By Bongani Tshabalala
BLOEMFONTEIN-The National Prosecuting Authority’s (NPA) Investigating Directorate has welcomed the bail denial of former Transnet Board member and Gupta family associate, Iqbal Sharma.
Sharma will remain behind bars until July 5 when he will be returning court alongside three co-accused, who are former Department of Agriculture and rural Development employees.
This after Bloemfontein Magistrates Court on Tuesday concurred with the State and ordered that Sharma remain behind bars until the set date.
He was denied bail following revelation made by the state that he was a flight risk after failing to disclose his transfer of R264.4 million to Issar Global in 2016. The company is based in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
Opposing his bail application, the Investigating Directorate further told the court that the businessman’s South African assets account for 10 percent of his total assets.
“He has made more than 100 flights to and from the airports in the UAE since 2010. Sharma is a citizen of the world and has connections to several foreign countries. He additionally speaks three different international languages: French, Urdu, and Hindi,” Investigating Directorate spokesperson Sindisiwe Seboka said in a statement.
Sharma and three others were arrested on 3 June in Gauteng, Mpumalanga, and the Free State. The three former Free State, Agriculture, and Rural Development (FSDoARD) head, Peter Thabethe; former head of the Free State Department of Agriculture (FSDoA), Limakatso Moorosi; and former FSDoA Chief Financial Officer, Seipati Dhlamini have all been granted R10 000 bail.
Sharma is amongst 16 other accused who face charges relating to defrauding the Free State Department of Agriculture (FSDoA).
The fraud is in connection with a R25 million 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 R1.5 million.
Furthermore, said Seboka, it subcontracted the work already completed by Deloitte to Gateway Limited and paid them over R19 million.
“From there, the funds were diverted to Islandsite Investments 180 (Pty) Ltd (Islandsite), a company owned and controlled by the Gupta family. The accused face charges of fraud and money laundering. The former government officials are also charged with contravention of the Public Finance Management Act.”
The fifth suspect in the matter, Iqbal Sharma’s brother-in-law and a representative of Nulane Investments, Dinesh Patel, will formally appear on 15 June 2021, owing to health reasons. They are charged together with three companies, Nulane Investment 204 (Pty) Ltd (owned and controlled by Sharma), Wone Management (PTY) LTD, Pragat Investment (Pty) LTD and Islandsite Investments Pty Ltd.
The Investigating Directorate said the balance of the accused listed in the charge sheet are not currently in South Africa.
All the accused are expected back in the Bloemfontein Magistrates’ Court on 5 July 2021. The directorate has concluded Investigations, is ready to hand over the docket to the defence and start with the trial as soon as possible.