Brothers Ajay and Atul Gupta arrive as VIP guests at the African National Congress (ANC) conference on December 17, 2012 in Bloemfontein, South Africa. (Photo by Gallo Images / Sunday Times / Kevin Sutherland)
Despite the eventual conclusion of an extradition treaty, the process is likely to be prolonged, according to the Minister of Justice and head of the NPA.
Don’t hold your breath. The Guptas will not be returning from Dubai on the next plane to face justice at home – although the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and South Africa have finally ratified an extradition treaty. If they come back at all, that is.
Justice Minister Ronald Lamola announced on Friday that the extradition treaty would enter into force on July 10. However, he and the National Director of Public Prosecutions, Shamila Batohi, both warned South Africans not to get too excited about finalizing the extradition treaty and a major MLA agreement that has also just been ratified.
Both complained at a press conference on Friday about the UAE’s failure to cooperate with Pretoria over the past three years to bring the Guptas and their associates to justice. Lamola said, however, that he hoped that “the ratification of the two treaties symbolizes a change of course and cooperation, a change of heart and that a new dawn has begun”.
Lamola said that when he and Batohi exchanged instruments of ratification of the two agreements with UAE Ambassador to South Africa Mahash Alhameli on Thursday, Alhameli “pledged to engage with his country and his counterparts to cooperate with all of our requests and respond to all requests that we have sent to the UAE ”.
Batohi also hoped this signaled a new attitude on the part of the UAE. Yet she also expressed skepticism that ratifying treaties would really make a difference. She noted that the UAE government could have cooperated with Pretoria over the past three years without a mutual legal agreement if it really wanted to.
She said the South African government had requested financial evidence from the UAE, such as bank accounts and statements.
“And so as I said to the ambassador yesterday, we will only accept that there is full cooperation when we receive the necessary information that we have been requesting now for over three years without success.”
Batohi therefore said the next step in the process should be for the UAE to hand over this evidence – “I hope … very soon”.
But extradition would be a long and uncertain process, she warned.
Of recent announcements that he would ask Interpol to issue a Red Notice for brothers Gupta Atul and Rajesh, their wives, Chetali and Arti, and their associates, Batohi said this means Interpol will help South Africa find the “suspicious suspects” and then to work with the local authorities where the suspects were to arrest them.
Once they were arrested, there would be legal procedures to determine whether they could be extradited.
“And then, at the end of those legal processes, it becomes a political issue as long as the executive then decides whether to hand the person over to the requesting country or not. And that depends a lot on political will.
“And so, if there was any idea that those we seek to bring to justice in South Africa would be on the next plane to South Africa, know that this is a process that will take certainly some time after the arrests of exceptional suspects wherever they may be in the world, ”Batohi said.
Lamola agreed that “we really can’t put any time limits” on the process. “Sometimes extraditions, by their nature, become protracted legal processes. “Once the legal proceedings are concluded,” the executive will have to make the decision to extradite or not according to its laws. If they are extraditable.
The two Gupta brothers and their wives are among the accused in a court case in under a 24 million rand contract from the Free State government. Longtime partner Iqbal Sharma and three former government officials appeared in Bloemfontein Magistrates’ Court earlier this month. An official indictment issued by the National Prosecuting Authority details charges ranging from violating the PFM law to fraud and / or money laundering.
Assets owned by both Sharma and Guptas have been attached pending the outcome of the criminal case. DM
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This notice was published: 2021-06-11 12:03:55