Six people, two companies await acquittal decision in Nulane fraud case

Six people, two companies await acquittal decision in Nulane fraud case

The six accused and two companies in the R25 million fraud and corruption case against the Free State Agriculture Department will learn whether they will be acquitted of the charges brought against them.

They have requested that all charges against them be dropped, claiming that the state has failed to prove a crime was committed or to link them to any wrongdoing.

The case relates to R25 million paid by the Free State Department of Agriculture to Nulane Investment between 2011 and 2012. The money was allegedly paid to the company to conduct a feasibility study for the Free State Province’s flagship Mohoma Mobung project on the basis that Nulane had unique skills to perform the work.

All of the defendants have pleaded not guilty to charges of fraud, contravention of the Public Finance Act, and money laundering. Iqbal Sharma, a former Transnet board member and Gupta associate, his brother-in-law Dinesh Patel, and former Agriculture department officials Peter Thabethe, Limakatso Moorosi, and Seipati Dhlamini are among them.

The defence has argued that the case lacks authenticity and independence. It has poked holes into the state’s evidence, questioning how the state acquired its evidence.

High Court judge Nompumelelo Gusha says, “Most of the witnesses for the state when confronted with the whereabouts of the originals simply pledged ignorance and those who ventured to profile opinion fell back on the glen relocation. The rationale of the originality rule is palpable to avoid error and falsification. It is for that reason that the mere say-so of the officials that the documents are lost and or that despite diligent search the originals could  be located will not suffice.”

Senior Counsel Mike Hellens, representing accused Ronica Ragavan and Islandsite, has submitted that the state misrepresented facts and failed to link Ragavan and Islandsite to the cash flow.

Hellens says, “There is no title of evidence that is linking the company island site and Ronica Ragavan to any such dealing between those parties.”

Defense lawyer Kenny Oldwage for another of the accused, Dinesh Patel, has submitted that the state made an error of judgment.

Oldwage argued that state witnesses failed to connect Patel to the fraud and corruption charges.

Lawyer for Patel, Advocate Kenny Oldwage says, “It is a significant failure by the state to have applied its mind properly as to institute proper prosecution against my client.”

Meanwhile, legal representative Bronwynne Forbay for accused Iqbal Sharma argued that there was no evidence that Sharma was a Gupta associate.

And no evidence that Sharma and Nulane were linked to any department officials.

Forbay says, “No such evidence with respect has been used in this court that in fact links accused number 4 to the Gupta family.”

The National Prosecuting Authority says irrespective of what the Defence says, there’s evidence that proves that proper procedures weren’t followed in the tender awarded to Nulane Investments Company.

Advocate Peter Serunye for the state, argued that monies were transferred to various bank accounts of companies, including Islandsite Investments, which proved money laundering.

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