By Phephile Motau
A bid by South Africa’s law enforcement agencies to have two brothers from the wealthy Gupta family extradited from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has been unsuccessful.
According to the BBC, the two Atul and Rajesh Gupta are accused in South Africa of profiting from their close links with former President Jacob Zuma and exerting unfair influence.
The SA justice ministry said it had learnt about the move with ‘shock and dismay’. The brothers, who deny any wrongdoing, fled after a judicial commission began probing a major corruption scandal.
The Indian-born Guptas were arrested in the UAE last June and extradition talks with South Africa began. But the UAE said that it turned down the extradition request on a technicality.
In a brief statement, quoted in the Emirates News Agency, the UAE said that a review “found that the request did not meet the strict standards for legal documentation as outlined in the extradition agreement between the UAE and South Africa” that came into force two years ago.
“Some of the paperwork was either incorrect, in the case of the fraud charge, or missing, in the case of the corruption charge,” the statement adds.
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The decision was made in February, but was only communicated to South Africa on Thursday, South African Justice Minister Ronald Lamola reportedly said.
“The reasons provided for denying our request are inexplicable and fly in the face of the assurances given by Emirati authorities that our requests meet their requirements”, Lamola was quoted by South
Africa’s Mail & Guardian newspaper.
The UAE government says the “South African authorities are able to resubmit the extradition request with new and additional documentation”.
Lamola reportedly said his government would appeal against the decision. In recent weeks, there have been media reports that the brothers were no longer in custody and had been spotted in Switzerland.
The justice ministry could not confirm this or whether the brothers, who had been granted South African citizenship, had acquired passports from the Pacific Island nation of Vanuatu.
The Gupta family is accused of using their close links with Zuma to win business contracts, influence high-profile government appointments and misappropriate state funds.
The two parties have denied the allegations. South Africa negotiated an extradition treaty with the UAE in 2021, three years after the brothers fled the country.