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UAE refuses to extradite two Gupta brothers to South Africa

The United Arab Emirates has refused to extradite two members of the Gupta household to face accusations of systematic looting of the South African state over the previous decade.

The denial by a UAE court docket of the request from South Africa to extradite Atul and Rajesh Gupta, who’re wished by Pretoria for alleged fraud and cash laundering and had been arrested within the UAE final yr, was “surprising” and “inexplicable”, South Africa’s justice minister Ronald Lamola mentioned on Friday.

The UAE authorities notified South African authorities on Thursday that the court docket had dominated in February that the Guptas couldn’t be handed over regardless of an extradition treaty between the 2 nations, Lamola added.

“We’ve complied with each letter of the extradition treaty between ourselves and the UAE . . . that’s why we’re bemused by this judgment that cites technicalities,” mentioned Lamola. UAE authorities must file any enchantment on South Africa’s behalf, he added.

The refusal offers a significant blow to South Africa’s efforts below President Cyril Ramaphosa to hunt justice for the nation’s largest post-apartheid scandal — the so-called seize of the state below his predecessor, Jacob Zuma, for the alleged profit of companies managed by the Guptas.

A landmark South African judicial inquiry concluded final yr that Zuma “readily opened the doorways” for the trio of brothers to loot the Eskom state electrical energy monopoly, which is now stricken with common rolling blackouts, and different assets with the connivance of the ruling African Nationwide Congress.

The Guptas fled South Africa and their mining-to-media empire collapsed when Zuma fell from energy in 2018. The Guptas and Zuma have at all times denied any wrongdoing.

Atul and Rajesh Gupta had been arrested within the UAE in June final yr after they had been positioned on Interpol’s crimson discover listing over a case in South Africa.

On the time, the arrest was a significant increase for the anti-corruption battle below Ramaphosa, which had been making sluggish progress with prosecutions. South Africa had been searching for the brothers’ extradition since July 2022.

The UAE mentioned in a press release that the Dubai court docket of enchantment had rejected the extradition request for Atul and Rajesh Gupta as a result of it “didn’t meet the strict requirements for authorized documentation” within the extradition treaty.

The UAE acquired the extradition file in November after a number of conferences with South African authorities and the request was referred to public prosecution for investigation, the assertion added. After three hearings, the court docket of enchantment determined that the 2 males couldn’t be handed over.

“At each step, UAE judicial authorities briefed their South African counterparts on proceedings,” the assertion mentioned. The South African authorities might resubmit the extradition request, it added.

The UAE court docket ruling indicated that the Guptas, who had been born in India, are residents of Vanuatu, the South Pacific island nation, mentioned Lamola. Vanuatu is one in every of a lot of international locations that supply so-called golden visas, which give citizenship in trade for inward funding.

Africa Intelligence reported this week that the Guptas had been seen in Switzerland, regardless of formally being in custody within the UAE. The South African justice ministry mentioned it didn’t have data on the report.

Atul and Rajesh Gupta couldn’t be reached for remark.