South Africa plans appeal after UAE denies Gupta extradition
South Africa has responded to news that an extradition request for Rajesh and Atul Gupta, long wanted in connection with its years-long “state capture” corruption investigations, was denied this week by authorities in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
In a statement issued by Chrispin Phiri, spokesman for the Ministry of Justice and Correctional Services, the South African government said it was only now notified of a February 13 decision in UAE courts. The UAE said it was denying extradition on money laundering charges because the alleged crimes occurred in both South Africa and the UAE, so the UAE can retain jurisdiction. And on the charge of fraud, the arrest warrants had been canceled.
“The reasons provided for denying our request are of a technical nature and fly in the face of the assurances given by Emirati authorities that our requests meet their requirements,” said Phiri’s statement. “We still intend to engage our counterparts as requested in March to ensure that the decision of the court is promptly appealed.”
The Guptas – Ajay, Atul and Rajesh – were Indian immigrants to South Africa who became extremely affluent and influential in numerous dealings, including those involving the state-owned Eskom utility provider. They were close associates of former president Jacob Zuma and numerous other high-level leaders.
The Guptas fled South Africa during an investigation of their influence over political appointments and contracts, leading to the seizure of US$20.8 million in Gupta assets in 2018. Gupta holdings include property in the UAE, and Ajay Gupta was known to be in Dubai at that time.
The Guptas remain at the center of the corruption investigation, with an April 2022 report from South African Chief Justice Raymond Zondo noting that nearly $1 billion (R14.7 billion) in Eskom contracts were subject to manipulation by executives accused of acting on behalf of the Guptas.