Gupta brothers arrested in Dubai over South Africa fraud allegations

Atul and Rajesh Gupta looted South African state-owned companies for millions, it is claimed

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Dubai Police have arrested brothers Atul and Rajesh Gupta after Interpol issued a Red Notice against them for allegedly looting billions from state-owned companies in South Africa.

The arrests come after the UAE and South Africa signed an extradition treaty in 2018following lengthy talks between the two countries. It was ratified in June last year.

“The force is now co-ordinating with authorities in South Africa regarding the extradition file to complete the legal procedures,” Dubai Police said on Twitter.

“The arrests reflect the continuous efforts of the UAE in combating money laundering crimes.”

The force is now co-ordinating with authorities in South Africa regarding the extradition file to complete the legal procedures
Dubai Police

The three Indian-born brothers, Ajay, Atul and Rajesh, are accused of using close ties with former South African president Jacob Zuma to siphon off billions of rand in state funds and influence Cabinet appointments.

Interpol placed Rajesh and Atul Gupta on its most-wanted list. They are sought by the authorities in South Africa on charges of money laundering and fraud, Bloomberg reported in February.

But Interpol declined a request from the South African government to issue Red Notices against their wives — Arthi and Chetali Gupta.

A Red Notice is a request to all Interpol member states worldwide to find and provisionally arrest a person pending extradition.

The status of Ajay Gupta was not clear and there was no mention of his arrest or whereabouts.

Minister: UAE committed to fighting international crime

Abdullah Al Nuaimi, Minister of Justice, said the arrests highlighted the UAE's determination to tackle financial crime.

"The UAE does not rest in preventing international financial crime," he said, in a statement on Wam.

"The arrest of Rajesh Gupta and Atul Gupta, two individuals wanted by South Africa and pursuant to Interpol’s international Red Notice request, is the latest example of our commitment and sustained efforts to combat illicit finance.

"I am thankful to the UAE authorities who have led this case with expert skill and compiled the requisite evidence to make the arrests possible. The arrests send a clear statement of the UAE’s proactive efforts to work in close collaboration with its international partners and organisations."

The two men were arrested on June 2 in line with the extradition agreement between the countries.

"The extradition request between authorities in the UAE and South Africa is under procedure and further information will be made available in due course," said a statement on Wam.

JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA - 2 March 2011: Indian businessmen, Ajay Gupta and younger brother Atul Gupta at a one on one interview with Business Day in Johannesburg, South Africa on 2 March 2011 regarding their professional relationships. (Photo by Gallo Images/Business Day/Martin Rhodes)

Once ranked among the country's most prominent businessmen, the South African authorities accuse the Guptas of being at the centre of a web of state corruption during Mr Zuma’s rule, during which the government estimates more than 500 billion rand ($32.3bn) was stolen from its coffers.

The Gupta brothers deny any wrongdoing and have fought the application of the Red Notices, saying they are the victims of a political witch hunt in South Africa.

President Cyril Ramaphosa’s administration first asked the Emirati authorities to extradite the Gupta brothers in 2018.

In 2019, the US also imposed restrictions on the family. These range from visa bans to asset freezes. The UK followed suit a year later.

The brothers, all in their 40s, moved from the northern state of Uttar Pradesh in India to South Africa in 1993 as apartheid was coming to an end.

Their family business, Sahara Computers, was soon established and elevated the Guptas to become one of the country's richest families within two decades.

By 2016, Atul Gupta was reported to have an estimated wealth of $773.47 million (Dh2.8bn).

The Guptas fled South Africa shortly after Mr Zuma resigned from the presidency in February, 2018.

Updated: June 08, 2022, 6:33 AM