‘I’m no fugitive — I emigrated to Dubai,’ says Gupta Inc’s Salim Essa

‘I’m no fugitive — I emigrated to Dubai,’ says Gupta Inc’s Salim Essa
Controversial Gupta-linked businessman Salim Essa. (Photo: Supplied | Background: Dubai, where Salim Essa now lives, after he left South Africa for that country in August 2017. (Photo: Unsplash)

The controversial businessman says he left SA well before the State Capture Commission started its work and did so in search of a better life for his family — not to evade justice in his homeland.

Salim Essa says he is willing to put up a “reasonable amount” of cash to keep alive his legal challenge of the State Capture report. He says the R5-million demanded by South Africa’s courts is “patently extortionist”.

Essa, a key player in the Gupta brothers’ network, filed a high court application last August to overturn the report as it relates to him. The State Capture Commission, represented by the State Attorney, countered with an interlocutory application for the security of costs amounting to R5-million.

This is partly because the commission deems Essa a fugitive from justice, making the chances of recovering taxpayer funds a concern should he lose the case.

Essa is opposing the application for security for costs and has submitted a 23-page answering affidavit in which he challenges the commission’s contention that he is a fugitive.

He also labels as defective and “patently extortionist” the commission’s R5-million demand for security and says it is aimed at shutting the door on his review bid.

It would be more apt, he says, for the registrar of the high court to determine a reasonable amount, one that he would be willing to abide by.

Besides, says Essa, the State Attorney cannot seriously contend that it and its counsel will charge R5-million to argue the review application. “If that is the contention, it constitutes the grossest form of wasteful expenditure of state money that one can imagine,” says Essa, ironically a man accused of raking in millions of rands from questionable deals involving state-owned companies.

Essa says that, in order to be labelled a fugitive from justice, he must have deliberately placed himself beyond the jurisdiction of the court to evade justice.

‘A false distortion of the facts’

The commission, Essa says, argues that his move to Dubai was tantamount to him refusing to subject himself to legal process in South Africa.

“This is a false distortion of the facts,” he contends.

Essa confirms that he moved to Dubai in August 2017, before the establishment of the commission. This was roughly three months after the #GuptaLeaks emerged into the public domain.

It was five months before former president Jacob Zuma — acting on a 2016 recommendation of former Public Protector Thuli Madonsela — established the State Capture Commission and appointed then Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo as chairperson.

“I did not move to Dubai to avoid subjecting myself to the legal process of South Africa. Rather, I moved there because I felt that there would be better business opportunities for me in Dubai than in South Africa; for a safer and better life for my family and I felt that my children would enjoy better schooling and university in Dubai.”

His move to Dubai, says Essa, had nothing to do with evading justice or avoiding any legal scrutiny. He has never hidden his local address from anyone, he says.

“They are well aware that I live in Dubai, and where to find me.”

He adds it is a “blatant mistruth” that he has wilfully avoided the law by fleeing South Africa.

“No process of law has ever been issued against me. I was never served with a subpoena legally requiring me to give evidence and, accordingly, cannot be accused of contemptuously refusing to give evidence at the commission.”

Neither has he ever been criminally charged, nor had any civil claims been instituted against him in relation to any alleged State Capture, he asserts.

It appears that Essa is relying on the fact that the current criminal and civil cases against him were launched after his departure from South Africa.

He is listed as the 12th defendant in a multibillion-rand civil claim filed by Eskom and the Special Investigating Unit against the Guptas and various former executives or board members of the parastatal in 2020.

In addition, the National Prosecuting Authority declared him an accused person in a criminal case flowing from Transnet’s notorious “1,064” locomotive transaction in late-August 2022.

The criminal case was launched several weeks after Essa filed his application for a review of the State Capture report.

He says it appears that the commission’s argument that he fled the country is based on media reports alleging his involvement in State Capture.

(Media reports or not, Salim Essa was sanctioned by the US Government under the Global Magnitsky Act in 2019 – Ed)

Guptas join a cast of international villains ensnared by US sanction law

In his main application to review or set aside the State Capture report, Essa argues that the commission acted beyond its terms of reference and that it failed to act with an open and enquiring mind.

The final report, he argues, makes findings or recommendations against him based on allegations that were never put to him. Like the Guptas, Essa did not appear before the State Capture Commission, but answered a limited set of written questions.

The final report recommended law enforcement agencies conduct further investigations with a view to prosecuting Essa.

His case is among a handful of reviews of the State Capture report.

Others include those of the minister of mineral resources and energy, Gwede Mantashe, former State Security Agency boss Arthur Fraser and former Eskom acting CEO Matshela Koko. DM168

This story first appeared in our weekly DM168 newspaper which is available countrywide for R29.


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  • John Smythe says:

    If he’s so sure of his innocence, then he should come to SA to answer his critics and accusers. And he may have left before the commission into state capture, but he left after Thuli Madonsela’s State of Capture Report. He saw the writing on the wall and scuttled away like a rat in the night. He’s as guilty as sin and he knows it every time he looks in the mirror. Does he live every day with a clear conscience?

  • Chris 123 says:

    And where else would he have gone, it’s the money laundering paradise where you stashed all our taxpayers money, particularly if you happen to be Muslim.

  • Dan Bowskill says:

    He has no morals or conscience and will live a lie for the rest of his life.

  • Kamohelo Tsele says:


  • Steven Burnett says:

    Pull the next one please! Would be interesting to see what school his kids were at here, probably fancy enough already.

  • Jane Crankshaw says:

    Good luck to bad rubbish! Such a great old expression but still pertinent today!

  • Paddy Ross says:

    Surely it is when a crime was committed that is relevant, not when the crime was exposed.

  • Patrick O'Shea says:

    So this supine government should cancel his passport, as suggested recently by Tim Cohen. Then he has nowhere to go except back to SA.

  • Johan Buys says:

    Why are there still arguments about these criminals? The Transnet commission paid to Essa is not a rumor or an allegation, it is fact. R3b of China rail money has been seized by SARS for the fraudulent tax deduction they claimed. Then the Eskom corruption and I think there are others. The only Justice he will see is that as a sanctioned person he will never have a USD bank account with any bank that has a US banking license. Everybody knows he stole taxpayer money with the Zuptas. His wife knows, his family knows, the pets know – everybody knows. This man and Jooste are in the same boat.

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