(Reuters) – A United Arab Emirates court has dismissed South Africa’s request to extradite Atul and Rajesh Gupta, brothers who face charges of political corruption, but the Gulf state said on Friday the extradition request could be resubmitted.
The Guptas are accused of using their connections with Jacob Zuma, president of South Africa from 2009 to 2018, to win contracts, influence cabinet appointments and siphon off state funds. Zuma and the Guptas have denied all wrongdoing.
The UAE said the extradition request did not meet the “strict standards for legal documentation” contained in an extradition treaty ratified with South Africa in April 2021, which South African President Cyril Ramaphosa’s government had hoped would lead to the return of the Guptas to face charges.
The two extradition requests for fraud and corruption were not accompanied by a copy of a current arrest warrant order as required, the UAE justice minister said in a statement carried by state news agency WAM.
“The UAE judiciary underscored that South African authorities are able to resubmit the extradition request with new and additional documentation,” the statement said.
South Africa’s Justice Minister Ronald Lamola said the country would “promptly appeal” the decision, which he said “flies in the face of assurances given by the UAE authorities”.
Lamola said South Africa received diplomatic communication from the UAE on April 6 that a UAE court had made the decision on Feb. 13.
The court had ruled that the UAE had jurisdiction to prosecute the Guptas for money-laundering offences alleged to have been committed in the UAE and South Africa, Lamola said.
The UAE’s statement did not include this detail.
South Africa’s main opposition Democratic Alliance party said the failed extradition bid was a “national embarrassment” and called for the justice ministry and National Prosecuting Authority to appear before Parliament’s portfolio committee on justice over the development.
The Indian-born brothers left South Africa after Zuma was unseated in 2018. A judicial inquiry established the same year to examine allegations of graft during Zuma’s years in power has recommended criminal charges against the Guptas.
The UAE has in the past couple of years signed a raft of extradition treaties as it worked to overcome an image as a hotspot for illicit money. It says it has approved 30 requests this year.
Global financial crime watchdog the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) in March 2022 included the UAE, the region’s commercial and trade hub, on a list of jurisdictions subject to increased monitoring, known as its ‘grey’ list.