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By Cheryl Kahla

Content Strategist

Extradition treaty: SA government positive Guptas are in UAE

The treaty could see fugitive Gupta brothers returning as early as next month.

Minister of Justice and Correctional Services Ronald Lamola clarified the extradition treaty and mutual agreement with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on Friday.

UAE treaty: What you need to know

Lack of cooperation from the UAE

Following Lamola’s meeting with the UAE ambassador, he said the treaty will come into effect in July 2021, despite a prior lack of cooperation from the UAE. Speaking to Clement Manyathela on 702, Lamola said: “The treaty signifies an exchange of instruments between the two countries. The moment signifies the change of course and of heart of the UEA and there will henceforth be cooperation”.

Despite not receiving the “highest level of cooperation” from the UAE in the past, Lamola said the signing of the treaties is a step in the right direction.

“We can only take the [UAE] ambassador’s word, but we have been clear to the ambassador that we will only be convinced of their cooperation when we see responses coming to the law enforcement agencies in terms of the information they requested”.

At the time of publishing, the state is still awaiting “financial” evidence from the UAE.

Are the Guptas in the UAE?

Lamola said the state “knows the Guptas are in the UAE”. He said  one of the Gupta brothers applied for a passport and cites the existence of “other information” which points to the Guptas’ current location.
The minister explained the process of extradition, saying it’s hard to confirm a precise timeline. First, SA will send its requests to the UAE. Then, the courts will decide if the extradited should be brought to South Africa.
Lamola adds that the lack of cooperation hadn’t affected diplomatic relations between the two countries, with both SA and the UAE cooperating on other matters.

UAE’s lack of interest shocking

Open Secrets Project director Hennie van Vuuren said new information about money flows revealed at the Zondo commission “puts the UAE, as we’ve always known, at the centre of the global money-laundering enterprise that the Guptas are involved in”.

He said the money was traced back to the UAE and Dubai. Van Vuuren said there should be no need for a special agreement between countries to share financial information when it comes to high-level corruption.

Countries are duty-bound to share that information with one another.

He says Dubai is “built on crime”, adding that it’s a central point where money is collected because “complete secrecy and protection is provided to criminals”, as was the case with the Guptas.

Treaty 10 years in the making

The Extradition and Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Treaties between South Africa and the UAE was initially entered into back in November 2018, after nearly a decade of prolonged negotiations between the two countries.

While the signing of the extraction treaty has now been confirmed, cabinet members will finalise the ratification over the coming weekend. Following that, the Guptas could be forced to return to South Africa as soon as next month.

Minister Lamola said “the ratification by the UAE concludes a 10-year process” and the treaty “will come into force 30 days after the ratification instruments have been exchanged, which is 10 July 2021”.

The treaty covers all forms of crime such as money laundering and corruption, including acts punishable by the death penalty.