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Gupta linked businessman back in Free State court

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By Thys Khiba

Bloemfontein – A business man and Gupta associate Iqbal Sharma and former Free State Agriculture and Rural development head of department (HOD), Peter Thabethe are appearing in the Bloemfontein Magistrate’s Court on Monday.

The two are expected to apply for bail, which will opposed by the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA).

According to the NPA Investigating Directorate (ID) spokesperson Sindisiwe Seboka, Sharma, Thabethe and their 13 co-accused face charges relating to defrauding the Free State department of agriculture (FSDoA). Thabethe and Sharma spent the weekend at the Bainsvlei Police Station cells, following their arrest on Wednesday in the Free State, Gauteng and Mpumalanga provinces.

The two made their first court appearance on June 3rd, where a state official after two other accused were granted bail.

Meanwhile, it was reported that the accused were arrested in connection with the failed R288 million Estina dairy project in Vrede.

“The fraud is in connection with a R25m feasibility study in 2011 that was irregularly granted to Nulane Investment 204 (Pty) Ltd, a company owned and controlled by Sharma. 

The company had to provide a report to the department within seven months. Nulane , however, subcontracted the work to Deloitte Consulting Pty Ltd for R1.5m,” said Seboka.

According to Seboka, Nulane subcontracted the already completed work by a company called Deloitte to Gateway Limited and paid them over at least R19m. Therefore, these funds were then, reported to have been, diverted to Islandsite Investments 180, which is a Gupta-owned company.

“These funds were then placed at the disposal of the Gupta family,” said Seboka.

“The ID alleges that Sharma, Thabethe; former FSDoA head, Limakatso Moorosi; and former FSDoA Chief Financial Officer, Seipati Dhlamini, colluded to divert funds earmarked for rural development in the Free State,” said Seboka.

In the meantime, Dhlamini and Moorosi were granted R10 000 bail each on last week Thursday, and face charges of fraud, money laundering and contravention of the Public Finance Management Act.

This is a developing story.

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