Gupta family associate Iqbal Sharma says regional court erred by declaring him a flight risk

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Former Transnet board member and Gupta family associate, Iqbal Sharma, says the Bloemfontein Regional Court erred by declaring him a flight risk.

Sharma made this argument in the high court on Friday during his second attempt to apply for bail after the regional magistrate court turned down his bail application last month.

He is amongst 17 accused people and companies that are implicated in defrauding the Free State Agriculture Department in 2011.

Sharma will remain in custody for now. The high court has reserved the judgment in his bail appeal to Wednesday.

His legal representative has argued that there is no evidence that Sharma will flee the country because of his resources. And that he cooperated with the State Capture Commission when he was required to submit a statement in relation to corruption allegations.

“We submit that this is where my learned magistrate, unfortunately, erred both not only in law but in fact and that relates to his financial resources and his means. And the state and Colonel Mtolo who is an investigation officer in the matter her attitude was very simple. She raised the same affidavits against all the other applicants who applied for bail and have been released on bail. The attitude is that the appellant is a flight risk, he got the means and resources he can leave the country, but she raised the same grounds is like a cut and paste job,” says Sharma’s legal representative, Mannie Witz.

The state insists that Sharma presents an overwhelming flight risk and that he has the means and incentive to flee the country if released on bail.

The state has further argued that Sharma failed to disclose R265 million held in his United Arab Emirates’ Issar Global account. Prosecutor Peter Serunye says the regional court in Bloemfontein was right in its decision to turn down his bail.

“But it was expected of him to be honest and truthful with the court and to state his assets into the record and he deliberately misled the court by not stating this. He only mentioned a small amount so that the court cannot get a clear picture of the person applying for bail. If the court were to fall for that trap and release him on bail Mr Sharma had in the overseas bank account that amount of R265 million out of which he can leave anywhere,” he told the court.

Meanwhile, the bail for Sharma’s four co-accused has been extended. They return to court on September 6 for trial date.

Background on the case: