The Gupta family fraudulently claimed R9m in tax rebates from the South African Revenue Service (Sars) in addition to the R280m they had effectively stolen from the Estina dairy farm project, the Zondo Commission of Inquiry into state capture has heard.
According to Paul Holden of Shadow World Investigations, the controversial family used every avenue possible to siphon funds from the project which was meant for 100 struggling farmers in Vrede, Free State. In a joint public-private partnership, the Guptas sunk their teeth into Estina with the help of former mining minister Mosebenzi Zwane.
At the time, Zwane was MEC for agriculture in the Free State while beleaguered ANC Secretary general Ace Magashule was the premier. While a portion of the Estina funds went to pay for the Gupta’s lavish Sun City wedding, several streams went to offshore bank accounts including the company of which Duduzane Zuma is a shareholder.
According to Holden’s investigations presented at the Zondo commission, part of the R280m paid by the Free State government to Estina was used as security for loans given in US dollars and United Arab Emirates dirham currencies. A portion of it was paid directly to Gupta family members and employees and another portion was used to apply for tax rebates.
Evidence leader Matthew Chaskalson said R64 million of the VAT input costs that Estina claimed from Sars were claimed in respect of invoices that were fraudulent, so the R9 million could be added to public funds the Guptas secured from the Estina enterprise.
The Zondo commission also heard how Chandrana Prasad, a project manager from India, was paid R3m despite having no agricultural experience or qualifications to handle the Estina project.
Holden said emails show how Prasad was a PA to an Indian intelligence officer and had knowledge of security information which the Guptas used to their advantage in arranging visas for their other employees and associates.
Most shocking about Prasad’s appointment was that he was paid from Estina coffers and the money was meant for equipment to empower the farmers in the project.
Gupta associates who were brought in to work on the Estina project were not screened, which was an oversight by the Free State government, the Zondo commission also heard. Holden also explained how the initial R280m in taxpayers money ballooned into R880m through an elaborate money laundering scheme.
Watch Paul Holden’s testimony at the Zondo commission below.