicious intent.

  • Grenville Wilson says:

    Everyone tried their hardest? Absolute drivel! Everybody is breathing a sigh of relief! This probably lets 95% of the pigs with their trotters firmly in the trough off the hook. Unfortunately just another symptom of being a Failed State.

  • Johan Buys says:

    They will be looking over their shoulders forever.

    any bank that deals with them (eventual beneficiary rules) will have to decide whether losing correspondent bank privileges for these three clowns is worth it.

    Four bodyguards 24h a day will cost them a million runts a month.

  • Malcolm Kent says:

    So why not get on with prosecuting all the others implicated in the Zonda report who are still here?

  • Grant S says:

    The realisation that the Guptas et al are actually getting away with it, not only makes me sick to my stomach, but has shattered the spec of hope I was clinging to of justice being served….

    SA authorities are shocked? Oh please… you had one job.

  • Steve Rogers says:

    The ANC government had no intention, and has no intention, of bringing any of the heavy weights to book. Finish and klaar. Some of the unlucky foot soldiers will be prosecuted but the authorities will simply play the delay game, perfected by Zuma. That has been the game since the arms scandal. IMO.

  • Ou Soutie says:

    Oh well! Get the money from Zuma. He can afford it! (We can’t.)

  • Ian Gwilt says:

    Who is our ambassador to the UAE ,what was their brief ?
    I have stopped being outraged by anything, Drinks all around in the Rosebank Shebeen.
    Does anyone think Cyril is annoyed, they did not need these revelations in an election year
    Keystone cops, incompetence and collusion

  • Ann Bown says:

    Oh my word! Let’s forget about it and move on.
    “How long is a piece of string” …that’s really pathetic!

  • Jane Crankshaw says:

    It appears that in South Africa, Crime pays!
    What an example this is to all those wanting to take whatever they want from whomever they choose.
    And a total indictment on SA’s standing in the world!
    We really are nothing more than just another sh**hole African country with a compromised Judiciary…. Who would have thought it would happen so quickly, but evolution or the lack of it, has been proven once again.

    • Kanu Sukha says:

      Not sure the comment about the judiciary is fair … insofar as it is the responsibility of the prosecuting authorities to bring a watertight case . Of course there are isolated examples of Moegoe Moegoe and slippery Hlope that are relevant.

  • harrypoortman001 says:

    Doing your best is never enough when good and better have already failed. Its just words to excuse oneself and still feel good about it: “i did my best”. Please. Its not the proces that counts but its outcome. If no results are made than it shows lack of inherent quality or lack of interest/motivation. In a normal business set up the managers would be replaced. In politics non consequential performance has become the norm. Question is: and how from here? End of story? Acceptance? Consequences?

  • Jeremy Stephenson says:

    The Guptas and their pantomime extradition process were never anything more than a distraction, the purpose of which is to make you forget that the real architects and enablers of State Capture are right here in South Africa. About 175 of them were recommended for investigation by the Zondo Commission, and the NPA hasn’t managed to secure a single conviction in respect of this extremely low-hanging fruit. Some of these individuals are still in government.

    Meanwhile the ANC continues to do what has been roundly castigated for doing, which is to close ranks rather than deal with manifest corruption such as that that allegedly occurred at Phala Phala and the ongoing destruction of Eskom.

    Nothing will ever change regarding state capture until South Africa has a genuinely independent anti-corruption agency as ordered by the Constitutional Court in the Glenister litigation as far back as 2011.

    Why this is not a burning election issue right now is a mystery.

    • Kanu Sukha says:

      Agreed ! The ruling party is controlling the ‘narrative’ … more like stringing us along .

    • Oliver Rissik says:

      Remember the “Enrtebbe Raid” ? Hire those who organised the raid to get their hands on the Guptas – bring them back here to a red carpet trip into Pollsmoor!!

    • Allan Wolman Wolman says:

      Too true – there is enough disclosures coming from the Zondo Commission to prosecute those guilty of state capture. Most are still in SA as is the king enabled of the entire debacle enjoying the seaside pleasures of Nkandla. Will anyone named in the commission ever be charged let alone face trail?

