Gupta saga: Masutha, UAE ambassador working on extradition agreement
The Department of Justice and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) are currently working on a bilateral extradition and mutual legal assistance agreement, Justice Minister Michael Masutha has revealed.
Masutha was briefing the media ahead of the Office of the Chief Justice's budget vote debate in Parliament on Wednesday.
During a round of questions, he revealed that he met with the ambassador of the UAE to South Africa a few weeks ago regarding the signing of an overarching extradition agreement.
Ajay Gupta, one of the three infamous Gupta brothers, has been seen in Dubai. He is currently wanted by the Hawks regarding the failed Free State dairy farm project in Vrede.
"On the matter relating to the Gupta question, a few weeks ago I met with the ambassador of the UAE to discuss... the speeding up of the finalisation of a mutual legal assistance and extradition bilateral agreement between our two countries.
"He expressed a strong desire on the part of his government of ensuring we put in place all the necessary systems to facilitate this type of cooperation between our two countries."
Masutha said that besides the Guptas, there were many South African citizens currently residing in the UAE for various reasons, and thus there was a need for "stronger diplomatic relations" in any case.
Bilateral agreement 'much more effective'
Deputy minister John Jeffries explained that South Africa already has its own legislation guiding the process of extradition, and therefore does not need a bilateral agreement with each and every country to extradite a fugitive.
A bilateral agreement however just makes the issue "much more effective, if we in addition have this bilateral agreement," Masutha said.
Jeffries said the country already has a similar bilateral agreement with India, another known country where Ajay has been spotted.
With regards to the ongoing investigation, Masutha said he was under the impression that there was still cooperation between the various law enforcement agencies, including the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), which reports to him.
"At this stage, I don't think I have a reason to be concerned or see the need to make any specific intervention at [this] stage, as I'm convinced at least for now that the relative agencies have the matters in hand."
Ajay Gupta meanwhile has denied the charges against him.
A video, recently aired on eNCA, shows Ajay speaking to an individual on the phone, saying the media needs to explain what criminal charges he faces, both in the UAE or India.
"In my opinion, there is no allegation at all, in any part of the world," he is heard saying.
The video was reportedly shot in India.