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Epic ‘Shaun the sheep’ fail! SA taxpayers must foot legal bill for Gupta lawyers

EDINBURGH — Adding insult to injury, South African taxpayers have to cover fees for lawyers hired by Atul Gupta and his family to defend action to recover the proceeds of corruption. The amount of money that can be seized in connection with the case has also been reduced. Reading between the lines, state lawyers haven’t done a very good job of tying up loose ends and fighting their case, which involves the dairy fund at the centre of a strategy to siphon funds out of Free State coffers. Some of this money was used to pay for the controversial Gupta wedding at Sun City in 2013. It was this wedding that lifted the lid on the close ties between the Guptas and political and business figures. This development in bringing the Gupta family to book adds to suspicions that National Director of Public Prosecutions Shaun Abrahams is “politically captured”. – Jackie Cameron 

By Renee Bonorchis

The National Director of Public Prosecutions has been ordered to pay the costs of lawyers hired by Atul Gupta and four companies linked to his family after they opposed the seizure of assets linked to a dairy farm in South Africa’s Free State province.

National Director of Public Prosecutions, Shaun Abrahams speaks during a media briefing in Pretoria, South Africa, May 23, 2016. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

Bloemfontein High Court Judge Andre Fouche Jordaan said on Friday he was amending the original preservation order.

State prosecutors earlier this year alleged Gupta illegally received 10 million rand ($839,849) of taxpayers’ money that was meant to have been invested in the government-backed dairy farm. The National Prosecuting Authority froze the project’s assets on Jan. 19 after more than 220 million rand destined for the farm was said to have been transferred to Gupta, via the Bank of Baroda, and a number of companies and associates. Those parties fought back, saying there was no evidence they received the proceeds of crime and asking that the funds be released.

From the Hindustan Times:

A South African judge has ruled that state prosecutors cannot seize all of the funds they identified in a corruption case linked to the Guptas, granting an application brought by the politically connected family, the Hindustan Times reports.

“Prosecutors in January froze assets related to a dairy project in the country’s Free State province, saying that more than 220 million rand ($17 million) destined for the farm was transferred to the Guptas, via the Bank of Baroda, and a number of companies and associates. The parties fought back, saying there was no evidence they received the proceeds of crime and asking that the funds be released,” it said.

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“Bloemfontein high court Judge Andre Fouche Jordaan said on Friday he was amending the original preservation order, shrinking the amount of money that the state could freeze to 40.4 million rand. That amount was never disputed by the entities said to have received those funds. He also ruled that the National Director of Public Prosecutions pay the costs of lawyers hired by Atul Gupta and the companies that opposed the order.”

The Hindustan Times recapped how state prosecutors earlier this year alleged Atul Gupta illegally received 10 million rand of taxpayers’ money that was meant to have been invested in the government-backed dairy farm.

“The crackdown on the project came as South African President Cyril Ramaphosa usurped Zuma and promised to combat corruption.

“Eight people were arrested last month on charges of fraud and theft linked to the farm. Five serving and former heads of Gupta-linked companies were among them. Having all been granted bail, that case is due to resume in August.”

Atul Gupta and his brothers haven’t been arrested, said the Hindustan Times. “Atul’s legal documents about the attempt to freeze the farm funds were signed and stamped in Dubai and Ajay, one of the siblings, was seen leaving South Africa, bound for Dubai, on Feb. 6. South African police, who haven’t detailed the pending charges, have declared Ajay Gupta a fugitive.”

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In a separate case in Johannesburg on Friday, Export Development Canada, a North American credit agency, filed an application to ground aircraft ZS-OAK, operated by the Gupta family, to retrieve its asset and stop the family from using the Bombardier jet for illicit purposes. The Hindustan Times said that the EDC originally loaned the Guptas $41m to buy the plane. 

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