Protestors outside the Bloemfontein Regional Court where 8 suspects were arrested in connection with investigations into the Free State Vrede dairy farm project. Picture: ALON SKUY
Protestors outside the Bloemfontein Regional Court where 8 suspects were arrested in connection with investigations into the Free State Vrede dairy farm project. Picture: ALON SKUY

Bail has been granted to eight accused in the Estina dairy farm scandal case, which has embroiled Mineral Affairs Minister Msobenzi Zwane and the embattled Gupta family.

The accused include Varun Gupta‚ Ashua Chawla‚ Kamal Vasram‚ Ronica Ragavan‚ Nazeem Howa, who all worked for the Gupta business empire. Also on the list are Free State agriculture department officials Peter Thebetha‚ Takisi Janki Masiteng and Department of Mineral Resources chief of staff Sylvia Dlamini. They all face a string of charges ranging from fraud and theft to corruption and money laundering.

Gupta is the nephew of the controversial Gupta brothers‚ Ajay‚ Atul and Rajesh — who are at the heart of allegations around state capture.

The 34-page indictment was presented in the Bloemfontein Magistrate’s Court on Wednesday‚ where the accused appeared under a heavy police guard.

It painted a damning picture of how senior government officials allegedly planned and helped the Gupta family swindle the state through the looting of public funds.

Bail of R200‚000 each was granted to Howa‚ Gupta‚ Chawla and Ragavan while bail of R10‚000 each was granted to Thebetha‚ Dlamini and Masiteng.

They were all granted bail under strict conditions that they report to police stations near where they live twice a week‚ surrender their passports‚ not interfere with any witnesses and not leave the provinces in which they reside.

Gupta‚ asked for comment as he walked back down to the cells‚ laughed and cracked a smile‚ while Howa and Chawla covered their faces.

The matter was postponed to August 17 for further investigation.

National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) spokesperson Luvuyo Mfaka said they were confident about their case‚ "which we can prove beyond reasonable doubt".

"We have the evidence‚ and a lot of it‚ to prove the case and allegations we are making."

He said although bail was granted, the NPA was satisfied that the accused would not flee.

"They all have properties and other ties to SA. They will remain here that is for sure."

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