Police in Dubai are coordinating with their South African counterparts to secure the extradition of two wealthy Indian-born brothers wanted by South African authorities on criminal and money-laundering charges who were arrested in the emirate on Monday.
Atul and Rajesh Gupta are accused of paying bribes in exchange for lucrative state contracts and influence over ministerial appointments during the chaotic nine-year presidency of Jacob Zuma, which ended amid allegations of systematic corruption in 2018. The brothers fled to Dubai shortly after Zuma’s fall from power.
In a statement, Dubai police said they were acting on a red arrest notice received from Interpol and coordinating with South African counterparts to secure the extradition of the two men.
The South African ministry of justice confirmed the arrests but downplayed expectations that either brother would be brought back to South Africa to face trial in the immediate future, saying only that “discussions between various law enforcement agencies in the United Arab Emirates and South Africa on the way forward are ongoing”.
The arrests will boost Cyril Ramaphosa, Zuma’s successor, but may once more highlight the problem of corruption under the ruling African National Congress party.
An inquiry headed by Chief Justice Raymond Zondo recently described how the brothers came to South Africa from India in 1993 to build a sprawling business empire and became enmeshed with the highest levels of Zuma’s government and the ANC.
In May, Zondo accused Zuma of systematic and unlawful efforts to give the Gupta brothers control of billions of dollars worth of state assets.
In a 1,000-page document, the judge also said the Guptas were the beneficiaries of Zuma’s efforts to fire competent officials, intervene in management decisions, appoint compliant ministers and influence the award of contracts worth huge sums.
Interpol said last year the brothers were being sought for fraud and money laundering in connection with a 25m rand (£1.3m) contract paid to a Gupta-linked company, Nulane Investment, to conduct an agricultural feasibility study.
Zuma and the Guptas deny wrongdoing. They have previously said the allegations against them are politically motivated.
The spokesperson of the Jacob Zuma Foundation, Mzwanele Manyi, offered no comment when contacted by local journalists.
Zuma is on medical parole while serving a 15-month prison sentence after his conviction last year of contempt of court for defying a constitutional court order to testify before Zondo’s inquiry.
The 80-year-old was jailed in July last year, a move that set off days of rioting in the KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng provinces in which shops, warehouses and factories were looted and many burned. More than 300 people died in the unrest, the worst in South Africa since the end of the apartheid regime in 1994. ANC officials loyal to Ramaphosa described the violence as “political sabotage” and a potential attempt at a coup d’etat.
After three months behind bars, Zuma was released on medical slogan for an undisclosed health condition. A subsequent court judgment ruled the medical parole was invalid, but his lawyers are appealing that judgment.
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In the report, Zondo asked why the ANC government had not acted to prevent the alleged corruption.
“Were they aware of everything but lacked the courage to stop President Zuma and his friends, the Guptas, in what they were doing? Were they looking the other way?” the judge wrote. “The ANC and the ANC government should be ashamed that this happened under their watch.”
Ramaphosa was deputy president from 2014 but the report will harm his enemies and rivals within the ANC more than it damages his own reputation. Analysts say the former union leader and business tycoon has a good chance of winning a second term at polls in 2024, though has to secure a new term as leader at a conference later this year.