Citizen Reporter
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3 minute read
11 May 2022
11:19 am

State capture: NPA to fight for Gupta assets to remain in state custody

Citizen Reporter

Arguments in the High Court in Bloemfontein are expected to be heard from 12 to 13 May 2022.

Picture File: Ajay and Atul Gupta speak to the media from the New Age Newspaper's offices in Johannesburg, South Africa on 4 March 2011. Picture: Gallo Images/City Press/Muntu Vilakazi

The National Prosecuting Authority’s (NPA) Investigating Directorate (ID) is gearing up to fight for the Guptas and their associates’ assets to remain in state custody.

The High Court in Bloemfontein on Thursday is expected to hear arguments in the confirmation of an interim restraint order granted in June 2021 in favour of the ID.

The restraint order covered assets that belong to Atul and Rajesh Gupta and their wives, Chetali and Arti Gupta, as well as assets belonging to the Guptas’ associate Iqbal Sharma.

The order, which was granted in terms of the Prevention of Organised Crimes Act (POCA), also covered assets that belonged to the Gupta-owned company – Islandsite Investments 180 (Pty) Ltd – and Sharma’s company, Nulane Investments 204 (Pty) Ltd.

ALSO READ: How an old Top Billing episode made life harder for Gupta man Iqbal Sharma

Arguments in the confirmation of the restraint order were expected to be heard from 12 to 13 May 2022.

Restrained assets

A restraint order is intended to restrain assets belonging to an accused person to ensure that they are preserved in the event of a criminal conviction.

In June 2021, the NPA’s Assets Forfeiture Unit pounced and seized properties belonging to Sharma in Western Cape and Gauteng.

Among some of the more than R47 million’s worth of Gupta-linked assets seized was a plush Sandton mansion valued at R12 million, which belonged to Sharma and was featured on the now-defunct SABC 3 lifestyle show, Top Billing.

Also included in the list was a BMW, several bank accounts and a number of properties his company Nulane Investments 204 (Pty) Ltd and Islandsite Investments.

Properties owned by Gupta family company Islandsite that form part of the inventory include a house worth R21 million in Constantia, near Cape Town and a R12 million house in Saxonwold.

According to the ID, the interim restraint order applied to assets in South Africa which included all property of Islandsite, Sharma and his wife, Tarina Patel-Sharma, and any property held by Sharma’s companies, including two registered in the United Arab Emirates.

R1.6bn worth of Gupta-linked assets

Earlier this month, the NPA come out victorious in its bid to freeze R1.6 billion worth of assets belonging to Gupta-linked consultancy firm, Regiments Capital.

The NPA had appealed a previous court ruling handed down by Judge Maletsatsi Mahalelo on the matter.

In November 2019, the Johannesburg High Court provisionally froze the assets – allegedly linked to the looting of Transnet.

However, Judge Mahalelo overturned the ruling after finding that then-ID head Hermione Cronje had failed to disclose various material facts during the initial proceedings.

ALSO READ: NPA victorious in court bid to freeze R1.6 billion worth of Gupta-linked assets

But on 3 May 2022 the high court overturned the same ruling.

Judge Raylene Keightley, penning the judgment on behalf of the full bench, ruled that Judge Mahalelo had been wrong to reject Cronje’s evidence.

Guptas’ Optimum Coal Holdings

The NPA’s efforts to hold the Guptas accountable for state capture corruption were also successful in March this year.

The High Court in Pretoria granted a preservation order for the Guptas’ Optimum Coal Holdings, including the Optimum Coal Mine (OCM) and the Optimum Coal Terminal (OCT), in terms of POCA.

Both the OCM and OCT had been in business rescue since 2018.

In its application, the ID had argued that all of the assets were acquired with the proceeds of crimes perpetrated against South African state-owned enterprises, including Transnet and Eskom.

Compiled by Thapelo Lekabe

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