The arrest in Dubai of two Gupta brothers, the main suspects in the widespread corruption scandal that led to the fall of former South African President Jacob Zuma, has had the effect of an earthquake in South Africa. The announcement came on Monday night, via a statement from the South African Ministry of Justice: Atul and Rajesh Gupta were arrested. Dubai police said on Tuesday that their arrest was linked to “criminal charges and money laundering”, saying that their extradition must be completed.
The long chase of the sultry Indian businessmen who siphoned the coffers of South Africa is coming to an end. South African justice has been trying for years to get its hands on the family who managed to turn Jacob Zuma into a puppet, bought with bribes throughout his two terms as head of the country (2009 -2018).
Officially, the two brothers in the hands of the police were wanted by Interpol in a case involving a questionable contract worth 1.5 million euros. But the richest family is more widely accused of infiltrating the top of the state thanks to its long friendship with Jacob Zuma: influence on the choice of ministers, pressure to pocket public contracts, looting of public companies (electricity, transport, aviation), before fleeing.
Explosive report in 2016
According to some estimates, the trio allegedly snatched the equivalent of about three billion euros through their illicit activities. The third brother, Ajay, is not involved in this chapter but is cited in another case of embezzlement and corruption. The main opposition party, the Democratic Alliance, welcomed the arrests, hoping that they would mark “the beginning of prosecutions against those who (…) plundered our country for years and are directly responsible for difficulties that millions of South Africans face today ”.
Following regular press revelations, an explosive report by the Ombudsman of the Republic, Thuli Madonsela, reveals the extent of the grip at the end of 2016: South Africa is outraged, the manhunt is beginning. The siblings are being prosecuted for theft, fraud and conspiracy.
In 2018, a commission chaired by Judge Raymond Zondo and tasked with investigating state corruption is born. The ANC, a historic ruling party, then pushed Zuma to resign. Smelling the blush, the Gupta family faints in the wild. Rumor has it that its members have taken refuge in Dubai. An April issue of Judge Zondo’s report, whose conclusions are still awaited, states that “it is clear that from the beginning of his first term, (former) President Zuma was ready to do whatever the Gupta they wanted him to do it for them ”.
Strange burglary at President Ramaphosa
Cyril Ramaphosa, who succeeded Zuma in disgrace, has vowed to eradicate corruption. Repatriating the Guptas would be a great way to live up to that promise. But the head of state, at the head of an important personal fortune, is himself in turmoil. A complaint filed last week says he has concealed a 2020 burglary on one of his properties, both police and tax authorities.
The thieves had found bundles of 3.8 million euros worth of banknotes on the spot, according to the complaint. Former South African intelligence chief Arthur Fraser, the complainant, also claims that the president then “paid” the burglars “for their silence.”
Cyril Ramaphosa assures that he has never stolen money from anyone, that the amounts advanced are very exaggerated and denounces the “political agenda” of his opponents, according to him in the maneuver. However, the case embarrassed the president as the ANC has to decide by December whether or not to run for a second term in the 2024 presidential election.
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