South Africa


Dubai prosecutors confirmed in writing that the Gupta extradition documents were in order

Dubai prosecutors confirmed in writing that the Gupta extradition documents were in order
A general view shows the Dubai court. (Photo: Karim Sahib / AFP)

Then the UAE Court of Appeal changed its mind, setting the State Capture kingpins free.

UAE prosecutors confirmed in writing to South African authorities that the bundle of extradition documents was complete and correct, according to multiple legal and official sources canvassed by Daily Maverick

On 7 April, the UAE’s state news agency, WAM, reported that Justice Minister Abdullah bin Sultan bin Awad Al Nuaimi said the bundle was defective and contained a cancelled arrest warrant. (The complete UAE statement is here.) He said the Gupta case extradition conditions for fraud and corruption charges had not been met because the cancelled warrant had been attached to the legal bundle of documents. 

SA’s National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) head, Shamila Batohi, said a new warrant had been issued; it was confirmed multiple times by the Dubai prosecutors who argued the case on South Africa’s behalf, said legal and political sources. They said the South African team had worked with their UAE counterparts to remove or add other documents as required.  

Read more on Daily Maverick: South Africa set to démarche UAE ambassador on Guptas’ extradition judgment failure

The extradition treaty between the two countries also says that the requesting country (South Africa) will be asked if additional material is needed.  

The second indictment had to be made in the name of ID head Andrea Johnson and a new warrant issued. The first had initially been signed by the DG of the Justice Department Doc Mashabane as the extradition agreement’s “central authority” and the arrest warrant that went with it had to be cancelled.

A specialist lawyer says extradition law is complex, and finding the correct concurrent authorities across borders is always tricky. 

“The South African National Prosecuting Authority did what they thought was best and did everything following the best advice,” he said. 

There was so much riding on the case that a team of NPA, Justice and International Relations department officials travelled to Dubai last year to meet the deadline to submit a first set of extradition documents within 40 days of the Gupta arrests when the law stipulates 60 days. This left time to fix documents. 

The process started when Interpol released a Red Notice against brothers Ajay and Rajesh (Tony) Gupta in February last year and was painstakingly complex. 

Not only was it across jurisdictions (South Africa and the UAE), but across legal systems (the UAE practises Sharia law) and different criminal justice procedures (South Africa has an open justice system; the UAE’s is closed). South Africa’s legal language is English; the UAE’s is Arabic, so everything had to be translated — often on overnight deadlines. 

The UAE also declined to extradite on money laundering charges because the court found it has similar laws and can prosecute in its courts.  

“[But] international law demands that states extradite or prosecute; you can’t not extradite on the basis that you can prosecute but then don’t,” explained the lawyer. (South Africa will démarche the UAE ambassador, as reported here.)  

The horse may have bolted

Justice Minister Ronald Lamola will appeal against the Dubai decision, but the horse may have bolted. The Guptas have flown their Emirates coop (either to Vanuatu, Central African Republic or Cameroon); the Interpol notices are no longer valid, so they can move with some freedom. 

“Extradition is a complex and specialised process. It’s partly legal but political as well. The executive, not the prosecution or judiciary, takes the final decision to extradite or not. There are many moving parts, but the ultimate decision is political. 

“The NPA accepts being held accountable if it makes mistakes and fails to deliver on its mandate. The NPA made everything required under extradition law and the relevant treaty with the UAE. 

“Our teams were actively engaged with their counterparts in the UAE and we delivered everything required on time and in the correct format. We will continue doing what we can from the prosecution side to ensure that the Guptas face justice in SA. We trust that the other departments in the extradition value chain will do the same,” said Anton du Plessis, the deputy national director of public prosecutions at the NPA.   

The NPA’s first State Capture judgment, in the so-called Nulane case, is on 21 April. Cathy Dlodlo reported here that the outcome might be bleak for the NPA. Gupta associate Iqbal Sharma owns Nulane. 

The Gupta networks are in the dock for an allegedly illegal R24.9-million pre-feasibility study for what would later become the notorious Estina dairy farm project, where state funds were first siphoned at scale to the family. 

