The controversial Guptas have been implicated in a R100m VAT scandal which has been running for years – but it appears the state will not take any action against them.
Nine people from up-market neighbourhoods in Centurion and Durban have been arrested for allegedly defrauding the SA Revenue Service (Sars) out of millions using false VAT claims.
According to court papers filed in the Pretoria High Court, the false claims amount to about R100m, of which about R30.5m was paid out.
In its provisional charge sheet, the state alleges that the “manager” of the scheme, Ridwaan Joosab, “distributed” the money that Sars paid out through 38 entities or individuals to disguise its origin.
Oakbay Investments, the Gupta family’s parent company, is one of those entities. But Oakbay is not an accused in the matter now before court.
In this latest case the nine accused were arrested at the end of January. They appeared in two courts and were released on bail.
The Hawks have dubbed the syndicate “The Enterprise”.
Among those arrested are a family from the Eldoglen estate in Centurion: Ridwaan Joosab, one of his three wives, Shazia, and his father Mahomed Iqbal Joosab, the owner of Shaz Trading.
Ridwaan’s brother Shoayb, a Muslim theologian from Durban, is also an accused.
In February the state obtained a restraint order in the Pretoria High Court to freeze the immovable and movable property that belongs to the accused.
Shaz Trading, which trades as Exotic Auto, was one of the 38 entities that allegedly received some of the VAT booty.
But in Shaz Trading’s case, the Asset Forfeiture Unit took action against them.
However, Ridwaan, his wife and father succeeded last week in getting the order substantially narrowed insofar as it related to them.
The state now has control only over the nine houses they own in Centurion.
Ridwaan argued in court papers that the state had frozen around R61.8m of their assets, far more than the R30.5m in seizures for which the order made provision. Even his watches, worth R5.2m, three vehicles that belong to Shaz Trading, four bank accounts, four vacant properties, a farm and four houses that were not subject to the order were confiscated from him.
Ridwaan argued that the state should not have seized five Krugerrands, seven women’s watches and a three-piece diamond jewellery set worth R5m. They argued that the initial preservation order had made severe inroads in their property rights.
Shoayb also had the preservation order against him discharged. The state alleges Shoayb received R1.5m as a gift from Shaz Trading.
But Shoayb told the court that the state had it the wrong way around, because he paid R1.5m to Shaz Trading.
The accused vehemently deny any involvement in crime.
But the state alleges that after Sars paid out the money, Ridwaan and his associates used some of it to buy luxury vehicles on behalf of Shaz Trading.
These include a Bentley Continental Flying Spur, five Mercedes-Benzes, a Ferrari F151, three Lamborghini Huracáns, two Porsches, a Rolls-Royce Phantom, four BMWs and various other vehicles.
Gold coins worth R2.6m were allegedly also purchased in a bid to conceal the source of the money.
The National Prosecuting Authority also alleges that Ridwaan and Shazia own gold bars.
The other accused are Ahmed Amla, Saleem Mohamed Hoosen, Ahmed Mulla from Durban, Adnan Archad Ravat from Vereeniging and Zuber Patel from Pretoria.
Neither the NPA nor the Hawks responded to questions sent to them asking whether Oakbay Investments and the other 37 entities are being investigated if they were, on the state’s version, part of the same scheme.
Ronica Ragavan, chief executive officer of Oakbay, could not be reached for comment.
Both the NPA and the Hawks have, in the past few weeks, been under fire in Parliament because of the perception that decisive action against those implicated in state capture came only after the political winds began to change in January.
Various people around the Guptas have now been charged, but no action was taken against the Gupta family because they had escaped the country. – Rapport