A fifth suspect in the Vrede dairy farm feasibility study contract, believed to be the brother-in-law of Gupta family associate Iqbal Sharma, on Tuesday was granted R10,000 bail by the Bloemfontein Magistrate’s Court.
Dinesh Patel, a representative of Nulane Investment, appeared in court following his arrest over a R25 million payment made to the company by the Free State department of agriculture. The state did not oppose his bail application.
He will join 16 other accused and a number of companies implicated in fraud and corruption related to the controversial Vrede dairy project in the Free State.
The other co-accused are Sharma, former Free State department of rural development heads Peter Thabethe and Limakatso Moorosi, and the department’s former chief financial officer Seipati Dhlamini.
They face charges of fraud and money laundering in a multimillion feasibility study contracted to Nulane Investment by the department.
The 2011 study was commissioned to investigate the likelihood of the success of the Mohoma Mobung agriculture project.
“Nulane Investments, however, had no employees on its books and in fact subcontracted Deloitte Ltd to produce the report. Deloitte was paid R1.5 million for the work.
“The only change made to the Deloitte report was to identify Paras dairy as a suitable implementing partner for the development of a milk processing plant in Vrede,” the NPA’s Investigating Directorate said in a statement.
The NPA alleges that the four accused colluded to divert funds meant for rural development in the province to Islandsite Investments 180, a company owned and controlled by the Gupta family.
Sharma was denied bail. Thabethe, Moorosi, and Dlamini were granted R10,000 bail each.
The other accused listed in the charge sheet are not in South Africa.
All the accused are expected to return to the same court on 5 July 2021.
Additional reporting by News24 Wire.