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Two more accused persons are set to be added to the criminal case involving nearly R25 million paid to Nulane Investment (Pty) Ltd by the Free State Department of Agriculture about 10 years ago.

Nulane is owned by alleged Gupta family associate Iqbal Sharma.

When the matter resumed in the Bloemfontein Regional Court on Monday, the state immediately requested a postponement saying it needed time to add more accused persons to the matter.

Investigating Directorate (ID) spokesperson Sindisiwe Seboka told journalists after the case was adjourned to later this month that the state had stumbled upon compelling evidence it could not afford to ignore.

“During the confirmation of the unlimited restraint order of Nulane Investment and Islandsite last month, new evidence came to the fore that the Investigating Directorate could not ignore,” said Seboka.

“This then necessitated that we request a postponement to the 28th of September when two more persons will be added to this particular matter,” she added.

Seboka was quick to point out that this should not be viewed as a delaying tactic given that the matter was expected to be transferred to the High Court on Monday for trial.

She said the state has already furnished the magistrate with the final indictment to the matter.

The other accused in the matter include Sharma, who is also a former board member at Transnet; former Nulane Investments employee Dinesh Patel; former Free State Department of Rural Development head Mbana Peter Thabethe; former head of the provincial agriculture department Limakatso Moorosi; and the department’s former chief financial officer, Seipati Sylvia Dhlamini.

They face charges of fraud and money laundering.

The former employees of the provincial agriculture department also face charges of contravening the Public Finance Management Act.

The case relates to procurement fraud involving R24.9 million paid between November 2011 and April 2012 by the Free State Department of Agriculture to Nulane Investments.

The money was purportedly paid to Nulane to conduct a feasibility study for the Free State province’s flagship Mohoma Mobung agriculture project, on the basis that Nulane had unique skills to perform the work. 

The company was required to provide a report to the department within seven months.

Nulane, however, subcontracted the work to Deloitte Consulting (Pty) Ltd for R1.5 million. 

It further subcontracted the work already completed by Deloitte to Gateway Ltd and paid the latter over R19 million. 

The state has however not been able to secure the attendance of some of the accused at court as they are said to be out of the country.

It says mutual legal assistance processes to bring them before a South African court to face charges are underway.

But to avoid unnecessary delays in the finalisation of the criminal trial against the accused already before the court, the state will bring the remainder of the accused persons before court in a separate trial once their attendance in a South Africa court has been secured.

The rest of the accused in the current matter will return to court on October 8.

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