South African prosecution authority withdraws state capture case against the Guptas and associates

South Africa’s National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) has withdrawn its state capture case against Gupta family members and associates who were accused of involvement in the alleged Estina dairy farm scam. However, the government stressed that this not signify an end to the case.

“The NPA has decided to provisionally withdraw all the charges because there is evidence that is not within our jurisdiction. The NPA is of the view that this outstanding evidence is crucial to the successful prosecution in the case,” said Free State NPA spokesperson Phaladi Shuping.

The Bloemfontein Magistrates Court had on 21 August granted the State postponement until 4 December 2018 for further investigations, giving the NPA until 30 November to hand over the finalised case docket and final indictment for the trial, in the case where the NPA alleged that R250 million intended for uplifting poor black farmers in the province was siphoned to Gupta related companies.

The NPA said it had not received information regarding the Mutual Legal Assistance requests made to India and United Arab Emirates, as a result the investigation is not finalised.

“The NPA can reinstate prosecution once the investigation is finalised and the outstanding information is obtained,” said Shuping.

Peter Thabethe, Sylvia Dlamini, Takisi Masiteng, Varun Gupta, Ronica Ragavan, Ashu Chawla, Kamal Vasram and Nazeem Howa were among the accused. They were charged together with three companies, namely, Estina Pty (Ltd), Oakbay Investment and Aerohaven, making their first court appearance in February 2018. They were arrested on February 14, just hours before Jacob Zuma resigned.

They were facing charges of fraud, theft, conspiracy to commit fraud and theft, contravening the Public Finance Management Act and contravening sections of the Prevention of Organised Crime Act.

Magistrate Collin Nekosi had earlier criticised the state for a “lacuna in decision-making” which he said “has resulted in unreasonable delays in the completion of the proceedings‚ which if left unchecked could substantially prejudice the accused”.

NPA’s decision to provisionally withdraw the case comes as it gets a new boss Advocate Shamila Batohi, the first woman to hold the post. Batohi has been a senior legal adviser to the prosecutor at the International Criminal Court since 2009.