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Gupta brothers arrested in Dubai over South Africa fraud allegations

Atul and Rajesh Gupta looted South African state-owned companies for millions, it is claimed

Dubai Police have arrested brothers Atul and Rajesh Gupta after Interpol issued a Red Notice against them for allegedly looting billions from state-owned companies in South Africa.

The arrests come after the UAE and South Africa signed an extradition treaty in 2018 following lengthy talks between the two countries. It was ratified in June last year.

Last year, a group of people held protests in Pretoria, South Africa, calling for the Guptas to face justice. Getty Images

“The force is now co-ordinating with authorities in South Africa regarding the extradition file to complete the legal procedures,” Dubai Police said on Twitter.

“The arrests reflect the continuous efforts of the UAE in combating money laundering crimes.”

The three Indian-born brothers, Ajay, Atul and Rajesh, are accused of using close ties with former South African president Jacob Zuma to siphon off billions of rand in state funds and influence Cabinet appointments.

Interpol placed Rajesh and Atul Gupta on its most-wanted list. They are sought by the authorities in South Africa on charges of money laundering and fraud, Bloomberg reported in February.

But Interpol declined a request from the South African government to issue Red Notices against their wives — Arthi and Chetali Gupta.

A Red Notice is a request to all Interpol member states worldwide to find and provisionally arrest a person pending extradition.

The status of Ajay Gupta was not clear and there was no mention of his arrest or whereabouts.

Once ranked among the country’s most prominent businessmen, the South African authorities accuse the Guptas of being at the centre of a web of state corruption during Mr Zuma’s rule, during which the government estimates more than 500 billion rand ($32.3bn) was stolen from its coffers.

The Gupta brothers deny any wrongdoing and have fought the application of the Red Notices, saying they are the victims of a political witch hunt in South Africa.

President Cyril Ramaphosa’s administration first asked the Emirati authorities to extradite the Gupta brothers in 2018.

In 2019, the US also imposed restrictions on the family. These range from visa bans to asset freezes. The UK followed suit a year later.

The brothers, all in their 40s, moved from the northern state of Uttar Pradesh in India to South Africa in 1993 as apartheid was coming to an end.

Their family business, Sahara Computers, was soon established and elevated the Guptas to become one of the country’s richest families within two decades.

By 2016, Atul Gupta was reported to have an estimated wealth of $773.47 million (Dh2.8bn).

The Guptas fled South Africa shortly after Mr Zuma resigned from the presidency in February, 2018.

Ajay Gupta, left and Atul Gupta in Johannesburg in 2011. Dubai Police made no reference to Ajay’s status and his whereabouts are not known. Getty
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