Gupta Brothers Arrested in the UAE

Published: 09 June 2022


South Africa's former President Jacob Zuma (L), Atul Gupta (C) and Eastern Cape Premier Noxolo Kievie (R). (Photo: GovernmentZA, Flickr, License)

By Zdravko Ljubas

Acting on an international warrant issued by South Africa, police in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) arrested two brothers from the wealthy Gupta family which has been accused of state capture.

“The Dubai Police have arrested Atul and Rajesh Gupta, among South Africa’s most wanted suspects, in connection with money laundering and criminal charges,” the police tweeted on Tuesday.

The Gupta brothers are accused of benefiting from their close relationship with South Africa’s former President Jacob Zuma, and wielding undue influence. Both the Guptas as well as Zuma deny the allegations. Zuma is currently on trial.

The brothers are wanted by the South African National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) “in relation to the 25 million South African rand (US$1.64 million) Nulane Investment fraud and money laundering case.”

The procurement fraud case refers to millions having been paid between November 2011 and April 2012 by the Free State Department of Agriculture (FSDoA) to Nulane Investment 204 (PTY) LTD - a business owned and managed by Iqbal Sharma, former member of the Board of Transnet, a state-run business that supports and contributes to the country’s freight logistics network.

The Nulane Investment was exclusively utilized to transfer funds to the Gupta-owned Islandsite Investments 180 (Pty) Ltd, according to NPA. The transfer was disguised through a payment to Nulane “to conduct a feasibility study for the Free State Province’s flagship Mohoma Mobung project, on the basis that Nulane had unique skills to perform the work.”

Besides the Gupta brothers, the charges were pressed against a number of South Africa’s former government and state officials – former Transnet board member, Iqbal Sharma; former Free State head of Department for Rural Development, Peter Thabethe; former head of FSDoA, Limakatso Moorosi; former FSDoA Chief Financial Officer, Seipati Dhlamini; and Nulane Investment employee, Dinesh Patel.

The NPA also charged companies involved in the scheme – Nulane Investment 204 (Pty) Ltd; Wone Management (PTY) LTD; Pragat Investment (Pty) LTD; and Islandsite Investments Pty Ltd.

The South African authorities confirmed the brothers’ arrest, adding that the talks on their extradition to South Africa are underway.

“Discussions between various law enforcement agencies in the UAE and South Africa on the way forward are ongoing. The South African government will continue to cooperate with the UAE,” the South Africa’s Department of Justice and Correctional Services said.

The Gupta family fled to South Africa in 1993 to avoid money laundering allegations in their homeland India. The Gupta brothers then fled to the UAE in 2018, when a South African judicial inquiry began investigating their participation in corruption.