The State’s case against the Guptas is built, in part, on prosecuting this project’s legality. The UAE decision could collapse the more significant Estina case. DM


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Vincent L says:

    Again, South Africans should stop flying Emirates and not visit the UAE or Saudi Arabia for that matter. No difference between Steve Biko and Kashoggi! Apologies, some ANC politicians still need to visit Dubai and Saudi to fetch their monthly stipend!

    • D'Esprit Dan says:

      Agreed – Ethiopian and Kenya Airways both have connecting flights to Europe and Asia from here (as does Rwandair, as far as I know). Ethiopian in particular is a decent airline in terms of access to Europe, other African countries, the Middle East and Asia. You could also do worse things than stay over for a couple of days in Addis and surrounds – a great experience! Kenya Airways is more limited, but has a few destinations in Europe and Asia, but has reliability issues in terms of time. I personally would avoid Qatar – one of the worst airports in the world at Doha!

  • jcdville stormers says:

    South Africa staggers fom 1 bugger up to the other on daily basis

  • Auke Van Der Meulen Van Der Meulen says:

    As stated the process of extradition is partly legal and partly political.
    The political part is what made this fail. All implicated parties still happily at the trough.

  • Alessandro Beccaro says:

    It’s not in the ANC governments interest to have the Guptas extradited to SA. Can you imagine what they would reveal if they were made to face the law here. I wouldn’t be surprised if at a very high level this was not a decision taken to ensure they never came back to face the music.

  • D'Esprit Dan says:

    The UAE ‘Justice Minister’ appears to be just another sleazy crook in the pockets of criminals, if I’m reading this correctly. If we did submit everything by the book, then the UAE is no better than the Guptas, Putin and his oligarchs or any other sleazy regime around the world, including ours.

  • Martin Bongers says:

    Was the UAE willing to extradite the Gupta’s or did they want to only seem willing?

  • Anthony Sturges says:

    Unfortunately, the political will behind the extradition process was sorely lacking. The Guptas being examined in a South African court, might have revealed one to many skeletons implicating high-level ANC officials! So the question arises, how sincere are the rumblings from the ANC.

  • Robert de Rooy says:

    This case shows us what the UAE thinks of South Africans.

  • Graham Nelson says:

    Boycott Emirates Airlines!

    • Patrick O'Shea says:

      If the ANC is serious about being miffed, they will no doubt embargo the refuelling of Emirates aircraft in SA. I’m not holding my breath.

  • Agf Agf says:

    What did you expect from the two parties involved. On the one hand totally incompetent SA officials who couldn’t organise the proverbial piss up in a brewery and on the other hand a government the less said about the better.

  • Helen Swingler says:

    I have to wonder who was bought in the UAE. It’s a disgrace. I agree with the boycott. The Guptas brought ruin on this country and its poorest. And yet, the arm of the law is long. They will know this. They can never rest.

  • Grimalkin Joyce says:

    Ah – but those Guptas have VERY deep pockets.

  • R S says:

    With so many criminals and criminal organisations operating out of Dubai, is this surprising? The US/UK probably have only gotten their hands on people they’ve been after because they have deep enough pockets to make it happen.

  • Dhasagan Pillay says:

    A government with a backbone (read the courage of their convictions) would immediately begin by drafting a barrage of incredibly painful ordinances that would make every UAE business, government entity or citizen attemting to do anything with a South African link incredibly difficult due to a legal minefield of checks and balances to ensure that the country and it’s citizens will never be able to perform a single slippery slither – like the one that just happened. The UAE or Dubai judiciary should feel mildly ostracized when they notice a recurring theme of distrust towards them in as many of the sections as possible. But instead we’ll bay about international injustice and invite Vladimir Putin over and then show the middle finger to the ICC…

  • Diana Bidwell says:

    I wonder how much of SA’s stolen funds were used to bribe officials in the UAE. Did they or did they not?…. All very suspicious.

  • Anthony Barker says:

    The question no one is asking – What happened to all UAE Gupta assets, ie palatial homes. If we cant get the men, take their assets.

  • Chris 123 says:


  • Berthold Alheit says:

    No political will at both ends to make this work – can you imagine how scared many ANC politicians and cadres are of the Guptas starting to sing like canaries. Money also probably changed hands on the Dubai end.

  • 2 + 2 is not 4! If they confirmed , in writing, that the set of documents was in order, then I smell a rat!
    Someone, somewhere, has lavishly greased palms!

    The Gupta saga continues!

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