  • André Pelser says:

    Why the focus on the Guptas and incompetent SA government? The real culprits are the ANC collaborators, they should be exposed and prosecuted – this is where we should be focusing – also on the international banking sector players that enable the Gupta types to live lavishly with their ill gotten gains. SA will continue its slide into rampant criminality as long as all those fingered by the Zondo commission continue to escape justice. Molefe, Myeni, Hlaudi, Iqbal, the badly constructed new power stations and kickbacks to Luthuli House etc, this is where we should be concentrating our efforts to restore a semblance of justice in our country, where we should be able to have an effect. International legal processes are always difficult, and very expensive.
    Pursuing justice in Arab states is also a Quixotic quest, can anyone point to a success? Kashoggi?
    Slavery trade criticism?
    Petrodollars quashing all charges?

  • Dragon Slayer says:

    Is this about the morality of the Emirati or the utter incompetence of the National Prosecuting Authority or both😒
    Can the Magnitsky Act of 2012 be invoked by appealing to the USA Government?

    • Caroline de Braganza says:

      The US imposed financial sanctions on Atul, Ajay and Rajesh Gupta, as well as Salim Essa in October 2019. The UK also imposed sanctions on the Gupta’s in April 2021 under their new Magnitsky Act.

  • Richard Cornwell says:

    The camel ate my homework? The SA ambassador is an ANC cadre with a history of supporting Jacob Zuma. Coincidence?

  • Kerry van Schalkwyk says:

    Just another screw-up (either deliberately or through gross incompetence) by ANC elite politicians in their quest to ensure no accountability. As for Shamila Batoyi – what an absolutely useless individual who has done nothing to hold any criminals to account. All she has done is make one excuse after another about how each case is far too complex to prosecute, but the public must know that they are working extremely hard, blah blah blah. She’s the next one who should be impeached.

  • Johann Olivier says:

    Let’s see. How to respond to this. One could cry, but I think it brings on HaHaHaHaHaHa… Is there any area – ANY – that the current government is not inept? Wait. Yes, there is. Corruption! Very good at that. Breaking things. Tops. Losing money? Superb. Sashaying with dictators? Among the best. See? I think we’re all being too negative.

  • Roelf Pretorius says:

    I can’t see how this can be the end of the road – unless the government & NPA does not want to go on. As what they have done is illegal in Dubai also, we can just send a team of lawyers there to see that they get prosecuted there. And, once found guilty, then we can still get at least some of the money that they have stolen, but not spent yet, back.

    • Hilary Morris says:

      How refreshing it is to see that there are still those who are optimistic enough to dream on! This is meant most sincerely. Wish I could.

  • Bryan Macpherson says:

    Criminal negligence, gross incompetence, corruption. Do any (or all) of these apply to the ANC cadres running the NPA?

  • Patrick O'Shea says:

    Sadly predictable. Also an indictment of the UAE.

  • Patterson Alan John says:

    Oh, the wailing and gnashing of teeth!
    Folks, this will be the never-ending story in South Africa. Every week there will be outrage over something and on-going demands for Zondo Action. Forget any action being taken. Everything is still captured and will just get worse.
    In 10, 20 and 30 years’ time, these outcries will continue to be written by outraged citizens, if there are any left who might care to commit their fingers to keyboards.
    South Africa is a lost cause.
    In several weeks’ time, there will be outrage that Putin was feted at the BRICS conference and bid farewell from Waterkloof Airforce Base with some cases of top Stellenbosch wine onboard.
    Then there will be outrage that the preferential tariffs on SA goods has been withdrawn by the US.
    Then the EU will do the same sometime later.
    If the ANC miss the majority in 2024, well, time to share the trough with Juju and his boys. Of course, that will require the plundering of additional resources, to avoid too big a reduction in what we are accustomed to now!
    And then, when the lights go out, Misery will have found a good home.
    Folks, there will be every opportunity ahead, to spend countless hours at your keyboards!

