South Africa’s wanted fugitives now Vanuatu citizens.
By Hilaire Bule.
Vanuatu’s Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) had advised Vanuatu’s Citizenship Office of the hostile information against corruption-accused fugitive Gupta brothers – Atul and Rajesh – on two separate occasions in 2018. This was disclosed when the FIU issued a statement yesterday to clarify its position on the controversial issue of the Gupta brothers now being Vanuatu citizens.
The FIU noted that The South Africa Times online service articulated the new citizenship of the Gupta brothers and the wanted notice issued against them by the South African authorities. It implied that their new citizenship was a new development to the criminal investigation team. The FIU said the Gupta brothers and their respected families did apply for Vanuatu citizenship under the Development Support Program (DSP) in February 2018.
“This Office identified adverse information against the brothers and informed the Citizenship Office accordingly on 4th and 27th of February 2018,” the FIU revealed. “On around 5th of July 2018, a fresh application for the same clients was received, and this Office issued the same response to the Citizenship Office.
“After numerous meetings and correspondences on this matter, on around 2nd April 2019, this Office issued another letter to the Citizenship Office maintaining its position of adverse information identified against the Gupta brothers.
“This stated clearly that the brothers were subject to criminal investigations in South Africa. The onus was placed on the discretionary authority of the Citizenship Office and the Citizenship Screening Committee.
“Thereafter, FIU was unaware of the Gupta brothers’ citizenship application nor received a request for a fresh review of their applications. Nonetheless, our formal position remains unchanged.”
Since the Gupta brothers made global headlines, the Citizenship Office and the Department of Immigration are distancing themselves and declining to confirm whether the Guptas are currently residing in Vanuatu.
The Vanuatu Daily Post made numerous attempts to the two departments since Tuesday this week for confirmation of Vanuatu citizenship, but their response is, “We are working on the issue”.
Meanwhile, police sources said they are aware the two brothers have been in and out of the country. Another source claimed the two brothers are currently in Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE).
A source close to the FIU said in February 2018, an agent submitted the Guptas’ applications to the FIU, but he was advised about the identification of investigation against his clients.
The source said in July 2018, the same applications went through the FIU office again but from a different agent. According to the source, the second agent had pressured the FIU staff, but they did not yield to the pressure.
A government source said the Citizenship Program has been abused and manipulated by politicians for their personal interests.
“If FIU staff were pressured, it is because politicians who are Members of Parliament (MPs) are also agents, and they used their political influence on civil servants,” the government source said.
According to information received by the Vanuatu Daily Post, some MPs and politicians are using the names of their relatives as agents, but they are the ones collecting the money and not the person whose name is in the agent document.
Vanuatu has been making global headlines since the Easter weekend in the Bloomberg, BBC, The New York Times, Financial Times, and The South African website to name a few after it emerged the corruption-accused fugitive Gupta brothers have acquired Vanuatu citizenship.
The APA reported South Africa’s Ministry of Justice Director General (DG) Doctor Mashabane saying he learnt that the Guptas were now citizens of Vanuatu following communication his office received from the UAE last week.
The DG said this was a new development because previously the Guptas’ status was that they were carrying South African passports.
“It was previously reported last month that the fugitive brothers were seeking asylum in Cameroon and Central African Republic,” the APA stated.
“In the same communication Pretoria learnt that the UAE had dismissed on technical grounds the extradition of the Guptas, who are running away from justice in South Africa in an alleged corruption scandal that involved the capture of state apparatus during former president Jacob Zuma’s administration between 2008 and 2018.
“The Indian-born brothers left the country for Dubai after being sought in South Africa to face criminal charges on the allegations concerning the dealings of their companies and government under Zuma, who described them as family friends.”
Furthermore, Sowetan Live reported the Gupta brothers no longer have International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL) Red Notices attached to their names, thus South Africa’s extradition request was dismissed by the UAE.
A Red Notice is issued when a member country seeks assistance to locate and arrest an individual with the aim of having them extradited to face a criminal charge.
In the duo’s case, the notices lapsed once their warrants of arrest in the UAE were issued and executed, thus there will have to be applications for new Red Notices.
Algoa FM, the leading South African commercial radio station, reflected the Gupta duo are implicated in crimes, which cost the South African government over R250 billion, and billions more in lost economic growth and lost jobs.