Eight suspects linked to the Estina Dairy Project investigation appeared briefly at the Bloemfontein Regional Court on Thursday on charges of fraud, theft (of state funds) and money laundering.
The eight are Peter Thabethe (53), – the Head of the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development in the Free State, Sylvia Dlamini (46), Chief of Staff in the Ministry of Mineral Resources, Dr Takisi Masiteng (47), General Manager for District Services in the Department of Agriculture, Varun Gupta (31), Ashu Chalwa (46), a Director at Oakbay Investments, Ronica Regavan (40), a Director Oakbay Investments, Nazeem Howa (55), former Director of Oakbay Investments and Kamal Vasram (38), former Director of Estina (PTY) Ltd were released on bail ranging from R10, 000 to R200,000 with strict conditions.
The bail conditions include reporting to their local police station twice a week, seizure of their passports, reporting to the investigating officer when leaving the area of jurisdiction and not to interfere with any state witnesses. On Wednesday the Hawks’ Serious Corruption Crime Unit assisted by the SAPS National Intervention Unit (NIU) executed warrants of arrests in Gauteng and the Free State which led to five arrests. On Thursday morning, three suspects; Vasrum, Howa and Regavan handed themselves over to the investigating team in Bloemfontein.
Meanwhile, the Hawks are looking for Ajay Gupta for a separate investigation. Ajay lawyers were informed he is now regarded as fugitive since they failed to hand him over. It is understood that he has personal protectors and they are being warned to either hand him over or they might face charges of directly aiding and abetting the fugitive. Therefore, the Hawks are making a public plea to Ajay Gupta to hand himself over to avoid embarrassment.
The eight suspects are expected to appear again at the same on 17 August 2018.