  • Jeff Bolus says:

    The UAE was never going to accede to this extradition request. The delay in informing the SA authorities was simply a ruse to allow the Guptas to flee the UAE and find other safe havens. No doubt the Guptas paid for their freedom with a portion of their ill-gotten gains.

  • Lisbeth Scalabrini says:

    South Africans should do what the Israelis did in order to catch the Nazi criminals spread all over the Globe, but I suppose that they had the Governments approval, even if not officially.

  • Graham Nelson says:

    I don’t believe it’s only the UAE to blame for this. I’ll bet money on it that the bungling was intentional. Otherwise Id say let’s all boycott Emirates Airlines.
    If the Gupta go to court they’ll spill the beans and most the the ANC top dogs (good word that) would end up behind bars…. Huge incentive not to bring them back.

  • Jack Rollens says:

    The UAE is the world’s money laundering center. It is no surprise that the Guptas were let go. South Africa the most corrupt government on the African continent. Zuma is walking free, his sister is part of the Tobacco Mafia along with Rutland. Rhamaposa is the leader of the Wildlife trade, breeding and hunting. Corruption is rampant from the state to local governments in South Africa. 47% unemployment, infrastructure falling apart and the highest inequality in the world.

    Where do you think South Africa is headed to??????

  • Anne De Wet says:

    The millions spent on the Zondo Commision on State Capture was a total waste although it exposed those who are guilty but nothing further will happen to them! However, the NPA is probably one of the most ineffectual departments of this ANC government – I have had a case with them for over 15 years and nothing seems to done to bring the fraudster to book! How about Marcus Jooste – swanning around in his Bentley in Hermanus looking as innocent as the guilty ANC cadres! Shame!

  • Beatrix Nelson says:

    Shocked and dismayed when the UAE turned down an extradition request… (!?) when SA officials themselves didn’t arrest and extradite Al Bashir and probably wouldn’t do so with Putin…

  • Notinmyname Fang says:

    Grand incompetence
    Asleep at the wheel?
    Frantic translation from Arabic – like Google translate?
    A few of the possible responses that come to mind

  • Charles Guise-Brown says:

    incompetence or a sham extradition – neither an acceptable answer. The ANC is not actually committed to democracy or law and order – just power and money

  • Carsten Rasch says:

    I would have been as shocked as Cyril if the extradition actually happened. A long and drawn out prosecution would not have been in the ANC’s favour.

  • Brian Cotter says:

    I really have questions on Lamola, who historically came from ANC youth league He is a former Deputy President of the African National Congress Youth League (ANCYL). He served alongside Youth League President Julius Malema prior to Malema’s expulsion from the position in 2012 for bringing the party into disrepute”. Julius Malema, corruption, rabble rousing and racialist. Mbalula is another ANC youth league failure to the outside ANC community. His competence here is somewhat exposing. He is a former Deputy President of the African National Congress Youth League (ANCYL). He served alongside Youth League President Julius Malema prior to Malema’s expulsion from the position in 2012 for bringing the party into disrepute. Noted above, “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.” No answers came until this. I was also disgusted with his silence when Cloete Murray was assassinated. Liquidators are appointed under his Ministry. Is this the new state capture that is being banded about?

    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.”

  • David Crossley says:

    I think the possibility that the Gupta brothers would implicate so many people within the ANC had they returned to face trial was the elephant in the room and the ANC has obviously heaved a collective sigh of relief that the Extradition was turned down. Maybe some enterprising organisation should consider having them found and brought back outside the extradition process?!

  • Stephanie Brown says:

    The UAE just didn’t want to extradite. They were looking for a reason, any reason, to decline. Batohi and her team did their jobs. Give credit where it’s due. Very frustrating. At least the Guptas’ freedom curtailed as they have been sanctioned under US law. Let’s see how this plays out.

  • Epsilon Indi says:

    Same old story. SA screws up, SA trots out the excuses blaming ( pick one ) [ racism, slavery, colonialism, imperialism, Europe, the US, someone else ], SA shirks all responsibility, SA tells everyone how brilliant it is, SA moves on to next screw up. I wonder when the people in SA who play this blame game are going to realise how stupid and primitive they look to the rest of the world.

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