May 30, 2023

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Emirates has ruled out extraditing the Gupta brothers

The United Arab Emirates in February rejected a request by the South African government for brothers Atul and Rajesh Gupta (pictured) at the center of a wider government corruption scandal involving former President Jacob Zuma.

South African Justice Minister Ronald Lamola said in a statement on Friday that the government was informed on Thursday evening of the decision of a court in Dubai to extradite two businessmen arrested in the same city in June.

“We learned with surprise and dismay that an extradition hearing took place in a court in Dubai on February 13, 2023 and our extradition request was rejected,” said Mr. Lamola said.

The two Guptas and the third brother Ajay, a powerful trio of Indian-origin businessmen, Mr. They are accused of complicity in looting state coffers during Zuma’s nine-year rule (2009-2018). .

South Africa has been trying to get its hands on the rich and influential family for years. At the end of 2016 an explosive report published what was baptized in the country “state capture”.

The sulphurous trio were accused of infiltrating the top of the state, taking advantage of their long friendship with Jacob Zuma, whom they bribed in 2009-2018. They are said to have systematically looted the country’s exchequer, looted public sector enterprises and extended their influence to influence the selection of ministers.

The three fled South Africa in 2018 after a commission headed by Justice Raymond Sondo was formed to investigate government corruption.

South Africa made the extradition request in July, shortly after the brothers were arrested in Dubai last June.

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The arrests followed the signing of an extradition agreement between Pretoria and the Emirates.

At the heart of the extradition request is a dubious public contract worth 1.5 million euros. A small part of the allegations against the Gupta brothers.

Mr. According to Lamola, a UAE court is deemed to have jurisdiction over the alleged money laundering activities against the two brothers, which were allegedly committed in the country and in South Africa.

The court ruled that the warrant for the minister’s arrest on charges of fraud and corruption had been quashed.

“The reasons why our request was rejected are inexplicable and against the assurance given by the Emirates authorities that our request complies with their requirements,” he said.

The minister accused Emirates of not consulting adequately with the South African government before rejecting the handover, adding that such a “level of non-cooperation” was “largely unprecedented”.

“We always want to turn to our partners (…) to ensure that the decision of the court is appealed quickly,” said Mr. Lamola said.

However, according to press reports published this week, the two brothers were spotted in Switzerland in late March.

Ajay, Atul and Rajesh, now in their 50s, grew up in a middle-class family in Saharanpur in northern India (Uttar Pradesh).

In 1993, a year before Nelson Mandela was elected president, Atul flew to Johannesburg, pushed by his father, then convinced that South Africa was going to be “the new America,” a family spokesman explained. A few years later his brothers would join him.

The brothers managed to build a powerful business conglomerate there within 20 years that made them one of the wealthiest families in the country.

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With AFP