One of the eight people arrested by the Hawks during raids at a number of Gupta compounds, including their Saxonwold home and reportedly at one of their offices in Sandton last week, was granted bail in the Bloemfontein Regional Court on Monday.
Estina director Kamal Vasram was granted bail of R100 000, National Prosecuting Authority regional spokesperson Phaladi Shuping said.
Shuping said Vasram was previously denied bail because the “State had a view that he was not playing open cards”.
“He said his salary was R15 000, but the State managed to verify his rent and found that it is R14 700,” Shuping said.
He added that the magistrate had found that it was in the best interests of justice to grant Vasram bail.
Last Thursday, state officials Peter Thabethe, Sylvia Dlamini and Takisi Masiteng were each granted R10 000 bail.
Meanwhile, Gupta-linked suspects Varun Gupta, Ronica Ragavan, Nazeem Howa and Ashu Chawla were each granted R200 000 bail last week.
According to the charge sheet, the accused face 12 counts, including theft, fraud, conspiracy to commit theft and fraud.
Hawks spokesperson Brigadier Hangwani Mulaudzi said the suspects were arrested in connection with investigations into the Free State Vrede dairy farm project.
In a statement issued on Thursday, police ministry spokesperson Vuyo Mhaga said they were working with the National Prosecuting Authority on the state capture investigations.
‘I am currently outside South Africa’
He said 13 warrants of arrest had been issued in Bloemfontein and Johannesburg. He added that police were still looking for two suspects, while three others – including two from India and one of Chinese origin – were believed to be outside South Africa.
A reliable source told News24 that the police were looking for Rajesh (Tony) and his wife Arti Gupta, Atul and his wife Chetani, and their business associate Soo Young Jean.
However, the controversial Gupta brother Atul was in Dubai when he signed the affidavit that forms part of his application to have a preservation order obtained against him, by the NPA’s Asset Forfeiture Unit (AFU), set aside.
In the court papers, dated February 8, Gupta acknowledged that the affidavit was signed and sworn in Dubai. The affidavit was stamped and signed by a commissioner of oaths at the South African Consulate in Dubai.
“I wish to state at the outset, that I am currently outside South Africa,” he said.
In his 18-page affidavit, Gupta said that National Director of Public Prosecutions Shaun Abrahams “not only failed to make out a case for relief sought”, but also misled the court with the evidence which led to the order being granted.
Gupta is challenging the preservation order, valued at R10m and wants to have it set aside.
He denied that he had unduly benefited from the Estina dairy farm project, but added that he had not had an opportunity to read the papers.
“The affidavit is prepared in extreme haste, as I was only able to give factual instructions on February 7,” he said.
‘Scheme designed to defraud and steal’
Gupta also submitted that he did not take issue with the order pertaining to the preservation of immovable property.
He restricted his challenge to the amount of R220m.
In January, the Hawks conducted search and seizure operations at Free State Premier Ace Magashule’s offices and the provincial office of the department of agriculture.
An affidavit has also revealed that Free State’s agricultural department – then under Mineral Resources Minister Mosebenzi Zwane – allegedly paid R220m to the Guptas and some of their associates in what the Asset Forfeiture Unit calls a “scheme designed to defraud and steal monies from the department”.
One hundred black emerging farmers were promised five cows each as part of the empowerment scheme, but they never received them.
Gifted to the Gupta-linked Estina in 2013, under a free 99-year lease by the provincial agriculture department, the farm has been one of the most scandalous transactions between the Guptas and a government entity.
The Gupta Leaks revealed in 2017 how at least R30m paid to the Guptas, via the farm, ended up funding the family’s lavish Sun City wedding in 2013.