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The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has ratified the extradition treaty with SA in a move that may see the Guptas returned to SA to answer for their alleged roles in state capture.
The Gupta brothers — Atul, Ajay and Rajesh — are accused of allegedly using connections with former president Jacob Zuma to win contracts, misappropriating state assets, inappropriately influencing cabinet appointments and stealing billions in state funds.
The Guptas fled SA in 2018 after criminal investigations against them for alleged corruption were increasing.
This week, the UAE ambassador to SA Mahash Saeed Salem Alhameli released a statement saying the agreement between SA and the UAE regarding mutual legal assistance in criminal matters and extradition was signed in 2018 and ratified in April this year.
“These agreements have been and remain key to the UAE in promoting judicial and legal co-operation with SA and strengthening bilateral relations between law enforcement institutions and partners on both sides,” he said.
The statement was issued after the National Prosecuting Authority’s (NPA) special arm, the Independent Directorate (ID), was granted an order to freeze the assets of the Guptas and associates.
The state issued arrest warrants for Atul and Rajesh Gupta and their wives, Chetali and Arti, and a number of business associates, including Iqbal Sharma and his company Nulane Investments 204 (Pty) Ltd.
This is in connection with R24.9m spent on a feasibility study to determine the viability of the failed farming project in Vrede, Free State.
Last week, the NPA asked Interpol to put the Gupta brothers on their “red list”, an international notice issued for fugitives.
According to justice minister Ronald Lamola, the extradition treaty with the UAE would come into effect on July 10.
“We welcome the finalisation and ratification of the treaties on extradition and mutual legal assistance between SA and the UAE,” Lamola said.
“These treaties are expected to allow for greater co-operation between the two states on legal matters and assist in the investigation and prosecution of crimes.”
On Thursday, the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa) joined the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation and other organisations outside the UAE embassy in Pretoria, calling for the extradition of the Guptas.
“Outa is happy the extradition treaty between SA and UAE has been ratified, albeit three years after it was signed. We hope this will finally result in the Guptas being held accountable for their role in state capture,” said the organisation.