The net around the Gupta brothers, business associates of former South African President Jacob Zuma, is tightening after South African authorities said that Interpol is mulling the issuance of red notices for the duo and their wives over alleged fraud and money laundering.
A statement from South Africa's National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) issued Monday, via Investigative Directorate head Hermione Cronje, had indicated that Interpol issued the red notices. However, a correction issued by NPA Tuesday said the move was being considered by the international policing authority.
Atul Gupta, his brother Rajesh and their wives are wanted in South Africa to stand trial for alleged fraud and money laundering. The amount in question is $1.8 million relating to the failed Estina Dairy Project.
The Guptas are believed to be hiding in the United Arab Emirates.
Their business activities have also been reported in their native India and Uzbekistan.
They fled South Africa and have been refusing to hand themselves in to face trial.
The development comes less than a month after the United Arab Emirates ratified an extradition treaty with South Africa in what paved the way for the Guptas to be brought to South Africa to face trial.
Red notices are requests to law enforcement worldwide to locate and arrest a person pending extradition or surrender. They can be used to support extradition requests.
Red Notices are published by Interpol at the request of a member country. Most red notices aren't made public and are restricted to law enforcement use only. Out of about 66,370 valid red notices by Interpol, only some 7,669 are public.
Recently, the Guptas were placed on the UK's Global Anti-Corruption regime, which will see them being prohibited from channeling their money through UK banks, have their bank accounts and assets in the UK frozen while also being banned from entering that territory.
Zuma is currently embroiled in legal troubles amid court cases, even as he fights off a 15-month jail sentence.
He was found guilty of contempt of court after refusing to appear before the Judicial Commission of Inquiry into Allegations of State Capture.
The State Capture Inquiry is investigating the Guptas' alleged links with Zuma to secure deals to loot state-owned companies.
The India-born brothers are also alleged to have wielded unlimited influence on cabinet selections as well as appointments to boards of state-owned enterprises.
Although the Guptas have denied having a corruption relationship with Zuma, the former President's name has prominently been mentioned by over 200 witnesses presenting evidence before the commission, heavily linking him to the Indian family.
An estimated $84 billion in public funds is believed to have been extracted from South Africa by key patronage networks between 2011 and 2017.
Interestingly, Atul attempted to secure a new South African passport recently but his efforts were rebuffed.
"I am advised and respectfully submit that our courts have held for nearly a century that a fugitive from justice has no standing to approach a South African court," wrote Home Affairs Director-General Livhuwani Tommy Makhode in an affidavit.