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37-day head start: Guptas’ lawyers knew about failed extradition long before SA was informed

37-day head start: Guptas’ lawyers knew about failed extradition long before SA was informed
UAE Justice Minister Abdullah bin Sultan bin Awad Al Nuaimi. (Photo: UAE justice system)

The South African government has investigated the secretive extradition hearings and judgment. A clear picture of Dubai’s duplicity is emerging, say sources with first-hand knowledge of events.

Senior counsel for the Gupta brothers were reportedly at the UAE court when the failed extradition judgment was handed down on 13 February, giving the fugitives a 37-day head start to get away.  

The UAE only told South Africa on 6 April in a hasty Arabic-language “note verbale” (diplomatic communication) after reports in Africa Intelligence news service that the brothers had been spotted in Switzerland.  

The South African government has investigated the secretive extradition hearings and judgment. A clear picture of Dubai’s duplicity is emerging, say sources with first-hand knowledge of events. 

Lawyers who have worked on State Capture cases say keeping the judgment quiet but having the Gupta lawyers in the loop provided time for a great escape before Interpol Red Notices could be retriggered. The police said on Thursday that the Red Notices, which indicate travellers like the Guptas are wanted fugitives in Interpol member nations, are still valid.  

The graphic below shows how often South Africa requested status updates and cooperation from Dubai, which were not forthcoming from the start of the extradition process in June 2022. 

A timeline of the failed Gupta extradition to South Africa.

The forensics suggest the UAE never intended to send the Guptas back. According to National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) officials, detailed work has shown that the judgment contains factual misinformation or disinformation. 

Read more in Daily Maverick: Dubai prosecutors confirmed in writing that the Gupta extradition documents were in order

According to the UAE statement, the extradition for fraud, corruption and money laundering failed on two critical grounds. The first was that it contained a cancelled warrant of arrest. The second was that the requesting country (South Africa) and the requester country (UAE) had concurrent jurisdiction on the money laundering charges. Concurrent jurisdiction can be a limiting factor. 

The NPA can show that it appended both the cancelled warrant of arrest and a new warrant to documents. The UAE acknowledged the legal documents in writing, as Daily Maverick reported here

UAE Judge Abdul Rahman Murad Al Balushi suggested that South Africa amend its indictment to exclude foreign exchange violations, and the NPA included the cancelled arrest warrant to show it was done. This was because of the potential for “double criminality” where extradition is not granted and where a violation of the law also happens in the requester country.  

Port Vila, the capital of Vanuatu where the Guptas have acquired citizenship. (Photo: Flickr)

Port Vila. (Photo: Flickr)

A new arrest warrant was issued in July for fraud, money laundering and corruption. An Arabic translation was appended to the bundle of extradition documents. It was inconceivable that South Africa would request extradition and not include valid arrest warrants in its application documents, say sources. It transpires now that the valid arrest warrant may not even have been placed before the court, say senior NPA officials.

UAE prosecutors argued the extradition case on behalf of the South African government.   

The extradition judgment also found that because the UAE has concurrent jurisdiction on money laundering, it could not return the brothers to South Africa on this charge. 

Usually, when such jurisdictional challenges arise in extradition hearings, parties discuss these formally and informally to arrive at decisions. Dubai is a tax haven and also a money laundering mecca. 

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

At no point during months of meetings did Dubai say it intended to prosecute the Guptas for money laundering, and with Ajay and Atul Gupta now reportedly on the run, this is unlikely to happen. Despite repeated government attempts to get updates on the extradition, Dubai did not inform South Africa of three court appearances. However, NPA officials believe the Gupta brothers’ lawyers were present at these appearances. The UAE has a closed justice system, so courts are not open to the public. 

In a statement on April 7, the UAE said it had informed South Africa about each of the three appearances — a claim denied by the government. South Africa had also repeatedly asked whether the Gupta brothers were in custody, but reports of their travels suggest they were not. DM


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Kevin Immelman says:

    So what goes around, comes around! The South African governments failure to abide by an ICC ruling on the arrest of the fugitive Sudanese ex-President Omar Al-Bashir and total disregard for the international community has yielded fruit.
    Why should the international community (including the UAE) now suddenly want to co-operate in arresting any of our fugitives. It appears a faulty judgement by the UAE courts is the universal way of sticking the middle finger to the perverse politics of our current government.
    When you are seen to be a compliant and co-operative member of the international community you will be treated that way, otherwise we will revert to having the polecat nation status we previously had under those bastard Nationalists.

