If all goes according to plan, not even their mansion in Dubai’s exclusive Emirates Hills neighbourhood will be a safe haven for the notorious Gupta family any longer. According to the South African department of justice, they have been in negotiation for several months to have the Gupta brothers repatriated to South Africa, to have them “answer some questions” regarding illegal activities they are implicated in.
Justice Minister Michael Masutha yesterday confirmed he was in talks with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) ambassador to South Africa, working to fast-track bilateral agreements on extradition and mutual legal assistance.
Briefing members of the media before delivering the budget vote for the office of the chief justice, the minister was quizzed on what steps have been taken to ensure Ajay Gupta, one of the brothers wanted on corruption charges, stands trial in in South Africa.
The eldest Gupta brother, Ajay, was said to be on a pilgrimage in India this week.
His family has had several of their assets seized in their country of birth India as well, related to alleged corrupt dealings.
The Gupta brothers have also failed to appear before authorities in their Saharanpur hometown on multiple occasions.
Ajay, along with his brothers Atul and Rajesh, allegedly siphoned billions of rands from the South African government, allegedly thanks to their proximity to influential politicians including former president Jacob Zuma.
They have been spotted in Dubai and in India on numerous occasions since being declared fugitives from justice in South Africa.
The minister’s spokesperson, Mukoni Ratshitanga, told The Citizen that the first meeting between the UAE authorities and Masutha took place two to three weeks ago.
He said the talks were not an attempt to formulate a wide-reaching extradition treaty, but was focused on the Guptas specifically.
“The meeting was specifically prompted by the fact that there are people who law enforcement agencies in South Africa require to answer certain questions, and the difficulty in getting hold of them,” said Ratshitanga.
“South Africa, therefore, requires the cooperation of the UAE authorities in getting those peo- ple here.”
He wouldn’t elaborate on the details of the meetings, nor on the progress made so far.
During his briefing, Masutha said the UAE ambassador “expressed the strong desire on the part of his government of ensuring that we put in place all the necessary systems to facilitate this type of cooperation between our two countries”, because of the number of South Africans currently residing in Dubai.
However, Masutha said there was no need to directly intervene in talks between the local law enforcement agencies, Dubai and India, as he was under the impression the matter was being dealt with adequately.
“At this stage, I don’t think I have a reason to be concerned,” said Masutha. “I don’t see the need for me to make any specific intervention because I’m convinced, at least for now, that the relevant agencies have the matter in hand.”