The Guptas say the flow of money evidence used by the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) to secure the freezing of their assets is "entirely innocent" and can easily be explained, TimesLive reported. In an affidavit filed in the Bloemfontein High Court, acting Oakbay CEO Ronica Ragavan says the family believes the "recklessly incompetent" NPA's attempt to prosecute the Guptas on charges relating to the Estina dairy farm project are baseless and "an abuse of process".
In January, the NPA gained an asset freezing order against the Vrede dairy farm, and the bank accounts, assets and companies owned by the Guptas and their associates, News24 reported at the time.
The NPA alleges that the farm, practically given to the Guptas in 2013 with a 99-year-lease, was supposed to be used in a Free State government-led project to empower local black emerging farmers. But the farmers didn't see a cent of the money, which was allegedly used to pay for the Guptas' family wedding in Sun City in 2013.
At the time, the head of the NPA's Asset Forfeiture Unit (AFU), Advocate Knorx Molelle, reportedly stated in court papers, "I submit that the entire project was a mere facade right from the outset that was aimed at providing a veil of legitimacy to what was evidently a scheme designed to defraud and steal monies from the department... the entire project, including the land it was located on, were instrumentalities of the evident theft, fraud and money laundering," Molelle wrote."
But the Guptas say this is not true, and they want their assets returned to them, according to TimesLive. Among the assets that were seized are 43 residential, farm and business properties, luxury vehicles such as a Porche, a Lamborghini and two aircraft.
The NPA's case is "deeply and fundamentally flawed" and "entirely deficient based on hearsay an incomplete, inaccurate and misleading accusations", the Guptas reportedly said.
Ragavan reportedly said the only reason the AFU obtained the asset freezing order in the first place was because the family was not given an opportunity to defend themselves in court. Previously, R10-million belonging to Atul Gupta was returned to him a judge found there was not enough evidence to support the AFU's claim that monies paid to two of the Guptas' companies came from the Estina project.
In April, City Press reported that the NPA asked authorities in Dubai to preserve an amount of R169-million, allegedly stolen by the Guptas and transferred to the United Arab Emirates. According to a senior prosecutor who spoke to City Press, the NPA was confident that Dubai would cooperate.
At the time, the curator of the Gupta's frozen assets, appointed by the NPA, Eugene Nel, reportedly said in court papers: "The total sum of R169-million was transferred from the Estina Standard Bank account to and from the Estina FNB account to Gateway. Despite all enquiries, I could not locate any bank account held by Gateway in South Africa. Indications are that Gateway ... operated and may still operate a bank account in the United Arab Emirates. Therefore, if a preservation order is granted in respect of the funds received by Gateway, I shall as soon as possible thereafter apply for the issue of letters of recognition to have my appointment as curator recognised in the United Arab Emirates."