DA welcomes progress in probe into the Vrede dairy project

High tech milking equipment 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. Picture: Neil McCartney

The Democratic Alliance (DA) said on Wednesday it welcomed the announcement by the head of the National Prosecuting Authority’s (NPA’s) investigative unit, Hermione Cronje, that the Vrede Dairy Project investigation was complete and almost ready for prosecution.

The project was meant to be implemented to Gupta-linked Estina on behalf of the Free State department of agriculture and rural development.

The DA’s member of the Free State legislature, Dr Roy Jankielsohn, said the DA was hopeful that now “the case is watertight after previous disappointment when seven individuals were arrested and charged in February 2018, only to have the cases withdrawn later”.

Jankielsohn earlier this year appeared before the commission of inquiry into state capture to give testimony regarding alleged fraud and corruption in the project.

“We hope that the investigations and imminent arrests of individuals involved in malfeasance regarding this project will include politicians who initiated the project and authorised the payment of funds to the Gupta-linked company involved, Estina,” Jankielsohn said.

Jankielsohn alleged that after a National Treasury investigation that exposed the irregularities in the project and the resulting national government’s withdrawal from it, politicians in the Free State continued to appropriate funds to, and support, the project.

“I raised issues regarding the Gupta involvement, the lack of beneficiaries, the misappropriation of funds and the continued allocation of funds to the project on many occasions in the Free State Legislature and in public. In sittings of the Legislature, my statements were always met with denials and personal and racial insults.

“Today the intended beneficiaries of the project, who should be the project’s reason to exist and own 51% of shares, are still side-lined.

“The DA have been fighting for justice regarding this project for seven years and will not stop until the beneficiaries are recognised and people are prosecuted for the theft of taxpayers’ money.”

(Compiled by Makhosandile Zulu) / The Citizen