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.
Hawks say #AjayGupta had agreed to hand himself over but failed to do so. They are now searching for him, and intend to take him into custody.— Karyn Maughan (@karynmaughan) February 15, 2018
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.
Case postponed to 17 August. https://t.co/XDCGS27ulN— Karyn Maughan (@karynmaughan) February 15, 2018
#GuptaCourt so, the three state official granted bail of R10k each, while four Gupta-linked accused granted bail of R200k each. Matter of Vasram has stood down until his address is confirmed. BB— EWN Reporter (@ewnreporter) February 15, 2018
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.
BREAKING #GuptaCourt magistrate is satisfied that the the interests of justice permit their release - accused 1,2 and 3 - R10k bail each; accused 7,8,9 and 10 - R200k bail. BB— EWN Reporter (@ewnreporter) February 15, 2018
BREAKING: #EstinaDairyProject accused - except for sole Estina director Vasram- granted bail of either R10000 to R200000....depending on their means.— Karyn Maughan (@karynmaughan) February 15, 2018
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.
Acting Oakbay CEO Ronica Ragavan is last #EstinaDairyProject accused to apply for bail. Like other accused, she is "confident that I will be acquitted".— Karyn Maughan (@karynmaughan) February 15, 2018
Varum Gupta tells court he earns "an amount of about R2million a year". #EstinaDairyProject— Karyn Maughan (@karynmaughan) February 15, 2018
Fmr Oakbay Chief Executive Nazeem Howa now applies for bail. He says he suffers from hypertension, diabetes and sleep apnea - and "could suffocate in my sleep at any time".— Karyn Maughan (@karynmaughan) February 15, 2018
He says there's no case against him. #EstinaDairyProject
According to Sunday Times, #GuptaLeaks emails paint Chawla as a key player in the "intricate web of state capture"— Karyn Maughan (@karynmaughan) February 15, 2018
Emails from the Oberoi Hotel to Chawla "confirm that Mosebenzi Zwane's stay at the five-star hotel overlooking the Burj Khalifa was paid for by Sahara".
Thabethe arguing he's not a flight risk. He earns R2million a year as Free State Agricultural HOD. #EstinaDairyProject— Karyn Maughan (@karynmaughan) February 15, 2018
#GuptaCourt the accused are Peter Thabethe, Ashu Chawla, Ronica Ragavan, Nazeem Howa, Varun Gupta, Takisi Masiteng and Sylvia Dlamini. BB— EWN Reporter (@ewnreporter) February 15, 2018
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.
BREAKING: Police Ministry say they are still seeking two suspects in #EstinaDairyProject case.— Karyn Maughan (@karynmaughan) February 15, 2018
But statement follows reports that 1) #AtulGupta is on the run 2) there is an arrest warrant for #DuduzaneZumapic.twitter.com/pbH9kHYy06
The courtroom was packed with members of the media and public, and police barred some people from the courtroom.
#GuptaCourt#Guptas#GuptaRaid— POWER987News (@POWER987News) February 15, 2018
Members of the public trying to force their way into a packed courtroom ahead of the appearence of 7 people linked to the Vrede Dairy Farm Project. pic.twitter.com/DJiYZGwONr
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.
Advocate Mike Hellens SC representing some of the accused in the state capture bail hearing. Hellens assisted the NPA when it was going after Guptas in Kumba Iron Ore/ICT matter. pic.twitter.com/9lwuPGBpRF— Adriaan Basson (@AdriaanBasson) February 15, 2018
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.