The Gup­tas: 3 brothers at heart of S Africa scan­dal

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

Po­lit­i­cal drama, cor­rup­tion al­le­ga­tions and even wed­ding party con­tro­ver­sies-the Gupta fam­ily, one of South Africa’s wealth­i­est, has been ac­cused of wield­ing un­due in­flu­ence be­hind the scenes. Now the im­mi­grant fam­ily is at the cen­tre of a row bat­ter­ing Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma after al­legedly of­fer­ing key gov­ern­ment jobs to those who might help the Gupta fam­ily’s busi­ness in­ter­ests.

Who Are The Gup­tas?

The cor­rup­tion scan­dal has re­newed scru­tiny about Zuma’s ties with Ajay, Atul and Ra­jesh Gupta, three brothers from the north­ern In­dian state of Ut­tar Pradesh. Led by Atul, they ar­rived in South Africa in 1993 as white-mi­nor­ity apartheid rule crum­bled and a year be­fore Nel­son Man­dela won the coun­try’s first demo­cratic elec­tions. As the coun­try opened up to for­eign in­vest­ment, the Gup­tas-pre­vi­ously small-scale busi­ness­men in In­dia-built a sprawl­ing em­pire in com­put­ers, min­ing, me­dia, tech­nol­ogy and en­gi­neer­ing. The New Age, a pro-gov­ern­ment news­pa­per, was launched in 2010, and the 24-hour news chan­nel ANN7 started broad­cast­ing in 2013.They also de­vel­oped close links with the rul­ing African Na­tional Congress (ANC) party, and par­tic­u­larly with Zuma, well be­fore he be­came pres­i­dent in 2009.

What are the al­leged links?

Zuma’s son Duduzane is a direc­tor of the Gupta’s Sa­hara Com­put­ers, named after their home­town of Sa­ha­ran­pur, and has been a direc­tor of sev­eral other Gupta com­pa­nies. Zuma’s third wife Bongi Ngema and one of his daugh­ters have also been Gupta em­ploy­ees. Deputy fi­nance min­is­ter Mce­bisi Jonas claimed in March that the Gup­tas had of­fered him the post of fi­nance min­is­ter, pro­vid­ing the first pub­lic tes­ti­mony of their al­leged in­volve­ment in cab­i­net ap­point­ments. Last week the BBC re­ported that lit­tle-known ANC law­maker David van Rooyen vis­ited the Gup­tas’ home the night be­fore his ap­point­ment as fi­nance min­is­ter in De­cem­ber. Mines Min­is­ter Mosebenzi Zwane is also seen as close to the Gup­tas. Both the Gup­tas and Zuma, who has de­scribed the brothers as friends, deny any wrong­do­ing.

Where do they live?

Now in their 40s, the Gup­tas hold court at their res­i­den­tial and busi­ness head­quar­ters in a huge high-se­cu­rity com­pound in Sax­on­wold, an up­mar­ket dis­trict of Jo­han­nes­burg. It has a he­li­copter pad and they re­port­edly travel with their own chefs and body­guards. But as pres­sure has in­creased on them this year, they were re­ported to be mov­ing their base to Dubai and to have bought a large res­i­dence in the city. They said in Au­gust that they plan to sell their South African as­sets. Pub­lic anger to­wards the fam­ily soared in 2013, when a jet car­ry­ing 217 for­eign guests to a Gupta wed­ding landed at Waterk­loof Air Force base, out­side Pre­to­ria. The air­port is a mil­i­tary fa­cil­ity nor­mally used to re­ceive heads of state.

What hap­pens now?

The Gup­tas com­plained vo­ra­ciously when South Africa’s largest banks closed their ac­counts ear­lier this year. The fam­ily lob­bied un­suc­cess­fully for Fi­nance Min­is­ter Pravin Gord­han, who is at log­ger­heads with Zuma, to in­ter­vene. But on Fri­day Gord­han dis­closed in a court af­fi­davit that the Gupta fam­ily and as­so­ci­ated com­pa­nies were im­pli­cated in “sus­pi­cious trans­ac­tions” worth $480 mil­lion over four years. On Mon­day the fam­ily de­nied re­ports that money had been re­moved from the re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion fund of a mine they bought, say­ing the claim was “an­other ex­am­ple of ground­less in­nu­endo”. They also vowed to respond this week to Gord­han’s af­fi­davit. Zuma last week blocked the re­lease of a watch­dog’s report into his re­la­tion­ship with the Gup­tas. A court hear­ing into the case is due next month. — AFP

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