Ajay on the Hawks' most wanted list

Eight suspects were granted bail after appearing in court yesterday in connection with the theft of R220-million from the Free State's Estina Dairy Farm project. /CHARL DEVENISH/afp
Eight suspects were granted bail after appearing in court yesterday in connection with the theft of R220-million from the Free State's Estina Dairy Farm project. /CHARL DEVENISH/afp

Borders, airports put on high alert

The search by the Hawks for fugitive Ajay Gupta has gone into overdrive with all the country's borders placed on high alert and airports and ports monitored.

As Gupta's nephew, Varun Gupta, appeared in the Bloemfontein Magistrate's Court on charges of fraud, theft and contravening the Public Financial Management Act and Organised Crime Act yesterday, the Hawks confirmed that Ajay was on the country's most wanted list and that he was being protected by a team of heavily armed bodyguards.

Varun, who flew with several of his co-accused on his uncle's chartered jet to Bloemfontein, was appearing in court in connection with the theft of R220-million from the Free State government through the Estina Dairy Farm project.

The announcement of the manhunt for Ajay follows news that Hawks officers assigned to investigate allegations of state capture were inquiring on the whereabouts of Ajay's brother, Atul Gupta.

Hawks sources said they were ramping up efforts to track down the two and were also keen to know the whereabouts of their third brother Rajesh "Tony" Gupta.

Sowetan has learnt that former president Jacob Zuma's son Duduzane, a close ally of the Guptas, is also being sought in connection with two other investigations into the Guptas.

Hawks spokesman Brigadier Hangwani Mulaudzi declined to comment on Duduzane being sought but confirmed that Ajay was a fugitive from the law and that he was being protected by a team of bodyguards.

He said they had just missed arresting Ajay and other family members in the raid on the family's Saxonwold and at an apparent hideout in Bedfordview.

"He was requested to come in. He failed to do so. He is now a wanted man with a warrant of arrest out for him. Those helping him will also be charged for aiding and abetting an alleged criminal.

"There are other related people we are also looking for, who we deem people of 'interest'," Mulaudzi said.

He said they were not only watching international airports but also smaller airports, including those where the Guptas were known to have had aircraft.

The warrant comes as Sowetan's sister publication Times Select on Wednesday ran an exclusive story indicating that Ajay's brother, Atul, was also being sought.

The confirmation follows the appearance of Verun in court yesterday alongside his co-accused and Gupta family lieutenants - Ronica Ragovan, Ashu Chawla, Nazeem Howa,
Kamal Vasrum, and Free State agricultural officials Peter Thebetha and Takisi Janki Masiteng, and chief of staff of the national Department of Mineral Resources Sylvia Dlamini.

Yesterday, reports emerged that one of the Gupta brothers tried to evade arrest by skipping the country but the
attempts were foiled when a pilot refused to fly their private jet out of Lanseria Airport. 

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