We can prove Guptas milked Estina dairy project, says NPA

Ajay and Atul Gupta
Ajay and Atul Gupta
Image: Muntu Vilakazi/Gallo Images

The National Prosecuting Authority has more than enough evidence to show that Gupta- linked companies benefited corruptly from the alleged Estina Dairy Project scam – and to justify freezing family assets worth over R250-million, it says.

The state has briefed legal heavyweight Wim Trengove SC to fight the Guptas’ court bid to unfreeze these assets‚ which include 43 residential‚ farm and business properties‚ two aircraft‚ a helicopter‚ a Porsche and a Lamborghini.

In papers filed at the Bloemfontein High Court on May 11‚ acting special director of public prosecutions Knorx Molelle said the state could show that Gupta-owned Westdawn Investments was paid nearly R200-million from Estina’s Standard Bank account.

Westdawn is the company that reportedly owned a Bombardier Aerospace jet used to transport then deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa to Tokyo nearly three years ago.

Lawyers for Gupta entities and family members have argued the state has no prospect of convicting them on any criminal charges linked to Estina and said the latest state bid to freeze assets allegedly linked to that “scam” was baseless.

The Guptas slammed the case for the asset freezing as “entirely deficient based as it is on hearsay and incomplete‚ inaccurate and misleading allegations”.

They insisted that‚ if the National Prosecuting Authority had conducted an objective and unbiased investigation‚ it would have discovered that the flow of funds evidence that it used to freeze the Gupta assets was entirely innocent and could be explained.

These “innocent explanations” relate to evidence that Estina’s sole director paid millions to the Gupta-linked Oakbay‚ Annex Distribution and Aerohaven companies.

But Molelle is not buying these claims.

In a 64-page affidavit in the Bloemfontein High Court‚ he detailed how the state claimed the R250-million paid by the Free State government into Estina Dairy Project accounts ended up in Gupta-linked accounts.

Molelle pointed out that Gupta-owned Oakbay and Aerohaven claimed they gave loans to Estina’s sole director, Kamal Vasram, “during the same period Estina commenced its fraudulent and corrupt relationship with the Free State Department of Agriculture pertaining to the Vrede Dairy Farm”.

“Estina’s registered address is in the same Sandton office building as that of Oakbay,” he said.

According to Molelle‚ while Estina and Vasram seemingly had no official connection to the Gupta-related companies now implicated in the Vrede case‚ they clearly had a close working relationship with Oakbay acting chief executive Ronica Ragavan‚ Oakbay and Aerohaven.

“It is a logical and reasonable conclusion that all of the [Gupta entities and associates implicated in the Estina case] form part of the larger Gupta-related empire,” he said.

“They also benefited from Estina’s unlawful actions‚ either themselves having received illicit funds from Vasram or Estina or at very least knew‚ by virtue of their directorships and shareholdings in the various Gupta-related entities, that Estina’s activities were not above-board.”

In an affidavit filed at the court‚ Ragavan disputed that Estina director Vasram paid Oakbay more than R11-million as part of the Gupta involvement in the dairy project “scam”‚ and insisted this money was paid as repayments for loans and advances given to Vasram from 2012 to 2013.

But Molelle pointed out that Vasram instructed the Bank of Baroda to grant a R5-million loan to Oakbay just a day after the Free State government deposited R34-million into the Estina account.

He said Oakbay then transferred that money to coal company Tegeta‚ Shiva Uranium and Islandsite Investments.