Johannesburg – The High Court Gauteng North judgment has declared Atul Gupta a “fugitive from justice” and does not qualify for a South African passport.
The ruling made on Friday, (20 January 2023), has been welcomed by
Home Affairs Minister Dr. Aaron Motsoaledi.
Atul and his brother Rajesh Gupta are being held in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), where they await extradition to South Africa to face allegations of fraud and corruption.
The pair were arrested last year after the International Criminal Police Organisation (Interpol) issued a Red Notice related to state capture allegations in South Africa.
As far back as 25 September 2018, having fled South Africa in the advent of the Gupta Leaks, Atul Gupta approached the Consul General of South Africa in Dubai, UAE to apply for a passport.
However, the SA Home Affairs Department rejected his application after receiving confirmation from the National Prosecuting Authority that a warrant of arrest had been issued against him.
The warrant of arrest was in connection with criminal offenses of fraud and money laundering related to the Vrede Dairy project in the Free State.
In February 2021, Atul Gupta approached the court seeking to force the SA Home Affairs Department to issue him with a new South African passport.
He claimed that he had a constitutional right to a passport as a citizen of South Africa.
Atul Gupta further said that the constitution states that nobody should be deprived of their citizenship.
The department defended that court application, arguing that he was a fugitive from justice and therefore does not have a right to challenge the Department in a court of law in this country.
The department challenged Atul Gupta to indicate if he would be prepared to come to South Africa if the court were to order him to do so.
Atul Gupta said he would have to take legal advice on the issue – something the judge queried on Friday.
If he (Atul Gupta) indeed is not a fugitive from justice, why would he need legal advice whether he ought to come to this country for whatever reason? This is more telling for a person who owns property and had owned businesses in this country.
Judge Kumalo also noted that Gupta did not give a particular address in Dubai.
All that he seems prepared to state is that he is a South African citizen resident in Dubai. Nothing further is disclosed. I am of the view that this was not oversight on the Applicants side but was deliberate, reads part of the judgment.
Judge Kumalo made an order as follows:
1. The Applicant is a fugitive from justice;
2. Applicant has no locus standi to approach this court for relief in the circumstances;
3. Applicant (Gupta) is to pay the cost of this application.
In welcoming the judgment, Minister Motsoaledi said the court has delivered an important confirmation that the laws of the country must be respected and they are applicable to all.
Fridays judgment shows that you cannot want to escape accountability in a country and seek to enjoy the use of documents that are exclusively reserved for law-abiding citizens of that country, he said.
Commenting on the ruling on Monday, the department said: “Minister Motsoaledi further welcomes the cost order against Gupta in favour of the department because it ensures that public funds are kept for service delivery”.
“Minister Motsoaledi instructed the department to immediately start the process to recover the costs.”