Journos join the dots: Estina suspects, 'Zupta empire' and state capture in SA

It's been a week since Ajay Gupta was declared a fugitive of the law.

He's wanted in connection with fraud allegations linked to the Estina Dairy Farm project.

It's alleged he stole more than R100 million of state funds from the project that was meant to benefit the poor.

Read: Ajay Gupta's possible extradition may be costly for SA gov - Karyn Maughan eNCA

Meanwhile, his brother Atul Gupta is challenging the preservation order that was used to freeze R10 million linked to the controversial Estina diary farm scandal.

LISTEN: NPA to oppose Atul Gupta's bid to keep R10 million linked to Estina

What is the Estina Dairy Farm scandal?

Estina‚ is the name of the Gupta shell company which ran the Vrede Dairy Farm Project, a public-private partnership in the Free State, from 2012.

The company allegedly took state funds intended for poor black farmers and siphoned the money off into the bank accounts of the Guptas and Gupta-associated companies.

The NPA's Asset Forfeiture Unit (AFU) has found that of the R220-million given to Estina for the project‚ only R2-million was actually spent on the farm.

The Estina revelations first emerged in former public protector Thuli Madonsela's 2016 State of Capture report and the Gupta leaks email trove from last year.

Who has been arrested so far?

Last week, eight people linked to the Gupta brothers appeared in court for their role in the Estina project.

The eight accused have handed over their passports and are required to report to a police station twice a week.

They are facing charges, including fraud and money laundering, and were all granted bail, but who are they?

  • Kamal Vasram, IT Salesman listed as the director of Estina, with zero farming experience (granted R100 000 bail)
  • Nazeem Howa, the former Director of Gupta-linked Oakbay Investments (granted R200 000 bail)
  • Ronica Regavan, CEO of Oakbay (granted R200 000 bail)
  • Ashu Chalwa, CEO of Gupta-linked Sahara Computers (granted R200 000 bail)
  • Varun Gupta, Gupta nephew and director of Shiva Uranium (granted R200 000 bail)
  • Dr Takisi Masiteng, official in the Free State government (granted R10 000 bail)
  • Sylvia Dlamini, official in the Free State government (granted R10 000 bail)
  • Peter Thabethe, official in the Free State government (granted R10 000 bail)

Connecting the dots: could theses suspects turn state witness and expose the big fish?

Senior eNCA specialist journalist Karyn Maughan, New24 editor Adriaan Basson, and Sunday Times senior investigative journalist Thandoxolo Jika discuss the latest developments.

When you look closer, many of the characters were directors at Gupta companies; Nazeem Howa, Ronica Ragavan, Ashu Chawla and most importantly the sole Estina director Kamal Vasram.

Thanduxolo Jika, senior investigative journalist at the Sunday Times and author

Estina was a company that was solely created to be a conduit for the monies that were meant for the poor farm workers.

Thanduxolo Jika, senior investigative journalist at the Sunday Times and author

Nazeem Howa was one of the people bought in by the Guptas to start their media empire. He came from Independent Newspapers and they started the New Age and ANN7.

Adriaan Basson, Editor of News24 and author

Nazeem Howa played a very senior role at Oakbay. His signature features on a lot of the documents which implicates him deeply.

Adriaan Basson, Editor of News24 and author

These are the so-called 'minions' in the Gupta empire. I wont be surprised if the State's strategy is to make them turn and see who is going to blow the whistle on the bigger fish.

Adriaan Basson, Editor of News24 and author

Ashu Chalwa is of course the guy whose inbox was leaked, his inbox was the Gupta leaks.

Adriaan Basson, Editor of News24 and author

It exposes the depths of the tentacles of the Zupta empire that stretched, not only into corporate South Africa, but also into provincial governments.

Adriaan Basson, Editor of News24 and author

What makes Nazeem Howa, is that the Gupta leaks reveal that he was the 'hype-boy' for a lot of the so-called Gupta minions in the system. One of the minions was allegedly Minister Mosebenzi Zwane.

Karyn Maughan, legal journalist and eNCA reporter

Sylvia Dlamini, one of the people charged from the Free State agricultural department, now has a very senior position inside Zwane's office.

Karyn Maughan, legal journalist and eNCA reporter

Sylvia Dlamini is the person who is responsible for signing off on mining licences.

Karyn Maughan, legal journalist and eNCA reporter

There are a lot of people in that dock that will be giving Mineral Resources Minister Mosebenzi Zwane sleepless nights.

Karyn Maughan, legal journalist and eNCA reporter

You can follow Karyn Maughan, Thanduxolo Jika, and Adriaan Basson on Twitter to keep up.

Take a listen to the informative discussion as they connect the dots:


This article first appeared on CapeTalk : Journos join the dots: Estina suspects, 'Zupta empire' and state capture in SA


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