Gupta associate, former officials to appear in court for fraud

Image: SABC News

The accused are facing charges of money laundering and fraud.

An associate of the Gupta family and three former heads of the Free State Department of Agriculture are expected to appear in the Bloemfontein Magistrate’s Court on Thursday on charges including money laundering and fraud.

The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) Investigative Directorate confirmed the arrests of the high-profile businessman along with three former officials on Wednesday.

It is not clear if the arrests are linked to the failed multi-million rand Estina Dairy Farm at Vrede in the Free State.

NPA Spokesperson Sindisiwe Seboka says the four were arrested in the Free State, Mpumalanga and Gauteng.

“There are serious allegations which need to be investigated by the SIU (Special Investigating Unit) and any other appropriate authority and be finalised without delay.”

Estina dairy project was badly handled: Zwane

Former Free State Human Settlement MEC, Mosebenzi Zwane, conceded last month that the Estina Dairy Farm project was badly handled. However, he believes it was the best initiative for agriculture.

Earlier, Zwane disputed claims that beneficiaries of the Vrede Dairy Farm Project were sidelined.

A number of the intended 82 beneficiaries earlier testified that the department made them numerous promises but these were not realised. Instead, the project started in 2012, saw nearly R200 million of department money paid to a Gupta-linked company, Estina.

“From milking, process milk and production of products that is the process these beneficiaries as from us as owners of the business will benefit I do not recall at any moment where beneficiaries were to benefit in the establishment of the project,” said Zwane.

The former minister told the commission that the Estina project would have been one of the best initiatives by the provincial government if it was well executed.

Zwane also rebutted allegations that he promised some of the Estina Beneficiaries a trip to India.

One of the intended beneficiaries Ephraim Dhlamini told the commission that they were promised a trip to India, but instead a choir from Zwane home town ended up going. Zwane also denied he owned the choir.

““This trip was around October in 2012 and if you look at your details at what was happening around that time, it was the time where the department was busy still bringing these beneficiaries together. So, I don’t think there is an issue or any matter of any people being trained to India,” Zwane told the commission.

 Zwane’s testimony in the video below:

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