    • Klaus Wiswedel says:

      how true

    • Dennis Bailey says:

      You make a good point, and it would be nice to read a more measured look at the state of SA international credibility and whether, where and what we are likely to be the creek without a paddle on. Brics? The impression I have is that Russia /china would dump SA on a whim.

      • andrew farrer says:

        state of SA international credibility – about zero. for the most part, the muppets manning our embassies/ consulates are the most un-helpful, lazy, arrogant arsholes the anc could find.

        • Graeme de Villiers says:

          Ha ha ha. . .hold my beer. There are literally thousands more, waiting, hoping for their turn to prove just how much MORE unheloful, lazy, arrogant and arseholed they can be!

    • D'Esprit Dan says:

      You seriously think the UAE is a compliant and co-operative member of the international community? It’s a money-laundering laundry on an industrial scale, taking in any scumbag from anywhere in the world as long as they’re rich and you don’t ask questions as to the source of the wealth. Gold and gem smuggling from East Africa is a key source of finance for terrorism and slaughter in the eastern DR-Congo, Uganda, South Sudan and Somalia. Ditto for the elites from Zimbabwe, Mozambique and South Africa – why do you think it’s the first port of call for anyone facing massive financial investigation and sanction? I’m not defending our useless and corrupt mob (most of whom pass through Dubai on a regular basis – who was it who had a 1 day holiday there, paid for by the Guptas?) but I think you’re building a karmic straw man with your argument.

    • Adrian Wolmarans says:

      The principles of international justice require that every nation have the same status.

  • Beyond Fedup says:

    Thank you Ferial. If this is truly the case and if the anc had any iota of backbone, they should break off diplomatic relations with the UAE, stop flights to and fro and tell them to go to hell. It is a clear case of dishonesty, acting in really bad faith and in fact, deliberate skullduggery on their part. I have no doubt that the Guptas paid a very handsome bribe and so much for the “devout religion adherence” that the government and authorities there project to all and sundry. Dubai is all smoke and mirrors, and is nothing but a money-laundering racket. I also very much doubt that the anc will do anything concrete about what has happened besides a diplomatic demarche. Of course, it was any Western country involved, the shrill, condemnation and shrieks would be at fever pitch with accusations of racism, colonial tendencies, duplicity etc etc. In SA, we are very unfortunately dealing and to our detriment, with a hugely pathetic, hypocritical, spineless, inept and above all, a criminal thieving syndicate.

  • David Crossley says:

    Is it just possible that the UAE authorities were financially motivated by the Guptas to let them off the hook? After all and accepting that so much money is laundered in the UAE, the brothers could quite easily have secured their release financially. It is sad that current issues in South Africa create a high level of cynicism in concerned South Africans concerning most matters involving the ANC.

    • I agree with your comment. Dubai is about money and only money. Unfortunately anything the anc touches is viewed with massive skepticism which due to its history it deserves . It’s a perfect storm.

    • Rama Chandra says:

      I am very familiar with the Dubai authorities. It would not be done with a simple bribe. It is much more likely that they were friends with someone powerful who leaned on the judicial authorities. Any of about 20 people (10 – 50) would be senior enough to do that, I would think. There may have been quid pro quo, but it wouldn’t need to be as direct as a bribe.

  • Stephanie Brown says:

    I think one of the big issues our country faces is the understandable lack of confidence in government. So many people rushed to the conclusion that the NPA was not doing its job or that government never wanted the Guptas extradited. This article demonstrates the opposite -or at least that the NPA is functioning and competent. Given the scale of accountability required, its job is hard and it will never be adequately resourced, but it is functioning and we hope it will deliver some accountability – and for the big fish!

  • Jaunine Conradie says:

    Based on the comment regarding the UAE being a money laundering haven, I did some research.

    The UAE was grey listed in 2020. A KPMG report indicated the following:
    The UAE has committed to implementing the recommendations of the International Cooperation Review Group’s (ICRG) Action Plan to remove itself from the Grey List swiftly. This includes seven key steps: a sustained increase in effective investigations and prosecutions of various money laundering cases consistent with UAE’s risk profile.

    Links are not allowed in comments, but the KPMG report can easily be found with search criteria “why is the. UAE in grey list”

    It looks like an exception was made for the Guptas.

  • Graham Nelson says:

    That last paragraph “the UAE said it had informed South Africa about each of the three appearances “ needs to be investigated and if they did not inform us we need to boycott Emirates Airlines.

