NEWS
15/02/2018 10:17 SAST | Updated 15/02/2018 15:42 SAST

Hawks Confirm Ajay Gupta Is A 'Fugitive From Justice'

‘We are definitely looking for Mr Ajay Gupta.’

Guptas

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The Estina dairy project case now has Ajay Gupta classified as a "fugitive from justice", according to the Hawks – as they appealed for him to hand himself in.

'We are definitely looking for Mr Ajay Gupta' – Hawks spokesperson

The Hawks confirmed on Thursday that Gupta had initially agreed to hand himself in, but failed to do so, so they are now looking to take him into custody.

The case has been postponed to August 17, 2018, after several of the suspects were granted bail. They were arrested during Hawks raids on various Gupta compounds and appeared in the Bloemfontein Regional Court on Thursday, Hawks spokesperson Brigadier Hangwani Mulaudzi confirmed.

The magistrate was satisfied that the the interests of justice permit their release, with accused 1, 2 and 3 granted R10,000 bail each, while accused 7, 8, 9 and 10 had to pay R200,000 bail each.

The suspects were arrested in connection with investigations into the Vrede dairy farm in Free State. The charges included money laundering, fraud, contravention of the Public Finance Management Act and contravention of the Companies Act.

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EWN reported that the accused included Gupta family members Tony Gupta and Varun Gupta, and others such as Ronica Raghavan, Nazeem Howa, Peter Thabethe, Ashu Chawla, Takisi Masiteng and Sylvia Dlamini. More arrests are imminent.

The police ministry said it was still seeking two suspects in the Estina dairy project case, and it has been reported that it is seeking assistance to ensure Indian and Chinese suspects – currently overseas – will stand trial.

The courtroom was packed with members of the media and public, and police barred some people from the courtroom.

City Press reported that former Free State agriculture head Peter Thabethe was arrested in connection with his involvement in the failed dairy farm project.

Thabethe was the head of the department at the time that Mosebenzi Zwane, now minister of mineral resources, was the agriculture MEC. A senior security cluster official told City Press that Thabethe was arrested on Wednesday morning, after a raid at his home in Bloemfontein earlier.

The publication said it was told by a senior source within the security cluster that the unnamed Gupta brother would be appearing in court alongside Thabethe.

Reuters also reported that police raided the offices of the Guptas' Oakbay holding company in Johannesburg on Wednesday, according to a security guard outside the building.

In January, the Hawks also conducted search and seizure operations at Free State premier Ace Magashule's offices and the provincial office of the department of agriculture, News24 reported.

An affidavit has also revealed that Free State's agricultural department - then under Zwane - allegedly paid R220-million 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 R30-million paid to the Guptas, via the farm, ended up funding the family's lavish Sun City wedding in 2013.

News24