Former Free State agriculture and rural development MEC Mosebenzi Zwane and his 16 co-accused are due to appear in the Bloemfontein High Court on Wednesday, for the resumption of their corruption case.
Estina dairy project
Zwane and his co-accused face charges of contravening the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA), fraud, corruption and money laundering in connection with the controversial R280 million Estina dairy farm project in the Free State.
The accused in the matter are former Free State head of the Department for Rural Development (FSDoRD), Peter Thabethe, former chief financial officer, Seipati Dhlamini, former chief director of district services, Takisi Masiteng, and Estina director Kamal Vasram and eight companies.
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The accused join Zwane, former Sahara employee Ugeshni Govender and Islandsite former director Ronica Ragavan on charges emanating from the alleged looting of the Free State Department of Agriculture through a company called Estina.
During the last court appearance in November last year, the case was transferred to the Bloemfontein High Court after it was heard in the Bloemfontein Magistrate’s Court. The state also provided disclosure to the accused.
The Estina dairy project has been embroiled in allegations of state capture after it emerged that the entire project was allegedly designed to extract funds from the state and was a front for money laundering and the source of funds for the Guptas’ lavish wedding at Sun City resort in 2013.
According to the spokesperson for the NPA‘s Investigative Directorate, Sindisiwe Seboka, on 5 July 2012, Estina entered into an agreement with the Free State Department of Agriculture to establish and implement a dairy farm project in Vrede to benefit previously disadvantaged farmers and to uplift the people of the Vrede area.
In terms of the agreement, Estina was to provide a capital injection of R228 million.
Paras Dairy (a company incorporated in India) was presented as Estina’s partner in the Vrede Dairy Project.
“The agreement further stipulated that the department was to contribute R342 million including VAT over a period of three years. Estina received R280 million from July 2012 to April 2014.
“Investigations also revealed that no proper tender procedures were followed with regard to the decision to fund the proposed Vrede Dairy Project.
“Estina did not adhere to its obligations in terms of the agreement as only the department paid its contribution into bank accounts held by Estina,” Seboka said in a statement.
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