Gupta-owned company, co-director Ronica Ragavan added to Vrede dairy corruption case

Iavan Pijoos Journalist
The Vrede dairy farm project in the Free State was at the centre of allegations of money laundering by Gupta family members and associates.
The Vrede dairy farm project in the Free State was at the centre of allegations of money laundering by Gupta family members and associates.
Image: Alon Skuy

Gupta-owned company Islandsite Investments Pty Ltd and its co-director have been added to the failed Estina dairy feasibility study case at Vrede in the Free State.

Investigating Directorate (ID) spokesperson Sindisiwe Seboka said company co-director Ronica Ragavan had failed to appear before the Bloemfontein magistrate’s court on Tuesday.

Seboka said Ragavan cited medical reasons.

“A warrant for her arrest has been issued but was stayed by the court,” she said.

Former Transnet board member Iqbal Sharma, Nulane Investments 204 employee Dinesh Patel, former Free State head of department for rural development Peter Thabethe, former Free State agriculture head of department Limakatso Moorosi and former department CFO Seipati Dhlamini all appeared with their lawyers during a virtual hearing on September 6.

They face charges of fraud and money laundering.

The former government officials are also charged with contravention of the Public Finance Management Act.

The case relates to procurement fraud involving R24.9m paid by the Free State department of agriculture to Nulane Investments.

A feasibility study was contracted to Nulane Investments by the Free State government to check the likelihood of success of the Mohoma Mobung agriculture project.

Nulane Investments, however, had no employees on its books and subcontracted Deloitte to produce the report.

Deloitte was paid R1.5m for the work.

The only change made to the Deloitte report was to identify Paras dairy as a suitable implementing partner for the development of a milk processing plant in Vrede.

In July, the ID said efforts to bring the Gupta brothers and their wives back to SA to face charges had intensified, with Interpol issuing red notices for their arrest.

Atul Gupta and his wife Chetali, Rajesh Gupta and his wife Arti, and three others are wanted to join the other accused.

The matter was postponed to October 8.

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