Former Free State head of Agriculture Thabethe granted bail

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Former Free State head of the Department of Agriculture – Peter Thabethe has been granted bail of R10 000 in the Bloemfontein Magistrate’s Court. His case has been postponed to the 5th of July.

Reporter Aphumelele Mdlalane gives an update from the court:

He appeared briefly with Gupta associate businessman, Iqbal Sharma to apply for bail. They were arrested on Wednesday with former rural development head Limakatso Moorosi and former Agriculture CFO Seipati Dhlamini on fraud, corruption and money laundering charges relating to R24.9 million that was paid by the Department of Agriculture to conduct a feasibility study on potential farming projects in the Free State.

Moorosi and Dhlamini’s bail has aslo been extended to 5 July.

They were granted bail of R10 000 each last week. The duo appeared briefly with Thabethe and Sharma.

They are accused of fraud, corruption and money laundering for allegedly colluding to divert funds earmarked for rural development in the Free State. NPA Investigating Directorate spokesperson Sindisiwe Seboka says they intended to oppose bail.

Sharma’s court appearance preview:

Freezing of assets, extradition process for Guptas 

The Bloemfontein High Court granted an order to freeze assets of Iqbal Sharma, his company Nulane Investments and Islandsite Investments.

NPA Investigating Directorate spokesperson Sindisiwe Seboka says “For starters, it’s an unlimited restrain order meaning all the assets owned by Nulane Investments, the company owned by Iqbal Sharma the sole director as well as all the assets owned by Islandsite, one of the few companies in South Africa that still has assets owned by the Guptas. The directors of that particular company are the Gupta brothers Atul Gupta and Rajesh Gupta as well as their wives. Furthermore, that is the company that we are alleging where money was siphoned in and out, money laundered. So we are saying it’s the company that at one point had over R500 million within a short period of time. So we are saying this company and the Bloemfontein High Court has actually said on the balance of probabilities that reasonably this could have been assets of money laundering so they are they have been frozen.”

Seboka says plans are under way to have the Guptas extradited.

“The process is under way, meaning we have started with the application. However, like we have cited it’s not going to be an easy route. However, we are bringing each and every possible avenue in order to try to get the Guptas back into the country. We have started the extradition process. We have started our application with Interpol and various others. But what we are saying is that at the very least we are going to punch above our weight and we are going to attempt to bring them back to our country it’s only fair.”

Iqbal Sharma’s assets, which form part of the curator, include his R12 million house in Sandton, R1,3 million sectional title home in Sandton and movable property valued at R500 000. The Gupta assets that were also frozen include a R21 million house in Constantia near Cape Town and R12 million house in Saxonwold.