Opinion

QAANITAH HUNTER: Nothing to declare except a stolen country, Atul?

06 August 2017 - 00:00 By QAANITAH HUNTER

One Sunday in July, Emirates flight EK0765 landed at OR Tambo International Airport just before 9pm.
As the aircraft doors opened, Atul Gupta and his wife, Chetali, got up from their first-class seats and walked straight into the care of an escort who carried their hand luggage and ushered them to the front of the passport control queue. Passengers behind them were aghast.
One was irritated. She whipped out her phone, snapped a picture and sent it to this reporter.
It turned out that if you have money - and Atul has more than he can spend - you can buy that service.
The passenger witnessing the VVIP treatment was livid and baffled about why Atul was not arrested on landing in South Africa."Why are they [the Guptas] allowed to come and go as they please? Shouldn't there be some consequences?" she asked.
In a parallel universe, Atul Gupta may by now have been acquainted with the hard benches of Gauteng's courts.
If he wasn't spending his time in a cell awaiting trial, his passport would have been confiscated.
His sprawling compound would be a crime scene and his business accounts frozen.
This is what you do to a man linked to so many instances of corruption, bribery, fraud, extortion, money laundering, tax evasion and violating national security.
His charge sheet would be far longer than that bearing the 783 charges facing his good friend President Jacob Zuma.
In this parallel universe, his friends would be few and far between, and Zuma would not be returning his calls.
The former president would be too busy attempting to cut a deal after a court had heard how he handed over the keys of the country to Atul and his two brothers.
But reality is different.
Despite the mountain of evidence, Atul Gupta is not an accused and not under real investigation - and is emboldened enough to tell the BBC that there is "no authenticity" to the thousands of leaked Gupta documents revealing criminality.
So far, officialdom views a judicial commission of inquiry as the only recourse on Gupta state capture. But such an inquiry is in the hands of a cohort to the alleged crimes.
Zuma has to appoint and create the entity that would determine his and his friends' culpability. For the wide network of Gupta-implicated people in the private and public sectors, a commission buys time. Even with an astute team, five years would be too short for it to reach finality.The political noise around state capture has made the criminality seem like a political scandal. It is more than that. It is an organised white-collar syndicate that stole a state.
As the politicians play politics, the criminal justice system seems to be looking on, confused. The Hawks ought to be investigating about 20 separate criminal cases, laid by political parties and other organisations, of serious white-collar crime.
It has been four years since the first case was opened against Atul Gupta on the Waterkloof landing and he has yet to be taken in for questioning, let alone appear in court. All the Hawks say is that investigations are continuing.
When the NPA is asked why there are not any prosecutions, it obfuscates, points to a commission of inquiry and passes the buck to the Hawks. The commission of inquiry would be in vain if criminal charges and prosecutions were subverted.
If the Hawks and the NPA do nothing , it is unlikely that, once the commission delivers its findings, they would be able to successfully prosecute even half of the people implicated in the crimes. Worse, though, the sovereignty of the South African state may not be able to withstand the continuing decimation and looting of its institutions.
If acting Hawks head Yolisa Matakata threw just half the resources at the Gupta revelations that were thrown at the bogus Pravin Gordhan investigation, Atul Gupta would have a list of questions to answer.
NPA head Shaun Abrahams cannot fold his arms and use the law to absolve Atul Gupta.
Were the NPA and Hawks doing their jobs, criminals would go to jail, not take luxury plane rides to Dubai.

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