South Africa will approach the UN in a bid to extradite the controversial Gupta brothers from the UAE, where they are in self-exile, as talks with the Emirates have delivered no results, Justice Minister Ronald Lamola said on Friday.
Although South Africa does not have an extradition agreement with the UAE, both the countries are signatories to the UN convention against corruption, which is what Lamola is now pinning hopes on.
“It is clear the UAE is not willing to cooperate with the process. We have not really received very good cooperation… So, the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) is exploring other means through the UN convention against corruption,” Lamola said in an interview with national public broadcast station SAfm.
“It’s a process where all state parties which are signatories to the UN conventions are obliged to cooperate and if it’s an extradition request, to also comply. The UAE is a signatory to that convention,” Lamola said.
South Africa’s NPA wants to question the Gupta brothers, Ajay, Atul and Rajesh, about their alleged involvement in billions of rands siphoned off from state institutions through their alleged closeness to former president Jacob Zuma.
The Guptas told the Commission of Inquiry into State Capture in 2018 that they were not prepared to return to South Africa to testify after a number of witnesses implicated them and Zuma in corrupt activities.
The brothers called the South African authorities “recklessly incompetent” in their affidavit to the Commission.
Among the allegations made at the Commission were that the Guptas informed people about imminent Cabinet positions even before Zuma did so as President.
Zuma, who was booted out by his own African National Congress, has also refused to return to the Commission after he walked out during a hearing late last year.
The former president has caused a crisis after he defied the highest judicial authority in the land, the Constitutional Court, which ordered him to return to the Commission.
He now faces a possible jail term of two years for contempt of court.
Zuma has alleged that the head of the Commission, Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, was biased against him.
The Gupta family, originally from Saharanpur in Uttar Pradesh, started their massive business empire in South Africa with a shoe store at the dawn of democracy in the country in the early 1990’s.
They soon expanded this to include IT, media and mining companies, most of which have now been sold off or closed.