The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) has conceded that it is under pressure to finalise investigations into the more than R220 million Estina dairy corruption. This is after the Bloemfontein Regional Court has agreed to postpone the case to 4 December following a request by the State.
The defense wanted the charges against eight accused, including formerly Gupta-linked businessmen, to be dropped, citing flawed processes. The arrest of the eight accused was described as an assault on State Capture enforcers. But it has not been smooth sailing for investigators to get their ducks in order.
The State asked for the case to be postponed, arguing that it has obtained more than 300 bank statements. The prosecution has also solicited statements from more than 100 witnesses. The evidence is likely to prove that the accused concocted a scheme involving national and international transactions.
The accused include, among others, Varun Gupta‚ Ashua Chawla‚ Kamal Vasram‚ Ronica Ragavan‚ Nazeem Howa, who all worked for Gupta-linked businesses. They were arrested in February following a raid by the Hawks in Bloemfontein and Johannesburg.
“We have been given until the 30th of November to finalise our docket and our indictment and the court made it clear that if by that time we have not provided the defence with the indictment the court will use that opportunity of striking the matter off the roll. That is something we have taken into consideration that is why I’m saying we are going to ensure that by the 30th we have finalized all the outstanding issues pertaining to our investigations,” says Free State NPA spokesperson Phaladi Shuping.
The Estina dairy project in Vrede was allegedly used as a front to loot state coffers.
More than R30 million meant for black emerging farmers was allegedly used to fund the Gupta wedding. Former Public Protector Thuli Madonsela says she is encouraged by the action taken by authorities to investigate State Capture allegations.
“I’m encouraged by the developments and the seriousness which the Deputy Chief Justice is taking his job and in fact this is an opportunity for me to say my team and I played its role. The stage is now set for Justice Zondo and his team to take the process forward.”
Meanwhile, presiding Magistrate Collin Nekosi has warned the prosecution to finalise its investigations to avoid the case being struck off the roll.
The bail conditions of the accused have been relaxed. They will now report once a month at the nearest police station not twice. The accused have also been ordered to report before taking international trips.