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Tarina Patel’s Husband Arrested For Alleged Fraud And Money Laundering — Court Denies Bail, Assets Seized Amid Ongoing Legal Scandal!

Iqbal Sharma, the husband of Real Housewives of Johannesburg star Tarina Patel, was arrested on fraud and money laundering charges linked to the Vrede dairy farm project.

The South Africa businessman has denied any association with the Gupta family. 

Sharma said in his court affidavit via News 24: "I have no association whatsoever with the Gupta family. The State has made bald allegations of my association with the Guptas. There is no merit to this."

"My last interaction with Saleem Essa was in Dubai, during December 2017, when I bumped into him at the hotel in which I was booked when I was holidaying with my wife in Dubai. That meeting lasted for approximately two minutes when we greeted each other and exchanged very brief pleasantries."

Sharma was among four people arrested in Gauteng, the Free State and Mpumalanga. His co-accused – the former head of the Free State's agriculture department, Limakatso Moorosi, and chief financial officer Seipati Dlamini - were released on R10 000 bail each earlier this month. 

The former head of the Free State agriculture department, Peter Thabethe, successfully applied for bail. He was also released on R10 000 bail.  

The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) alleged the four accused colluded to divert funds meant for rural development in the province, News 24 reported.

According to the NPA via the news outlet, the funds were placed at the disposal of the Guptas. The alleged fraud is connected with a R25 million feasibility study in 2011, which was irregularly granted to Nulane Investment 204, a company owned and controlled by Sharma.

The company had to provide a report to the department within seven months, reports News 24. However, Nulane subcontracted the work to Deloitte Consulting for R1.5 million.

The company further subcontracted the work already completed by Deloitte to Gateway Limited, and paid R19 million. The funds were allegedly diverted to Islandsite Investments 180, a company owned and controlled by the Gupta family. 

Sharma said the State had been investigating the case for a number of years. "I have had knowledge of the investigation into the affairs of Nulane since at least June 2020, and I have made no attempt to leave South Africa."

He added he intended to plead not guilty to the charges. "I must point out that at all material times [relevant to the draft indictment] I was not the controlling mind of Nulane. This is a matter which I will deal with during the course of the trial proceedings." 

"I have co-operated fully with the State thus far and duly intend to continue doing so. My continued incarceration will serve no interest to the State in that it [the State] will be required to outlay further resources," read his affidavit. 

Sharma should he continue to be incarcerated, he would "suffer undue hardships and prejudice which will amount to an infringement of my dignity and integrity".

Meanwhile, the fifth suspect in the Vrede dairy farm feasibility study contract, believed to be the brother-in-law of Gupta family associate Iqbal Sharma, on Tuesday was granted R10,000 bail by the Bloemfontein Magistrate’s Court, reports The Citizen.

Dinesh Patel, a representative of Nulane Investment, appeared in court following his arrest over a R25 million payment made to the company by the Free State department of agriculture. The state did not oppose his bail application.

He will join 16 other accused and a number of companies implicated in fraud and corruption related to the controversial Vrede dairy project in the Free State.

The other co-accused are Sharma, former Free State department of rural development heads Peter Thabethe and Limakatso Moorosi, and the department’s former chief financial officer Seipati Dhlamini.

They face charges of fraud and money laundering in a multimillion feasibility study contracted to Nulane Investment by the department, according to The Citizen.

The 2011 study was commissioned to investigate the likelihood of the success of the Mohoma Mobung agriculture project.

“Nulane Investments, however, had no employees on its books and in fact subcontracted Deloitte Ltd to produce the report. Deloitte was paid R1.5 million for the work.

“The only change made to the Deloitte report was to identify Paras dairy as a suitable implementing partner for the development of a milk processing plant in Vrede,” the NPA’s Investigating Directorate said in a statement.

The NPA alleges that the four accused colluded to divert funds meant for rural development in the province to Islandsite Investments 180, a company owned and controlled by the Gupta family.

Sharma was denied bail. Thabethe, Moorosi, and Dlamini were granted R10,000 bail each.

The other accused listed in the charge sheet are not in South Africa. All the accused are expected to return to the same court on 5 July 2021.

Meanwhile, News 24 reported that Sharma and Patel's property was seized amid legal scandal. The Investigating Directorate (ID) has seized assets worth more than R520 million belonging to the Gupta family, their business associate Iqbal Sharma and his wife, Tarina.

Patel owns a palatial mansion in Morningside, Johannesburg, which she bought for about R19 million in 2018. The property is complete with Indian-themed interior decor and elephants carved out of marble, and carpets imported from India. The house featured on Top Billing in February 2019.

According to The Citizen, Patel and Sharma have been together for over 10 years. In 2009, they got married in a Hindu-Muslim wedding ceremony in Cape Town, attended by family, friends, and celebrities.


Photo Credit: 1Magic