NPA seeks to restrain Gupta assets

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The National Prosecuting Authority’s (NPA) Investigating Directorate has sought that the Bloemfontein High Court issue an order restraining Gupta assets.

Arguments in the case are expected to be heard on Thursday and Friday in the High Court in Bloemfontein.

Former Transit board member and Gupta family business associate Iqbal Sharma‘s assets combined are estimated at a value of more than R13 million while the Gupta assets are more than R30 million.

The case relates to R24.9 million paid by the Free State Department of Agriculture for a feasibility study for potential farming projects in the province.

The provisional restraint order was granted in June last year and was extended on three occasions.

“The NPA will fight for the Gupta assets including the family’s strong associate Iqbal Sharma to remain in state custody. The Gupta assets include a house worth R21 million in Constantia, near Cape Town and a R12 million house in Saxonwold, which belong to Atul and Rajesh Gupta and their wives, Chetali and Arti Gupta…”

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Sharma’s assets that form part of the curator’s inventory include his Sandton home valued at over R12 million and is owned through a UAE-registered company, Issar Global. Other assets include movable property valued at R500 000 and an R1.3 million sectional title home in Sandton.

During the last sitting on February 25, 2022 at the Free State High Court in Bloemfontein, the court had relaxed the bail conditions for the former head of the Free State Department of Agriculture, Limakatso Moorosi.

Moorosi had then told the court that she needed to go to Lesotho to attend to her sick mother.

The matter pertains to procurement fraud involving R24.9 million paid between November 2011 and April 2012 by the Free State Department of Agriculture to Nulane Investments 204, a company controlled by businessman and Gupta associate Iqbal Sharma. From there the funds were diverted to Islandsite Investments 180 ltd.

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R24.9 million criminal case

NPA investigating directorate spokesperson Sindisiwe Seboka says, “What we also emphasise is that this particular matter is part and parcel of the R24.9 million criminal case. The restraint emanates from the investigations in which we found that money was allegedly siphoned off in order to benefit the Gupta family illegally. As the NPA, we are committed to ensure that as much as possible is recouped and restrained pending the finalisation of our various cases that were looted from the state office.”

The R24.9 million was paid to Nulane to conduct a feasibility study for the Free State’s flagship project Mohoma Mobung, on the basis that Nulane had unique skills to perform the work.

The accused in the matter are former Transnet Board member Iqbal Sharma, director of Islandsite Ronica Ragavan, former Free State head of department for Rural Development Peter Thabethe and former chief financial officer Seipati Dhlamini face charges of fraud and money laundering.

The former government officials are also charged with contravention of the Public Finance Management Act. The group is charged together with two companies Nulane Investments and Islandsite.

The R25 million Nulane Investment fraud and money laundering case has been set for trial on 23 January 23, 2023 to March 3, 2023.

Gupta-owned company Islandsite Investments added to the R24,9 million fraud and corruption case in the Bloemfontein Regional court: