We can prove the Guptas scored from dodgy dairy project: NPA

15 May 2018 - 17:06 By Karyn Maughan
Atul Gupta, the most prominent of the controversial Gupta brothers.
Atul Gupta, the most prominent of the controversial Gupta brothers.

The National Prosecuting Authority says it has more than enough evidence to show that Gupta-linked companies benefited corruptly from the alleged Estina Dairy Project scam – and to justify freezing family assets worth over R250-million.

The state has briefed legal heavyweight Wim Trengove SC to fight the Guptas’ court bid to unfreeze these assets‚ which include 43 residential‚ farm and business properties‚ two aircraft‚ a helicopter‚ a Porsche‚ Lamborghini‚ Range Rovers and other cars and Bank accounts belonging to Oakbay Investments and Sahara Computers.

In papers filed at the Bloemfontein High Court on May 11‚ acting special director of public prosecutions‚ Knorx Molelle‚ says the state can show that Gupta-owned Westdawn Investments was paid nearly R200-million from Estina’s Standard Bank account. Westdawn is the company that reportedly owned a Bombardier Aerospace jet used to transport then Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa to Tokyo nearly three years ago.

Lawyers for Gupta entities and family members have argued the state has no prospect of convicting them on any criminal charges linked Estina and said the latest state bid to freeze assets allegedly linked to that “scam” was baseless and “an abuse of process”.

The Guptas slammed the case for the asset freezing as “entirely deficient based as it on hearsay and incomplete‚ inaccurate and misleading allegations” and “deeply and fundamentally flawed”. They further insisted that‚ if the National Prosecuting Authority had conducted “an objective and unbiased investigation”‚ it would have discovered that the “flow of funds” evidence that it used to freeze the Gupta assets was “entirely innocent” and can be explained.

These “innocent explanations” relate specifically to evidence that Estina’s sole director paid millions to the Gupta-linked Oakbay‚ Annex Distribution and Aerohaven companies.

But Molelle isn’t buying these claims.

In a 64-page affidavit at the Bloemfontein High Court‚ he details how the state claims the R250-million paid by the Free State government into Estina Dairy Project accounts ended up in Gupta-linked accounts.

Mollele points out that Gupta-owned Oakbay and Aerohaven claim they gave “loans” to Estina’s sole director Kamal Vasram “during the same period Estina commenced its fraudulent and corrupt relationship with the Free State Department of Agriculture pertaining to the Vrede Dairy Farm”.

He added: “Estina’s registered address is in the same Sandton office building as that of Oakbay.”

According to Mollele‚ while Estina and Vasram seemingly had “no official connection” to the Gupta-related companies now implicated in the Vrede case‚ they “clearly had a close working relationship” with Acting Oakbay CEO Ronica Ragavan‚ Oakbay and Aerohaven.

“It is a logical and reasonable conclusion that all of the [Gupta entities and associates implicated in the Estina case] form part of the larger Gupta-related empire. They also benefitted from Estina’s unlawful actions‚ either themselves having received illicit funds from Vasram or Estina or at very least….knew‚ by virtue of their directorships and shareholdings in the various Gupta-related entities that Estina’s activities were not above board.”

In an affidavit filed at the Bloemfontein High Court‚ acting Oakbay CEO Ronica Ragavan disputed that Estina director Kamal Vasram paid Oakbay over R11-million as part of the Gupta involvement in the Dairy Project “scam”‚ and insisted this money was paid as “repayments” for loans and advances given to Vasram from 2012 to 2013. She produced bank statements which she said proved that Vasram used these loans to make payments to Estina.

But Mollele points out that Vasram instructed the Bank of Baroda to grant a R5-million loan to Oakbay just a day after the Free State government deposited R34-million into the Estina account. He says Oakbay then transferred that money to coal company Tegeta‚ Shiva Uranium and Islandsite Investments.

Ragavan made similar denials in relation to the R8.9-million paid by Vasram to the Gupta-linked Aerohaven company. Again‚ she said bank statements proved that this money was the repayment of loans or advances.

But Molelle has provided the High Court with a detailed account of how the state says Vasram gave instructions to the Bank of Baroda to give Aerohaven a R19.5-million “loan” – on the same day he gave Oakbay a R5-million “loan” and the day after the R34-million Free State government payment.

“There is no justification for payment to Aerohaven as its core business is not agriculture‚ but general trading in all its aspects‚” he said.