VREDE DAIRY FARM
NPA says it has proof that Atul Gupta got the cream
Prosecutors say they have bank statements that prove that Atul Gupta benefited from the proceeds of crime in Vrede Dairy Farm project
The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) says it has bank statements that prove that Atul Gupta benefited from the proceeds of crime in relation to the Vrede dairy farm project.
The information is contained in an answering affidavit submitted by acting Asset Forfeiture Unit head Knorx Molelle in response to Gupta’s application asking the High Court in Bloemfontein to review and set aside the freezing of R10m on his personal bank account.
In January, the NPA placed the Gupta family at the heart of a conspiracy to "swindle" R220m from the Free State government, which was meant for emerging black dairy farmers.
The unit approached the High Court in Bloemfontein for a preservation order to seize the farm and government grants worth R220m allegedly funnelled to companies linked to the Gupta family.
The applicants, including the second applicant [Atul Gupta] specifically are some of the recipients and beneficiaries of the unlawful proceedsKnorx Molelle
The unit’s indictment showed that R10m out of R220m in government grants that were siphoned off to the Guptas and their associates was paid directly into the personal bank account of Atul Gupta.
Eight people have been arrested and subsequently appeared in court on charges of theft, fraud and money laundering in connection with the Vrede dairy farm scandal.
This is said to be the first leg of the investigation into the dairy farm project. However, Atul Gupta has not yet been charged.
In his affidavit, Gupta flatly denied that he had ever received the money and claimed that the NPA had misled the court in respect of the evidence it had to support the granting of the order. He also claimed that the NPA had not provided a single bank statement as proof that he had received the money.
In his answering affidavit, Molelle said Nkosiphendule Mradla, a financial investigator at the unit, who filed the original preservation order, pointed out that he stated in his affidavit that because of the voluminous nature of the supporting documents, made up of eight lever arch files, he did not attach all annexes, but they would be made available to the court.
"They have elected not [to] set out a proper factual and legal basis of their opposition including the basis of their application for exclusion of interests from the operation of the preservation and or forfeiture," Molelle said. "Instead, the applicants have elected to make bare denials that the property is not the proceeds of unlawful activities without providing any evidence in support thereof."
Gupta’s opposition was "somewhat bewildering" and he had failed to lay the relevant facts before the court, including providing necessary supporting evidence, Molelle said.
Molelle said the totality of the evidence put together by Mradla and unit senior investigator Sam Schalkwyk demonstrated that the offences of theft, fraud and money laundering were committed from the Free State agriculture department and, as a result, substantial amounts of money were siphoned out of it and paid over to Estina.
Kamal Vasram, an IT salesman at the Guptas’ Sahara Computers, ran the dairy project through Estina.
"The applicants, including the second applicant [Atul Gupta] specifically are some of the recipients and beneficiaries of the unlawful proceeds," Molelle said.