The rejection of the extradition request for Atul and Rajesh Gupta by a Dubai court has further complicated the legal saga surrounding the brothers’ alleged involvement in state corruption during former South African president Jacob Zuma’s rule.
The Gupta brothers are accused of using their close ties with Zuma to siphon off billions of rand in state funds and influence Cabinet appointments. Interpol placed Rajesh and Atul Gupta on its most-wanted list, and they are sought by the authorities in South Africa on charges of money laundering and fraud.
The Guptas fled South Africa shortly after Zuma resigned from the presidency in February 2018. Since then, they have been on the radar of multiple countries, including the UAE, UK, and US, for their alleged involvement in corruption.
The US imposed restrictions on the family in 2019, ranging from visa bans to asset freezes, and the UK followed suit a year later.
In June 2021, Dubai Police arrested the Gupta brothers after Interpol had issued a Red Notice against them. The arrests came after the UAE and South Africa signed an extradition treaty in 2018, which was ratified in 2021. Following their arrest, South African authorities submitted an extradition request based on charges of money laundering, fraud, and corruption.
Extradition request rejected
However, the Dubai Court of Appeal rejected the request, citing insufficient legal documentation. The Ministry of Justice stated that the documents submitted were not in line with the extradition agreement between the UAE and South Africa. Based on the treaty, the charge of fraud should be accompanied by a copy of the arrest warrant order, which was missing from the submitted documents. Similarly, the charge of corruption should also be accompanied by a copy of the arrest warrant order, which was also missing from the submitted documents.
The South African authorities can resubmit the extradition request with new and additional documentation, but it is unclear if and when they will do so. The Gupta brothers deny any wrongdoing and claim to be the victims of a political witch hunt in South Africa.
The legal saga surrounding the Gupta brothers has not only tarnished their reputation but has also exposed the deep-rooted corruption in South Africa’s political system. The government estimates that more than 500 billion rand ($32.3bn) was stolen from its coffers during Zuma’s rule. The Gupta brothers were at the center of a web of state corruption during that time, and their alleged involvement in the scandal has triggered public outrage.
Loophole in treaties?
The rejection of the extradition request by the Dubai court has also raised questions about the effectiveness of the UAE’s extradition treaty with South Africa. The treaty was supposed to ensure that suspects facing charges in one country can be extradited to the other country for trial. However, the rejection of the request due to insufficient legal documentation has exposed a potential loophole in the treaty. The South African authorities must ensure that their extradition requests are in line with the treaty’s requirements to avoid any future rejections.
The legal saga surrounding the Gupta brothers is far from over, and the rejection of the extradition request by the Dubai court has added another chapter to the ongoing saga.
The South African authorities have the option to resubmit the request with new and additional documentation, but it remains to be seen if they will do so. In the meantime, the Gupta brothers remain in Dubai, and their alleged involvement in state corruption continues to haunt them.