Africa

Gupta brothers accused of defrauding South Africa arrested in Dubai

The Guptas are accused of paying bribes in exchange for massive and lucrative state contracts and influence over ministerial appointments during Zuma’s nine-year reign.

Indian businessmen Ajay Gupta and Atul Gupta on March 2, 2011 at an interview with Business Day in Johannesburg, South Africa regarding their professional relationships. PHOTO | GALLO IMAGES | BUSINESS DAY | MARTIN ROHODES via AFP

DUBAI, UAE: Two wealthy Indian-born business brothers who were allegedly at the centre of a massive web of state corruption in South Africa have been arrested in Dubai, Pretoria announced Monday.

The arrests came as a probe was concluded into massive plundering of state institutions during former president Jacob Zuma’s era.

South Africa’s justice ministry “confirms that it has received information from law enforcement authorities in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) that fugitives of justice, namely, Rajesh and Atul Gupta have been arrested,” it said in a statement.

The family members are allegedly at the centre of a corruption scandal that dogged Zuma’s nine-year administration until 2018. 

They were accused of paying bribes in exchange for massive and lucrative state contracts and influence over ministerial appointments.

Their arrests come almost a year after Interpol issued a red notice in July last year.

Red notices are a global alert enabling law enforcement to arrest a person sought for prosecution or to serve a custodial sentence and detain them pending extradition.

“Discussions between various law enforcement agencies in the UAE and South Africa on the way forward are ongoing,” said the ministry.

‘Racketeering’

The Guptas came to South Africa in 1993 to build a sprawling business empire in mining, computer technology and media.

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They had been granted South African citizenship but fled the country shortly after a judicial commission probing corruption started in 2018.

After four years of investigations, Chief Justice Raymond Zondo compiled a report, revealing how the wealthy brothers became enmeshed with the highest levels of government and the ruling African National Congress (ANC).

In a series of reports being published this year, the investigators said procurement contracts at the proprietor of all rail, ports and pipelines amounted to “planned offences of racketeering activity conducted by a racketeering enterprise” linked to the Guptas.

The investigators also concluded that Zuma “would do anything that the Guptas wanted him to do for them”.

The corruption scandals engulfing Zuma led to his downfall. He was forced to resign in 2018.

Zuma was last year jailed for 15 months for refusing to testify before the investigators. He was released on parole, having served just two months of the term.

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In July last year, Interpol said the Gupta brothers were being sought for fraud and money laundering in connection with a 25-million rand ($1.6-million, 1.5-million-euro) contract paid to a Gupta-linked company, Nulane Investment, to conduct an agricultural feasibility study.

Paul Holden, an investigator who runs an NGO alongside a former ANC MP, estimated that the cost of the Guptas’ alleged illicit activities in South Africa could be as much as 50 billion rand ($3.2 billion, three billion euros).

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