The South African elite police have swooped on the Johannesburg mansion hunting for Duduzane, the son of former President Jacob Zuma.
The Hawks (elite police unit) in a pre-dawn raid failed to find Duduzane being sought for his alleged role in a fraud at the Estina Dairy Farm at Vrede Town in the Free State Province.
The fraud saw politicians and businesspeople pocketing millions from the project earmarked for poor black farmers.
The Hawks, in Wednesday’s raid at the Gupta’s home, arrested three people, but they did not disclose their identities.
Those arrested are expected to appear in court on Thursday.
“We have been told Mr X (Duduzane) is on the warrants obtained but he has not been located as yet,” a source, who was reluctant to call Duduzane by his name, said.
One of Duduzane’s alleged accomplices in the Gupta family, Atul, apparently tried to evade arrest by leaving the country but his attempt to flee was foiled when the pilot reportedly refused to fly the private jet at Lanseria Airport outside Pretoria.
“The information we have is that Atul may have tried to flee the country (on Wednesday) but the pilot refused to take off,” our source said.
Atul and Ajay – the eldest of the three Gupta Brothers – were negotiating to hand themselves over to the elite crime-fighting unit.
Press reports said Atul’s younger brother Tony – also known as Rajesh – was arrested during the raid on the family’s Saxonworld (Johannesburg) compound early Wednesday.
“Tony is in (custody). Atul is negotiating to come in through his attorneys,” a source said, adding that an unidentified business associate of the Guptas was also nabbed in the Hawks’ raid.
The brothers were among the five people arrested in connection with the Estina matter.
Hawks spokesperson Brigadier Hangwani Mulaudzi said: “Two (arrests) were made there (at the Gupta homestead), one in Gauteng Province and two in the Free State Province. More arrests are expected.”
The suspects face charges of fraud, money laundering and corruption, he added.
Duduzane’s property is located two blocks from the Guptas’ compound in the upmarket residential area of Johannesburg known as Saxonworld.
Duduzane is a director in one of the Guptas’ companies, Westdawn Investments, which also allegedly siphoned funds from the farm project.
Duduzane’s attorney Gary Mazaham would not comment on the matter.
The Guptas’ lawyer Ahmed Gani denied that any of the Gupta brothers were arrested at their Saxonwold home. “It’s speculation, that’s what it is.”
But he did concede that two arrests were made at the homestead on Wednesday as ex-President Jacob Zuma, a self-confessed friend of the Guptas, prepared to make his SABC TV appearance hours later.
The Gupta brothers allegedly pocketed US$18 million from the Free State Provincial government, which had been pumped into the dairy farm and allocated to benefit the black farmers.
The National Prosecuting Authority’s Asset Forfeiture Unit has revealed that only US$763,000 was spent on the farm out of the total sum, while the rest of the funding “disappeared” into thin air.
The Estina project was among those flagged by former public protector Thuli Madonsela in her State of Capture report in 2014 as one scandal that needed probing.
Last week new Public Protector Busi Mkhwebane found that the US$18 million tender given to the Estina Dairy Company was awarded “irregularly and without following the prescripts of the government’s procurement policy”.
She said “the contract clearly benefited Estina at the cost of the state, taxpayers and the beneficiaries”.
Thus on Wednesday, following several months of investigations, the Hawks pounced on the Guptas and their alleged associates to answer fraud charges and other corruption charges concerning Estina.
Two weeks ago, the Hawks raided the offices of Free State Premier Ace Magashule, who is also the ANC’s secretary-general, as well as the provincial office of the department of agriculture.
Among those arrested is the provincial head of the department for agriculture, Peter Thabethe, in the Free State Province.
Meanwhile, the main opposition Democratic Alliance in the Free State Province has called for the arrest of Magashule, as well as former regional agriculture minister Mosebenzi Zwane for their alleged role in the Estina matter.
South Africa’s Corruption Watch agreed, saying those implicated in multiple corruption scandals must be held accountable and brought to justice.