The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) called on South Africans to allow for the extradition process of the Gupta brothers to continue without being distracted.
This after speculation that the NPA was dragging its feet in bringing the infamous brothers back to the country and account for wrongdoing. According to NPA spokesperson Mthunzi Mhaga, extradition processes are not easy and the complexity varies depending on the countries involved.
“We note with concern the widespread misinformation and speculation about how the NPA and its leadership are handling this complex legal process. While we recognise the public interest in this matter, we must focus on delivering on our constitutional mandate and responsibilities without distraction, and without fear or favour,” said Mhaga in a statement on Wednesday.
“The NPA welcomes constructive criticism. However, recent irresponsible reports about the NPA’s apparent poor handling of the process, or failing to respond to [United Arab Emirates] UAE requests, are not accurate, and should be dismissed as dangerous speculation, or politically and personally motivated attacks to undermine the NPA and its leadership during this process.”
According to Mhaga, the NPA is on track with the process. He said a group of “experienced and highly skilled” prosecutors employed by the NPA are leading the legal aspect of the extradition process, adding that prosecutors are working to finalise the extradition request with the help from several [unnamed] counsel.
“The NPA has already submitted the requests for provisional arrest warrants through the appropriate channels, which was a formality that needed to be complied with. In terms of the extradition treaty between South Africa and the UAE, South Africa has 60 days from the date of arrest to submit the formal extradition application.”
Added Mhaga: “The NPA is on track to finalise this process, in close consultation with relevant authorities in the UAE and Interpol as required, acting in full compliance with domestic and international legal obligations relating to extradition.
“The diplomatic and political aspects are being dealt with in parallel by our colleagues in the Department of Justice and Department of International Relations and Cooperation.”
Two of the three Gupta brothers – Rajesh and Atul – were nabbed in the UAE on charges including money-laundering. The Department of Justice and Correctional Services said it was notified by law-enforcement authorities in the UAE that the fugitives had been arrested. It remains unclear why Ajay, one of the trio, is not behind bars.
The Guptas escaped to Dubai after they were implicated in looting billions of rands in South Africa during former president Jacob Zuma’s reign. They were the kingpins of state capture and the Zondo Commission into Allegations of State Capture, headed by Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, found them to have been central in the looting, mainly from state-owned enterprises.
Also citing complexity during his post-cabinet media briefing on June 9, Minister in the Presidency Mondli Gungubele said there is no guarantee that the Gupta brothers would be extradited to South Africa.
Gungubele said the extradition talks between South Africa and Dubai were under way and hinted that the process of extraditing the brothers would not be an easy one, adding that the only hope is that the UAE and Interpol would work with South Africa to have the Guptas brought back to the country.
Meanwhile, the corruption case against former mineral resources deputy director-general Joel Raphela and two other Gupta associates has been postponed.
Raphela, Ronica Ragavan, who is the former Tegeta Exploration and Resources director, and Pushpaveni Govender, the former trustee of Optimum Mine, were nabbed and charged with fraud, forgery, uttering perjury, and money-laundering on May 25. They were later released on R2 000 bail each.
Their charges relate to the laundering of more than R100-million meant for the rehabilitation of the Optimum Coal Mine and Koornfontein Mine in 2016.
“Ragavan and Govender obtained R100-million from the Koorfontein trust account in June 2016 to act as surety for a loan in favour of Tegeta for the purchase of Optimum Coal Mine,” said the NPA at the time.
It added that the Department of Mineral Resources gave consent for the disposal of the 100% controlling interest held by Optimum Coal Holdings in Optimum Mine and Koornfontein Mine to Tetega for mining and prospecting rights
The matter has been postponed to July 13 when it is expected to be referred to the high court.
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