Bloemfontein – The National Director of Public Prosecutions (NDPP) on Monday suffered a major blow after the Free State High Court released all the assets belonging to companies and individuals linked to the controversial Gupta family that had been preserved. The assets at issue are worth about R250 million.
Judge Phillip Jacobus Loubser was sharply critical of the state case from the beginning of his judgement saying the NDPP had failed to satisfy the court that it had a strong case against the accused.
“This issue is neither here nor there. I do not propose that we take it any further,” said Loubser as he concluded his judgement.
Loubser said there no reasonable grounds for the court to believe that there could be a confiscation order applicants and gave a costs order against the state.
“The provisional restraint order is discharged with costs,” he said.
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The application was brought by Oakbay Investments (Pty) Ltd, Aerohaven (Pty) Ltd, Ashu Chawla, Oakbay acting chief executive officer Ronica Ragavan and former director Varun Gupta, Westdawn Investments (Pty) Ltd and Annex Distribution (Pty) Ltd.
The state alleges that money paid to Estina (Pty) Ltd by the Free State Department of Agriculture to run a dairy project in Vrede in north-eastern Free State, was deposited into a pool account held at the Bank of Baroda before being transferred into the accounts of other Gupta linked companies.
But according to the judge, the state failed to argue without a doubt that the money that ended in the accounts of the concerned companies was indeed proceeds of crime.
“The actual proceeds are not at question here but whether there will be reasonable grounds for a confiscation order in the future,” the judge said.
The victory by the Gupta linked companies and individuals to retain their properties could pose a threat to the criminal case which the applicants are facing together with other people in the Bloemfontein Magistrates Court.
They were charged in February after raids by the Hawks in Bloemfontein and Johannesburg.
The applicants are facing criminal charges relating to the Vrede Integrated Dairy Project where millions of rands meant to benefit emerging black farmers in the Free State were allegedly misappropriated. They were arrested together with several other people and appeared in the Bloemfontein Magistrates Court on February 18. That matter has been postponed to August 17.