South African prosecutors said on Wednesday they would withdraw graft charges against some allies of former president Jacob Zuma due to lack of cooperation from Indian officials.
The national prosecuting authority (NPA) had alleged that $20 million of public money meant for poor dairy farmers in Free State province was syphoned off to the wealthy Gupta family, originally from India, and their associates.
The eight accused included a nephew of the three Gupta brothers, who are at the centre of allegations that Zuma oversaw a web of corruption while in power, with the Guptas awarded fraudulent government contracts.
The other accused were former Gupta employees, the dairy director and three government officials.
The three brothers were not charged. “The investigators were working with Indian officials to gather information... the process has been slow, so information is not forthcoming as quickly as we had hoped,” NPA spokesman Phaladi Shuping said.
The Gupta brothers left South Africa last year before police conducted a raid in their suburban home in Johannesburg.
Prosecuting authorities, who were given until 30 November to formally charge the suspects, said they could re-instate the charges in future. “We’ve taken the decision to withdraw provisionally,” Shuping said.
Earlier this year, the high court in Bloemfontein ruled that it was not satisfied that there was evidence connecting Gupta assets to the alleged scam.
“This is a reflection on the weakness of the prosecution authority,” political analyst Daniel Silke said.
“It does present a problem for President Cyril Ramaphosa in that opposition parties will clearly use this to accuse him of just paying lip service to the issue of fighting corruption.”