The four people that are accused of being involved in the failed Estina Dairy Project appeared before the magistrate in the Bloemfontein Magistrates Court on Thursday facing charges ranging from fraud to money laundering. This included the former Gupta associate and lieutenant, Iqbal Sharma who stood facing charges of fraud and money laundering alongside the company where he worked as the director, Nulane Investments 204 (Pty) Ltd. The other three who also appeared in the dock with Sharma are Peter Thabethe and Dr. Limakatso Moorosi, who both faced charges of contravention of the Public Finance Management Act as well as that of fraud. Seipati Slyvia Dhlamini, the former Chief Finance Officer of the Department of Agriculture and who is the other co-accused, was charged with fraud.
According to the state, the Agriculture Department recruited the services of Nulane Investments 204 for the purposes of carrying out a feasibility study. To this end, the department paid R25m into the Nedbank account of the company Nulane. According to the state case, the money was then transferred and moved around in the accounts of Nulane as well as other companies that are registered in South Africa and it ended up in an offshore account that is registered with Gateway Ltd. The state case further states that the money was moved around in the accounts in an “unusual and convoluted manner and without a legitimate business purpose”. The state further alleges that the purpose of the movement of the funds was “to conceal or disguise the nature, source, location, disposition, movement of the said property or the ownership thereof or the department’s interest in respect thereof.”
Sindisiwe Seboka, who is the spokesperson of the Investigative Directorate (ID), said that despite these large payments by the department to Nulane Investments 204, the latter ended up subcontracting the feasibility study to Deloitte who then conducted the same for only R1.5million.
The department further announced that they had applied to Interpol for the arrest of two of the Gupta brothers and their wives. National Prosecuting Authority head advocate, Hermione Cronje confirmed that they had applied for help in the extradition of Atul Gupta and his wife, Chetali, and Rajesh Gupta and his wife, Arti. He also announced that they were also asking Interpol to help in the arrests of other individuals who were also key to the case and these included, Ankit Jain, former Nulane Investment Bank of Baroda account signatory, Ravindra Nath, director of Wone Management (Pty) Ltd, and Ramesh Bhat and Jagdish Parekh, the directors of Pragat Investments (Pty) Ltd.