D-day for Guptas vs the State: Court to rule on freezing of R250m in assets

The Bloemfontein High Court on Monday will make a crucial ruling on the state’s successful freezing of R250-million in Gupta assets – and whether prosecutors had enough evidence to justify it.

The vehicles in the Gupta compound in Saxonwold.
Image: Mzilikazi Wa Afrika

The Bloemfontein High Court on Monday will make a crucial ruling on the state’s successful freezing of R250-million in Gupta assets – and whether prosecutors had enough evidence to justify it.

The Guptas’ attorney has confirmed that Varun Gupta, the only family member charged so far in relation to the alleged scam, is back in the country for the ruling. Varun Gupta successfully applied for the right to travel to Dubai for a traditional ceremony. He returned to South Africa over the weekend.

The state suffered a blow when its first successful attempt to freeze R220-million in assets linked to the alleged Estina Dairy Project scam as the proceeds of crime, or the instrumentality of an offence, was reversed by High Court Judge Fouche Jordaan.

The Asset Forfeiture Unit then applied for the “restraint” of R250-million in Gupta assets, which include 43 residential, farm and business properties, two aircraft, a helicopter, a Porsche, Lamborghini, Range Rovers and other cars and bank accounts belonging to Oakbay Investments and Sahara Computers.

They were granted an order for the restraint of these assets, which will be subject to confiscation if and when the state succeeds in convicting those implicated in the alleged scam. The state will then need to show that certain companies or individuals benefitted from that scam, if proven.

But the Guptas and their associates are adamant that there is little to no evidence that will lead to them being convicted on charges of money-laundering and fraud linked to Estina – which the Guptas have always insisted they were not involved in and did not benefit from.

Gupta lawyer Rudi Krause told TimesLIVE on Sunday that his clients were confident that they would succeed in their challenge to the restraint order.

“On a correct application of the law to the facts of this case, the order should be set aside,” Krause said, adding that the state had restrained property valued at “far more than R250-million”.

The Asset Forfeiture Unit however insists it has more than enough evidence to show that Gupta-linked companies benefitted corruptly from the alleged Estina scam.

In argument, advocate Wim Trengove – representing the National Prosecuting Authority – has questioned why the Guptas have thus far failed to produce any evidence that shows their innocence.

“They merely deny the NDPP’s [National Director of Public Prosecutions] evidence and contend that his case is deficient in various respects.  But they do not offer any evidence of what, they say, the truth is.

“They are of course entitled to remain silent but they must then accept that this court will take their attacks on the NDPP’s evidence with a pinch of salt because there is no competing version on record,” he said.

The Guptas slammed the case for the freezing of their assets as “entirely deficient, based on hearsay and incomplete, inaccurate and misleading allegations” and “deeply and fundamentally flawed”. They further insisted there were “innocent explanations” for why Estina’s sole director paid millions to the Gupta-linked Oakbay, Annex Distribution and Aerohaven companies.

Gupta-owned Oakbay and Aerohaven claimed they gave “loans” to Estina’s sole director Kamal Vasram during the same period that Estina began its allegedly corrupt Estina Dairy Project scheme.

Trengove, however, argues that these transactions show all the hallmarks of money-laundering, and demonstrate that Gupta entities did receive the proceeds of the Estina crimes.

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