South Africa’s elite police unit, known as the Hawks, said they are executing a search and seizure warrant at Premier’s office in Free State province.
The premier also happens to be the Secretary-General of the governing African National Congress (ANC), Ace Magashule.
The investigation relates to the Estina dairy farm near Vrede, from which the controversial Gupta business family – who are close to president Jacob Zuma – are alleged to have pocketed millions of dollars from a scheme originally meant for poor black farmers.
Evidence revealed in a tranche of WikiLeaks-style leaked emails showed large sums of money meant for the dairy project were allegedly siphoned-off to Gupta bank accounts and – eventually – paid for the family’s lavish wedding at Sun City, South Africa’s upmarket holiday resort.
According to the National Prosecuting Authority’s Asset Forfeiture Unit – which filed papers with the Bloemfontein High Court earlier this week – just two million of 220m rand ($169,00 – $18.5m; £118,500 – £13m) given to the project was spent on the farm, South Africa’s Times Live reported.
Brigadier Hangwani Mulaudzi, from the Hawks, confirmed the operation. He said they are looking for documents and any other evidence related to the farm project in a search expected to take the whole day.
“We have members from our serious corruption and cybercrime team that are that are executing those search and seizure operations at the Office of the Premier and the Department of Agriculture. It’s in relation to the Estina farm.
“People must watch this space…soon we will make announcements that will shake this country,” he emphasised.
The ANC responded by saying that its secretary-general Ace Magashule “is innocent until proven otherwise in a court of law”.
Speaking for the 106-year-old liberation movement, Khusela Diko also said: “The African National Congress is committed to root out corruption wherever that corruption is committed.
“We must allow the Hawks to do their work. The matter will go to court.”
Mr Magashule’s spokesman said they were cooperating fully.
In a separate process in the fight against what is known in South Africa as “state capture”, the government published terms of reference for a judicial commission of inquiry which is going to investigate President Zuma, his family friends the Guptas and other government officials in his administration.
President Zuma is under considerable pressure to come clean about dodgy government contracts and the influence his family and friends have had over state officials.
The Guptas and President Zuma deny any wrongdoing.