Batohi asked to reinstate Estina charges after Guptas milked R334m from taxpayers

Dairy cows on the farm during a site visit by the leader of the DA, Mmusi Maimane to the Vrede Dairy farm that was run by Gupta company Estina, 12 July 2017. It was intended to benefit the communiy but has been alleged to be a front for money laundering and also alleged to have been the source of funds for the Gupta wedding. Photo: Neil McCartney

The new National Director of Public Prosecutions (NDPP), Shamila Batohi, should reinstate the Estina dairy case as new evidence has come to light, the DA said in a statement on Tuesday.

This follows a News24 report that includes bank statements showing the Free State government to have paid R334 million to the Gupta-owned dairy company.

The DA said they would be writing to the new NPA boss, asking her to reopen the case.

The NPA provisionally withdrew the charges of theft, fraud, conspiracy to commit fraud, and more in November 2018, claiming there was insufficient evidence.

“We trust that the NPA will bring justice to the Vrede beneficiaries who have been robbed of their right to own land and produce in it by the very government that should have protected and provided for them,” the statement says.

“The DA trusts that [advocate] Batohi will prove her independence and transparency in this matter by reinstating these charges which have contravened the Public Finance Management Act, contravened the Companies Act, and contravened sections of the Prevention of Organised Crime Act,” it continues.

According to the party, the recent allegations show how the “Free State department of agriculture was conveniently used as a cash cow for the benefit of the Gupta family, while the would-be beneficiaries, in particular, black emerging farmers, were left to languish in poverty”.

The party also links the newfound Estina evidence to the ANC’s proposed amendment of section 25 of the Constitution, saying the corruption at the Free State dairy farm proves the ANC to be incapable of enacting successful land reform.

If the amendment takes place, “the most vulnerable in our society would be hardest hit. Only the politically connected will benefit, while the people who should own land suffer,” the party says.

The report, released earlier today, shows the involvement of the Guptas to have been greater than initially believed with their company, Estina, allegedly having received an amount of R50 million at a time, which they were meant to funnel back into the scheme and instead paid straight into the Bank of Baroda in India.

The scheme, run by Estina on behalf of the government, was meant to help rural farmers and eradicate poverty.

Batohi took office as the new NPA boss at the beginning of February. Her term will last ten years.

Many are looking to her to restore confidence in the NPA following allegations that her predecessor, Shaun Abrahams, turned a blind eye when it came to cases involving state capture.

One of the cases he was accused of delaying arrests on was the Estina dairy case.

Compiled by Daniel Friedman / The Citizen