South Africa’s new extradition treaty with UAE may target the Gupta brothers

South Africa has signed an extradition treaty with the United Arab Emirates to send home those who are faced with corruption charges that have sought refuge in their country; a decision believed to be targeted at the Gupta brothers.

Eight years after negations began in February 2010, both countries signed the mutual legal assistance and extradition treaties. South Africa’s Minister of Justice, Michael Masutha noted the likelihood of the country using the newly-signed agreement to have the controversial Gupta brothers extradited from Dubai to stand trial. However, in May, it was reported that the negotiations were not about an extradition treaty per se, but a deal to make the Gupta brothers available for questioning by South African authorities.

“The minister is not negotiating an extradition treaty. He is negotiating the co-operation of the UAE with respect to making the Guptas available to the law enforcement agencies here in South Africa,” spokesman Mukoni Ratshitanga stated for the justice ministry.

The Gupta family has been at the centre of a series of corruption investigations in South Africa. The Indian-born brothers; Ajay, Atul and Rajesh have been accused of using their friendship with South Africa’s former President, Jacob Zuma to win government contracts, siphon huge sums of state funds and also influence cabinet appointments. Both Zuma and the Gupta brothers have repeatedly denied any wrongdoing.

Meanwhile, German software maker, SAP in March said it discovered evidence indicating several breaches of agreements and misconduct in South Africa’s public sector. More than $8 million was paid to intermediate companies controlled by the Gupta brothers.

The Gupta brothers are wanted on charges of fraud and corruption in relation to the Estina dairy project in Vrede‚ Free State province of South Africa. Ajay is also wanted separately for allegedly offering a bribe to South Africa’s former deputy finance minister Mcebisi Jonas in 2015.

It is believed that the brothers have sought refuge in Dubai, where they own properties and businesses or their home country, India. The police have issued an arrest warrant for Ajay Gupta over the corruption case.

Local newspaper Timeslive reported that Ajay and Rajesh, in a supplementary affidavit, stated that they have no intention of ever returning to South Africa for any reason whatsoever because of fear of arrest. Early in the year, the head of South Africa-based Sygnia Asset Management, Magda Wierzycka and Forensics for Justice (FFJ) announced a one million rand ($70.6) bounty for information that would lead to the arrests of the Guptas and Jacob Zuma’s son, Duduzane Zuma. Defending the offer, Wierzycka said people cannot trust politicians and it is why civil society must get involved. Her company had also fired KPMG for its role as the auditors of the Guptas’ Linkway Trading.