UAE court dismisses S Africa request to extradite Gupta brothers

The Guptas, arrested in the UAE in 2022, are accused of siphoning state funds using connections with ex-President Zuma.

A group of people protest outside the United Arab Emirates' (UAE) embassy calling for the speedy extradition of the Guptas
A group of people protest outside the UAE embassy, calling for the speedy extradition of the Guptas on June 10, 2021 in Pretoria, South Africa [File: Daan Vivier/Getty Images]

A United Arab Emirates court has dismissed South Africa’s request to extradite Atul and Rajesh Gupta, brothers who face charges of political corruption, Justice Minister Ronald Lamola said on Friday.

The Indian brothers, arrested in the UAE in June 2022, are accused of using their connections with Jacob Zuma, president of South Africa from 2009 to 2018, to win contracts, influence cabinet appointments and siphon off state funds. Zuma and the Guptas have denied all wrongdoing.

South Africa received diplomatic communication from the UAE on April 6 that a court there had made the decision on February 13, said Lamola who accused the UAE of “non-cooperation”.

“In the evening of the 6th of April 2023, we were provided with a note verbale from the UAE in which we learnt with shock and dismay that an extradition hearing had been concluded in the UAE courts on the 13th of February 2023 and our extradition request was unsuccessful,” Lamola told reporters.

The court had ruled that the UAE had jurisdiction to prosecute the Guptas for money laundering offences allegedly committed in the UAE and South Africa, Lamola said.

He added that South Africa would “promptly appeal” the decision.

Cathleen Powell, associate professor of public law at Cape Town University, told Al Jazeera that there is frustration in the country about how slow the extradition process and “recovering what has been lost” has been, because of the daily impact of corruption in South Africa.

“There will be a lot of anger that the UAE has refused to extradite the Guptas and a lot of that anger will be directed at South Africa [authorities] rather than the UAE,” she said on Friday.

An inquiry was established in 2018 to examine allegations of corruption during Zuma’s nine years in power from 2009, which was riddled with scandals, overshadowing his presidency.

In July 2021, Interpol issued a red notice, a global alert enabling law enforcement to arrest a person sought for prosecution or to serve a custodial sentence, and arrest them pending extradition, for the Guptas.

Interpol said they were being sought in connection with a 25 million rand ($1.6m) contract paid to a Gupta-linked company, Nulane Investment, to conduct an agricultural feasibility study.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies