NPA gives Gupta empire R180m bloody nose

Gupta compound being raided by authorities
Gupta compound being raided by authorities
Image: Mzilikazi wa Afrika

Law enforcement authorities have seized assets worth R180 million from the Gupta family‚ including 65 cars‚ 46 properties‚ a helicopter‚ two aircraft‚ cash in several bank accounts and earth moving equipment.

The assets include cars – among them a R3-million Rolls-Royce and a R1.2-million Lamborghini Gallardo – and several properties‚ including a R26-million property in La Lucia‚ Durban‚ and the Gupta family’s Saxonwold compound.

On Monday the National Prosecuting Authority’s Asset Forfeiture Unit – together with the Hawks‚ SARS officials and SAPS members – swooped on the Guptas’ infamous Saxonwold home‚ armed with a restraint order for the assets‚ granted by the Bloemfontein High Court on April 11. They were expected to continue the raids on Tuesday‚ including at the Lanseria airport.

This is the latest move by state capture investigators who are attempting to recover roughly R250-million from the various Gupta associates and companies involved in the Estina Dairy Farm project.

The AFU was granted a preservation order against the same assets in January this year. Atul Gupta contested the order and was successful in having a large portion of it overturned.

However‚ an interim report by curator Eugene Nel has supported the NPA’s assertions that a large number of assets belonging to the Gupta associates involved in the Estina project are the proceeds of crime.

The restraint order is in preparation for a confiscation order‚ and law enforcement on Monday started the process of identifying the assets listed in court papers. Once a confiscation order is granted‚ the process of seizing the assets identified by investigators this week will start.

The assets all belong to or are connected to the 13 people accused of money laundering and fraud in connection with the Estina project. This includes Free State agriculture head Peter Thabethe‚ his employees Seipati Dlamini and Takisi Masiteng‚ as well as Gupta associates and family members Kamal Vasram‚ Ashu Chawla‚ Nazeem Howa‚ Varun Gupta and Ronica Ragavan.

The suspects appeared in the Bloemfontein Regional Court in February and are due to appear again in August.

A financial investigator for the NPA‚ Nkosiphendule Mradla‚ said in his affidavit that directors of the Gupta companies were utilising the businesses to “enjoy a lavish and wealthy lifestyle”.

He focused on Ragavan‚ who is the sole remaining director of several Gupta companies in South Africa‚ including Confident Concepts‚ one of the companies allegedly used to channel money from the Estina deal.

“If one looks at the value of Confident Concept’s assets which are estimated at approximately R46-million‚ this value is substantially greater than the individual value of immovable and movable assets‚ which is approximately R200 000‚” Mradla states.

Ragavan has only two moveable assets in her name: two modest cars‚ a Ford Fiesta and a Toyota Tazz.

“The respondent [Ragavan] is quite clearly utilising the company as the means to enjoy a lavish and wealthy lifestyle (albeit) in her representative capacity as a director‚” said Mradla.

He points out that Ragavan and Chawla are the directors of Islandsite Investments 180‚ which owns 13 properties‚ valued at R190-million‚ while Ragavan is the sole director of Westdawn Investments‚ which owns 31 vehicles at a value of R2.5-million.

Despite the Companies Act separating business and personal assets‚ Mradla asked the court to “pierce the corporate veil” and restrain Islandsite‚ Confident Concepts and Westdawn Investments “in relation to the assets obviously secreted by Ragavan and her co-directors under the auspices of these entities”.

Mradla also emphasised that the values of the properties could increase or decrease once an assessment had been conducted.

“The order is a result of ongoing criminal investigations by the Hawks which led to the arrest and institution of criminal prosecution against the aforesaid entities and individuals mentioned‚” the NPA said in a statement on Monday.

“The AFU will apply for a confiscation order‚” it added.

Law enforcement agencies descended on the Gupta family compound in Saxonwold on April 15 2018. Here’s what we know so far.

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