South Africa’s Ahmed Kathrada Foundation, named after the veteran Indian-origin activist, has welcomed the action instituted by the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) and national power utility Eskom against the three Gupta brothers and others to recover over USD 210 million.
Eskom and the SIU, in a joint statement, said that they have filed a summons in the North Gauteng High Court to recover an estimated 3.8 billion rand (approximately USD 210 million) that was diverted from the power utility “to help the Gupta family and its associates to acquire the operations of Optimum Coal Holdings (OCH).
“The further delictual claim for damages pertains to the payments that were unlawfully made to (Gupta-linked company) Trillian by Eskom executives,” it said.
Besides Ajay, Atul and Rajesh Gupta, nine others, including former board members and senior executives of Eskom, have been cited as the defendants.
“All of the former executives and board members breached their fiduciary duty of care and good faith to Eskom, and acted in a concerted state capture effort with the Gupta brothers, (former Minister of Mineral Resources) Mosebenzi Zwane and (Gupta business associate) Salim Aziz Essa (of Trillian) to illegally divert funds from Eskom.
“These 12 defendants acted in a concerted effort whose objective was the corrupt, alternatively irregular, diversion of resources from Eskom. As a result of their actions in the acquisition of OCH during this period, Eskom suffered at least 3.8 billion rand in losses which it is legally obliged and morally burdened to recover, together with the interest thereon,” according to the statement.
The Gupta brothers and Essa all fled the country two years ago as investigations of state capture against them started.
They are now based in Dubai, with South Africa negotiating for their extradition because there is no treaty with the UAE.
The Foundation’s Executive Director, Neeshan Balton, said that Eskom”s attempt at recouping the funds was “encouraging” but that the actual recovery of the money would be a measure of real success.
The Foundation was at the forefront of mobilising national action that led to the removal from office of former president Jacob Zuma, who was alleged to have heeded the recommendations of the Gupta brothers in the appointment of ministers as they sought to increase their alleged corrupt looting of state resources.
“After an unduly long time, we’re seeing some action being taken against the Guptas. This is long overdue. One hopes that this signals a renewed willingness on the part of the state to press charges against the Guptas,” Balton said.
“For now, we remain cautiously optimistic. We’ve had repeated examples in our country of individuals and entities exposed for corruption, but people hardly ever end up in (jail),” he said.
Balton said that the Foundation had previously appealed to the South African government to conclude its extradition treaty with the United Arab Emirates.
“The public deserves to know the status of this treaty. We do not want a situation that results in the Guptas being able to get away,” Balton added.
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