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State asks for more time to complete probe into Estina Dairy farm

It’s been six months since the eight-accused made their first court appearance but the state says it has still not wrapped up the investigation.

FILE: The suspects in the Vrede Dairy Farm project case appear in the Bloemfontein Magistrates Court on 15 February 2018. Picture: Barry Bateman/EWN

PRETORIA – The state has asked the Bloemfontein regional court for time to complete its investigation of the Estina Dairy farm matter.

The eight accused, five Gupta associates and three free state officials, appeared in the court on Friday.

They face numerous charges including fraud and money laundering.

It’s been six months since the eight-accused made their first court appearance but the state says it has still not wrapped up the investigation.

The prosecutor told the court the court they are still trying to obtain evidence from India and the United Arab Emirates through an application for mutual legal assistance.

The defense has however objected to a postponement saying the accused should never have been charged if the state was not ready to proceed to trial.

It further argued that the accused have been severely prejudiced by having the case hanging over their heads.

The magistrate rule on Tuesday whether or not to grant the postponement.

ROAD AHEAD

The five Gupta associates and three Free State government officials made their first court appearance in February and were released on bail between R10,000 and R200,000.

In February, the State told the court it had a strong case, but it’s unclear if it will be ready to set a date for the matter to go to trial.

The State suffered a blow in May when the Gupta-linked companies successfully challenged a R250,000 restraint order.

The court found that on the evidence presented, there were no reasonable grounds to suspect the companies or the accused received benefits through the farm deal.

If the State is not ready to proceed to trial, the legal team for the accused may apply to have the matter struck from the roll.

(Edited by Leeto M Khoza)

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