NPA provisionally drops Estina dairy case against Guptas and associates
The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) is provisionally dropping its case against Gupta family members and business associates implicated in the alleged Estina diary project scam in the Free State.
BusinessLIVE reported on Wednesday that the NPA had sent a letter to lawyers acting for the Guptas and their associates saying: “The state intends to provisionally withdraw charges against the accused on December 4.”
The provisional withdrawal was in the pipeline because the NPA had not received information about “mutual legal assistance requests made to India and the United Arab Emirates”. As a result, investigations could not be completed.
But the NPA told Business Day that the prosecution could be reinstated at a later date if the investigation was finalised and all outstanding information had been obtained.
The state had alleged that R250m intended for the upliftment of poor black farmers was siphoned to Gupta companies during the alleged dairy project scam.
Amongst those who had initially faced charges were former Oakbay CEO Nazeem Howa, nephew of the Gupta brothers Varun Gupta, former Sahara Computers CEO Ashu Chawla, Estina director Kamal Vasram and three Free State provincial government officials.
The Sunday Times reported in August that after costing taxpayers R220m — which allegedly went to the Gupta family — the failed Vrede dairy farm was to cost another R65m.
More than 500 cows had vanished from the Free State farm's 980-strong herd.
A turnaround plan aimed to increase the herd to 1,200 and plough millions into new buildings and infrastructure.
The plan was criticised by local residents who were supposed to benefit from the farm, now being run by the Free State Development Corp (FDC) and its subcontractor, E'tsho Holdings.
According to leaked e-mails, Atul Gupta allegedly scored R10m and the family allegedly bought a private jet and luxury cars with money from the project.