Officials took Justin van Pletzen, the man who filmed wanted fugitive Ajay Gupta in Dubai, in for questioning on Monday and released him the same day, according to sources in Dubai. The questions were in connection with the video, as it could be considered illegal under UAE law.
Van Pletzen is assisting the Dubai police in their investigation. The family is concerned with his safety, but are working with the authorities.
News24 reported on Tuesday that the department of international relations and cooperation (Dirco) was still trying to confirm the incident on Tuesday evening, but friends of the South African businessman confirmed that he had been taken in.
Much about the circumstances was not clear, although News24 reported that Van Pletzen was arrested on charges connected with filming without permission.
Van Pletzen approached Gupta outside the South African embassy in Dubai earlier this month. He asked Gupta when he would be returning to South Africa, where he is wanted by the Hawks. It is not clear exactly what the charges against him are but it is reportedly connected to state capture allegations.
Gupta replied that he would go to South Africa “when they [the authorities] give me a reply”.
Van Pletzen told TimesLive he was so infuriated at the sight of the clearly relaxed Gupta that he “wanted to tackle Ajay’s head off his shoulders”.
On Tuesday, according to News24, Van Pletzen’s mother made contact with Dirco, and while the department was not able to confirm the arrest, a friend of Van Pletzen’s did.
Dirco spokesperson Ndivhuwo Mabaya reportedly said: “The SA Embassy in Dubai was not aware of the arrest and has been requested to confirm this with local authorities there. We are still awaiting the report from the embassy.”
The Hawks told Eyewitness News (EWN) last week that they could not give details about the arrest warrant issued against Gupta, but said they were working to finalise all other state capture cases to strengthen the case against him.
The Hawks’ Hangwani Mulaudzi reportedly said: “So we want to make sure that we finalise all the other cases and we’ve strong evidence that links him so that we can process the extradition for him to come back to South Africa.”
On Tuesday night, Jacques Pauw, the investigative journalist who wrote the book “The President’s Keepers”, wrote on Facebook that Dubai is one of the world’s worst offenders when it comes to human rights.
He wrote: “Don’t be surprised by the sudden incarceration of SA businessman Justin van Pletzen because he took an ‘unauthorised’ video of one of the Guptas.
Dubai’s glittering facade hides terrible human rights abuses. I have always thought of it as a soulless building site that has been built on the fortunes of unscrupulous business people and the sweat and tears of immigrant workers.
Thousands of South Africans work there and many, many others praise the place for its innovation and ability to create wealth.
It is however, in terms of human rights, amongst the worst in the world.
Says Amnesty International in its latest report: ‘The authorities continued to arbitrarily restrict freedoms of expression and association, using criminal defamation and anti-terrorism laws to detain, prosecute, convict and imprison government critics.’
It says torture is common and widespread, women are subjected to sexist laws and immigrant workers – by far the biggest workforce in the UAE – face ‘exploitation and abuse’.
Says Human Rights Watch: ‘UAE law permits domestic violence’ in that it allows the imposition of ‘chastisement by a husband to his wife and the chastisement of minor children’. There is, of course, another message in the detention of Van Pletzen: forget about the extradition of the Guptas from the UAE to SA. It won’t happen; they already have Dubai officials in their pockets.
We should stop revering Dubai and the UAE. It is a human rights dump and is nothing but the ‘launderette’ of international financing.
Hence the snugness of the Guptas in that country.”