Thapelo Lekabe

By Thapelo Lekabe

Senior Digital Journalist

High court dismisses bid for further info in R24.9m Gupta-linked Nulane Investments case

The trial against the accused is set to begin in January next year.

The Bloemfontein High Court has dismissed an application for the State to provide further information about the R24.9 million fraud and money laundering case against the accused in the Nulane Investments matter.

The application was brought by Gupta-owned company Islandsite Investment, represented by its co-director Ronica Ragavan as well as Gupta associate Dinesh Patel.

Nulane Investments fraud case

Judge Martha Mbele ruled on Thursday that the State had provided adequate information to the accused to prepare for trial.

This after Judge Mbele said she had gone through the indictment and evidence provided to the accused by the State, and decided the information was enough for them to prepare for trial.

The trial is scheduled to start from 23 January to 3 March 2023.

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The case is in connection with R24.9 million paid between November 2011 and April 2012, by the Free State Department of Agriculture (FSDoA) to Nulane Investments – a company owned and controlled by alleged Gupta associate Iqbal Sharma – to conduct a feasibility study for the Free State’s flagship Mohoma Mobung project meant for rural development in the province.

The now infamous Estina dairy farm was one of the programmes included in the province’s Mohoma Mobung project.

State’s case

The State alleges that Sharma and his co-accused colluded to divert funds earmarked for the project and placed them at the disposal of the Gupta family, through their company Islandsite Investments.

The accused in the matter include Sharma, Islandsite Investment (represented by Ronica Ragavan), Ragavan in her personal capacity and Patel.

The other accused are former Free State Department of Rural Development (FSDoRD) head Peter Thabethe, the former head of the FSDoA Limakatso Moorosi and the former FSDoA chief financial officer, Seipati Dhlamini.

The group faces charges of fraud and money laundering. The former government officials were also charged with contravention of the Public Finance Management Act.

The spokesperson for the NPA’s Investigating Directorate (ID), Sindisiwe Seboka, welcomed the ruling by the high court.

Seboka said the State had always maintained that it provided the accused with all the relevant information to prepare for the start of the trial next year.

“We’ve been saying from the inception of this matter when we enrolled it that we had always provided full disclosure as early as it was still in the lower courts.

“We’ve been saying when requests are made we do send those disclosures as best as we possibly can. We are actually happy that the court has found in our favour,” she told Newzroom Afrika in Bloemfontein.

Special entry application

After the high court dismissed the application for the State to provide further particulars on the case, Ragavan lodged a special entry application in terms of the Criminal Procedure Act to raise alleged irregularities in connection with the matter.

Judge Mbele reserved judgment in respect of the special entry request.

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