Gupta brothers arrested in UAE: Why is South Africa looking for them?

Members of the Gupta family, Rajesh and Atul Gupta, have been arrested in the United Arab Emirates by law enforcement officials. South Africa’s Justice Ministry announced in a statement on June 6 that discussions on the way forward are ongoing.

The Gupta brothers were charged by South African authorities in 2018 in connection with a shady tender to conduct a study on a dairy project in the central Free State province, for which a business controlled by them was paid 21 million rand (105 million Indian rupees ).

A three-year judicial investigation into state graft revealed close ties between the brothers and former President Jacob Zuma, with numerous witnesses alleging that they worked together to syphon money from state-owned transportation, power and arms companies, as well as deciding who would be appointed to the cabinet. During Zuma’s nine-year administration, the government claims that at least 500 billion rand (2.5 trillion Indian rupees) was stolen. The claims have always been refuted by the Gupta brothers and Zuma.

The arrests came a year after the UAE and South Africa had signed an extradition arrangement. In 2018, President Cyril Ramaphosa’s administration petitioned the Emirati authorities to extradite members of the Gupta family, and the US slapped sanctions on them the following year, including travel bans and asset freezes. Last year, the United Kingdom followed suit, and Interpol added the two brothers to its most-wanted list in February.

Indebted national power utility Eskom Holdings SOC Ltd. and rail and ports firm Transnet SOC Ltd. have been harmed by corruption scandals involving the Guptas and persons associated with them. After working on contracts with Gupta-linked enterprises, McKinsey & Co. pay both entities. The firm, which is based in the United States, has denied any misconduct on purpose.

In December 2015, the Guptas were accused of playing a part in Zuma sacking then-Finance Minister Nhrinhla Nene, and replacing him with little-known lawmaker Des Van Rooyen, a move that caused the rand to crash. Van Rooyen was removed four days later and replaced by Pravin Gordhan, who had formerly served in the post, after an outcry from business, the public and members of the ruling African National Congress.

Ramaphosa won’t comment on the arrests, his spokesman Vincent Magwenya said by text message.

“We’ve always said that fighting corruption in SA requires resilience, that if the rule of law is allowed to take its course, those implicated will eventually get their day in court,” said Stefanie Fick, executive head of accountability for the non- profit Organization Undoing tax Abuse “It seems like that day is around the corner for the Gupta kingpins.”

(With agency inputs)

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