15th February, 2018
South Africa’s chief prosecutor on Thursday declared Ajay Gupta, one of the three Gupta brothers accused of corrupt links to ousted president Jacob Zuma, a “fugitive from justice”.
The declaration comes after Ajay failed to hand himself over to the police.
“I’ve been adviced by my prosecuting team that Ajay Gupta is a fugitive from justice,” Shaun Abrahams, head of the National Prosecuting Authority said.
He did not provide further details.
Meanwhile, a regional court in South Africa had granted bail to seven suspects accused of being part of a corruption scandal involving the wealthy Indian Gupta family and linked to Zuma.
The suspects are accused of money laundering and fraud through a company, Estina, owned by the Gupta family.
Estina took over the management of a small-scale dairy farm in South Africa’s Free State province, which over time received payments totalling 220 million rands (18.6 million dollars) from the provincial agriculture department, without tender.
The money had been allocated to support poverty-stricken farmers.
A high court had in January ordered the freezing of all assets linked to the farm.
The suspects include Gupta nephew Varun Gupta, current and former government officials as well as chief executives of two other large Gupta firms.
They were released on bail of between 850 dollars and 17,000 dollars.
The case of the eighth accused, the dairy farm’s director, was postponed to Feb. 19, while the entire case is scheduled to be heard on Aug. 17.
Thursday’s court appearance comes a day after a special crime unit issued 13 arrest warrants in connection with the case.
Police arrested eight suspects when they raided the homes and business premises of the Gupta family, who allegedly “captured the state” together with Zuma, through lucrative business deals and possibly even influencing ministerial appointments.
“Two suspects remained on the run in South Africa,’’ Police Minister Fikile Mbalula said adding that “three (two of Indian nativity and one of Chinese nativity) are believed to be outside of the republic.”
Police later confirmed to local journalists that one of those wanted was Ajay Gupta, one of the brothers particularly close to Zuma.
The Times of India newspaper meanwhile reported that brothers Ajay and Atul Gupta have been spotted in northern India.
The brothers on Tuesday attended a Hindu festival in their native city of Saharanpur, according to the report.
“Ajay and Atul were here on Tuesday but left on the same day.
“I am not aware of their whereabouts now,” the report quoted their cousin Pradip Agarwal as saying.