Graft case: Extraditing Gupta brothers to South Africa could take years

Thursday June 09 2022
Brothers Ajay Gupta and Atul Gupta.

Indian businessmen Ajay Gupta and Atul Gupta on March 2, 2011 at an interview with Business Day in Johannesburg, South Africa regarding their professional relationships. PHOTO | GALLO IMAGES | BUSINESS DAY | MARTIN ROHODES via AFP


Extraditing two Indian brothers accused of orchestrating industrial-scale corruption to South Africa from Dubai where they were arrested last week could take years and lead to a costly legal battle, experts warn.

Business tycoons Atul and Rajesh Gupta, held on suspicion of fraud and money laundering, are alleged to have colluded with former president Jacob Zuma to bleed public funds from Africa's most advanced economy.

Pretoria is now expected to seek their extradition from the emirate they have called home since fleeing South Africa in 2018 at the start of an anti-corruption push, but legal experts warn the process could take years.

"These matters are never straightforward especially when you have wealthy suspects who are able to hire the best extradition lawyers on their side," former South African prosecutor and extradition expert Johan Du Toit told AFP.

The ultra-wealthy brothers ran a sprawling family business empire in South Africa for more than two decades after migrating from India, and their arrests follow the inking of an extradition treaty between Pretoria and the United Arab Emirates.

South Africa has 60 days from the date of the arrest to lodge an extradition request that sets out the prosecution case against the pair.


"It generally takes a long time. It's not an easy process. It could be up to six years," warned South African lawyer Roger Wakefield.

The brothers are likely to fight the process in court, with local media reporting that two South African lawyers representing the Gupta family flew to Dubai in the wake of the arrests.

South Africa must prove its case to secure their return to face charges, and that conditions exist for a fair trial, said Bernard Hotz, head of business crimes at South African law firm Werksmans.

'Ill-gotten gains'

South Africa's case for extradition centres on an alleged 25-million-rand ($1.6 million) fraud linked to an agricultural feasibility study -- small fry compared to the scale of other allegations facing the family.

By one estimate, several billion dollars were stolen by the Guptas and their associates.

An investigation established that they paid bribes for state contracts and wielded influence over ministerial appointments in a scandal that tainted Zuma's administration and eventually forced him from office.

Bringing the Guptas home to face justice would be a major coup for President Cyril Ramaphosa, who succeeded Zuma, as he faces his own scandals and prepares to seek re-election as leader of the ruling party.

Political analyst William Gumede said that if figures as once untouchable as the Guptas could be prosecuted, many in the graft-tainted ruling African National Congress would be feeling "uncomfortable".