The South African government has announced that the UAE has arrested Rajesh Gupta and Atul Gupta, the two of the three wealthy India-born brothers of the Gupta family, who were at the centre of political corruption under former president Jacob Zuma.
The two brothers were arrested in Dubai and it remains unclear why the third brother — Ajay — was not arrested.
The arrests, almost a year after Interpol issued a red notice last July, came as an investigation was concluded into the massive plundering of state institutions during former president Zuma’s era.
The Gupta brothers are accused in South Africa of using their relationship with former president Zuma to profit financially and influence senior appointments, charges that they have vehemently denied.
In 2018, the Gupta family went into self-exile in Dubai after looting billions of rands from parastatal institutions in South Africa, authorities said.
“The ministry of justice and correctional services confirms that it has received information from law enforcement authorities in the UAE that fugitives of justice, namely Rajesh and Atul Gupta have been arrested,” the South African Department of Justice and Correctional Services said in a statement on Monday.
“Discussions between various law enforcement agencies in the UAE and South Africa on the way forward are ongoing. The South African government will continue to co-operate with the UAE,” it added.
Interpol had issued Red Notices to the Gupta brothers, who had also been declared persona non grata by the US and the UK.
Red Notices are issued for fugitives wanted for the prosecution to alert law agencies globally to arrest such persons pending extradition.
The family fled South Africa in 2018 when the net closed in on them as huge public protests eventually led to the ANC removing Zuma and appointing Cyril Ramaphosa as the Acting President.
Earlier, South Africa had also appealed to the UN to get the Guptas back to South Africa when negotiations with the UAE did not yield results because there was no extradition treaty between the two countries.
The treaty was ratified in June 2021, when South Africa immediately began the process of requesting the extradition of the Guptas.
The Guptas told the Commission of Inquiry into State Capture in 2018 that they were not prepared to return to South Africa to testify after a number of witnesses implicated them and Zuma in corrupt cases.
The brothers called the South African authorities ‘recklessly incompetent’ in their affidavit to the commission.
A number of witnesses testified the role of the Guptas in looting huge amounts and also influencing the appointment of Cabinet ministers during the nine-year tenure of Zuma as the South African president.
Although the arrests were widely welcomed, analysts cautioned that the public should not expect a quick resolution to the case against the Guptas, as this could even take a few years while they exhaust all the avenues available to them to fight their extradition. Wayne Duvenhage, CEO of the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse, said their investigations had revealed that almost 15 billion rands were looted by the Guptas before they fled the country. The Gupta family, originally hailing from Saharanpur in Uttar Pradesh, entered South Africa by setting up a shoe store in the early 1990s. They soon expanded to include IT, media and mining companies, most of which have now been sold off or closed.