Extradition Request Denied Despite 2020 extradition Treaty Between South Africa and The UAE
The UAE’s refusal to extradite the Gupta brothers is a major setback in South Africa’s fight against corruption.
South Africa has been struggling to bring to justice the Gupta brothers. The three Indian-born businessmen are accused of orchestrating a massive scheme of state capture and corruption during the presidency of Jacob Zuma. The brothers, Atul, Rajesh and Ajay, fled the country in 2018 as pressure mounted over their alleged involvement in various scandals that cost the South African economy billions of dollars.
South Africa had hoped to secure their extradition from the United Arab Emirates (UAE). They have been residing in Dubai since their departure. In July 2020, South Africa and the UAE signed an extradition treaty, and a month later, South African authorities applied for the extradition of Atul and Rajesh Gupta, who were arrested in Dubai. The extradition request was based on an alleged 25 million rand ($1.6 million) fraud linked to an agricultural feasibility study that was awarded to a company linked to the Guptas.
UAE Claim Jurisdiction for Money Laundering Charge
However, South Africa learned on April 7, 2023 that the UAE had rejected its extradition request. According to South African Justice Minister Ronald Lamola, the Dubai court dismissed the request on technical grounds. They claimed that the UAE had jurisdiction over the money laundering charge, as the crime was alleged to have been committed in both countries. The court also found that the arrest warrant for the fraud and corruption charge had been cancelled.
Lamola expressed his dismay and frustration at the UAE’s decision, accusing it of “non-cooperation” and “inexplicable” reasons. He said that South Africa had not been properly consulted or informed by the UAE authorities before the extradition was denied. He also vowed to appeal the refusal to extradite and pursue all legal avenues to ensure that the Guptas face justice in South Africa.
Guptas Were Close Allies of Former President
The UAE’s refusal to extradite the Guptas is a major setback for South Africa’s efforts to combat corruption and restore public trust in its institutions. The Guptas are seen as the key figures behind a network of influence-peddling and looting that allegedly involved Zuma and several of his allies and associates. The Guptas allegedly used their close relationship with Zuma to secure lucrative contracts, influence cabinet appointments, interfere with state-owned enterprises, and divert public funds for their own benefit.
The extent and impact of their alleged corruption has been exposed by a judicial inquiry led by Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, which was established in 2018 to investigate allegations of state capture. The inquiry has heard damning testimony from dozens of witnesses, including former ministers, officials, executives, whistleblowers and journalists, who have implicated the Guptas and Zuma in various acts of malfeasance. The inquiry has also recommended criminal charges against the Guptas for their role in several cases.
Refusal to Extradite: Wrongdoing Denied
The Guptas have denied any wrongdoing and have refused to cooperate with the inquiry or return to South Africa to face trial. They have also challenged the validity and legality of the extradition treaty between South Africa and the UAE, claiming that it was not ratified by both countries’ parliaments. They have also argued that they would not receive a fair trial in South Africa due to political interference and media bias.
The UAE’s rejection of South Africa’s extradition request raises questions about its commitment to international cooperation and its stance on corruption. The UAE has been trying to portray itself as a progressive and modern country that respects human rights and the rule of law. However, some say that its decision to shield the Guptas from accountability undermines its credibility and reputation. It also risks damaging its relations with South Africa, one of its major trading partners and allies in Africa.
South Africa vow to Challenge Refusal to Extradite and Recover Funds
South Africa has vowed not to give up on its quest to bring the Guptas to justice. It has said that it will continue to engage with the UAE through diplomatic channels and legal processes to secure their extradition. It has also said that it will explore other options, such as requesting assistance from other countries where the Guptas may have assets or interests. It has also said that it will intensify its efforts to recover the funds that were allegedly stolen by the Guptas from the South African state.
The Guptas’ extradition saga is not only a legal matter, but also a moral and political one. It is a test of South Africa’s resolve to fight corruption and uphold its constitutional values. It is also a test of the UAE’s willingness to respect international law and support South Africa’s democratic transition. The outcome of this saga will have significant implications for both countries’ futures.