SA a step closer to extradition treaty with UAE

Minister of Justice and Correctional Services Advocate Michael Masutha.
Minister of Justice and Correctional Services Advocate Michael Masutha.
Image: GALLO IMAGES

South Africa is a step closer to having extradition and mutual legal assistance treaties with the United Arab Emirates after MPs in the National Assembly's justice committee unanimously adopted a request by justice minister Michael Masutha for parliament to approve the treaties.

Masutha has written to National Assembly speaker Baleka Mbete and National Council of Provinces chairperson Thandi Modise requesting that the respective houses approve the ratification of the treaties in terms of the country's constitution.

Masutha signed both treaties on September 25 in Abu Dhabi after getting authorisation from President Cyril Ramaphosa to do so on behalf of the SA government. The UAE is made up of Abu Dhabi‚ Ajman‚ the popular Dubai‚ Fujairah‚ Ras al Khaimah‚ Sharjah and Umm Al Quwain.

The step is a culmination of an eight-year process which began with discussions between the two parties in February 2010.

MPs were not impressed with the length of time it has taken for the two parties to sign the treaties‚ with some even suggesting that the process was deliberately delayed to protect the politically-connected Gupta family.

Steve Swarts of the African Christian Democratic Party said the process could have been expedited when this country signed a double taxation agreement in 2016. “I raised my concerns regarding the Guptas back then ... we now know the allegations are that the Guptas are in the UAE.”

Swart said they appreciated that the matter was being expedited by the Ramaphosa administraton. “It's clear it's the new administration‚ it's signed quickly. So‚ it's very clear to me that it was consciously delayed under the previous administration‚” he said.

MPs were relieved to hear that the extradition treaty could be applied retrospectively - or that it would cover crimes or offences committed before it came into being.

An extradition treaty makes it faster for countries to extradite people who are wanted for offences. SA doesn’t need a treaty to extradite people from anywhere in the world because it has an extradition act and there are international mechanisms‚ which also provide for extradition.

The justice department’s Herman van Heerden‚ from its international legal relations unit‚ confirmed that the Hawks and the National Prosecuting Authority met with UAE authorities in Abu Dhabi three weeks ago to discuss the kind of information that SA requested and how its request should be executed. This pertains to the state capture investigation.

“Yes I can inform you that a request for various countries ... we've received six or eight requests with regards to state capture of which one was for the UAE‚” said Van Heerden.

He said SA had informed its ambassadors in the countries concerned‚ that when they receive those requests‚ to go in person to the relevant foreign ministries to indicate the urgency of the requests.

In its preamble‚ the extradition treaty reaffirms the parties' concerns about the magnitude of acts of international terrorism and organised crime

It says the parties agreed to extradite each others' persons who have been charged for or convicted of an extraditable offence. “These are offences that are punishable under the laws of both parties‚ by deprivation of liberty for a period of at least one year or for a more severe penalty‚” it says.

With regards to offences relating to taxation‚ custom duty‚ exchange control‚ in that instance extradition might be granted in spite of the fact that the requested party does not impose the same kind of taxes or duties.

Extradition would be refused for offences of a political nature or offences under military law and may be refused.

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