Prosecutors say graft charges against Guptas to be dropped

Tuesday 04th December 2018 12:59 EST

PRETORIA: South African prosecutors have said they would withdraw corruption charges against South Africa's infamous Indian expatriate businessmen, the Gupta brothers in the Estina dairy farm project scam in Free State province. The country's National Prosecuting Authority has alleged that $20 million meant for poor dairy farmers in Free State was supplied to the Guptas and their associates. Eight persons were accused in the case, including the high-profile brothers Ajay, Atul, and Rajesh, one of their relative, the dairy director, and three government officials. It is reported that the prosecutors are now withdrawing the charges due to lack of cooperation from Indian officials.

“The investigators were working with Indian officials to gather information. The process has been slow, so information is not forthcoming as quickly as we had hoped,” said National Prosecuting Authority spokesperson Phaladi Shuping. He said the agency has not received any response to the mutual legal assistance requests made to India and the United Arab Emirates. The Free State government had granted a lease to a company known as Estina to establish the Verde dairy project via public-private partnership, in 2012. The company was allegedly linked to the Guptas- a powerful family in South Africa with links to former president Jacob Zuma. On January 19, the High Court in Bloemfontein allowed the project's assets and bank accounts worth Rs 30 million to be frozen after prosecutors submitted their case.

Then in March, the SA government claimed the Bank of Baroda's local unit possessed “proceeds of crime” linked to the project. The Indian lender is also accused of transferring public funds meant for the state-owned farm to the Guptas. This isn't the first time the brothers have been accused of influencing government business and appointments. The crackdown on the dairy farm came after Cyril Ramaphosa replaced Zuma as the leader of the ruling party in December 2017. Zuma quit his office in February amid corruption allegations, and was replaced by Ramaphosa.

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