By Umamah Bakharia
Two Gupta lieutenants and a former deputy director-general in the Department of Mineral Resources have appeared in court on charges related to the raiding of R1,75-billion in rehabilitation trust funds from the Optimum and Koornfontein mines in Mpumalanga.
Former deputy director-general Joel Raphela, central Gupta figure Ronica Ragavan and her colleague Ugeshni Govender face 11 charges, including fraud, money laundering, and contravention of local environmental laws.
Speaking to Radio Islam, Daily Maverick Investigative reporter Pauli van Wyk says the accused are key players in the Gupta network.
Each mine has a rehabilitation trust fund governed like an attorneys trust fund that is restricted by laws.
“In this case, a mining rehabilitation is not allowed to be used for any other purposes as opposed to only rehabilitation of the mining area and the person who has the mining rights must ask the permission of the department of mineral resources,” says van Wyk.
She adds that the accused moved around R1.7 million before the money was frozen.
In the case related to Optimum, around R7 million was moved from banks accounts to the Bank of Baroda. In the Koornfontein mines, the department gave permission for money to be used for mining services, however, there were no guidelines adhered to.
“You cannot borrow against [teh trust fund] and its in contravention of several environmental laws as well,” says van Wyk.
The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) has found the case as money laundering and against environmental law.