JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – A South African delegation will meet officials in the United Arab Emirates to discuss why the country has not ratified an extradition treaty, South Africa said on Monday, as it tries to investigate a case of alleged influence-peddling.
The treaty, ratified by South Africa in November 2018, could help the country extradite three Indian-born brothers – Atul, Ajay and Rajesh Gupta – who are at the centre of a corruption scandal that contributed to the downfall of former president Jacob Zuma.
While at a news conference on a sentence remission targeting thousands of prisoners to help with overcrowding, also announced on Monday, Justice Minister Ronald Lamola responded to local media reports the delegation would try to secure the Gupta’s extradition while in the UAE for an anti-corruption conference.
“It’s not like we are going to Dubai with a suitcase to fetch the Guptas,” he told reporters, adding the engagements would be around the non-ratification of the treaty and that at this stage South Africa expects the UAE will cooperate.
“We don’t know (why the treaty hasn’t been ratified). That’s what we will need to establish in these meetings… why, and if there is a problem, how can we solve it.”
In the meantime, there were international frameworks that law enforcement agencies could use to request another country’s assistance, he said.
Some of the South Africn delegation is already in the UAE, Lamola said.
The UAE’s government communications office, the National Media Council, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The Gupta brothers, who have repeatedly denied wrongdoing, are believed to be in Dubai where they own property and businesses. They are accused of using connections with former president Jacob Zuma to win contracts and misappropriate state assets.
Rudi Krause, director of BDK Attorneys, a law firm representing all three brothers, did not immediately respond to a request for comment on a public holiday in South Africa.
While South Africa has yet to nail down a convincing case against the brothers, the United States in October prohibited U.S. citizens from engaging in financial transactions with them or entities they control.
Reporting by Emma Rumney in Johannesburg; Additional reporting by Lisa Barrington in Dubai, Editing by William Maclean