Guptas get their cash‚ cars and helicopter back
The Guptas have won a major legal battle against the state – one that will see over R250-million in the family’s business and personal assets unfrozen.
Bloemfontein High Court Judge Phillip Loubser found that there was currently not a reasonable basis to believe that Gupta family members‚ associates and businesses would be convicted on money-laundering and fraud linked to the alleged Estina Dairy Project scam.
And‚ as such‚ there was not a reasonable basis for R250-million in the family’s assets to be frozen pending potential conviction and subsequent confiscation.
This is a second‚ devastating blow for the state in its Estina prosecution.
Earlier this year‚ its first successful attempt to freeze R220-million in assets linked to the alleged Estina Dairy Project scam as the proceeds of crime‚ or the instrumentality of an offense‚ was reversed by High Court judge Fouche Jordaan.
Key to that ruling was an affidavit filed by the Bank of Baroda‚ in which it argued that the AFU had mistakenly used its Nedbank pool account – which served 750 clients – to argue that Estina had made payments directly to Atul Gupta‚ and other Gupta entities.
During that successful challenge‚ Gupta advocate Mike Hellens described the state as “recklessly incompetent”.
The Asset Forfeiture Unit then applied for the “restraint” of R250-million in Gupta assets‚ which include 43 residential‚ farm and business properties‚ two aircraft‚ a helicopter‚ a Porsche‚ Lamborghini‚ Range Rovers and other cars and bank accounts belonging to Oakbay Investments and Sahara Computers. They were granted an order for the restraint of these assets‚ which would have been subject to confiscation if and when the state succeeded in convicting those implicated in the alleged scam.
The Guptas and their associates challenged that order on the basis that the state did not have adequate evidence to convict them of the charges against them.
Loubser agreed‚ pointing out in court on Monday that evidence that the National Director of Public Prosecutions had relied on to support the preservation of the Gupta assets “shows many shortcomings at this point”.
This is a developing story.