(Corrects Monday’s story throughout after NPA issues new statement to say Interpol has not in fact issued red notices for the Gupta brothers, and is still considering whether or not to do so)
JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) -Interpol “red notices” urging the arrest of the businessman brothers Atul and Rajesh Gupta – friends of former president Jacob Zuma – and their wives for alleged fraud and money laundering are being considered, South African prosecutors said on Tuesday.
A red notice is a request to law enforcement officials worldwide to locate and provisionally arrest a person pending extradition, surrender or similar legal action.
Contacted for comment, Interpol said many red notices are not made public and referred Reuters to South Africa’s national police authorities for further information.
South Africa’s National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) said on Tuesday that the notices for the two couples were still under consideration by the Commission for the Control of Interpol’s Files, correcting a statement on Monday in which it said they had already been issued.
Red notices have, however, been issued for some of the Guptas’ business associates, the NPA added.
The notices relate to suspected fraud worth 25 million rand ($1.76 million) involving the agriculture department of the South African province of Free State.
A criminal case has been transferred to Bloemfontein High Court for trial in September.
Reuters could not reach the Guptas or their representatives for comment but both Zuma and the Guptas issued blanket denials of wrongdoing during Zuma’s nine years in power until 2018.
Their relationship is one of the main areas of focus of a judicial inquiry into allegations of high-level corruption while Zuma was president.
Zuma has refused to cooperate with the inquiry despite a court order to appear and give evidence.
The Constitutional Court has sentenced him to 15 months’ imprisonment for defying that order, but Zuma has asked the court to cancel the sentence.
The Indian-born brothers left South Africa after Zuma was ousted as head of state, and are believed to be in Dubai.
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) this year ratified an extradition treaty with South Africa, a move that President Cyril Ramaphosa’s government hopes will lead to the return of the Guptas to face charges.
The NPA said on Tuesday that an extradition request for the two brothers and their wives was “awaiting confirmation of the presence of the family members in the UAE”. ($1 = 14.2401 rand)
(Reporting by Alexander Winning; Editing by Kevin Liffey)