Johannesburg – The National Prosecuting Authority’s Asset Forfeiture Unit (AFU) has filed opposing papers in a court application Atul Gupta has lodged to have a preservation order against him set aside.
In an answering affidavit, which was filed in the Free State High Court in Bloemfontein on Wednesday, prosecuting authorities set out precisely why they say that R10m in Gupta’s personal bank account constituted the proceeds of corruption, fraud and money laundering.
Gupta claims that they misled the court with the evidence they presented so that they could secure the preservation order.
However, the AFU says the money was paid from the Estina dairy project, which received it from the Department of Agriculture in the Free State.
Special director of public prosecutions Motlalekhotso Knorx Molelle said in the affidavit, that evidence obtained by financial investigators Samson Schalkwyk and Nkosiphendule Mradla revealed that there was a series of unlawful and criminal activities that led to the money being paid.
Molelle referred to a separate affidavit by Mradla, who said that the Free State agriculture department paid the money to Estina as a result of an unlawful contract.
The money was then “mingled” with other money in the account, which then constituted money laundering.
“A few days later an amount of [R4.5m] was withdrawn and/or transferred from this account to [Oakbay Investments] therefore constitute proceeds of unlawful activities.”
Molelle said Mradla’s affidavit was supported by bank statements which clearly identified Oakbay Investments as a recipient of proceeds of “corruption, fraud, theft and money laundering committed against the Free State Department of Agriculture”.
“The forth applicant [Oakbay Investment] received proceeds of unlawful activities as it has not rendered any services either to the Free State Department of Agriculture and to Estina.”
He said Gupta was one of the recipients and a beneficiary.
“I submit that the applicant has failed to take this honourable court to their confidence by laying the relevant facts, including the necessary supporting evidence in support of their contention,” Molelle said.
We understand that the Hawks are still looking for Gupta, who has been described as a fugitive, along with his two brothers Atul and Rajesh, albeit for different cases.
At the time that Gupta filed the application, he was in Dubai.
His affidavit was signed and sworn in Dubai and it was stamped and signed by a commissioner of oaths at the South African Consulate in Dubai.
“I wish to state, at the outset, that I am currently outside South Africa,” he said.
However, recent reports claim that he and his brother Ajay were seen attending a wedding in India.
Gupta denied that he had unduly benefited from the Estina dairy farm project, but added that he had not had an opportunity to read the papers.
“The affidavit is prepared in extreme haste as I was only able to give factual instructions on February 7,” he said in his papers.
He also submitted that he did not take issue with the part of the order which related to the preservation of immovable property and restricted his challenge to the cash amount.
The NPA seized control of a dairy farm in the Free State, the Guptas’ bank accounts, companies co-owned by Duduzane Zuma, and other entities in the Gupta empire.
In January, the Free State High Court put the Krynaauwslust farm near Vrede in the Free State under curatorship.
The order revealed that the Free State’s agricultural department – under then agriculture MEC Mosebenzi Zwane – had paid R220m to the Guptas, in what the AFU calls a “scheme designed to defraud and steal monies from the department”.
Gupta believes AFU financial investigator Nkosiphendule Mradla and Abrahams have not demonstrated that any portion of the R220m paid to Estina was transferred to his account.