The eight suspects in the Estina dairy farm will have to wait until Tuesday to find out whether the court of Bloemfontein will reject or grant the request of the state to postpone the case for another three to five months.
Varun Gupta, the nephew of the controversial Gupta brothers, CEO of Oakbay Ronica Ragavan, ex-Sahara executive Ashu Chawla, former TNA media executive Nazeem Howa, Estina director Kamal Vasram and three Free State provincial government officials – Peter Thabethe, Sylvia Dlamini and Takisi Masiteng – appeared in court on Friday.
They were bail in February.
They were arrested on charges of fraud, theft, conspiracy to commit fraud and theft, in violation of the Public Finance Management Act, in violation of the Companies Act and contrary to parts of the Prevention Act organized crime in connection with the alleged theft of R250m in connection with the Estina dairy farm in Vrede.
Prosecutor Bakame la requested the court to grant a postponement of three to six months for further investigation, to enable the completion of financial reports.
Bakamela told the court that more than 300 bank statements had been obtained and that he was awaiting information from authorities in Dubai and India, pending the conclusion of mutual legal assistance agreements.
In support of this, he presented an affidavit from the research officer of Hawks, who attempted to describe the processes that have followed since the previous appearance in February, and a letter from the Ministry of Justice confirms that it was completing MLA agreements with authorities in Dubai and India.
With interrogation of Magistrate Collin Nekosi, Bakamela made the effort to commit to a timeline to finalize this process.
He said the research was at an advanced stage.
Two defenders came up with motions to oppose the application for postponement, led by lawyer Mike Hellens SC who represents Chawla, Ragavan and Gupta.
Hellens raised serious doubts about the integrity of the case of the NPA in its long arguments against the postponement.
Legal representatives for the other defendant resounded and supported his arguments. Hellens argued that it was outrageous for the state to seek further leeway to complete its investigation, in the light of the accused who had already been arrested.
A final cost list has yet to be drawn up and the towing of the case was severely detrimental to his clients and the other accused, Hellens filed.
Hellens asked the court to address the issue of bun and scrap bail conditions while NPA and Hawks completed their investigation.
Bakamela said he would have the comfort of three or five more months – but if the information from international authorities had been received before this date, he would approach the accused and the court to set a trial date.
Magistrate Nekosi said that he needed time to consider the documents and arguments.
warned the accused that their bail conditions were still applicable and ordered them to appear before the court on 21 August.