The UAE authorities confirmed the arrest of the two brothers, Atul and Rajesh Gupta, who are among the most wanted in South Africa, on charges of corruption.
The two were accused of paying bribes to secure government contracts and influencing cabinet appointments in a scandal that tainted the administration of former South African President Jacob Zuma.
They are also believed to be involved in corruption deals at power utility Eskom and Transcent Railway.
Zuma and the Gupta brothers deny any wrongdoing.
In a statement, Dubai Police confirmed the arrest of the two after receiving the red notice issued against them by Interpol.
The statement added that Dubai Police coordinated with the authorities in South Africa regarding the extradition file to complete the legal procedures.
The South African Ministry of Justice said on Monday evening that the two brothers are being held in the United Arab Emirates.
Their arrests came as an investigation into widespread looting of state institutions during Zuma’s nine-year administration ended in 2018.
They were arrested nearly a year after Interpol issued a Red Notice in July last year.
Red notices are a global alert that enables police authorities to arrest and prosecute a wanted person, or serve a prison sentence and hold him/her pending extradition.
What is the story of the Gupta family in South Africa?
Ajayi, Atul and Rajesh Gupta moved to South Africa from the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh in 1993, soon after the fall of apartheid.
It is said that when Atul arrived in the country to set up a family business, Sahara Computers, he was amazed at the lack of red tape.
They have grown the company to employ more than 10,000 people in South Africa, and have also developed financial interests in mining, air travel, energy, technology and media.
Atul Gupta said he met Zuma before he became president “when he was a guest at one of Sahara’s annual parties”.
The Gupta family had become so closely associated with Zuma that a common term was coined for them, the “Gupta family”.
One of Zuma’s wives, as well as his son and daughter, held senior positions in companies controlled by members of the Gupta family.
Many of the companies in the Gupta dossier benefited from lucrative contracts with government departments and state-owned companies – officials say they were instructed directly by the family to make decisions that would advance the brothers’ business interests.
It is said that compliance was rewarded with money and promotion, while disobedience was punished with dismissal.
After four years of investigation, Chief Justice Raymond Zondo has compiled a report revealing how the brothers, Atul and Rajesh, became entangled with the highest levels of government and the ruling African National Congress.
In a series of reports this year, investigators said the procurement contracts for railways, ports and pipelines amounted to “planned crimes of extortionary activity by a racketeering enterprise” linked to the Gupta brothers.
They added that Zuma “will do whatever the Gupta wants him to do for them.”
The corruption scandals that engulfed Zuma led to his downfall. He was forced to resign in 2018.
Zuma was jailed last year for 15 months for refusing to testify before investigators. He was released on parole after serving only two months of his sentence.
In July last year, Interpol said the Gupta brothers were wanted for fraud and money laundering in connection with a 25 million rand ($1.6 million) contract paid to Gupta’s Nolin Investments to conduct an agricultural feasibility study.
Paul Holden, the investigator who runs an NGO and was also a former ANC member of parliament, estimated that the cost of the Gupta family’s illegal activities in South Africa could be as high as 50 billion rand, or $3.2 billion.
The South African government said it would cooperate with the United Arab Emirates to extradite the two fugitive brothers to face corruption charges after their arrest there, state-owned SABC News reported.
The two countries ratified the extradition treaty in April 2021, a move the government of South African President Cyril Ramaphosa had hoped would lead to Gupta’s return to face corruption charges.
In October 2019, the US Treasury blacklisted the Gupta family and partner Salim Issa, describing them as a “large corruption network”.
On May 17 the court postponed Zuma’s graft case to August, pending the outcome of his efforts to lobby for the removal of the lead prosecutor at trial.
“Reader. Infuriatingly humble travel enthusiast. Extreme food scholar. Writer. Communicator.”