Gupta lieutenant Ashu Chawla confident of his innocence

Chawla and seven other suspects face charges of fraud, money laundering and Contravention of the Companies Act.

The courtroom at the Bloemfontein magistrates court where suspects, including a member of the Gupta family, are expected to appear on 15 February 2018. Picture: Barry Bateman/EWN

PRETORIA - Ashu Chawla, one of the Guptas top lieutenants, says he is confident he will be acquitted on charges related to the Estina Dairy Farm scandal.

Chawla and seven other suspects, including Varun Gupta and Nazeem Howa, appeared in the Bloemfontein Magistrates Court o n Thursday.

Seven of the accused have been granted bail, while the police still need to confirm the address of one of the suspects.

The group faces charges of fraud, money laundering and Contravention of the Companies Act.

Chawla says in an affidavit that he denies he participated in the offenses as charged, adding that he believes the State has a weak case against him.

This approach is shared by former Oakbay chief executive Howa, who says there is no reasonable prospect of a case against him succeeding.

All the accused have agreed to hand over their passports.

Meanwhile, the Hawks say they consider Ajay Gupta a fugitive from justice, because he failed to hand himself over to the authorities in order to appear in court on Thursday.

(Edited by Shimoney Regter)