Home Dehradun South African Govt may seek extradition of Gupta Brothers

South African Govt may seek extradition of Gupta Brothers

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By ARUN PRATAP SINGH

DEHRADUN, 29 May: South African agencies have sprung into action after the arrest of the ‘Gupta Brothers’ in Uttarakhand. It may be recalled that controversial Ajay Gupta and his brother-in-law Anil Gupta have been arrested by Dehradun Police on charges of abetment of suicide of a leading builder from Dehradun, Satinder Singh (Baba) Sawhney. After the preliminary investigation, yesterday, the Dehradun Police had added more charges to the FIR registered against the Guptas under Sections 385 (Extortion of money) and 420 (Cheating) of the IPC.

The Guptas are still wanted in South Africa for the alleged embezzlement of vast amounts of money. They had managed to flee from there and settle here in a huge property located on Nehru Road.

Some prominent journalists from South Africa contacted this correspondent after the publication of news related to the Guptas and, apart from enquiring about the details of the investigations underway against them, also indicated that the South African agencies are mulling seeking extradition of the Guptas from India so that they can be tried there on various charges of “fraud”.

It may be recalled that hailing from Saharanpur district of UP, the Guptas had a small business establishment in Rani Bazaar, there, from where they migrated to South Africa and developed political contacts with the erstwhile ruling party and its leader. The Guptas forged very close links with former President of South Africa, Jacob Zuma. Through their contacts, the Guptas allegedly minted huge amounts of money through unfair means. Zuma had to resign in 2018 once the alleged frauds the Guptas are stated to have committed surfaced in the South African media. Most of the allegedly illegal money minted by the Guptas was related to IT, Media and Mining. Initially after Zuma’s resignation, they fled to Dubai (UAE) but the South African Government had been seeking their extradition. However, UAE hardly every entertains extradition requests from other countries. This request from South African agencies was also rejected in 2023. Following this, the Gupta Brothers (Ajay, Rajesh and Atul Gupta) were declared fugitives by the South African Government and their assets confiscated there. Guptas later chose to return to India and despite having been declared as fugitives in South Africa, they have filed cases through their lawyers in that country for release of their properties from attachment.

Guptas have faced controversies even in India, particularly Uttarakhand. They are stated to have business interests in real estate in Dehradun and elsewhere in Uttarakhand, besides Saharanpur. They are also alleged to have disputes with several other realtors. Sawhney was just one of them. He allegedly faced so much harassment and threats from them that he chose to end his life after leaving a suicide note addressed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami, in which he squarely blamed Ajay and Anil Gupta for his suicide. The Guptas were his sleeping partners in two real estate projects under progress near the Sahastradhara Road Helipad. They allegedly wanted to take over the entire project from Sawhney and were stated to be pressurising and threatening him for this.

The South African scribes to whom this correspondent spoke yesterday indicated that their government is likely to contact the Indian Government to formally seek extradition of Ajay, Rajesh and Atul Gupta. They asked this correspondent whether those arrested are the Guptas of South Africa. The Guptas had courted some controversies in Uttarakhand during 2016, 2017 and 2021. In 2016, the Guptas were provided Y grade security by the then Harish Rawat led Congress Government. The Trivendra Singh Rawat Government had upgraded their security to Z Grade in 2017. In 2021, they were granted permission by the then Trivendra Singh Rawat Government to host a family wedding at the Auli Ski Resort. This was the first time that such a permission had been granted to someone for the Auli Resort and had attracted criticism from various sections. However, they made further headlines when they allegedly left the resort cluttered with garbage after the wedding and were penalised by the Uttarakhand Government for this.