UAE 'unresponsive' to Pretoria's efforts to extradite Gupta brothers

Amanda Khoza Presidency reporter
Justice and correctional services minister Ronald Lamola. File photo.
Justice and correctional services minister Ronald Lamola. File photo.
Image: Brenton Geach.

Justice minister Ronald Lamola has told parliament that despite several meetings and repeated attempts to get a response from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) central authority on the Gupta brothers’ extradition request, there has been no response.

Lamola also revealed that the whereabouts of the Guptas remained unknown and they have not been charged by law enforcement agencies in the UAE.

“To date no responses have been received nor are they forthcoming. We therefore continue to engage with the authorities with the hope that political and diplomatic intervention ... will enable the UAE central authority to respond to the crucial questions that have been submitted,” said the minister.

Lamola was responding to a parliamentary question from DA MP Werner Horn on the progress made in the extradition of the Gupta brothers.

This is after an announcement in April that South Africa’s extradition request did not meet the strict standards for legal documentation contained in the extradition treaty that was ratified in April 2021.

Lamola said on June 5 he and his director-general, accompanied by senior officials and delegations from the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), visited the UAE and met minister of justice Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan.

The South African delegation also met judge Abdul Rahman Murad Al-Blooshi, the director of international co-operation in the UAE’s central authority to engage them on the extradition request. 

“This was followed by a further virtual technical meeting between prosecutors in South Africa and the UAE on June 15. At this meeting, South Africa emphasised the need for the UAE to respond to a letter sent by the South African central authority on April 25 requesting several clarifications and information from the UAE on the unsuccessful extradition request.” 

Lamola said since that meeting “several nonverbals have been dispatched” to the UAE from South Africa’s central authority requesting the responses that are central to the resubmission by the NPA. 

“To date no responses have been received nor are they forthcoming. We therefore continue to engage with the authorities.”

Horn said months had gone by since the letter was sent in April and the personal visit to the UAE.

“Maybe, minister, one can say that this business without achieving much is threatening to be the hallmark of your tenures — but can you at least inform South Africans that when you had that encounter you at least established whether the Gupta brothers are still arrested in the UAE?” 

Lamola said the engagements his department has had with the authorities in the UAE were in line with the extradition treaty between the two states. 

“We were able to engage with the authorities and we established issues in relation to the extradition treaty,” he said.

“One of the issues that we wanted to establish is in line with article 51A of the treaty, which indicates that where there is a charge or competed jurisdiction, the authorities in the UAE are obliged to charge with regards to the charge of money laundering.

“They have also not yet charged them nor indicated whether they will charge them. 

“We have also asked them with regards to the whereabouts of the Gupta brothers, they also stated to us that they do not know but in line with international law, the last position of sight is the last sight through which they are supposed to be requested from.”

He reminded the house that the Gupta brothers were arrested in terms of a red notice that was issued in collaboration with the local authorities which is in line with the international standards for fugitives in any country. 

“The extradition process follows after the arrest and that is how it is done anywhere in the world and the red notice remains active. As we speak, that is the last country of sight and we will continue to pursue the diplomatic channels so that the UAE responds and attends to the extradition treaty as per the agreement between the two countries.”

On the lessons learnt, Lamola said extradition in any country is a complex issue that involves both diplomatic and political processes and that is why South Africa had used a multipronged approach. 

“We will continue to enforce this extradition agreement that exists between the countries.” 

Lamola said his department doesn’t have a capacity issue and was used to handling extradition matters but this is a “unique and precarious” situation with the UAE.


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