Vrede suspects out on bail, Gupta still on the run

Eleven accused involved in the Vrede Dairy project fraud case have been released on bail on Thursday. PHOTO Dumelangmedia

Eleven of the accused involved in the Vrede Dairy project fraud case have been released on bail. This follows their brief appearance in the Bloemfontein Magistrate’s Court on charges of corruption, fraud and theft on Thursday.  The charges relate to the theft of R220m from the Free State Agricultural Department. Amongst those who appeared include officials of the Free State Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, Peter Thabethe, Selpate Dlamini and Dr Takisi Janki Masiteng.

The trio was released on R10 000 bail while their co-accused Estina, the company in its own capacity, Kamal Vasrun, former director of Estina, Oakbay Investments, in its own capacity, Ashu Chawla, director of Oakbay Investments, Nazeem Howa, former director of Oakbay Investments, Verun Gupta, former director of Oakbay Investments, Ronica Ragovan, director at Tegeta and the Aero Haven company were all released on R200,000 bail. According to spokesperson of the Hawks, Brigadier Hangwani Mulaudzi, the accused will appear in court again on August 17.

Talking to media the accused were confident  they will be acquitted. A fortnight ago, Dumelang News reported that the Vrede Dairy project was fully functional following interviews conducted by beneficiaries of the project. Mulaudzi added that one of the accused, Ajay Gupta did not show up at their offices as they have agreed with his legal representative. “Ajay Gupta is a fugitive of the law, he is on the run and surrounded by a team of heavily armed bodyguards.

We have obtained a warrant for his arrest on Wednesday, but he did not show up and he is a wanted man,” said Mulaudzi. He said as soon as he is apprehended, he will have to prove beyond reasonable doubt that he deserves to be released again. “As law enforcers, we have a duty to bring all those who run away from the law to book, especially when there was an initial agreement,” he said.

Mulaudzi hinted that there were more arrests expected as the investigations are continuing. Meanwhile, outside court on Thursday, there was heavy police contingent to ensure that there was safety in and around the courtroom precinct. Also seen were members of the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (OUTA), a non-profit organisation established to challenge corruption and by holding the guilty accountable. Minister of Police, Fikile Mbalula has earlier directed the Acting-Head of Hawks to make sure that all ten appear before court on Thursday. At the time of going to print, the Hawks reliably informed Dumelang News that they have arrested an MEC who is expected to appear in Bloemfontein Regional Court. 

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