Ronald Lamola. Picture: SOWETAN
Ronald Lamola. Picture: SOWETAN

Justice and correctional services minister Ronald Lamola has gone on a diplomatic offensive against countries who stall or refuse to sign extradition treaties, saying they risk becoming “safe-havens of corruption”. 

On Wednesday, Lamola addressed the eighth Conference of the States Parties to the UN Convention against Corruption, being held in Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).  

His comments can be seen as a direct attack on the UAE, which has not ratified an extradition treaty with SA after signing it in 2018.

The treaty is critical to the controversial Gupta family, alleged to be at the heart of state capture, being prosecuted in SA, as it has been reported that they reside in the Dubai, which forms a part of the UAE.

The high-level SA government delegation in Abu Dhabi is set to meet officials from the UAE to determine why the treaty has not been ratified.

Lamola said the convention, to which 186 states are party, was unique, not only in its reach, but also in the scope of its provisions. He said the measures were both preventive and punitive in nature, and addressed the cross-border nature of corruption with provisions on international co-operation and on the return of the proceeds of corruption.

He said there should be a voluntary willingness for states to move quickly to preserve money that might have been laundered and that international co-operation was of critical importance.

As such, Lamola said, mutual legal assistance and extradition treaties were critical instruments to fight transnational corruption. State needed to act swiftly and timeously to assist one another.

“In practice, it should not be possible for any country who states that it is serious about fighting corruption to reject mutual legal assistance and/or extradition requests solely on the grounds of nonmaterial technical or formal deficiencies,” Lamola said.

“SA is therefore concerned that there are some state parties who have mastered the art of delaying or refusing to ratify extradition treaties and mutual legal assistance, thus frustrating the very spirit and object of the treaty. Ultimately, these states run the risk of becoming safe-havens of corruption,” he said.