Fraud case involving Gupta associate postponed to September 8

The fraud and corruption case of the Gupta family associate and Transnet board member, Iqbal Sharma and others, has been postponed to September 8.

This after Sharma arrived late in court flagging flight issues with one of his co-accused, Dinesh Patel, who did not arrive at all.

State’s senior counsel advocate Nazeer Cassim argued that the absence of Patel is “reckless” and “contemptuous” to the court. Acting judge president Martha Mbhele also condemned Patel’s absence, suggesting that she may be forced to revoke the accused bail if he fails to appear for court proceedings again.

Mbhele warned: “I will keep you where I can find you.”

Patel’s lawyer advocate Kenny Oldwadge promised Mbhele that he would bring him to her registrar as soon as the flight landed.

Sharma and four other accused, former head of the department of agriculture Peter Thabethe, Limakatso Moorosi, Sylvia Dlamini, and another Gupta family associate Ronica Ragavan appeared at the Bloemfontein High Court on Friday for pre-trial to answer to charges of fraud and money-laundering amounting to about R25-million paid by the Free State’s department of agriculture to Nulane Investment, which is owned by Sharma.

It is alleged that the millions were purportedly paid, between 2011 and 2012, to Nulane to conduct a feasibility study for the Free State’s Mohoma Mobung project in relation to the Estina Dairy Farm scam.

In 2021, the Bloemfontein magistrate’s court turned down Sharma’s bail application, which was opposed by the National Prosecuting Authority’s investigating directorate (ID) due to his ties to foreign countries. The ID told the court at the time that Sharma was a flight risk.

The state seized Sharma’s assets, including his two Sandton houses worth R12-million and R1.3-million, respectively.

The NPA said at the time: “The ID told the court that his South African assets account for 10% of his total assets. He has made more than 100 flights to and from the airports in the UAE [United Arab Emirates] since 2010.

“Sharma is a citizen of the world and has connections to several foreign countries. He additionally speaks three different international languages: French, Urdu, and Hindi.”

The trial against Sharma and his co-accused is set to begin in January 2023 and conclude in March of the same year.

Also read: Gupta “associate” Iqbal Sharma denied bail

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