NPA’s bid to confirm preservation order against Sharma postponed

───   OLEBOGENG MOTSE 11:23 Thu, 05 Aug 2021

NPA’s bid to confirm preservation order against Sharma postponed | News Article
FILE PHOTO: Olebogeng Motse

The bid by the NPA’s Investigative Directorate to confirm the preservation order seizing assets worth over R520 million belonging to Iqbal Sharma, his wife Tarina Patel, and the Gupta family has been postponed to 18 November 2021.

In early June, the Bloemfontein High Court granted the National Prosecuting Authority's (NPA) Investigating Directorate an order preserving the assets of Sharma, Patel, and the Gupta-owned Islandsite Investments following the institution of criminal proceedings in the Vrede dairy feasibility study case. 

The assets included Sharma and Patel’s much-publicised mansion in Morningside, Johannesburg, as well as assets owned by the Gupta company Islandsite Investments. 

During proceedings before Bloemfontein High Court, Judge President Cagney Musi, on Thursday 5 August, it was agreed upon that proceedings would be postponed to November to afford all the parties adequate time to submit their responses before arguments are made. Senior Counsel Mike Hellens, appearing on behalf of Islandsite Investments, agreed to the postponement but brought up the fact that they had submitted their responses and affidavits in a timely manner but the state was unresponsive.

It was then revealed by Suna de Villiers - Senior State Advocate of the NPA's Asset Forfeiture Unit - that because Islandsite Investments is under business rescue, it cannot be represented by the company’s directors in these proceedings but rather by the Business Rescue Practitioners (BRP), who are assigned with running the business. 

Hellens doesn’t agree, arguing before Judge Musi that the BRPs are not the appropriate parties to represent Islandsite Investments because they do not have knowledge of the businesses’ affairs during the time in question. Hellens further argues that divorcing this civil matter from the criminal proceedings is nonsensical because will the BRP represent Islandsite during the trial? 

De Villiers, on the other end, says there is provision legally for the BFP’s to delegate matters pertaining to this case to the Islandsite directors - who have submitted affidavits in the matter, but they haven’t done so. Hellens quips that that is because the BRPs have “abandoned” the company. Judge Musi will by next week decide on whether Islandsite Investments can be represented by its Directors or the BRPs, come 18 November.

The state’s criminal case

The near R25 million feasibility study central to the case, was subcontracted out by Nulane Investments to Deloitte for only R1,5 million. Nulane Investments then subcontracted the work, already carried out by Deloitte, to Gateway Limited and paid them R19 million. The state alleges the funds were laundered into varied accounts thereafter, including that of Islandsite Investments. The state has, in light of the money laundering allegations, approached Interpol to have them issue red notices for Atul and Rajesh Gupta, as well as their wives Chetali and Arti. 

Whilst red notices for the Gupta family are under consideration, the notices have been issued for their associates: former Nulane Investment's Bank of Baroda account signatory, Ankit Jain; the director of Wone Management, Ravindra Nath; and the directors of Pragat Investments, Ramesh Bhat and Jagdish Parekh.

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