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Thabethe granted bail in Estina dairy court cases

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Former Free State agriculture and rural development head Peter Thabethe granted bail in Estina dairy court cases.

Former Head of Department of Free State Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, Mr Peter Thabethe testify. Picture: Dimpho Maja/African News Agency(ANA)

FORMER Free State agriculture and rural development head Peter Thabethe was granted R10,000 bail at the Bloemfontein Magistrate’s Court on Monday morning.

He appeared alongside former Transnet board member and Gupta associate Iqbal Sharma, who is also expected to make a bail application shortly.

Magistrate Estelle de Lange granted Thabethe bail on condition that he is present at court for all his cases and surrender his passport over to the authorities.

State prosecutor Jacyntha Witbooi told the court that the State opposed bail. She said the investigation was complete and there were witnesses ready to testify against Thabethe, including department officials.

Witbooi argued that releasing Thabethe on bail would undermine the justice system and disregard the people of Free State who were most affected by the looting.

Sharma, Thabethe and their co-accused face charges relating to defrauding the Free State Department of Agriculture (FSDoA). Sharma and Thabethe were arrested last week Wednesday in connection with the failed R288 million Estina dairy project in Vrede.

“The fraud is in connection with a R25m feasibility study in 2011 that was irregularly granted to Nulane Investment 204 (PTY) LTD, a company owned and controlled by Sharma,” NPA Investigating Directorate (ID) spokesperson Sindisiwe Seboka Seboka said.

“The company had to provide a report to the department within seven months. Nulane, however, subcontracted the work to Deloitte Consulting Pty Ltd for R1.5m.”

The Bloemfontein Magistrate’s Court heard that Thabethe committed the offences while he was employed “in a position of trust” at the Department of Rural Development in the Free State and that the State had a strong case against him.

Thabethe’s case has been postponed to July 5, 2021.

Sharma and Thabethe spent the weekend at the Bainsvlei police station cells after their arrest on Wednesday.

Sharma’s bail application will be heard at 2pm on Monday.