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Gupta’s assets seized, ID swoops on luxury homes and businesses

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The National Prosecuting Authority’s Investigating Directorate (ID) has won yet another victory, this time in the Bloemfontein High Court which has granted it a restraining order to freeze assets belonging to Iqbal Sharma, his company Nulane Investments 204 (Pty) Ltd, and Islandsite Investments 180 (Pty) Ltd, which belongs to Atul and Rajesh Gupta and their wives, Chetali and Arti Gupta, respectively.

ID spokesperson Sindisiwe Seboka said the freezing order, granted in terms of the Prevention of Organised Crimes Act (POCA), will be served on Iqbal Sharma at the Bloemfontein Bainsvlei SAPS holding cells, while Islandsite will be served the order at its local business address.

“The order applies to assets in South Africa which include all property of Islandsite, Sharma and his wife Tarina Patel-Sharma, and any property held by Sharma’s companies, including two registered in the UAE,” Seboka said.

A High Court appointed curator will take control of and preserve the Gupta assets pending the outcome of criminal charges for fraud and money laundering offences instituted against Sharma, Nulane, Islandsite, the four Guptas named above and others in the Bloemfontein Regional Court on 3 June 2021.

Seboka said Sharma’s assets that form part of the curator’s inventory include his Sandton home valued at over R12 million. The property was featured on lifestyle television programme, Top Billing, and is owned through a UAE-registered company, Issar Global. Watch the programme here.

Other Gupta assets include movable property valued at R500 thousand and a R1.3 million sectional title home in Sandton.

Properties owned by Gupta family company Islandsite that form part of the inventory include a house worth R21m in Constantia, near Cape Town and a R12m house in Saxonwold.

“Should the accused be convicted, the NDPP will apply for a confiscation order against Sharma and Islandsite to recoup the value of benefits derived from the offences and related criminal activities,” Seboka said.

Seboka said the suspects were facing criminal charges related to a contract concluded between Nulane and the Free State Department of Agriculture (USDA) in 2011 for which Nulane was paid R24.9 million for a feasibility study that it subcontracted to Deloitte for R1.5 million.

The study related to potential farming projects in the Free State to be funded under ‘Mohoma Mobung’, a provincial initiative for rural upliftment and job creation. Nulane recommended an Indian company, PARAS Dairy, for the Vrede dairy project, which is now linked to the Estina fraud investigation.

“The fraudulent proceeds of R24.9 million paid to Nulane by the department was transferred between Nulane and several companies, including Gupta entities Islandsite and Pragat Investments (Pty) Ltd, to launder the funds ultimately directed to the Gupta family.

Other funds that flowed between the companies as part of the money laundering transactions are presumed proceeds of unlawful activities in terms of POCA,” Seboka said.

A second subcontract was concluded between Nulane and UAE-based Gateway Limited, duplicating the one with Deloitte, in order to transfer R19 million offshore. Gateway is linked to the Guptas.

“Sharma and former Free State Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (FSDoRD) head, Peter Thabethe, will spend the weekend in the police cells in Bloemfontein until their bail hearing on Monday, 07 June 2021. The State will oppose bail,” Seboka said.

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