NPA to drop Gupta-linked Estina dairy case
However, the NPA has stressed that this does not mean the Estina case is dead
The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) is dropping its “state capture” case against Gupta family members and business associates accused of involvement in the alleged Estina dairy project scam in the Free State.
The NPA sent a letter to lawyers for the Guptas and their associates on Wednesday, informing them that it “has not received information regarding the mutual legal assistance requests made to India and the United Arab Emirates, as a result the investigations are not finalised”.
“The state intends to provisionally withdraw charges against the accused on December 4,” it said.
However the NPA, speaking to Business Day on Wednesday, stressed that that did not mean the Estina case was dead.
“We can reinstate the prosecution once our investigation has been finalised, and all outstanding information [is] obtained,” spokesperson Luvuyo Mfaku said.
The NPA had until Friday to hand over the finalised docket and indictment in the case, in which it alleged that R250m intended for the upliftment of poor black farmers was siphoned to Gupta companies.
But, as it has not finalised that investigation, it will provisionally withdraw charges against former Oakbay CEO Nazeem Howa, nephew of the Gupta brothers Varun Gupta, former Sahara Computers CEO Ashu Chawla, Estina director Kamal Vasram and three Free State provincial government officials Peter Thabethe, Sylvia Dlamini and Takisi Masiteng.
They faced charges of fraud, theft, conspiracy to commit fraud and theft, contravening the Public Finance Management Act, contravening the Companies Act and contravening sections of the Prevention of Organised Crime Act.
Earlier in 2018, the high court in Bloemfontein ruled that it wasn’t satisfied that there was adequate evidence connecting R250m in Gupta assets to the alleged scam.
Judge Phillip Loubser stated that the evidence that the state relied on was “unreliable” and showed “many shortcomings that remain unexplained at this point”.
The NPA did not attempt to appeal against that ruling.
In August, Hawks head Lt-Gen Godfrey Lebeya told parliament’s portfolio committee on police that the unit was investigating cases where more than R40bn had been plundered from state coffers as a result of alleged “state capture”.
Speaking about the Estina investigation, he said the Hawks had obtained 302 bank account reports, as well as the statements of 139 witnesses.
Lebeya added that two search and seizure operations had been conducted and an auditing company was procured to analyse the flow of funds linked to the alleged scam.
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