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3 Indian-origin businessmen in South Africa in new UK economic sanctions list

Brothers Ajay, Atul and Rajesh Gupta are sanctioned for their role in a "long-running" South African corruption scandal, alongside Russian tax fraudsters, individuals linked to Latin American bribery cases and a Sudanese businessman.

By: PTI |
April 27, 2021 10:30:11 am
The businessmen have all previously denied allegations of corruption.

Three brothers from the influential Gupta family in South Africa have been placed on a new list of 22 people sanctioned by the UK government on Monday for their alleged involvement in some of the world’s most serious cases of corruption and to block them channelling money through UK banks or enter the country.

Brothers Ajay, Atul and Rajesh Gupta are sanctioned for their role in a “long-running” South African corruption scandal, alongside Russian tax fraudsters, individuals linked to Latin American bribery cases and a Sudanese businessman.

They fall under the first wave of measures under the new Global Anti-Corruption sanctions regime, which gives the UK unprecedented power to stop corrupt actors profiting from the UK economy, imposes asset freezes and travel bans against individuals.

“Corruption has a corrosive effect as it slows development, drains the wealth of poorer nations and keeps their people trapped in poverty. It poisons the well of democracy,” said UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab.

“The individuals we have sanctioned today have been involved in some of the most notorious corruption cases around the world. Global Britain is standing up for democracy, good governance and the rule of law. We are saying to those involved in serious corruption: we will not tolerate you or your dirty money in our country,” he said.

On the sanction list of 22, the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) includes Ajay, Atul and Rajesh Gupta and their associate Salim Essa, for their roles in serious corruption.

“They were at the heart of a long-running process of corruption in South Africa which caused significant damage to its economy,” it notes.

The businessmen have all previously denied allegations of corruption.

The family, originally from Uttar Pradesh’s Saharanpur, is now in self-exile in Dubai as South Africa continues extradition efforts for questioning in their alleged role in state capture involving billions of South African Rands from state-owned institutions.

In 2019, the US treasury department imposed sanctions on the three Gupta brothers and Essa for their involvement in corruption in South Africa.

Others on the list include those involved in the diversion of USD 230 million of Russian state property through a fraudulent tax refund scheme uncovered by Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, who died in 2009 having uncovered one of the largest tax frauds in recent Russian history.

Sudanese businessman Ashraf Seed Ahmed Hussein Ali, widely known as Al Cardinal, is sanctioned for his involvement in the “misappropriation” of significant amounts of state assets in one of the poorest countries in the world.

“This diversion of resources in collusion with South Sudanese elites has contributed to ongoing instability and conflict,” the FCDO notes.

The remaining individuals on the sanction list are said to be involved in serious corruption in Latin America, including facilitating bribes to support a major drug trafficking organisation and “misappropriation that has led to citizens being deprived of vital resources for development”.

The FCDO said the measures are deliberately targeted, so the UK can impose sanctions on corrupt individuals and their enablers, rather than entire nations. They are being taken partly in tandem with the US, which is also announcing further corruption sanctions this week.

“Acting together sends the clearest possible signal that corruption comes with a heavy price,” the FCDO said.

The Global Anti-Corruption sanctions regime builds on the Global Human Rights sanctions regime established in July 2020, which has resulted in the UK imposing sanctions on 78 individuals and entities involved in serious human rights violations, including from Myanmar, Belarus, China and Russia.

The FCDO said the UK will continue to use a range of means to tackle serious corruption around the world, including funding the International Corruption Unit in the National Crime Agency (NCA).

The International Corruption Unit and its predecessors claim to have restrained, confiscated or returned over 1.1 billion pounds of stolen assets, stolen from developing countries since 2006.

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