21/02/2018 12:47 SAST | Updated 21/02/2018 12:54 SAST

Hawks Wanted Element Of Surprise On Guptas

"We did what we were supposed to do. We wanted an element of surprise."

A patrol car belonging to the Hawks, The Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation, is seen outside the compound of the controversial business family Gupta in Johannesburg, South Africa, on February 14, 2018.
WIKUS DE WET via Getty Images
A patrol car belonging to the Hawks, The Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation, is seen outside the compound of the controversial business family Gupta in Johannesburg, South Africa, on February 14, 2018.

The Hawks have been investigating the Estina dairy project in Vrede and its links to the Gupta family since last year, but wanted to maintain an element of surprise while completing their investigation in the background.

But when the Hawks did eventually pounce on the family, their head honchos seemed to be one step ahead.

Now the whereabouts of accused number one, Ajay Gupta, are unknown. Is he still in South Africa, or has he fled to India or Dubai? Atul Gupta seems to be in Dubai. There has been no talk of Rajesh Gupta.

The Hawks will not say how much they know, either.

READ: Hawks Aren't Hunting Duduzane Zuma And Atul Gupta – Just Yet.

Asked if the Hawks or any other institution has approached officials from India or the UAE, the unit's spokesperson, Brigadier Hangwani Mulaudzi, said such information could not be divulged, as it would jeopardise their case.

"That is why we don't want to talk. These are operational matters. We cannot share that information. If we say we are approaching this country and that country, the suspects will know where we are looking. This will jeopardise the case," he said.

Asked why the Hawks did not obtain a court order to keep the Guptas in the country while their investigation was ongoing, Mulaudzi said they wanted to maintain the element of surprise.

READ: Where In The World Is Ajay Gupta?

"You have to have proof first to get such an order. We were investigating all this time. Also, you have to go to the National Prosecuting Authority. This was not an issue, we knew we had done what we were supposed to do. We had to maintain an element of surprise, because of the sensitivity of the case," he said.

What we know:

Last week, the Hawks raided a number of businesses and residential properties linked to the Gupta family and their associates. This included the family's multiple-dwelling estate in Saxonwold.

From the raids, along with a search-and-seizure operation at the office of the premier of the Free State, the Hawks arrested eight suspects allegedly linked to the controversial Estina dairy project in Vrede.

State officials Peter Thabethe, Sylvia Dlamini and Takisi Masiteng were all arrested and granted R10,000 bail each, while Gupta-linked associates – namely Ronica Ragavan, Nazeem Howa, Varun Gupta and Ashu Chawla – were granted R200,000 bail each by a Bloemfontein court.

Estina director Kamal Vasram was also detained. The suspects are expected appear in court again on March 1.

After a number of mixed reports, the Hawks eventually confirmed that an arrest warrant had been served for Ajay. The unit also told HuffPost that they were not currently hunting down former president Jacob Zuma's son, Duduzane, or Ajay's brother, Atul.

Although they said the warrant for Ajay's arrest was not linked to the Estina project, the Hawks would not say exactly what charges he is being sought for.

It is widely believed that Ajay may be wanted on charges of bribery and corruption – this after former deputy finance minister Mcebisi Jonas revealed he had been called to a meeting with the family and offered the position of finance minister. The Guptas allegedly offered Jonas R600-million to take up the position from Nhanhla Nene, and push forward the family's business agenda in South Africa.

The Times Of India reported that Ajay Gupta was in Dehardun when Zuma resigned. Sources reportedly told the publication that Ajay, after attending a wedding in Agra, had gone to Dehradun on February 13. The Gupta family is said to have "a palatial bungalow" in the city, where Ajay is believed to have stayed until February 16.

He is said to have left for an undisclosed location after Zuma resigned. Atul is believed to be in Dubai, while Duduzane Zuma's whereabouts are unknown.