South Africa set to démarche UAE ambassador on Guptas’ extradition judgment failure
UAE ambassador Mahash Saeed Alhameli will face a démarche from the South African government in the next few days to answer questions about how the State Capture-accused brothers Atul and Rajesh (Tony) Gupta were set free after a failed extradition attempt by South Africa.
Highly placed sources in the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (Dirco) have revealed to Daily Maverick that a smarting government will call Alhameli to answer questions.
A démarche is a formal diplomatic step to persuade, inform or gather information and usually indicates a problem.
The governing ANC is close to the Middle Eastern states, especially the United Arab Emirates. The failed extradition revealed early on Good Friday has caused a rupture.
Government officials say South Africa had been warned by states including Australia that successfully extraditing the Guptas to face money laundering and other charges would be a long and arduous road. So, they prepared scrupulously. “We covered all the bases,” said a Dirco official.
Teams from the Department of Justice, Dirco and the National Prosecuting Authority went to Dubai on a number of visits since June 2022, when Interpol red notices were issued for the two fugitive Gupta brothers. The UAE claimed that the two had been arrested.
The authorities never provided details of where and when they were taken into custody. Despite numerous information requests, whether they were in custody or under house arrest was unclear. Sources in South Africa and Dubai have said they were under house arrest. The Guptas own a luxury home in Emirates Hills, one of the jewel estates of the Dubai Emirate. See Jessica Bezuidenhout’s reports here and here.
South African ambassador to the UAE Saad Cachalia sent numerous notes verbale (the diplomatic form of communication by governments) for further information from January 2023.
Because the UAE has a closed court system where public access is not allowed except in petty cases, the embassy could not be present but had to rely on communication with court officers, say two sources who spoke to Daily Maverick on condition of anonymity. Meetings were held even as the court set the Gupta brothers free on 13 February on two technicalities which South Africa will now appeal.
Extradition treaties are complex instruments in law as the country (in this case, South Africa) relies on a foreign government’s prosecutors (the UAE) to make the case. Dubai is a haven for dodgy money. It is widely held that the Guptas were arrested in the first place because the glittering capital is facing greylisting by the Financial Action Task Force, which recently downgraded South Africa. See Victoria O’Regan’s report here.
The Guptas are said to have sought sanctuary in the South Pacific tax haven of Vanuatu or to be trying for asylum in the Central African Republic and Cameroon. The government has asked Switzerland whether reports that they had been spotted there are accurate. DM
This is a developing story. We have requested official comment on the démarche from the Department of International Relations and Cooperation.