South Africa: Luxurious Vehicles, Immovable Properties and Bank Accounts Among Some Items Listed in R250m Vrede Restraint Order

Luxurious vehicles, immovable properties and bank accounts are some of the assets which are subject to provisional a restraint order which the Asset Forfeiture Unit (AFU) obtained in the case against eight people accused of fraud and other charges in the multimillion-rand Estina dairy farm project.

The AFU obtained the order, which targets assets to the tune of more than R250m, in the Free State High Court in Bloemfontein after the Hawks arrested the eight people.

They were arrested during raids in February, including at their compound in Saxonwold and their offices in Sandton.

They are Estina director Kamal Vasram, former directors at the Gupta's holding company Oakbay - Varun Gupta, Ronica Ragavan, Nazeem Howa and Ashu Chawla - and Free State officials Peter Thabethe, Sylvia Dlamini and Takisi Masiteng.

While the criminal case against them is pending, the AFU pounced and went after their assets.

A restraint order allows the AFU to preserve the assets in order to satisfy a later confiscation order in the event that they are convicted.

In terms of the order: "The respondents and any other person with knowledge of this order are hereby prohibited from dealing in any manner with the property except as required or prohibited by this order."

It was the AFU's argument that the respondents benefited from their alleged unlawful activity.

AFU financial investigator Nkosiphendule Mrandla said in court papers that he had access to the docket in the criminal case.

He submitted that, on the basis of the evidence, the respondents received and retained various amounts of money as a result of their alleged unlawful activities.

The order was granted on April 11.

Search and seizure

In terms of the order, Hendrik Vorster Hattingh of the company Vesticraft, has been appointed curator and he will take control of the affected assets once letters of curatorship have been obtained in terms of the Prevention of Organised Crime Act.

A return date has been set for May 24, when the respondents have to show cause why the provisional order should not be confirmed.

They have to file notice of their intention to oppose, if any, this week.

The vehicles that form part of the order include a Porche Cayenne, Range Rover, Land Rover, Mercedes Benz, BMW and an Audi A8. There was also a long list of immovable properties.

In January, the Hawks conducted search and seizure operations at outgoing Free State Premier Ace Magashule's offices and the provincial office of the department of agriculture.

An affidavit revealed that Free State's agricultural department - which was then under the leadership of former mineral resources minister Mosebenzi Zwane - allegedly paid R220m to the Guptas and some of their associates in what the Asset Forfeiture Unit calls a "scheme designed to defraud and steal monies from the department".

One hundred black emerging farmers were promised five cows each as part of the empowerment scheme, but they never received them.

Gifted to the Gupta-linked Estina in 2013, under a free 99-year lease by the provincial agriculture department, the farm has been one of the most scandalous transactions between the Guptas and a government entity.

The GuptaLeaks revealed in 2017 how at least R30m paid to the Guptas, via the farm, ended up funding the family's lavish Sun City wedding in 2013.

Source: News24

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