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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 21 June 2018

South Africa's Gupta family's cars, homes and planes seized

Court order against people and companies associated with suspected theft, fraud and money laundering related to Gupta-linked company Estina

Members of the South African Asset Forfeiture Unit and other law enforcement agencies arrive to search the Gupta family compound. AFP
Members of the South African Asset Forfeiture Unit and other law enforcement agencies arrive to search the Gupta family compound. AFP

South Africa’s Asset Forfeiture Unit seized properties, cars and aircraft linked to the politically connected Gupta family worth more than 250 million rand (Dh76.3m), according to the country's National Prosecuting Authority.

The assets included luxury cars, farms, residences, a helicopter and two other aircraft, the NPA said.

The Monday raids came after the High Court in Bloemfontein in the Free State province granted an order against people and companies associated with suspected theft, fraud and money laundering related to Gupta-linked company Estina.

The case is about a state-owned farm that was leased to Estina under a free 99-year contract in 2012. The regional government agreed to help develop it, but earlier this year prosecutors said most of the 220m rand in public funds transferred to the company ended up in the hands of the Gupta family.

Members of the South African Asset Forfeiture Unit and other law enforcement agencies arrive to search the Gupta family compound on April 16, 2018 in Johannesburg. 
South African officials on April 16 raided a Johannesburg property belonging to the Guptas, the wealthy business family at the heart of graft allegations against former president Jacob Zuma. The Hawks police investigative unit and the tax service descended on the Guptas' heavily protected compound in the upmarket suburb of Saxonwold.
 / AFP PHOTO / STRINGER
Law enforcement agencies arrive to search the Gupta family compound. AFP

In February, former Oakbay Resources and Energy chief executive Varun Gupta, former Oakbay Investments chief executive Nazeem Howa, acting Oakbay Investments chief executive Ronica Ragavan, and Ashu Chawla, the chief executive of the Gupta family’s Sahara Computers, were among eight people arrested on graft charges related to the farm and later granted bail.

Mr Howa’s house in Johannesburg’s Greenside suburb and five of his cars were among the assets identified for seizure, according to court documents provided by the NPA. Eleven properties linked to Ms Ragavan were also on the list along with company-registered cars that included brands such as Mercedes, Audi, Porsche, Land Rover, Lexus and Lamborghini.

Members of the South African Asset Forfeiture Unit and other law enforcement agencies arrive to search the Gupta family compound on April 16, 2018 in Johannesburg. 
South African officials on April 16 raided a Johannesburg property belonging to the Guptas, the wealthy business family at the heart of graft allegations against former president Jacob Zuma. The Hawks police investigative unit and the tax service descended on the Guptas' heavily protected compound in the upmarket suburb of Saxonwold.
 / AFP PHOTO / STRINGER
Members of the South African Asset Forfeiture Unit descended on the Guptas' heavily protected compound in the upmarket suburb of Saxonwold. AFP

The Gupta family, who have fled South Africa, have been accused of using a friendship with former president Jacob Zuma to win state contracts and influence government appointments. Mr Zuma and the Guptas deny wrongdoing.

Separately, South Africa’s state-owned power utility is working with the National Treasury to source more coal for seven of its plants that don’t have adequate supply, raising the spectre of a return to rolling power cuts that have periodically slowed the economy since 2008.

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Read more:

End of the line for South Africa's Gupta family

Beginning of the end for the Guptas' hold on South Africa

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Eskom is diverting coal to the under-resourced stations from facilities that have sufficient supply, spokesman Khulu Phasiwe said on Johannesburg-based broadcaster SAfm. The supply problems stem from mines run by Tegeta Exploration and Resources, a struggling company controlled by the politically connected Gupta family, he said.

“There are some difficulties – that’s the situation they’re managing now,” Mr Phasiwe said of Tegeta. “From our side, we’re looking for a replacement supplier as soon as possible to make sure we don’t go back to the days of load shedding, especially as we’re going into winter,” he said, using a local term for rolling blackouts, which the country was forced to last implement in 2015 after seven years of power shortages hindered economic growth.

South Africa's state power utility Eskom is among companies pushing for more coal usage in Africa. Mike Hutchings/Reuters
The logo of state power utility Eskom outside Cape Town's Koeberg nuclear power plant. Mike Hutchings/Reuters

Tegeta is a company controlled by the Guptas through Oakbay Investments and a son of Mr Zuma. In December 2015, it bought Optimum, which includes a mine of the same name, the Koornfontein operation and a stake in Africa’s biggest coal-export terminal, from Glencore. Last year, the company sought higher prices from Eskom for its coal.

Oakbay said in August that it agreed to sell Tegeta for US$247m (Dh907m) to Swiss company Charles King. The disposal was expected to be concluded in 12 months, Oakbay said at the time.