    • Gazeley Walker says:

      Are the Guptas not represented by a South African legal team, and if so, how were they advised of the process? Clearly, if the legal team is of SA origin it once again confirms the view, held by many South Africans, that many SA lawyers, not all, are more interested in the money they can earn rather than a fair legal outcome on the cases they handle, even to the detriment of all South Africans.

  • Sydney Kaye says:

    I think most people didn’t believe for a second that the Guptas were actually behind bars. The UAR like every body else had no respect for our inept governnent and knows it is diplomatically isolated because of its Russia policy.

    • D'Esprit Dan says:

      I’m sure the Argentine rugby authorities have views on our government, but I don’t see how they’re involved with this story!

  • D'Esprit Dan says:

    Dubai is a tax haven and also a money laundering mecca.


  • Notinmyname Fang says:

    New red notices now!

  • James Francis says:

    Anyone who has lived in Dubai can tell you it’s a gangster’s paradise. Money and connections go a long way there, and will get you out of trouble. Just don’t break the law if you can’t afford the right legal resources.

  • Dhasagan Pillay says:

    Oh what a slippery slope we fall down when we demand international justice for us, and then fork our tongue and deny that we are accountable to deliver it in a commensurate exchange… you know like when you ratify that you will abide by a statute.

  • André Pelser says:

    The role of the SA embassy is pertinent, it was their responsibility to monitor events and report back to the SA government – clearly they are incompetent, or were they party to the failed process?
    The exculpatory obfuscation of the SA government is not convincing, ANC inner circle beneficiaries of Gupta largesse at SA taxpayers expense will obstruct any attempt to prosecute the Guptas in SA at all costs, aided and abetted by a lame duck president.

  • louis viljee says:

    Of course, had our government not allowed them to abscond in the first instance, none of this would have happened… Where does the rot start?

  • Helen Harper says:

    I agree with Grham Nelson and would fully support a Emirates Airline boycott. If enough travellers join in it would send a message to UAE that they need to reconsider their foreign affairs policy if they want to be part of a decent law abiding world.
    I also agree with Kevin Immelman – unfortunately, once again, our foriegn policy is totally part of why we are fast becoming a failed nation. The latest Russian cordial relations are also going to come back and bite the average, law abiding, decent South African citizen.

  • Kanu Sukha says:

    All along we thought Switzerland is where people with ‘cash’ to hide is thee place ! Now it seems they could even be giving the Guptas a haven . Anyone who thinks that any of those oil rich middle eastern thugocracies, or the Russian and Chinese et al systems (which the ruling party here aspires to) are going to co-operate with any semblance of ‘justice’ being served … are wholly misguided. Their entire judicial ‘system’ (for the lack of a better word) is organised quite deliberately to (and Israel is quickly heading that way) support and endorse every thing the ‘rulers’ want them to do. Separation of power is for the birds. A relatively ‘independent’ judiciary is anathema to them . In which democracy do we find ‘hearings’ being conducted behind ‘closed doors’ ?

  • Vas K says:

    So the sand jockeys are as corrupt as their ANC counterpart. No surprises there. But what really surprises me, even shocks me, is the lethargy of the South African public. In this country of daily frantic protests, seemingly nobody bothered to go to UAE embassy to tell them what we think of them. This is the ultimate insult to our country and by now I would expect hundreds of thousands vocal protesters there.

  • Patricia Sidley says:

    Who are their lawyers? The story does not say.

  • Carsten Rasch says:

    A truly despicable bunch. Even more despicable than our own bunch, which says something. If ever there was a nest of vipers, the UAE (aka the cloaca of the world of finance) is it. A pox on you if you fly Emirates. I stopped a loooong time ago.

  • Jane Crankshaw says:

    Put Exchange Control violations back onto the charge sheet and get them on that! Money laundering is the one sin that the economic world agrees on….and Dubai is the capital of Money Laundering so no wonder they wanted it off the charge sheet! Get the Guptas on the small stuff with the worlds approval.

  • Dietmar Horn says:

    The UAE has always been a state owned by Arab family clans.
    All government action is only for the benefit of these clans. Legal and diplomatic institutions only outwardly reflect western-democratic standards, owing to the image of a modern business location. The ANC is a post-communist criminal organization to maintain power for an elite who, following the example of Putin’s oligarchs, have enriched
    themselves at the expense of their own people. The Guptas are an Indian family clan with the help of which the ANC has attempted to take over the South African state along the lines of authoritarian, pre-democratic
    systems of rule. They all share a hatred of western-democratic standards because they limit the power of the ruling ideology in time, so they are all in the same boat. It is therefore completely irrelevant where exactly the cause of the failed delivery lies.

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