NPA’s ID seizes assets of Gupta company and Sharma’s multimillion rand home
4 June 2021
The High Court of South Africa, Free State Division, Bloemfontein granted the NPA's investigating Directorate a restraint order to freeze assets of lqbal Sharma, his company Nulane Investments 204 (Pty) Ltd, and Islandsite Investments 180 (Pty) Ltd, which belongs to Atul and Rajesh Gupta and their wives, Chetali and Arti Gupta, respectively.
The freezing order, granted in terms of the Prevention of Organised Crimes Act (POCA), will be served on lqbal Sharma at the Bloemfontein Bainsvlei SAPS holding cells, while Islandsite will be served at its local business address.
The order applies to assets in South Africa which include all property of Islandsite, Sharma and his wife Tarina Patel-Sharma, and any property held by Sharma's companies, including two registered in the UAE.
A high court appointed curator will take control of, and preserve the assets pending the outcome of criminal charges for fraud and money laundering offences instituted against Sharma, Nulane, Islandsite, the four Guptas named above and others in the Bloemfontein Regional Court on 3 June 2021.
Those affected face criminal charges related to a contract concluded between Nulane and the Free State Department of Agriculture (USDA) in 2011 for which Nulane was paid R24.9 million for a feasibility study that it subcontracted to Deloitte for R1.5 million. The study relates to potential farming projects in the Free State to be funded under 'Mohoma Mobung', a provincial initiative for rural upliftment and job creation. Nulane recommended an Indian company, PARAS Dairy, for the Vrede dairy project now linked to the Estina fraud investigation.
The fraudulent proceeds of R24,9 million paid to Nulane by the Department was transferred between Nulane and several companies, including Gupta entities Islandsite and Pragat Investments (Pty) Ltd, to launder the funds ultimately directed to the Gupta family. Other funds that flowed between the companies as part of the money laundering transactions are presumed proceeds of unlawful activities in terms of POCA.
A second subcontract was concluded between Nulane and UAE-based Gateway Limited, duplicating the one with Deloitte, in order to transfer R19 million offshore. Gateway is linked to the Guptas.
Sharma's assets that form part of the curator's inventory include his Sandton home valued at over R12 million. The property was featured on lifestyle television programme, Top Billing, and is owned through a UAE-registered company, Issar Global. Other assets include movable property valued at R500 thousand and a R1.3 million sectional title home in Sandton. Properties owned by Gupta family company Islandsite that form part of the inventory include a house worth R21m in Constantia, near Cape Town and a R12m house in Saxonwold.
Sharma and former Free State Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (FSDoRD) head, Peter Thabethe, will spend the weekend in the police cells in Bloemfontein until their bail hearing on Monday, 07 June 2021. The State will oppose bail.
Issued by Sindisiwe Seboka, Investigating Directorate Spokesperson, 4 June 2021