Five appear in Bloemfontein in connection with #Vrede saga

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Caption: The line of those wishing to enter the Bloemfontein Magistrate’s Court was so long this morning that the court appearance, which was initially meant to be at 09:00, was moved to 10:00 as the court where the matter was to be heard was too small. Credit: Twitter (@OFM News)

Five suspects facing charges of fraud, money laundering, corruption, and theft with regards to the Estina Dairy Farm in Vrede was expected to appear in the Bloemfontein Magistrate’s Court at 10:00 this morning.

Unconfirmed reports suggest that among those who will appear, are Ashu Chawla, Ronica Ragovan‚ and the nephew of the controversial Gupta brothers, Varun Gupta. More reports suggest that Atul Gupta, as well former head of the provincial agriculture department, Peter Thabethe, are also among those to appear.

Hawks spokesperson, Hangwani Mulaudzi, said until the accused have stood on the bench in court, he would not be able to confirm the list of those who will be appearing.

The accused five now find themselves in court following a series of raids and arrests by the Hawks at their homes after they were fingered in the Vrede scandal. In the past month, the Hawks also conducted a raid which resulted in the seizure of computers and other equipment which could be used as evidence in this case at Free State Premier Ace Magashule’s offices in Bloemfontein.

It is alleged that current Mineral Resources Minister, Mosebenzi Zwane, who was the head of the Free State Agricultural Department, is also one of the masterminds behind the corruption at the Vrede Dairy Farm saga.

It is also alleged that he paid R220 million to the Guptas and their associates. The Estina Dairy Farm project was meant to empower over 100 emerging farmers in the province, who were each supposed to receive 5 cows. However, it was later revealed that they never received the cows nor the support they were promised as part of the project.

The farm project also allegedly paid for a lavish Gupta wedding which was held in Sun City in 2013.

Pulane Choane- pulane@centralmediagroup.co.za