Agriculture Trends 2019



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Gupta dairy deal in Free State allegedly proceeds of crime

Dramatic disclosures in court papers filed by the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) place the Guptas at the heart of a conspiracy to "swindle" R220m from the Free State meant for emerging black dairy farmers. The NPA's Asset Forfeiture Unit (AFU) approached the High Court in Bloemfontein for a preservation order to seize the farm and government grants worth R220m funnelled to Gupta-linked companies.
tpsdave via pixabay
The unit argues that these should be deemed the proceeds of crime.

The grants were meant to support a dairy project championed by Mineral Resources Minister Mosebenzi Zwane, who was the Free State MEC for agriculture at the time.

AFU investigators confirmed reports that a large portion of the funds was immediately syphoned off to Gupta front companies in Dubai. The court filings also show R10m was paid directly to Atul Gupta and R14.5m to the Guptas' Oakbay Investments.

Monitoring Gupta-linked assets

Sources told Business Day that authorities in Dubai were cooperating with investigators to ensure the Guptas and their associates did not dispose of properties or dissipate funds held in Emirati bank accounts. One source said cooperation at this stage took the form of "monitoring" Gupta-linked assets with a view to preparing preservation orders.

The Gupta e-mails confirmed that the family bought a palatial 10-bedroom mansion for R330m in the upmarket Dubai suburb of Emirates Hills and which has been linked to President Jacob Zuma. Duduzane Zuma also bought an R18m apartment in the Burj Khalifa, where close Gupta business associate Salim Essa also owns property.

Another source close to the authorities in Dubai said cash belonging to the Guptas had been identified in a bonded warehouse in the adjacent Emirate of Sharjah and other amounts, totalling more than R1bn, were transferred from the Reserve Bank in SA to three separate accounts with City Bank, the Islamic Bank of Sharjah and the Bank of Baroda.

Dairy farm's grant money winds up in Gupta-controlled bank

AmaBhungane Centre for Investigative Journalism reported last year that part of the dairy farm's grant money landed up in a Gupta-controlled Standard Chartered Bank account in Dubai and that R30m of this was used to fund their lavish wedding in Sun City in 2013 after being laundered through United Arab Emirates fronts.

Agriculture department officials had "deliberately and fraudulently" disregarded supply chain rules

In an affidavit filed in court, the AFU's Knorx Molelle said agriculture department officials had "deliberately and fraudulently" disregarded supply chain rules to fund the project, which Kamal Vasram ran. Vasram and his company, Estina, had no farming track record and no proper research was done before the decision was taken to fund the project.

Estina's account held just R9,690 before grant payments started flowing. By the time the firm went into voluntary liquidation in March 2017, its total assets were worth R10,000, with liabilities of R34,200. Of the R220.2m the department paid the project, only R2.4m was used for farming.

Although the funds were meant for emerging black farmers, the department started looking for beneficiaries only a year after appointing Estina.

The AFU found R40.7m had been transferred to Gupta-linked company Gateway Pty Ltd in Dubai and R43.4m to a Free State-registered company called Vargafield, whose sole director, Sanjay Grover, is an Indian national with a residential address in Dubai. The Gupta leaks revealed that Grover was involved in hosting Public Enterprises Minister Lynne Brown's personal assistant Kim Davids and ANC secretary-general Ace Magahule's son Thato in Dubai.

Another payment of R6m was made to Westdawn Investments, a Gupta mining company that bought their Bombardier Global 6000 jet ZS-OAK.

Source: Business Day
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