UAE rejects South Africa’s request for Gupta brothers’ extradition


Johannesburg: South Africa said Friday that the UAE has turned down its request to extradite two brothers from the wealthy Indian-origin Gupta family to face trial in the country on fraud and corruption charges.

The three Gupta brothers, Ajay, Atul and Rajesh, are wanted in South Africa for their alleged roles in the looting of billions of rands from state enterprises. They are alleged to have used their closeness to former president Jacob Zuma to do this.

The South African government last year submitted a formal extradition application to the United Arab Emirates for Rajesh Gupta and Atul Gupta.

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The family fled to Dubai five years ago as the net closed in on them following Zuma’s ousting by his own African National Congress when he refused to step down.

Justice Minister Ronald Lamola says his government is “shocked and dismayed” after the UAE declined the request

Lamola said he only learnt about the decision after his office enquired with the local UAE embassy, which said that they had received a note verbale stating this.

“We learnt with shock and dismay that the extradition hearing had been concluded in the Dubai courts on February 13, 2023, and our extradition request was unsuccessful,” Lamola said.

“The reasons provided are of a technical nature, and fly in the face of (earlier) assurances given by the UAE authorities that our request meets their requirements,” he said.

Lamola said the decision would be appealed.

Legal experts however said such an appeal would be to no avail, as the Gupta brothers are believed to now be in Switzerland.

Originally from Saharanpur in India, the Guptas built an empire in the IT, media and mining industries after first arriving in the country to start a shoe shop soon after Nelson Mandela was released from 27 years as a political prisoner to become the first democratically-elected president.

“We have complied with every letter of the extradition treaty that we have between ourselves and the UAE authorities. To ensure this compliance, we have even allowed the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) to go to the UAE for engagements with their counterparts before the papers were submitted,” Lamola said at a media briefing.

“The Central Authority in the UAE and the prosecution in the UAE confirmed that all our papers are in order. So from our side, we have complied and that is why we are bemused by this judgement that cites technicalities. We find it shocking,” he added.

Lamola said that even if there was a technical issue, the UAE should have sought clarity from South Africa in line with Article 17 of the UN Convention Against Corruption, which requires consultation with the applicant country before a decision is taken.

“We still intend to engage with our counterparts in the UAE to ensure that the decision of the court is promptly appealed, as well as to devise other mechanisms to deal with the matter. That discussion must also preserve the integrity of our bilateral relations,” Lamola said.

(Except for the headline, the story has not been edited by Siasat staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)

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( With inputs from )

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