The High Court has ruled that the National Prosecuting Authority failed to justify seizing assets linked to the politically-connected Gupta family because it hadn’t proved they received funds illicitly diverted from a state-funded dairy project.
The state must pay legal fees incurred by the Guptas and their allies, Judge Phillip Loubser said in the central city of Bloemfontein on Monday. The case revolves around a decision by the Free State provincial government to lease a farm it owned to Estina (Pty) Ltd, a company linked to the Guptas, under a free 99-year contract in 2012 and help develop it to create jobs.
Prosecutors said most of the R220 million in public funds transferred to the company ended up in the Guptas’ hands. Police raided the family’s Johannesburg compound in April and took cars, properties and other assets worth more than R250 million.
Former Oakbay Resources and Energy Ltd. Chief Executive Officer Varun Gupta, former Oakbay Investments (Pty) Ltd. CEO Nazeem Howa, acting Oakbay Investments CEO Ronica Ragavan, and Ashu Chawla, the CEO of the Gupta family’s Sahara Computers, were among eight people arrested on graft charges related to the farm and later granted bail.
The Gupta family, most of whom have left South Africa, have been accused of using a friendship with former President Jacob Zuma to win state contracts and influence government appointments. Zuma and the Guptas deny wrongdoing.