Court dismisses fugitive Atul Gupta’s bid to obtain South African passport

Ernest Mabuza Journalist
Atul Gupta has been ordered to pay for the application in which the court dismissed his bid to be provided with a South African passport.
Atul Gupta has been ordered to pay for the application in which the court dismissed his bid to be provided with a South African passport.
Image: Dorothy Kgosi

Home affairs minister Aaron Motsoaledi on Monday welcomed the Pretoria high court’s judgment that held Atul Gupta was a fugitive from justice and therefore does not qualify for a South African passport.

On September 25 2018, having fled South Africa after the advent of the Gupta Leaks — the emails that blew the lid on the extent of the Gupta family’s influence over state institutions during the Jacob Zuma presidency — Gupta approached the consul general of South Africa in Dubai to apply for a passport.

The home affairs department rejected this application after receiving confirmation from the National Prosecuting Authority that a warrant of arrest was issued against him for fraud and money laundering offences related to the Vrede dairy project.

Unhappy with this refusal, Gupta approached the high court in February 2021, where he sought to force the department to issue him with a new South African passport.

He claimed that he had a constitutional right to a passport as a citizen of South Africa. He further said that the constitution stated that nobody should be deprived of their citizenship.

The department argued that he was a fugitive from justice and did not have the right to challenge the department in a court of law in South Africa.

The department challenged Gupta to indicate if he would be prepared to come to South Africa if the court ordered him to do so. Gupta said he would have to take legal advice.

In his judgment on Friday, judge Mncedisi Khumalo found that “if he (Gupta) indeed is not a fugitive from justice, why would he need legal advice whether he ought to come to this country for whatever reason. This is more telling for a person who owns property and had owned businesses in this country.”

Khumalo also noted that Gupta did not give a particular address in Dubai.

“All that he seems prepared to state is that he is a South African citizen resident in Dubai. Nothing further is disclosed. I am of the view that this was not oversight on the applicant’s side but was deliberate,” the judgment read.

The court declared Gupta was a fugitive from justice and had no right or capacity to bring an action  in court.

He also ordered Gupta to pay the costs of the application.

“Friday’s judgment shows that you cannot want to escape accountability in a country and seek to enjoy the use of documents that are exclusively reserved for law-abiding citizens of that country,” Motsoaledi said.

He welcomed the costs order against Gupta because it ensured public funds were kept for service delivery.

“Minister Motsoaledi instructed the department to immediately start the process to recover the costs,” the ministry said.


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