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Reserve Bank seizes R20m from Gupta-owned Sahara

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National Treasury has issued an order for the South African Reserve Bank (SARB) to seize R19.6 million from the Gupta-owned Sahara Computers.

Established in 1994 by controversial Gupta brothers Ajay, Rajesh and Atul, Sahara Computers was an independent IT distributor in Southern Africa, with its flagship products including desktop computers, notebooks, netbooks, digital cameras, storage devices and other lifestyle products.

The company shut its doors in 2018, after the alleged close ties between the Guptas and former president Jacob Zuma drew widespread criticism, with accusations the family used its "proximity" to the president to illegally "offer" Cabinet positions.

In a forfeiture report gazetted by SARB yesterday, deputy governor Kuben Naidoo stated the minister of finance has by virtue of the provisions of the Exchange Control Regulation 22E, delegated the powers conferred upon Treasury to execute the forfeiture of the funds to the state, which will go into the National Revenue Fund.

“By virtue of the functions, powers and or duties vested in me in my capacity as the deputy governor of SARB, in terms of the delegation and as assignment of the functions, powers and/or duties referred to above, I hereby give notice of a decision to forfeit to the state the following money, and I hereby declare and order forfeits to the state the following money namely: the amount of R19 669 000 standing to the credit of the respondent in account number ***** held within Nedbank Limited together with any interest thereof or any other accrual thereto,” notes Naidoo, in the statement.

During its prime, Sahara Computers was the Guptas' biggest asset in SA's ICT sector.

Sahara parent Oakbay Investments, in 2016, released what it dubbed "maiden results" reporting R1.1 billion in revenue, emphasising the majority of its dealings were not government-related. According to Oakbay, Sahara was the second highest contributor to the group.

However, problems started at the company when the Gupta family was embroiled in corruption and state capture allegations, with the close ties between the Guptas and former president Jacob Zuma being at the centre of the corruption allegations.

The Gupta business empire started crumbling in 2018 when the Hawks pursued the controversial family.Several people have since appeared in the Bloemfontein Magistrates Court after being arrested by the Hawks as part of the ongoing investigation into state capture.

They were charged with fraud and money laundering, as well as a number of other charges related to financial crime.

The Hawks have in the past said they consider Ajay Gupta a fugitive from justice, because he failed to hand himself over to the authorities in order to appear in court.This was later withdrawn by the National Prosecuting Authority after all charges against Ajay Gupta were dropped.

While evidence continues to be heard by the Zondo Commission, its prime suspects, the Gupta brothers, are reportedly living in Dubai, with no intention to come to SA and testify.

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