An extradition treaty between South Africa and the UAE have been ratified paving the way for Indian-origin businessmen Gupta brothers to be returned to the African nation from Dubai to stand trial for allegedly looting billions of Rands from state-owned institutions.
Former South African Justice Minister Michael Masutha had signed the treaty in 2018.
The UAE, however, signed the treaty on Tuesday, its embassy in Pretoria said in a statement.
"The treaties will enable the two countries to assist each other in the investigation and prosecution of crimes through mutual legal assistance and the extradition of fugitives," the statement said without referring to the Gupta brothers.
Negotiations on the treaty started in 2010 but were reportedly hampered by issues raised by the UAE in the past three years that forced South Africa to turn to the UN and Interpol for assistance in bringing the Gupta brothers to book.
Atul, Rajesh and their elder brother Ajay Gupta are accused of siphoning billions of Rands from state and parastatal agencies through their close association with former president Jacob Zuma, who is himself facing criminal charges.
The ratification of the treaty came ahead of a protest planned by the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation outside the UAE Embassy in Pretoria on Friday.
Nishan Balton, the executive director of the foundation, said, "We welcome the ratification of the extradition treaty and now call on the UAE authorities to act swiftly in sending these criminals back to South Africa so that all citizens here can see them get their just desserts for the hard-earned taxpayers'' money that they looted."
Last week, the National Prosecuting Authority here had asked Interpol to issue a Red Notice against Atul and Rajesh Gupta, their wives and business associates to bring them to South Africa so that they stand trial for their alleged role in an R25 million fraud and money laundering case linked to the failed Estina Dairy Farm project in Free State province.
The US and the UK have already imposed sanctions and seized assets of the Gupta brothers and a close associate, Salim Essa, who is also believed to have fled to Dubai.
Another associate, Iqbal Meer Sharma, once a top government official and later a businessman, was arrested last week and has been refused bail until his trial for fraud and corruption resumes on July 5. His assets have also been seized by the NPA.
"The writing is on the wall for the Guptas and their cronies. All these legal steps have brought a palpable sense of relief to South Africans just as they were getting a sense of despair about whether the criminals would ever be brought to book," Balton said.
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