Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Dubai police said on Tuesday they had arrested two brothers from the Gupta family, wanted for allegedly looting state money with former South African President Jacob Zuma.
The arrest of Atul and Rajesh Gupta, who had lived in the Sheikh for years, was the latest major arrest for extradition by UAE authorities. Dubai in particular has long welcomed the undoubtedly rich to its luxury neighborhoods.
As the UAE now heads the international police body Interpol, the country has again been questioned over its lax controls on money laundering and its reluctance to extradite suspects. This has only increased as Russian money pours into the Arabian Peninsula nation amid Moscow’s war on Ukraine.
Police released a statement saying they had arrested the brothers “in connection with money laundering and criminal charges in South Africa”.
The two, along with their brother Ajay, had been suspected of hiding in Dubai since fleeing South Africa around the same time Zuma quit in 2018 amid allegations he oversaw massive levels of corruption in state-owned enterprises.
The family has previously denied the allegations. It was not immediately clear whether the two had a local attorney.
South African newspaper City Press reported in 2016 that the Gupta family had purchased a $30 million residence in the Emirates Hills area of Dubai, which had 10 bedrooms, 13 bathrooms, nine reception rooms, a large double staircase, a hand-painted dome, space for 11 people. cars and chandeliers in virtually every room.
Dubai police said they made the arrest after receiving an Interpol ‘red notice’ warrant for the two.
“The arrest reflects the UAE’s continued efforts in combating money laundering crimes through local cooperation between relevant authorities,” police said.
Dubai police did not immediately recognize Ajay Gupta’s whereabouts. The Gupta family originated from India.
South African authorities said Monday evening that the two brothers had been arrested after discussions between them and officials in Dubai. However, Emirati authorities did not confirm the arrests until Tuesday.
South Africa’s National Prosecuting Authority said on Tuesday it had appointed “an experienced team of internal and external experts” who were working on the extradition of the two men to South Africa.
The arrests come nearly a year after the United Arab Emirates ratified the extradition treaty with South Africa. It came into force in June 2021, just as Interpol launched the red notice against the two Gupta brothers and their accomplices.
The Guptas are accused of using their association with Zuma to profit from huge government contracts and kickbacks, and are believed to be so influential they had a say in Zuma’s appointment Cabinet ministers. Their names were made public in 2016, when an official said the Guptas allegedly offered him a $44 million bribe to become finance minister in return for favors.
The US Treasury Department placed the three Gupta brothers on a sanctions list in 2019, accusing them of being “members of a significant network of corruption”. This prohibits US entities from doing business with them or managing their assets.
“Until they are in a South African court, we must be careful, but what has happened so far must be applauded,” said Karam Singh, executive director of activist group Corruption. Watch.
Zuma, 80, served as president from 2009 until he was forced to step down by his African National Congress Party in 2018 amid the corruption scandal. He faces bribery charges for a state arms purchase and went to jail in July 2021 for refusing a court order to testify at a judicial inquiry.
Zuma’s incarceration sparked week-long riots in parts of South Africa that killed more than 300 people and saw 25,000 troops deployed in the worst violence since the end of the apartheid era . Zuma was released from prison on medical parole which was later revoked, a decision currently being challenged in court.
Dubai’s booming real estate market, open to foreigners, has attracted investors and those fleeing conflict for years. All the while, war profiteers, terrorist financiers and US-sanctioned drug traffickers have used the Dubai property market as a safe haven for their assets.
Surveillance also increased after the Financial Action Task Force, a global anti-money laundering body, placed the UAE on its ‘grey list’ earlier this year, stepping up its scrutiny of the country’s efforts. to suppress illicit financial flows.
Over the past year, Dubai police have announced several major extradition-related arrests, usually involving suspected drug traffickers and gangsters. Extraditions now appear to have intensified in other crimes. Last week, Dubai police also arrested a Briton wanted in Denmark in an alleged $1.7 billion tax evasion case. Sanjay Shah, who maintains his innocence, also lived in Dubai for years amid court cases targeting him for allegedly orchestrating the scam.
However, there is a renewed focus on Russian money pouring in as Moscow faces Western sanctions over the war in Ukraine. In the northern emirate of Ras al-Khaimah, the megayacht of a sanctioned Russian oligarch is now hiding from possible Western seizure. That vessel, Motor Yacht A, is owned by Andrey Melnichenko, a European Union-sanctioned oligarch worth around $23.5 billion, according to Forbes. Melnichenko rejected the sanctions and denied being close to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Associated Press writers Isabel DeBre in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, and Andrew Meldrum and Mogomotsi Magome in Johannesburg contributed to this report.